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The inflation problem that may surprise you
Plus: Opportunity Zones are poised to make a comeback; Black Americans’ nuanced views on policing; and new Alzheimer’s drugs that come with high risks—and costs
How unnecessary college degree requirements hurt the working class: A growing number of occupations that were once open to workers with only a high school diploma are now unavailable to the 62 percent of American adults without a four-year college degree. Making matters worse, this “degree inflation” is not translating into higher salaries. As FREOPP Senior Fellow Preston Cooper describes in a new research paper, what degree inflation has done is closed job opportunities for workers, exacerbated labor shortages, and reduced the financial return of a college education. A college degree should not be a prerequisite for a middle-class standard of living. Preston urges employers to relax degree requirements for open jobs and state governments to eliminate statutory degree requirements wherever possible. The federal government can also play a role in reform by ensuring a level playing field between traditional colleges and alternative education providers.
→ Preston also appeared on Fox Business’s “Cavuto Coast to Coast” last week to describe how even if $400 billion in student debt is canceled tomorrow, it would only take five years for outstanding student debt levels to climb back to where they are today. Real debt relief will require the federal government to change the way it issues loans.
A renewed debate over Opportunity Zones: As the field of Republican presidential hopefuls becomes more crowded, a longstanding conservative idea—providing targeted tax incentives that encourage businesses to locate in impoverished or underserved neighborhoods—is poised for a resurgence. Although past studies have suggested that these “Opportunity Zones” do little to generate new investment or create additional jobs, FREOPP Senior Fellow Michael Tanner writes that new research found a nearly 20 percent increase in monthly development after an area was designated as an Opportunity Zone. The takeaway? Opportunity Zones are likely a second-best solution to the larger problems of excessive taxation and regulation that discourage new investment and entrepreneurship—especially in those higher-risk, lower-return communities that need it most—but they may have a place in the anti-poverty toolbox.
Black communities are both underpoliced and overpoliced: Last month, The New York Times published a feature on the mental health toll of police violence felt by Black Americans. FREOPP Senior Fellow Jonathan Blanks reviewed the piece and argues that simple, one-sided narratives of either pro- or anti-cop sentiment do not reflect the reality of how people view the police. Police practices like pretextual pedestrian and traffic stops undermine trust among those who experience or hear about these incidents from friends and loved ones. Americans want safety, but they also want to be secure from government overreach. Officers who violate the security of the people they are supposed to protect in the name of public safety ultimately get less community cooperation—and more crime. City officials and police brass must reevaluate and end self-defeating tactics that sow mistrust in the neighborhoods that stand to benefit most from quality policing.
Beware the hype over two new Alzheimer’s drugs: The scientific hypothesis that clearing a protein known as amyloid beta from the brain can slow or halt cognitive decline brings us new drugs from pharmaceutical manufacturers Eisai and Eli Lilly. The drugs, lecanemab and donanemab, are extremely effective at reducing the amyloid burden within the brain. But FREOPP Resident Fellow Gregg Girvan and Visiting Fellow Grant Rigney note in The Dispatch that the ability to slow cognitive decline by a small but significant margin may not translate into a noticeable day-to-day difference for patients. At the same time, both drugs come with sizable risks, including side effects like cerebral hemorrhages and brain swelling, and at considerable financial cost: Eisai launched lecanemab at a price of $26,500 annually. Although we sorely need more and better ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Medicare and Medicaid should not be leveraged to cover exorbitant costs for drugs that provide dubious benefits and carry serious health and financial risks.
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