Beat the Drum, Liberals

Kevin Drum is a left-of-center writer who is worth reading at Mother Jones. He often departs from liberal orthodoxy, as we’ve noted here in the past. To end this year, Drum offers “A Few Things Liberals Believe That They Shouldn’t.” Six, to be precise. They are:

  1. Head Start (and similar pre-K programs) raise student achievement.
  2. American health care is expensive because of private insurance.
  3. We have a retirement crisis.
  4. The black/white test score difference is all about test prep, biased tests, etc.
  5. The 1994 crime act was responsible for mass incarceration.
  6. Charter schools don’t work.

Read the whole thing—it’s a short piece—for the details and supporting evidence. It is points 4 & 5 that are most interesting. On test scores, Drum says:

At most, the best evidence suggests that things like test prep account for a small fraction of the black-white difference in test scores. This is important. The black-white gap in education is one of America’s biggest failures, and the only way to fix it is to acknowledge that it’s real, not to toss it off as merely a statistical artifact.

And on the incarceration rate, he offers this chart, showing that the increase in incarceration began before the 1994 crime bill:

One of the facts of this story that the left is trying to cram down an Orwellian memory hole is that the move to crack down on crime was supported strongly by local black leaders in many American cities (and in fact the Congressional Black Caucus largely supported the 1994 crime bill) because especially drug-related crime was out of control in the late 1980s.

Drum adds:

For what it’s worth, black incarceration rates have also dropped substantially over the past couple of decades.