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MBTA Pension Brouhaha

Today’s Globe has a brutal piece on the MBTA’s pension plan and the unbelievable payouts it generates. One of the highlights is former MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern’s payout. He retired as GM several years ago and got the proverbial soft landing as head of the T’s pension plan. At age 48, he collects a pension of $130,000 and a salary of $225,000. The T’s plan does this because it has many of the crazy features of the other public pension systems (read more about those here) plus it has no minimum age feature, so folks can retire as soon as they get their 20 years in, even if they are in the prime of their careers. To add insult […]

Counterintuitive Thoughts on Healthcare Costs

Back in October, we released a paper on business costs in Massachusetts. One of the surprising conclusions was that our healthcare costs were not terribly out of line with our competitor states. This was a real surprise and ran counter to a lot of the anecdotal data floating around. A fascinating entry in WBUR’s Commonhealth series sheds some light on the discrepancy. If you measure by average premium (which we did), we are not that far out of whack. If you measure by some variation of healthcare’s share of the Massachusetts’ economy, then we are massively out of line. David Torchiana, of the Mass. General Physician’s Organization argues that the second measure includes NIH expenditures and the costs associated with […]

Thoughts on housing and Middle Cities

Housing is critical to the viability of Middle Cities, because housing development is the ticket to bringing a younger demographic and spending power back downtown—and therefore to fiscal solvency. These cities are built for and the leadership in these cities comfortable with high-density construction, especially if funding for school costs is available. Then why is there no 40R construction in these cities? The problem lies in the state requirement that all communities, notwithstanding the specific city or town’s attainment of the state’s 10 percent affordability threshold, deed restrict 20 percent of total 40R units to households earning no more than 80 percent of area median income (AMI). Most of these cities easily exceed the state’s affordability goals. Holyoke more than […]

I wholeheartedly agree. . .

. . . with Sally Dias, Vice President at Emmanuel College and member of a state task force assigned to examine why Black and Hispanic applicants lag behind white applicants on Massachusetts’ teacher licensing exams. She was quoted in today’s Boston Globe, “One test should really not be a determinant of someone’s career.” Ms. Dias is absolutely correct. It’s patently unfair to make teachers pass a licensing exam when no other profession is required to pass a similar test. I mean, doctors don’t have to. No, wait, they have to pass their boards. Okay, so they’re the exception. No, wait again, lawyers have to pass the bar exam. Okay, so two exceptions. Nurses? No, registered nurses have their board examinations. […]

OK, today’s sign of a cultural apocalypse

This one gleaned from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Friday Facts, which, though decidedly ideological, are often hysterical. It seems the American Council of Trustees and Alumni conducted a survey of 70 colleges, of which just 15 require their English majors – not their general student populations, mind you, but their English majors – to take at least one course on Shakespeare. Again, I have to ask, Shakespeare? Really? Not Dreiser, Booth Tarkington, Sinclair Lewis or Upton Sinclair (Yes, I have a thing against early 20th-century American realism), but Shakespeare, the apogee of Western Culture and the English language. Now, the literary canon needed to be broken open and made more inclusive, but please tell me there is a place, […]