Smart Ideas: Nailing Down the Problem

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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Feb. 28, 2018, 8 p.m.

What ails the construction industry?

Noah Smith, writing for Bloomberg View

Construction has long been a “rock of solidarity” for blue-collar workers, given its lack of educational requirements and the relatively static nature of the work performed. “But there’s a big problem with the U.S. construction industry—it costs way too much to build things.” A one-third decrease in productivity since 1970 is partly to blame. What can be done to fix this? For one, fewer regulatory interruptions. “Streamlining permitting and approval processes and harmonizing building codes would” reduce risk for builders and put an end to workers having to idle while projects are held up in red tape.

Trump supporters aren’t lying to pollsters

Harry Enten, writing for CNN

Many political analysts theorize that President Trump does better in non-live polls because respondents are “afraid to admit support for Trump” to another person, on the grounds that it is “socially undesirable to say you’re for Trump.” In reality, it’s probably due to the way polling samples are collected. When one compares the data from randomly selected live and non-live panels, rather than opt-in polls that tend to skew the results, Trump’s advantage in non-live settings disappears. “The fact that we see no systematic improvement” in Trump’s approval rating in online polls suggests “that telephone polls aren’t underestimating his strength” at all.

No more excuses for Puerto Rico

Ike Brannon, writing for The Weekly Standard

The Puerto Rican government has used Hurricanes Irma and Maria to avoid making hard decisions on the island’s fiscal problems, threatening their long-term solvency. “Since the 2016 passage of PROMESA and the appointment of an Oversight Board to oversee the woebegone finances of the Puerto Rican government … Governor Ricardo Rossello and his administration have dedicated their efforts towards convincing Congress that it needs more financial assistance from the Treasury, as well as relief from its $73 billion debt.” The island’s government is now using the disasters as further evidence it needs relief; however, “the hurricanes reduced cash flows much less than the board and the government publicly anticipated.” Puerto Rico is receiving other federal help in the meantime, including $2 billion for electrical-grid repair and a 100 percent match on Medicaid funding during the recovery, and continued “intransigence” by the Puerto Rican government could further hurt its creditors and set a dangerous precedent for states to “escape their problems by merely reneging on debt obligations and eschewing reform.”

A home destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

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