Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Obama Follows Clinton's Advice And Seemingly Prevails

According to news reports, leading Republicans are appearing to cave in the debt ceiling negotiations. Apparently, GOP lawmakers are prepared to vote to raise the debt ceiling in three installments over the next year.

This impasse reminds me of the many budget squabbles between President Clinton and Republicans. Even though GOP lawmakers frequently threatened to "shut down" the government, Clinton would stand firm. In the end, the GOP would capitulate, and Clinton would emerge with greater popularity. Sources say that Clinton advised Obama to use the playbook he employed against Republicans. Apparently Obama followed Clinton's advice, and it has seemingly worked. What exactly was wrong with "two presidents"?

Please bear in mind that neither side would have allowed the government to default on its debt. Instead, this was just a game of political chess. One side had to concede eventually. Lacking any tenable economic theory for its reckless position, the GOP gave up first (just as I predicted).

The moral of the story for Obama: Fighting can actually work -- especially if you are indisputably correct on the issue.


Moore & Moore, P.A. said...

About freaking time he stands up and fights...

liberal dissent said...

I didn't trust Eric Cantor not to force this country into default for his own perceived political advantage, so I did think default was a definite risk. Boehner is more pragmatic, fortunately.

By the way, speaking of the economy, Darren, considering your position are you planning on having any posts discussing the current debate over law schools falsifying employment data, admitting too many students, etc.? There's been a growing anger among JD graduates over the past few years, but recently there seems to have been more of a backlash by law school professors against the administration over this.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi. I have had a long discussion about this on FB.

Law professors have responded more to the effort by the ABA to turn law schools into purely trade institutions and to remove things like tenure which are the hallmarks of academic freedom and the source of diversity within these institutions. Other market minded people devalue the importance of academic research. I fully support the critical response to these "innovations." Not only are they anti-intellectual, but they also undermine the law's role in promoting justice.

With respect to employment data -- obviously I support honesty in information given to students, and, frankly, I have not seen any backlash against this. If I have missed it, please provide a link.

I would argue that the law remains a very solid profession. But I will address a few issues. First, a lot of law schools have been created over the last decade. For the most part (there are some exceptions), these schools are not very prestigious or rigorous. They often teach solely to the bar exam. Some of them have high bar passage rates, but their students have great difficulty finding jobs. I think these schools do a disservice.

Nevertheless, students also need to investigate these issues prior to applying. Obviously, applicants should have accurate data. On the other hand, they should also act as wise consumers. Going to start-up law schools without proven track records of success involves a lot of risk.

Also, if an applicant only gets admitted to basement ranked law schools he or she should probably rethink whether law is the right profession. Law is glamorized in pop culture (Law and Order, etc.). And undoubtedly, many students apply seeking fame and fortune. You cannot blame law schools for people who come to graduate and professional schools with their heads in the clouds.

Furthermore, a lot of the recent anxiety has to do with the recession. People in all sectors (well, perhaps not nursing) feel afraid. News articles have focused extensively on law schools, but I suspect that statistically, graduates from many professional schools are nervous.

Finally, a lot of the anxiety has to do with tuition. Tuition in virtually every field has outpaced inflation for the last couple of decades. The media often singles out law school tuition, but MBA, Medicine, and even the Arts and Sciences have similarly high tuition. We absolutely must do more as a society to help people pursue education without accumulating so much debt.

At the same time, students need to be savvy. If a school that is ranked 150 charges the same tuition as Yale or Harvard, maybe students should avoid that school. Critics are demanding that law schools follow more corporate models, but students need to follow basic economic principles as well. I imagine that if students stopped attending perennially low-ranked schools that charge the same as prestigious schools where students have job success, then the former would have to reduce their tuition. In sum -- market principles should work in both directions!

PS: Low-ranked is a controversial term, but even US News gets that right (for the most part). I hate that survey, but using that as a general way of weeding out risky options is not a bad idea for perspective students. They should also ask questions.

I remember calling dozens of persons about law school before I chose to go to law school -- and I was only choosing among the very top schools. Furthermore, that was before email, the Internet, cellphones, and for a lot of people -- voicemail. Today, students have a lot of ways to get information. One angry grad told me that people were to busy to collect information -- so they need to rely on school data and US News exclusively. If they want to spend 200,000 dollars without conducting due diligence, would you really find them blameless?

liberal dissent said...

Have to disagree with you intensely, Darren; I am in the practice of law and though while I have been fortunate to go to a good school and obtain a good job it has been astonishing how many people I know who haven't. I personally know people from top schools who are struggling. The fourth tier students have always had trouble but now there are significant number of students from good schools unable to find employment. I have even heard anecdotal evidence of lawyers with educational pedigree and years of experience forced to work doc review, or compete with recent graduates for $40,000 a year entry-level positions.

Your school is not immune:

Frankly, I reject the idea that the majority of the blame should rely on some recent 21-year old graduate to believe the information given to him or her by a non-profit center of higher learning. A law school telling their students that 94% of their graduates are employed after 6 months, with a median salary of $160,000, is lying. They should not be allowed to defend that behavior by saying the students they are attempting to deceive should have seen through that, particularly where the student has been told their entire lives that while corporations may lie, that governments may lie, your school is not in it for the money and can be trusted.

The most articulate law professor critics to address the issue is, I think, Brian Tamahana:

and Jason Dolin (who is an adjunct and speaks from the point of view of someone who has his feet in both practice and academia):

As for turning law school into a trade school, I do agree there is nothing wrong with teaching at a high-level, theoretical level, but as Dolin above points out, law professors have passed up on 130 years of pedagogical research, and are almost never trained how to teach. It shouldn't be a trade school, but what is taught should be taught effectively.

And I will say, present company excluded of course, some of the worst defenders of injustice reside in law school academia. I have seen some astonishing defenses of indefensible behavior come from supposedly highly regarded law school professors. If there is an extremist, anti-human rights legal theory, almost inevitably it was devised by a law professor.

liberal dissent said...

Weird, I posted a response earlier today and it's not here. Anyway, I don't have the energy to re-create the whole thing, but in summary I really disagree with you. Fourth-tier law grads are pretty much hopeless, but that's been the case for a while. There are a lot of people from higher ranked schools now facing trouble, though; I have personally encountered people from what are considered the best schools in the country unable to find work. Even students at the top 3 schools in the country (widely considered to be Harvard, Yale, and Stanford) are reporting serious trouble with finding a job.

Your school is not immune:

And I do think it's unfair to expect people who are mostly in their early twenties to not expect law schools to flat out lie to them about employment statistics. You can't spend the first 21 years of someone's life telling them that they should listen at school then tell them they were mistaken to do so.

Law school is run as a business right now by their universities (i.e. the "tax" that law deans quietly pay their schools, which Dean Closius over at UB was just fired for complaining about).

Best articles on the subject I've seen include:



Personally I don't think turning law school into a trade school is the answer, but as Dolin notes above, law professors are not trained to teach and the law school educational model ignores 130 years of pedagogical research. There's nothing wrong with teaching abstract and theoretical subjects as long as it's done effectively. Honestly, someone who went from law school to 2 years at a clerkship back to law school to teach is not prepared to be an effective teacher.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

1. I specifically said that schools should not engage in fraud.

2. I specifically said that we have to consider the economic climate. When I was at Yale, during the last part of the first Bush recession, students had difficulty getting jobs. Big firms in NY were telling entire classes of first-year attorneys not to come to work. Paul Weiss was one of the biggest ones to do this. But it is a recession. Students at the top schools will rebound with the economy.

3. The top schools are more likely to hire someone with the credentials you list than most of the others. A lot of schools value practice. Also, the only "teaching" experience that PhDs have is usually lecturing a small groups of students or a big class or two. This is not the same as being "trained" in teaching. They learn on the job as well.

4. Theory has its place; practical courses do too. I actually think lawyers need to think much more -- especially those who believe they want to do regulatory or civil rights work. What's wrong with a diverse approach?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

PS -- you don't disagree with me. You disagree with arguments that you mistakenly attribute to me. I think I broke that down in the earlier post: 1. schools SHOULDN'T lie; 2. we didn't discuss pedagogy, before, but I favor a balanced approach to theory and practice; 3. I admitted the economy is relevant - and I never said that first-tier students aren't having hard times -- this isn't because of fraud and theory, however.

A final observation -- you make a sweeping claim that law schools ignore 130 years of pedagogy. Well, with that, I will disagree with you. Again, all schools do not have the same philosophy, but I have taught at two schools that spend a great deal of time thinking about pedagogy and implementing reforms. Your argument on this point is pretty bad.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

LD - Blogger has an antispam program that thought your post was spam. I have retrieved it. The legal academy might have some conservatives, but on average, they tend to be liberal to progressive. Most law professors do not condone terror. I believe you know that's true.

I already responded to the remainder of your posts. I am still baffled why you believe I think am I am trying to excuse law schools that deceive students. I have never seen you have a kneejerk reaction on any topic. Don't condemn me simply because I am a law professor.

liberal dissent said...

I absolutely do not think law professors are the villains here; the principal villains are the ABA and the class of professional university administrators who have arisen over the past few decades and have turned higher education into a something that benefits themselves and hurts students and faculty. Law students tend to be hurt even worse than other schools because of the "tax" they pay their universities. The dean of the University of Baltimore law school was recently ousted from his job simply for complaining about this tax. And like I said, I'm not just talking about the basement law schools, it's seriously reached into the upper echelon schools and it does not

But I do disagree completely with your statement that that the law is a solid profession; I really believe this is not true, and unless there are substantial changes that it will never be true again.

The problem with the cost of law school is students don't see it at the beginning. They're given government subsidized loans and told by the schools that they'll be able to repay them after they graduate. It doesn't follow any sort of normal free market principles, so unless the ABA starts enforcing some standards (improbable) or the government starts pulling federal loan eligibility from schools (slightly more likely) there will not be any changes.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

LD: Your argument on tuition could apply to most academic programs. As I said in my initial post, tuition as a general principle has outpaced inflation for about 2 decades. Some people are actually questioning whether undergraduate education is worth the cost (for similar reasons). I certainly wonder whether anyone should pursue a PhD without have tuition paid. And with Wall Street in such disarray, who should get advanced training in finance?

I'd rather deal with empirical data. All of us could point to persons from top schools who didn't get jobs. We can also find students from basement schools who have great jobs. But this does not prove anything about the state of the legal profession. I would love to see some data that spans several years -- not just anxiety driven anecdotes during a recession.

Finally, I am not sure if your position it entirely different from mine. I said that tuition is a major issue that needs to be addressed. I said that basement schools need to vanish. That would eliminate a lot of law students and make the supply of lawyers much smaller. Smaller supply, less loan debt. The profession would still be a sham to you?

PS: The Baltimore story is not common. In fact, the ABA limits the amount of money the main campus can grab from law schools. I think it's somewhere around 20 percent. Not sure. Of course, the UB denies the Dean's claim. But I would say that this amount of uptake is totally abnormal. There was another scandal at DePaul recently. That Dean resigned. I am not really sure what Dean would not resign under the circumstances. For that reason, these things are very rare -- and a violation of the ABA. If true, the schools could lose their accreditation.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

PS: what you call a "tax" is also paid by other professional schools. So singling out law is, again, wrong.

liberal dissent said...

The problem is, with the exception of business schools (which are only 2 years), other professional organizations make sure that professional schools aren't flooding the market. The ADA will close down dental schools if they are superfluous, while the ABA just permitted Cooley to open another campus, this time in Tampa.

If you're interested, another law professor (according to him, he's anonymous but sounds credible) chimes in:

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