Hochstadt, Steve

The Global Warming Hoax

By Steve Hochstadt

The history of scientific hoaxes is often amusing. In 1813, Charles Redhoffer created a “perpetual motion machine,” a device that created more energy than it used. After hundreds of people paid a dollar to see it spinning around, Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat, grew suspicious of its uneven motion. When pieces of wood were removed from the wall behind the machine, a belt drive made of cat-gut was revealed, leading to an upper floor, where an old man was turning a crank with one hand and eating bread with the other.

Creating Community, One Vote at a Time

By Steve Hochstadt

I've been thinking a lot about community lately. My involvement in my local elections has led to hundreds of conversations with people about our community - what the problems are, how to improve them, how the city should be run. But more important than the way we vote or even whom we vote for is the role the whole community plays in our local affairs.

Every once in a while, we all get to vote. Voting is one of the most important foundations of our democracy. Our ability to select our political managers, at the local, state, and national levels, and to vote them out of office the next time, puts ultimate power in the hands of the people.

What Ails American Higher Education?

By Steve Hochstadt

American higher education has some big problems. We still have a world-class network of colleges and universities. Students from less developed and from highly developed nations come to the US to get BAs and advanced degrees. Our teaching practices are copied, our researchers have made English a universal scientific language, and our graduates can compete across the globe.

The hundreds of small colleges scattered across the US represent a unique American contribution to undergraduate education, which is being copied in Europe. Not only has American higher education led the world in the integration of women and minorities into faculties and administration, but American scholars have developed the broadest critique of economic inequality, abuse of political authority, and social discrimination.

Whom Do You Trust?

By Steve Hochstadt

Whom do you trust? Many Americans might say, "Nobody." What they mean is that they don't trust any "official" sources of information. They listen attentively, however, to the crackpots of alarm. The ironic result, in an age of overwhelming access to information, is that many Americans are not only ignorant, but they believe in fairy tales.

Last week I wrote about how the belief of some Americans that their biggest enemy is their own government has increased gun sales. Many other writers have picked up this theme recently, as more and more right-wingers compare the US government to Nazis and Communists, claiming they need assault weapons for protection from tyranny at home.

Givers, Takers, and Voters

By Steve Hochstadt

In May, Mitt Romney told an audience of big donors in Florida that 47 percent of Americans would vote for President Obama because they pay no income tax, are dependent on government, believe they are victims, and feel “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Romney said these people are hopeless: “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

When a video of this speech was made public in September, Romney stood by his remarks. After he lost the election, he repeated this claim by attributing his defeat to the big “gifts” that Democrats had given and promised to “the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

Red State, Blue State

By Steve Hochstadt

I just spent a weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, giving a talk about my research on Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who spent the war in Shanghai. I was barely a mile from Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.

South Carolina is one of the reddest states, giving 55 percent of its votes to Romney. Now I'm back at home in Illinois, one of the bluer states, so safe for Democrats that Obama did not even campaign in his home state. Red state, blue state - what's the difference?

How to Win the Debate on Taxes

By Steve Hochstadt

TV commentators say Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate. He won it on taxes: "I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut … My number one principle is there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit … I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans … I will not, under any circumstance raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families." Should we believe that?

The Future of Local Government

By Steve Hochstadt

Local government issues may not appear to be on the Presidential ballot this November. But the national elections, for President and Congress, will affect our local governments and our daily lives for years afterward.

Like all governments, local administrations are funded by tax revenues. A small number of municipalities and counties across the US have their own income taxes, usually under 1%, but sometimes higher. Every county in Indiana, Kentucky and Maryland, 560 cities and villages in Ohio, and big cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Birmingham, and St. Louis receive funds from local income taxes. Most municipal and county governments, however, rely on property and sales taxes.