• With: Joe Rago, Kim Strassel, Dan Henninger, Bret Stephens

    GIGOT: So it's still a black box.

    RAGO: Right. You can't just trust anything that comes out of the Health and Human Services Administration. So once they start revealing more information -- we've seen these leaps this week about a surge of enrollment. When they start to be more transparent, that will be a sign that things are better. I don't think that's going to happen.

    GIGOT: Dan, do you see any sign that the White House is going to anything other than tough this out, march on, declare victory no matter what happens, and just make sure that they can -- this will improve as it goes on?

    HENNINGER: No, absolutely. I think that is indeed the plan, is just to cram this down, push it through one way or another until you get enough people on the subsidies, that will make it difficult to get them off. The problem with the strategy, Paul, is I think a lot of people like the Millennials or people losing their insurance are finding out that essentially ObamaCare is a welfare program and that they're going to pay higher costs, higher premiums, so that other people over here, the insured and people with pre-existing conditions, can be subsidized. That wasn't the way ObamaCare was represented when it was sold to Congress. I think that is going to create a political problem out in the country for them.

    GIGOT: All right, Dan, thanks.

    When we come back, renewed handwringing over the state of American education as new international rankings find U.S. students once again lagging in math, science and reading. So how concerned should we be? There's a debate ahead.

    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

    GIGOT: Well, another mediocre showing for American students, this time, in the Program for International Student Assessments, global education scores, which rank 15-year-olds from around the world in reading, math and science. This year's results show the U.S. once again in the middle of the pack, far outpaced by East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.

    We're back with Dan Henninger and Kim Strassel. And Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor, Bret Stephens, also joins the group.

    So, Kim, how seriously should we take an international ranking like this?

    STRASSEL: I think we should take it seriously. I mean, some people will say, look, we're in the middle, we didn't necessarily fall very far, we've just sort of been there, things aren't getting worse. On the other hand, the world is changing. The skills you're need to survive in the world and compete in the world, and also we're now in a global economy competing for skills, that we need to be making progress on the start rather than going behind.

    I think what also has people nervous is that this comes despite many years now of the United States being focused on this question, No Child Left Behind, other pieces of legislation, Common Core debate, state efforts to improve things, and we're not noticeably making huge progress.

    GIGOT: No noticeable improvement, at least on the global rankings, Bret.

    BRET STEPHENS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Yeah, but rankings in education seem to have very little to do with the success of individuals in later life, much less the success of the economy. There's this false equation that countries with great educational systems are going to have innovative, dynamic economies. Is that true of Japan? Of course, it's not. Is that true of Finland? It's not there either. Their one champion corporation is Nokia. Take a country like Israel, which produces --

    GIGOT: But they have fewer people than New York City.

    STEPHENS: Yeah.

    (LAUGHTER)

    STEPHENS: It's got half as many people as Belgium, and that's what makes, by the way, a lot of these comparisons a little bit ridiculous, comparing a country of five million people --

    GIGOT: So we should ignore them?

    STEPHENS: Yes, I think we should ignore them because they basically tell you nothing except to invest a lot of money in education, and that's what we do here in the United States, putting more and more money into schools, with, really, very little to show for it.

    STRASSEL: No, that's the opposite, in fact, because what's happened, what this shows is you put a lot of money into education, that's not working.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: We're doing great -- we're doing great in spending money. We're right up at the top.

    STRASSEL: Yeah. So clearly, something else has to be done because that's not doing it for us.

    (CROSSTALK)

    STEPHENS: Look, education is a value in and of itself. There's a lot to be said for having smarter 15 or 18 or 21-year-olds. But that debate shouldn't be had on, you know, by saying this is what's going to predict our success or failures as a country going into the --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: All right, but it's not -- you're right, it's not the only variable. There's a dynamic economy and there's -- what are your policies, all of those kinds of things.

    But, Dan, there's a competition in the world now for human capital, right? You want to get the best and the brightest. One of the problems with Japan, for example, is it doesn't take immigrants. So they don't attract the world's smartest individuals, like we still do, although we're trying to keep them out. Do you agree with Bret?

    HENNINGER: You know, I really don't. Let me give you two examples. It's not really my examples. It's their example. Lichtenstein and Switzerland, these are two countries that --

    GIGOT: Bellwether nations.

    (LAUGHTER)

    HENNINGER: There was a lot of reporting done on these studies and this is what came out of these two countries. They -- their administrator said, look, we are fly specks in the world economy. We are just these teensy little countries. And we understand that we have to be better than most if we're going to compete. So what both of those countries have done is made a concerted effort to emphasize mathematics instruction. They take upwards of eight hours of math a week. And they have innovative programs to teach it. They understand their kids are going to have to know this stuff. They drill them. They discipline them. And they succeed. It's not rocket science.

    And I think if our schools understood that they were in the same competitive pool, that we would try to do the same sort of innovation.

    And I will say one more thing, if the teachers unions will allow that kind of innovation here.

    GIGOT: One of the things I like about this is it does at least wake up America. It says, you know what, your success in the world economy is not guaranteed.

    STEPHENS: Yes, but Lichtenstein and Switzerland's success in the world has to do with bank secrecy and low taxes. I mean, the Swiss and the Lichtensteinians, by the way, a country of, I think, about 25,000 people --

    GIGOT: All right, but let's not change the subject. Let's go on to - -

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: -- whether or not education is something we ought to care about as a competitive -- something to help our competitor.