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Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism

Decline of middle class in the USA under neoliberal regime
and rise of Economic Royalists ("Let them eat cake ")

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"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

-- Abraham Lincoln

Isn’t inequality merely the price of America being No. 1? ... That’s almost certainly false... Prior to about 20 years ago, most economists thought that inequality greased the wheels of progress. Wealth Inequality in America Overwhelmingly now, people who study it empirically think that it’s sand in the wheels. ... Inequality breeds conflict, and conflict breeds wasted resources”

Samuel Bowles,
cited from Economist's View: Inequality and Guard Labor

From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT, November 6, 2010

Roughly 1 in 4 Americans is employed to keep fellow citizens in line and protect private wealth from would-be Robin Hoods

Guard Labor Why is Inequality Bad

If labor is a commodity like any other, who is the idiot in charge of inventory management?.

Economist's View '


Introduction

As aptly noted Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems ( The Guardian,  April 15, 2016)

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you'll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness , the collapse of ecosystems, rejection of the current neoliberal elite by majority of American people and the rise of candidates like Donald Trump . But we respond to these developments as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalyzed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly? 

One of the key property of neoliberalism is that it recasts inequality as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. If you deserve to die, so be it. Of course. that does not apply to the financial oligarchy which is above the law and remains unpunished even for very serious crimes. This fate is reserved for bottom 99% of population.

One of the key property of neoliberalism is that it recasts inequality as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. If you deserve to die, so be it. Of course. that does not apply to the financial oligarchy which is above the law and remains unpunished even for very serious crimes.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations, In other words neoliberal economic model uses "unable to compete in the labor market" label for poor people in the same way Nazi used concept of Untermensch for Slavic people.

That also mean that for those outside top 20% of population the destiny is brutal exploitation not that different then in slave societies. It victimizes and artfully creates complex of inferiority among poor people trying to brainwash that they themselves are guilty in their status and that their children do not deserve better. This is why subsidies for colleges are cut. Unfortunately now even lower middle class is coming under tremendous pressure and essentially is moved into poverty. Disappearance of well-paid middle class "white collar" jobs such as IT jobs and recently oil sector jobs  and conversion of many jobs to temp or to outsourcing/off-shoring model is a fact that can't be denied. Rise in inequality in the USA for that last twenty years of neoliberalism domination is simply dramatic and medial income per family actually dropped.

Everything is moving in the direction of a pretty brutal joke: poor Americans just got a new slave-owners. And now slaves are not distinguished by  the color of their skin.

The economic status of Wal Mart employees (as well as employees of many other retailers, who are predominantly women) are not that different from slaves. In "rich" states like NY and NJ Wal-Mart cashiers are paid around $9 an hour. That's around $18K a year if you can get 40hours a week (big if),  You can't survive on those money living alone and renting an apartment. Two people might be able to survive if they share the apartment costs.  And forget about that if you have a child (aka "single mothers"  as a new face of the US poverty). You can survive only with additional social programs like food stamps. In other words the federal state subsidizes Wal-Mart, increasing their revenue at taxpayers expense.

Piketty thinks a rentier society (which is another definition of neoliberal society) contradicts the meritocratic worldview of democratic societies and is toxic for democracy as it enforces "one dollar one vote" election process (corporation buy politicians; ordinary people just legitimize with their votes pre-selected by elite candidates, see Two Party System as Polyarchy):

 “…no ineluctable force standing in the way to extreme concentration of wealth…if growth slows and the return on capital increases [as] tax competition between nations heats up…Our democratic societies rest on a meritocratic worldview, or at any rate, a meritocratic hope, by which I mean a belief in a society in which inequality is based more on merit and effort than on kinship and rents. This belief and hope play a very crucial role in modern society, for a simple reason: in a democracy the professed equality of rights of all citizens contrasts sharply with the very real inequality of living conditions, and in order to overcome this contradiction it is vital to make sure that social inequalities derive from ration and universal principles rather than arbitrary contingencies. Inequalities must therefore be just and useful to all, at least in the realm of discourse and as far as possible in reality as well…Durkheim predicted that modern democratic society would not put for long with the existence of inherited wealth and would ultimately see to it that the ownership of property ended at death.” p. 422

A neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plant's book on neo-liberalism is that if a fortune has been made through no injustice, then it is OK. So we should not condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be. That that's not true, as such cases always involve some level of injustice, if only by exploiting some loophole in the current laws. Piketty is correct that to the extent that citizens understood the nature of a rentier society they would rise in opposition to it. The astronomical pay of "super-managers" cannot be justified in meritocratic terms. CEO's can capture boards and force their incentive to grow faster then  company profits. Manipulations with shares buyback are used to meet "targets". So neoliberal extreme is definitely bad.

At the same time we now know the equality if not achievable and communism was a pipe dream that actually inflicted cruelty on a lot of people in the name of unachievable utopia. But does this means that inequality, any level of inequality, is OK. It does not look this way and we can actually argue that extremes meet.

But collapse of the USSR lead to triumph of neoliberalism which is all about rising inequality. Under neoliberalism the wealthy and their academic servants, see inequality as a noble outcome. They want to further enrich top 1%, shrink middle class making it less secure, and impoverish poor. In other words they promote under the disguise of "free market" Newspeak a type of economy which can be called a plantation economy. In this type of the economy all the resources and power are in the hands of a wealthy planter class who then gives preference for easy jobs and the easy life to their loyal toadies. The wealthy elites like cheap labor. And it's much easier to dictate their conditions of employment when unemployment is high. Keynesian economics values the middle class and does not value unemployment or cheap labor. Neoliberals like a system that rewards them for their loyalty to the top 1% with an easier life than they otherwise merit. In a meritocracy where individuals receive public goods and services that allow them to compete on a level playing field, many neoliberal toadies would be losers who cannot compete.

In a 2005 report to investors three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest … In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer", or indeed the “Russian consumer”.

In other words there are analysts that believe that we are moving to a replay of Middle Ages on a new, global level, were there are only rich who do the lion share of the total consumption and poor, who does not matter.

We can also state, that under neoliberal regime the sources of American economic inequality are largely political. In other words they are the result of deliberate political decision of the US elite to shape markets in neoliberal ways, and dismantle New Deal.

Part of this "shaping the markets in neoliberal ways" was corruption of academic economists. Under neoliberalism most economists are engaged in what John Kenneth Galbraith called "the economics of innocent fraud." With the important correction that there is nothing innocent in their activities. Most of them, especially "neoclassical" economists are prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So their prescription and analysis as for the reasons of high unemployment should be taken with due skepticism.

We also know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That means that existence of aristocracy might not be optimal for society "at large". But without moderating influence of the existence of the USSR on appetites of the US elite, they engage is audacious struggle for accumulation as much power and wealth as possible. In a way that situation matches the situation in 1920th, which was known to be toxic.

But society slowly but steadily moves in this direction since mid 80th. According to the official wage statistics for 2012 http://www.ssa.gov , 40% of the US work force earned less than $20,000, 53% earned less than $30,000, and 73% earned less than $50,000. The median US wage or salary was $27,519 per year. The amounts are in current dollars and they are "total" compensation amounts subject to state and federal income taxes and to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. In other words, the take home pay is less.

In other word the USA is now entered an inequality bubble, the bubble with the financial oligarchy as new aristocracy, which strives for absolute control of all layers of the government. The corruption has a systemic character. It take not only traditional form of the intermarriage between Wall street and DC power brokers (aka revolving doors). It also create a caste of guard labor to protect oligarchy.

Redistribution of wealth up as the goal of neoliberalism makes it unsustainable social system

As George H.W. Bush once  said (can't find exact quote):   Neoliberalism is about redistribution of wealth into fewer, higher and tighter hands. Until approximately 2008  the increasing disparity between rich and poor has, largely been non-disruptive in the USA because the lower 90% have been placated enough, by way of the proverbial bread and circuses, not to cause any waves. Sure, there have been little movements here and there, such as Occupy Wall Street, but they were quickly crashed by enormous national security state intelligence agencies.

But just imagine another financial crisis and its consequences

The public mindset might quickly turn against the neoliberal "The New Class" -- neoliberal nomenklatura. Even under Trump with his fake promises social tension had risen significantly because:

Can you imagine the backlash against the Neoliberalism in such circumstances? I suspect it might be larger then in 2008 despite the power of national security state and the fact that the Americans are too dumbed down and drugged to revolt.

As one ZeroHedge commenter put it: "It's not rich against poor. It's FIRE sector parasites vs. earned income hosts."

New global caste structure and stratification of the US society

Some researchers point out that neoliberal world is increasingly characterized by a three-tiered social structure(net4dem.org):

This process of stratification and fossilization of "haves" and "haves-not" is now pretty much established in the USA. The US population can be partitioned into five distinct classes, or strata:

  1. Lower class (poor) bottom 20%. Those folks have income close to official poverty line, which varies from state to state. In "expensive states" like NJ and NY this category ranks much higher then national level, up to 40%. Official figures from a Census Bureau that state that in 2010 twelve states had poverty rates above 17%, up from five in 2009, while ten metropolitan areas had poverty rates over 18%. Texas had the highest poverty rate, at 33.4%, followed by Fresno, California, at 26.8%.

    According to figures published by the Social Security Administration in October 2011, the median income for American workers in 2010 was $26,364, just slightly above the official poverty level of $22,025 for a family of four. Most single parent families with children fall into this category. Many single earner families belong to this category too.

    The median income figure reflects the fact that salaries of 50% of all workers are less then $26,364 and gives a much truer picture of the real social conditions in the United States than the more widely publicized average income, which was $39,959 in 2010. This figure is considerably higher than median income because the distribution of income is so unequal—a relative handful of ultra-high income individuals pulls up the average.

  2. Lower middle class (60%). Depending on class model used, the middle class may constitute anywhere from 25% to 66% of households. Typically includes households with incomes above $46,326 (all households) or $67,348 (dual earners households) per year. The latter is more realistic. In order for two earners family to qualify each earner should get approximately $34K a year or more ($17 per hour wage with 40 hours workweek). Per household member income is around $23.5K
    The lower middle class... these are people in technical and lower-level management positions who work for those in the upper middle class as lower managers, craftspeople, and the like. They enjoy a reasonably comfortable standard of living, although it is constantly threatened by taxes and inflation. Generally, they have a Bachelor's and sometimes Masters college degree.

    —Brian K. William, Stacy C. Sawyer and Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2006 (Adapted from Dennis Gilbert 1997; and Joseph Kahl 1993)[4]

  3. Upper middle class (top 20%). The includes households with incomes above 91K per year.
  4. Upper class (elite): top 1%. Annual comes (AGI) for this group exceed $380K per year. Commonly called multimillionaires (net worth two millions or more). In 2010 controlled at least 25% of total nation income (23.5% in 2007, 8.9% in 1979) . Top 1% owns more than 90% of combined or 33.8% of the nation private wealth.
  5. Super rich (top 0.01%, oligarchs, super-elite, or top 1000 families). A close to this category of super-rich are billionaires. US is home of 425 billionaires, while Russia and China have 95 and 96 correspondingly. The average worth of the world's billionaires is now $3.5 billion, or $500 million more than last year.( Forbes)

Share of consumption for families outside upper middle class (with income, say, below $91K per year (80% of US households) is much less then commonly assumed. That means that in the USA consumer spending are driven by upper class and as such is pretty much isolated from decline of wages of lower 80% of population. The median household income in the United States is around $50K.

Possibility of the return to the clan society

The danger of high level of inequality might be revival of nationalism and return to clan (mafia) society in the form of corporatism or even some form of national socialism. Mark S. Weine made this point in his book The Rule of the Clan. What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom . From one Amazon review:

Weiner's book is more than worth its price simply as an armchair tour of interesting places and cultures and mores, deftly and briefly described. But he has a more serious and important point to make. While the social cohesion that the values of the clan promote is alluring, they are ultimately at odds with the values of individual autonomy that only the much-maligned modern liberal state can offer.

Even the state's modern defenders tend to view it, at best, as a necessary evil. It keeps the peace, upholds (somewhat) international order, and manages the complexity of modern life in ways that allow individuals to get on with their journeys of personal fulfillment.

Weiner shows (in too brief but nevertheless eloquent ways) that this reductive view of the state is insufficient to resist the seductive appeal of the clan, and that it will be for the worse if we can't find ways to combat this allure within the legal structures of modern liberalism.

Read alongside James Ault's masterful participant study of fundamentalist Baptism, Spirit and Flesh, and draw your own conclusions.

Dramatic increase in the use of guard labor and conversion of the state into National Security State

Of course the elite is worried about security of their ill-gotten gains. And that's partially why the USA need such huge totally militarized police force and outsize military. Police and military are typical guard labor, that protects private wealth of the US plutocrats. Add to this equally strong private army of security contractors.

Other suggested that not only the USA, but the global neoliberal society is deeply sick with the same disease that the US society expected in 20th (and like previously with globalism of robber barons age, the triumph of neoliberalism in 1990th was and is a global phenomenon).

High inequality logically leads to dramatic increase of guard labor and inevitable conversion of state into National Security State. Which entail total surveillance over the citizens as a defining factor. Ruling elite is always paranoid, but neoliberal elite proved to be borderline psychopathic. They do not want merely security, they want to crush all the resistance.

Butler Shaffer wrote recently that the old state system in the United States is dying before our very eyes:

A system that insists on controlling others through increasing levels of systematic violence; that loots the many for the aggrandizement of the few; that regulates any expressions of human behavior that are not of service to the rulers; that presumes the power to wage wars against any nation of its choosing, a principle that got a number of men hanged at the Nuremberg trials; and finally, criminalizes those who would speak the truth to its victims, has no moral energy remaining with which to sustain itself.

Low mobility created potential for the degeneration of the elite

It is pretty clear that the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty. In the form of the strata which Roosevelt called "Economic royalists". Jut look at third generation of Walton family or Rocafeller family.

Remember the degenerative Soviet Politburo, or, for a change, unforgettable dyslexic President George W Bush ? The painful truth is that in the most unequal nations including the UK and the US – the intergenerational transmission of income is very strong (in plain language they have a heredity-based aristocracy). See Let them eat cake. In more equal societies such as Denmark, the tendency of privilege to breed privilege is much lower but also exists and is on the rise. As Roosevelt observed in a similar situation of 30th:

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.

High inequality undermines social cohesion

Neoliberalism and its ideology(Randism) undermined social cohesion, making society members more hostile to each other and as such less willing to defend the country in case of real danger. Betrayal of the country is no longer an unspeakable crime.

The purpose of government should be to foster a "civil society". The slogan of the "oligarchic right" is "me first", or, as in Paul Ryan's adoration of Ayn Rand, greed is good. Objectivism became kind of new civic religion, with the goal of maximizing the wealth of a single individual at the expense of the civil society is a virtue. And those new social norms (instilled by MSM) allow the fat cats simply to stole from everybody else without fear of punishment. See an outburst from Stephen Schwarzman. If there are two societies inside of the country with bridges burned, the bottom part is less willing to spill blood for the upper part. And having a contractual army has its own set of dangers, as it spirals into high level of militarism (being in war is a new normal for the USA during the last 30 years or so), which while enriching part of the elite bankrupts the country. The quality of roads is a testament of this process.

Countervailing mechanisms and forces are destroyed. Plutocrats now can shape the conversation by buying up newspapers and television channels as well as funding political campaigns. The mousetrap of high inequality became irreversible without external shocks. The more unequal our societies become, the more we all become prisoners of that inequality. The key question is: Has our political system been so degraded by misinformation and disinformation that it can no longer function because it lost the touch with reality? The stream of outright falsehoods that MSM feed the lemmings (aka society members) is clearly politically motivated. But a side effect (externality) of all that brainwashing efforts is that nobody including players at the top of the government now understands what's going on. Look at Obama and Joe Biden.

As the growth of manufacturing base slowed down and return on capital dropped, the elite wants less government social spending. They wants to end popular government programs such as Social Security, no matter how much such cuts would cause economic dislocation and strains in the current social safety net. The claims are that these programs are "Waste" and could be cut without anyone, but the "moochers" noticing the effects. They use the economic strain felt by many in the economy to promote these cuts. They promise that cuts to vital programs will leave more money in the pockets of the average person. In reality, the increase in money will be marginal, but the effects on security and loss of "group purchasing power" economy of scale will make the cuts worse than worthless (Economist's View Paul Krugman Moment of Truthiness)

Two party system makes the mousetrap complete

The US system of voting (winner take all) leads inexorably to Two party system. Third parties are only spoilers. Protest votes in the current system are COUNTERPRODUCTIVE (i.e. they help the evil, not the merely bad). Deliberate and grotesque gerrymandering further dilutes protest votes.

Again, I would like to stress that rich consumers, few in number, getting the gigantic slice of income and the most of consumption (that's why the US consumption was so resilient during two last financial crises). There are the rest, the “non-rich”, accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

The question arise "Why we should care?". Most of the readers of this page are not at the bottom bracket anyway. Many are pretty high up. Here is one possible answer:

But should we care? There are two reasons we might: process and outcome.

Creating a strata of the outcasts aka permanently unemployed

It is very difficult to understand the real situation with inequality in the USA today without experiencing long term unemployed.

Or if you forced into job of a WalMart cashier or other low paid employee. Job that does not provide a living minimum wage. You need to watch this YouTube video Wealth Inequality in America to understand the reality. The video was posted anonymously by someone using the YouTube handle politizane. It is pretty clear that not only the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty, economic royalty but also a strata of people completely deprived. An Outcaste.

And the royalty became recklessly like it should promoting to the top the likes of recovered alcoholic Bush II or "private equity shark" Romney (and remember who Romney father was).

See Over 50 and unemployed

Education is no longer the answer to rising inequality

In the current circumstances education is no longer the answer to rising inequality. Instead of serving as a social lift it, at least in some cases, became more of a social trap. This is connected with neoliberal transformation of education. With the collapse of post-war public funded educational model and privatization of the University education students face a pretty cruel world. World in which they are cows to milk. Now universities became institutions very similar to McDonalds ( or, in less politically correct terms, Bordellos of Higher Learning). Like McDonalds they need to price their services so that to receive nice profit and they to make themselves more attractive to industry they intentionally feed students with overspecialized curriculum instead of concentrating on fundamentals and the developing the ability to understand the world. Which was a hallmark of university education of the past.

Since 1970th Neo-Liberal University model replaced public funded university model (Dewey model). It is now collapsing as there are not that many students, who are able (and now with lower job prospects and tale of graduates working as bartender, willing) to pay infated tuition fees. That means that higher education again by-and-large became privilege of the rich and upper middle class.

Lower student enrollment first hit minted during dot-com boom expensive private colleges, who hunt for people with government support (such a former members of Arm forces). It remains viable only in elite universities, which traditionally serve the top 1% and rich foreigners. As David Schultz wrote in his article (Logos, 2012):

Yet the Dewey model began to collapse in middle of the 1970s. Perhaps it was the retrenchment of the SUNY and CUNY systems in New York under Governor Hugh Carey in 1976 that began the end of the democratic university. What caused its retrenchment was the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s was born of numerous problems. Inflationary pressures caused by Vietnam and the energy embargoes of the 1970s, and recessionary forces from relative declines in American economic productivity produced significant economic shocks, including to the public sector where many state and local governments edged toward bankruptcy.

Efforts to relieve declining corporate profits and productivity initiated efforts to restructure the economy, including cutting back on government services. The response, first in England under Margaret Thatcher and then in the United States under Ronald Reagan, was an effort to retrench the state by a package that included decreases in government expenditures for social welfare programs, cutbacks on business regulations, resistance to labor rights, and tax cuts. Collectively these proposals are referred to as Neo-liberalism and their aim was to restore profitability and autonomy to free markets with the belief that unfettered by the government that would restore productivity.

Neo-liberalism had a major impact on higher education. First beginning under President Carter and then more so under Ronald Reagan, the federal and state governments cut taxes and public expenditures. The combination of the two meant a halt to the Dewey business model as support for public institutions decreased and federal money dried up.

From a high in the 1960s and early 70s when states and the federal government provided generous funding to expand their public systems to educate the Baby Boomers, state universities now receive only a small percentage of their money from the government. As I pointed out in my 2005 Logos “The Corporate University in American Society” article in 1991, 74% of the funding for public universities came from states, in 2004; it was down to 64%, with state systems in Illinois, Michigan and Virginia down to 25%, 18%, and 8% respectively. Since then, the percentages have shrunk even more, rendering state universities public institutions more in name than in funding.

Higher education under Neo-liberalism needed a new business model and it found it in the corporate university. The corporate university is one where colleges increasingly use corporate structures and management styles to run the university. This includes abandoning the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shared governance model where faculty had an equal voice in the running of the school, including over curriculum, selection of department chairs, deans, and presidents, and determination of many of the other policies affecting the academy. The corporate university replaced the shared governance model with one more typical of a business corporation.

For the corporate university, many decisions, including increasingly those affecting curriculum, are determined by a top-down pyramid style of authority. University administration often composed not of typical academics but those with business or corporate backgrounds had pre-empted many of the decisions faculty used to make. Under a corporate model, the trustees, increasingly composed of more business leaders than before, select, often with minimal input from the faculty, the president who, in turn, again with minimal or no faculty voice, select the deans, department heads, and other administrative personnel.

University presidents became way too greedy

Neoliberalism professes the idea the personal greed can serve positive society goals, which is reflected in famous neoliberal slogan "greed is good". And university presidents listen. Now presidents of neoliberal universities do not want to get $100K per year salary, they want one, or better several, million dollar salary of the CEO of major corporation (Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds - NYTimes.com)

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.

The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically.

“The high executive pay obviously isn’t the direct cause of higher student debt, or cuts in labor spending,” Ms. Wood said. “But if you think about it in terms of the allocation of resources, it does seem to be the tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.”

... ... ...

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of public university presidents’ compensation, also released Sunday, found that nine chief executives earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2012-13, up from four the previous year, and three in 2010-11. The median total compensation of the 256 presidents in the survey was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

... ... ...

As in several past years, the highest-compensated president, at $6,057,615 in this period, was E. Gordon Gee, who resigned from Ohio State last summer amid trustee complaints about frequent gaffes. He has since become the president of West Virginia University.

This trick requires dramatic raising of tuition costs. University bureaucracy also got taste for better salaries and all those deans, etc want to be remunerated like vice presidents. So raising the tuition costs became the key existential idea of neoliberal university. Not quality of education, but tuition costs now are the key criteria of success. And if you can charge students $40K per semester it is very, very good. If does not matter that most population get less then $20 an hour.

The same is true for professors, who proved to be no less corruptible. And some of them, such as economic departments, simply serve as prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So they were corrupted even before that rat race for profit. Of course there are exceptions. But they only prove the rule.

As the result university tuition inflation outpaced inflation by leaps and bounds. At some point amount that you pay (and the level of debt after graduation) becomes an important factor in choosing the university. So children of "have" and "have nots" get into different educational institutions and do not meet each other. In a way aristocracy returned via back door.

Neoliberal university professes "deep specialization" to create "ready for the market" graduates. And that creates another problem: education became more like stock market game and that makes more difficult for you to change you specialization late in the education cycle. But early choice entail typical stock market problem: you might miss the peak of the market or worse get into prolonged slump as graduates in finance learned all too well in 2008. That's why it is important not to accumulate too much debt: this is a kind of "all in" play in poker. You essentially bet that in a particular specialty there will be open positions with high salary, when you graduate. If you lose this bet you are done.

As a result of this "reaction to the market trends" by neoliberal universities, when universities bacem appendixes of HR of large corporations students need to be more aware of real university machinery then students in 50th or 60th of the last century. And first of all assume that it is functioning not to their benefits.

One problem for a student is that there are now way too many variables that you do not control. Among them:

On the deep level neoliberal university is not interested to help you to find specialization and place in life where can unleash your talents. You are just a paying customers much like in McDonalds, and university interests are such they might try to push you in wrong direction or load you with too much debt.

If there is deep mismatch as was with computer science graduates after crash of dot-com boom, or simply bad job market due to economy stagnation and you can't find the job for your new specialty (or if you got "junk" specialty with inherent high level of unemployment among professionals) and you have substantial education debt, then waiting tables or having some other MacJob is a real disaster for you. As with such selaries you simply can't pay it back. So controlling the level of debt is very important and in this sence parents financial help is now necessary. In other words education became more and more "rich kids game".

That does not mean that university education should be avoided for those from families with modest means. On the contrary it provides unique experience and help a person to mature in multiple ways difficult to achieve without it. It is still one of the best ways to get vertical mobility. But unless parents can support you you need to try to find the most economical way to obtain it without acquiring too much debt. This is you first university exam. And if you fail it you are in trouble.

For example, computer science education is a great way to learn quite a few things necessary for a modern life. But the price does matter and prestige of the university institution that you attend is just one of the factors you should consider in your evaluation. It should not be the major factor ("vanity fair") unless your parents are rich and can support you. If you are good you can get later a master degree in a prestigious university after graduation from a regular college. Or even Ph.D.

County colleges are greatly underappreciated and generally provide pretty high standard of education, giving ability to students to save money for the first two years before transferring to a four year college. They also smooth the transition as finding yourself among people who are only equal or superior then you (and have access to financial respource that you don't have) is a huge stress. The proverb say that it is better to be first in the village then last in the town has some truth in it. Prestigious universities might provide a career boost (high fly companies usually accept resumes only from Ivy League members), but they cost so much that you need to be a son or daughter of well-to-do parents to feel comfortably in them. Or extremely talented. Also amount of career boost that elite universities provide depends on whom your parents are and what connections they have. It does not depend solely on you and the university. Again, I would like to stress that you should resist "vanity fair" approach to your education: a much better way is to try to obtain BS in a regular university and them try to obtain MS and then, if you are good, PHD, in a prestigious university. Here is a fragment of an interesting discussion that covers this topic (Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy?, Feb 13, 2013 ; I recommend you to read the whole discussion ):

kievite:

I would like to defend Greg Clack.

I think that Greg Clack point is that the number of gifted children is limited and that exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies (story of Alexander Hamilton was really fascinating for me, the story of Mikhail Lomonosov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lomonosov was another one -- he went from the very bottom to the top of Russian aristocracy just on the strength of his abilities as a scientist). In no way the ability to "hold its own" (typical for rich families kids) against which many here expressed some resentment represents social mobility. But the number of kids who went down is low -- that's actually proves Greg Clack point:

(1) Studies of social mobility using surnames suggest two things. Social mobility rates are much lower than conventionally estimated. And social mobility rates estimated in this way vary little across societies and time periods. Sweden is no more mobile than contemporary England and the USA, or even than medieval England. Social mobility rates seem to be independent of social institutions (see the other studies on China, India, Japan and the USA now linked here).

Francisco Ferreira rejects this interpretation, and restates the idea that there is a strong link between social mobility rates and inequality in his interesting post.

What is wrong with the data Ferreira cites? Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look at just single aspects of social status such as income, are contaminated by noise. If we measure mobility on one aspect of status such as income, it will seem rapid.

But this is because income is a very noisy measure of the underlying status of families. The status of families is a combination of their education, occupation, income, wealth, health, and residence. They will often trade off income for some other aspect of status such as occupation. A child can be as socially successful as a low paid philosophy professor as a high paid car salesman. Thus if we measure just one aspect of status such as income we are going to confuse the random fluctuations of income across generations, influenced by such things as career choices between business and philosophy, with true generalised social mobility.

If these estimates of social mobility were anywhere near correct as indicating true underlying rates of social mobility, then we would not find that the aristocrats of 1700 in Sweden are still overrepresented in all elite occupations of Sweden. Further, the more equal is income in a society, the less signal will income give of the true social status of families. In a society such as Sweden, where the difference in income between bus drivers and philosophy professors is modest, income tells us little about the social status of families. It is contaminated much more by random noise. Thus it will appear if we measure social status just by income that mobility is much greater in Sweden than in the USA, because in the USA income is a much better indicator of the true overall status of families.

The last two paragraphs of Greg Clark article cited by Mark Thoma are badly written and actually are somewhat disconnected with his line of thinking as I understand it as well as with the general line of argumentation of the paper.

Again, I would like to stress that a low intergenerational mobility includes the ability of kids with silver spoon in their mouth to keep a status close to their parent. The fact that they a have different starting point then kids from lower strata of society does not change that.

I think that the key argument that needs testing is that the number of challengers from lower strata of the society is always pretty low and is to a large extent accommodated by the societies we know (of course some societies are better then others).

Actually it would be interesting to look at the social mobility data of the USSR from this point of view.

But in no way, say, Mark Thoma was a regular kid, although circumstances for vertical mobility at this time were definitely better then now. He did possessed some qualities which made possible his upward move although his choice of economics was probably a mistake ;-).

Whether those qualities were enough in more restrictive environments we simply don't know, but circumstances for him were difficult enough as they were.

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

I stopped reading after that. I teach at a high school in a town with a real mix of highly elite families, working class families, and poor families, and I can tell you that the children of affluent parents are not obviously more gifted than the children of poor families. They do, however, have a lot more social capital, and they have vastly more success. But the limitations on being "gifted" are irrelevant.

According to an extensive study (Turkheimer et al., 2003) of 50,000 pregnant women and the children they went on to have (including enough sets of twins to be able to study the role of innate genetic differences), variation in IQ among the affluent seems to be largely genetic.

Among the poor, however, IQ has very little to do with genes -- probably because the genetic differences are swamped and suppressed by the environmental differences, as few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances.

kievite -> EC...

All you said is true. I completely agree that "...few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances." So there are losses here and we should openly talk about them.

Also it goes without saying that social capital is extremely important for a child. That's why downward mobility of children from upper classes is suppressed, despite the fact that some of them are plain vanilla stupid.

But how this disproves the point made that "exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies"? I think you just jumped the gun...

mrrunangun:

The early boomers benefitted from the happy confluence of the postwar boom, LBJ's Great Society efforts toward financial assistance for those seeking to advance their educations, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened opportunities for marginalized social groups in institutions largely closed to them under the prewar social customs in the US.

The US Supreme Court is made up of only Jews and Catholics as of this writing, a circumstance inconceivable in the prewar America. Catholics were largely relegated to separate and unequal institutions. Jews' opportunities were limited by quotas and had a separate set of institutions of their own where their numbers could support such. Where their numbers were not sufficient, they were often relegated to second rate institutions.

Jewish doctors frequently became the leading men in the Catholic hospitals in Midwestern industrial towns where they were unwelcome in the towns' main hospitals. Schools, clubs, hospitals, professional and commercial organizations often had quota or exclusionary policies. Meritocracy has its drawbacks, but we've seen worse in living memory.

College textbook publishing became a racket with the growth of neoliberalism. That means at least since 1980. And it is pretty dirty racket with willing accomplishes in form of so called professors like Greg Mankiw. For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200. An interesting discussion of this problem can be found at Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks'

See Slightly Skeptical View on University Education

New generation of robber barons: US oligarchy never was so audacious

As Jesse aptly noted at his blog post Echoes of the Past In The Economist - The Return of the Übermenschen the US oligarchy never was so audacious.

And it is as isolated as the aristocracies of bygone days, isolation reinforced by newly minted royalty withdrawal into gated estates, Ivy League Universities, and private planes.

They are not openly suggesting that no child should rise above the status of parents, presumably in terms of wealth, education, and opportunity. But their policies are directed toward this goal. If you are born to poor parents in the USA, all bets are off -- your success is highly unlikely, and your servile status, if not poverty is supposedly pre-destined by poor generic material that you got.

This is of course not because the children of the elite inherit the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life from their parents. Whatever abilities they have (and regression to the mean is applicable to royalty children too), they are greatly supplemented, of course, by the easy opportunities, valuable connections, and access to power. That's why the result of SAT in the USA so strongly correlated with the wealth of parents. And a virtual freedom from prosecution does not hurt either, in case they have inherited a penchant for sociopathy, or something worse, along with their many gifts.

The view that the children of the poor will not do well, because they are genetically inferior became kind of hidden agenda. These are the pesky 99% just deserve to be cheated and robbed by the elite, because of the inherent superiority of the top one percent. There is no fraud in the system, only good and bad breeding, natural predators and prey.

This line of thinking rests on the assumption that I succeed, therefore I am. And if you do not, well, so be it. You will be low-paid office slave or waiter in McDonalds with a college diploma as it is necessary for the maximization of profits of the elite. There is no space at the top for everybody. Enjoy the ride... Here is an typical expression of such views:

"Many commentators automatically assume that low intergenerational mobility rates represent a social tragedy. I do not understand this reflexive wailing and beating of breasts in response to the finding of slow mobility rates.

The fact that the social competence of children is highly predictable once we know the status of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is not a threat to the American Way of Life and the ideals of the open society

The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League.

They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry."

Greg Clark, The Economist, 13 Feb. 2013

Mr. Clark is now a professor of economics and was the department chair until 2013 at the University of California, Davis. His areas of research are long term economic growth, the wealth of nations, and the economic history of England and India.

And another one:

"During this time, a growing professional class believed that scientific progress could be used to cure all social ills, and many educated people accepted that humans, like all animals, were subject to natural selection.

Darwinian evolution viewed humans as a flawed species that required pruning to maintain its health. Therefore negative eugenics seemed to offer a rational solution to certain age-old social problems."

David Micklos, Elof Carlson, Engineering American Society: The Lesson of Eugenics

If we compare this like of thinking with the thinking of eightieth century and you will see that the progress is really limited:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.

There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.

It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

So all this screams of MSM about dropping consumer spending is just a smoke screen. In oligarchic republic which USA represents, consumption is heavily shifted to top 20% and as such is much less dependent of the conditions of the economy. And top 20% can afford $8 per gallon gas (European price) without any problems.

John Barkley Rosser, Jr. With Marina V. Rosser and Ehsan Ahmed, argued for a two-way positive link between income inequality (economic inequality) and the size of an underground economy in a nation (Rosser, Rosser, and Ahmed, 2000).

Globally in 2005, top fifth (20%) of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption (20:80 Pareto rule). The poorest fifth just 1.5%. I do not think the USA differs that much from the rest of the world.

Citigroup Plutonomy Research reports

There was two famous Citigroup Plutonomy research reports (2005 and 2006) featured in in Capitalism: A Love Story . Here is how Yves Smith summarized the findings (in her post High Income Disparity Leads to Low Savings Rates)

On the one hand, the authors, Ajay Kapur, Niall Macleod, and Narendra Singh get some credit for addressing a topic surprisingly ignored by mainstream economists. There have been some noteworthy efforts to measure the increase in concentration of income and wealth in the US most notably by Thomas Piketty and Edmund Saez. But while there have been some efforts to dispute their findings (that the rich, particularly the top 1%, have gotten relatively MUCH richer in the last 20 years), for the most part discussions of what to make of it (as least in the US) have rapidly descended into theological debates. One camp laments the fall in economic mobility (a predictable side effect), the corrosive impact of perceived unfairness, and the public health costs (even the richest in high income disparity countries suffer from shortened life spans). The other camp tends to focus on the Darwinian aspects, that rising income disparity is the result of a vibrant, open economy, and the higher growth rates that allegedly result will lift help all workers.

Yet as far as I can tell, there has been virtually no discussion of the macroeconomy effects of rising income and wealth disparities, or to look into what the implications for investment strategies might be. One interesting effect is that with rising inequality the share of "guard labor" grows very quickly and that puts an upper limit on the further growth of inequality (half of the citizens cannot be guards protecting few billionaires from the other half).

Now the fact that the Citi team asked a worthwhile question does not mean they came up with a sound answer. In fact, he reports are almost ludicrously funny in the way they attempt to depict what they call plutonomy as not merely a tradeable trend (as in leading to some useful investment ideas), but as a Brave New Economy development. I haven't recalled such Panglossian prose since the most delirious days of the dot-com bubble:

We will posit that:

1) the world is dividing into two blocs – the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time…..Most “Global Imbalances” (high current account deficits and low savings rates, high consumer debt levels in the Anglo-Saxon world, etc) that continue to (unprofitably) preoccupy the world’s intelligentsia look a lot less threatening when examined through the prism of plutonomy. The risk premium on equities that might derive from the dyspeptic “global imbalance” school is unwarranted – the earth is not going to be shaken off its axis, and sucked into the cosmos by these “imbalances”. The earth is being held up by the muscular arms of its entrepreneur-plutocrats, like it, or not..

Yves here. Translation: plutonomy is such a great thing that the entire stock market would be valued higher if everyone understood it. And the hoops the reports go through to defend it are impressive. The plutomony countries (the notorious Anglo-Saxon model, the US, UK, Canada and Australia) even have unusually risk-seeking populations (and that is a Good Thing):

…a new, rather out-of-the box hypothesis suggests that dopamine differentials can explain differences in risk-taking between societies. John Mauldin, the author of “Bulls-Eye Investing” in an email last month cited this work. The thesis: Dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, is linked with curiosity, adventure, entrepreneurship, and helps drive results in uncertain environments. Populations generally have about 2% of their members with high enough dopamine levels with the curiosity to emigrate. Ergo, immigrant nations like the U.S. and Canada, and increasingly the UK, have high dopamine-intensity populations.

Yves here. What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”? Were the Puritans a high dopamine population? Doubtful. How about the Irish emigration to the US, which peaked during its great famine?

Despite a good deal of romanticization standing in for analysis, the report does have one intriguing, and well documented finding: that the plutonomies have low savings rates. Consider an fictional pep rally chant:

We’re from Greenwich
We’re invincible
Living off our income
Never touch the principal

Think about that. If you are rich, you can afford to spend all your income. You don’t need to save, because your existing wealth provides you with a more than sufficient cushion.

The ramifications when you have a high wealth concentration are profound. From the October 2005 report:

In a plutonomy, the rich drop their savings rate, consume a larger fraction of their bloated, very large share of the economy. This behavior overshadows the decisions of everybody else. The behavior of the exceptionally rich drives the national numbers – the “appallingly low” overall savings rates, the “over-extended consumer”, and the “unsustainable” current accounts that accompany this phenomenon….

Feeling wealthier, the rich decide to consume a part of their capital gains right away. In other words, they save less from their income, the wellknown wealth effect. The key point though is that this new lower savings rate is applied to their newer massive income. Remember they got a much bigger chunk of the economy, that’s how it became a plutonomy. The consequent decline in absolute savings for them (and the country) is huge when this happens. They just account for too large a part of the national economy; even a small fall in their savings rate overwhelms the decisions of all the rest.

Yves here. This account rather cheerily dismisses the notion that there might be overextended consumers on the other end of the food chain. Unprecedented credit card delinquencies and mortgage defaults suggest otherwise. But behaviors on both ends of the income spectrum no doubt played into the low-savings dynamic: wealthy who spend heavily, and struggling average consumers who increasingly came to rely on borrowings to improve or merely maintain their lifestyle. And let us not forget: were encouraged to monetize their home equity, so they actually aped the behavior of their betters, treating appreciated assets as savings. Before you chide people who did that as profligate (naive might be a better characterization), recall that no one less than Ben Bernanke was untroubled by rising consumer debt levels because they also showed rising asset levels. Bernanke ignored the fact that debt needs to be serviced out of incomes, and households for the most part were not borrowing to acquire income-producing assets. So unless the rising tide of consumer debt was matched by rising incomes, this process was bound to come to an ugly end.

Also under Bush country definitely moved from oligarchy to plutocracy. Bush openly claimed that "have more" is his base. The top 1% of earners have captured four-fifths of all new income.

An interesting question is whether the extremely unequal income distribution like we have now make the broader society unstable. Or plebs is satisfied with "Bread and circuses" (aka house, SUV, boat, Daytona 500 and 500 channels on cable) as long as loot from the other parts of the world is still coming...

What is the upper limit of inequality?

Martin Bento in his response to Risk Pollution, Market Failure & Social Justice — Crooked Timber made the following point:

Donald made a point I was going to. I would go a bit further though. It’s not clear to me that economic inequality is not desired for its own sake by the some of the elite. After all, studies suggest that once you get past the level of income needed for a reasonably comfortable life – about $40K for a single person in the US - the quest for money is mostly about status.

Meeting your needs is not necessarily zero sum, but status is: my status can only be higher than yours to the extent that yours is lower than mine.

The more inequality there is, the more status differentiation there is. Of course, there are other sources of status than money, but I’m talking specifically about people who value money for the status it confers. This is in addition to the “Donner Party Conservatism” calls to make sure the incentives to work are as strong as possible (to be fair, I think tolerating some inequality for the sake of incentives is worthwhile, but we seem to be well beyond that).

For example currently the USA is No.3 in Gini measured inequality (cyeahoo, Oct 16, 2009), but still the society is reasonably stable:

Gini score: 40.8
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 13,751.4
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 1.9
Richest 10%: 29.9
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 15.9

What is really surprising is how low the average American salary is: just $26,352 or ~$2,200 a month. This is equal approximately to $13 an hour.

At the same time:

Some interesting facts about upper class (top 1% of the US population). First of all this is pretty self-isolated group (a nation within a nation). They associate almost exclusively with members of their own social and economic standing, few members of the bottom 90% of Americans have ever even personally met a member of the upper class.

Now about top 400:

Here are some interesting hypothesis about affect of inequality of the society:

Higher inequality is somewhat connected with imperial outreach. As Kevin de Bruxelles noted in comment to What collapsing empire looks like - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

I’m surprised a thoughtful guy like Glenn Greenwald would make such an unsubstantiated link between collapsing public services for American peasants and a collapse of America’s global (indirect) imperial realm. Is there really a historic link between the quality of a nation’s services to its citizens and its global power? If so the Scandinavian countries would have been ruling the world for the past fifty years. If anything there is probably a reverse correlation. None of the great historic imperial powers, such as the British, Roman, Spanish, Russian, Ottoman, Mongolian, Chinese, Islamic, or Persian, were associated with egalitarian living conditions for anyone outside of the elite. So from a historic point of view, the ability to divert resources away from the peasants and towards the national security state is a sign of elite power and should be seen as a sign increased American imperial potential.

Now if America’s global power was still based on economic production then an argument could be made that closing libraries and cancelling the 12th grade would lower America’s power potential. But as we all know that is no longer the case and now America’s power is as the global consumer of excess production. Will a dumber peasantry consume even more? I think there is a good chance that the answer is yes.

Now a limit could be reached to how far the elite can lower their peasant’s standard of living if these changes actually resulted in civil disorder that demanded much energy for American elites to quell. But so far that is far from the case. Even a facile gesture such as voting for any other political party except the ruling Republicrats seems like a bridge too far for 95% of the peasants to attempt. No, the sad truth is that American elites, thanks to their exceptional ability to deliver an ever increasing amount of diverting bread and circuses, have plenty of room to further cut standards of living and are nowhere near reaching any limits.

What the reductions in economic and educational options will result in are higher quality volunteers into America’s security machinery, which again obviously raise America’s global power potential. This, along with an increasingly ruthless elite, should assure that into the medium term America’s powerful position will remain unchallenged. If one colors in blue on a world map all the countries under de facto indirect US control then one will start to realize the extent of US power. The only major countries outside of US control are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela. Iraq and Afghanistan are recent converts to the blue column but it far from certain whether they will stay that way. American elites will resist to the bitter end any country falling from the blue category. But this colored world map is the best metric for judging US global power.

In the end it’s just wishful thinking to link the declining of the American peasant’s standard of living with a declining of the American elite’s global power. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this proven in an attack on Iran in the near future.

High inequality and organized crime

Higher pay inequality feeds organized crime (and here we assume that banksters are different from the organized crime, which is probably a very weak hypothesis ;-). That's why Peter Drucker was probably right. He thought that top execs shouldn't get more than 25 times the average salary in the company (which would cap it around $2 millions). I would suggest a metric based on multiple from the average of lower 50% full time jobs for a particular firm (for example in Wal Mart that would cashers and cleaners, people who are living in Latin American style poverty, if they are single mothers as many are). One of the particular strengths of the idea of the maximum wage base on average of lower 50% of salaries is that if senior managers want to increase their own pay, they have to increase that of the lower-paid employees too.

And in a way financial industry itself became an organized crime. The notion of exorbitant wages prevalent in financial industry (and, before it, pioneered by in high-tech companies during dot-com boom via stock options) is based on the idea that some people are at least hundred times more productive then the others. In some professions like programming this is true and such people do exists. But any sufficiently large company is about team work. No matter what job a person does and no matter how many hours they work, there is no possible way that an single individual will create a whole product. It's a team effort. That means that neither skill nor expertise or intelligence can justify the payment of 200, 300 or even 400 times the wages of the lowest-paid 20% workers in any large organization.

This is especially questionable for financial professionals because by and large they are engaged in non-productive. often harmful for the society as whole redistribution activities, the same activities that organized crime performs. Moreover, modern traders are actually play a tremendously destructive role as subprime crisis (and before it saving and loans debacle) aptly demonstrated. which make them indistinguishable in this societal roles from cocaine pushers on the streets.

Drucker's views on the subject are probably worth revisiting. Rick Wartzman wrote in his Business Week article Put a Cap on CEO Pay' that "those who understand that what comes with their authority is the weight of responsibility, not "the mantle of privilege," as writer and editor Thomas Stewart described Drucker's view. It's their job "to do what is right for the enterprise—not for shareholders alone, and certainly not for themselves alone."

Large pay also attracts sociopathic personalities. Sociopathic personalities at the top of modern organizations is another important but rarely discussed danger.

"I'm not talking about the bitter feelings of the people on the plant floor," Drucker told a reporter in 2004. "They're convinced that their bosses are crooks anyway. It's the mid-level management that is incredibly disillusioned" by CEO compensation that seems to have no bounds. " This is especially true, Drucker explained in an earlier interview, when CEOs pocket huge sums while laying off workers. That kind of action, he said, is "morally unforgivable." There can be exceptions but they should be in middle management not in top management ranks.

Put it all together, and the picture became really discouraging. We have an ill-informed or misinformed electorate, politicians who gleefully add to the misinformation, watchdogs who are afraid to bark and guards on each and every corner. Mousetrap is complete.

Recommended Books

Winner-Take-All Politics How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Paul Pierson, Jacob S. Hacker

Henry J. Farrell

Transforming American politics, September 16, 2010

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) This is a transformative book. It's the best book on American politics that I've read since Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm. Not all of it is original (the authors seek to synthesize others' work as well as present their own, but provide due credit where credit is due). Not all of its arguments are fully supported (the authors provide a strong circumstantial case to support their argument, but don't have smoking gun evidence on many of the relevant causal relations). But it should transform the ways in which we think about and debate the political economy of the US.

The underlying argument is straightforward. The sources of American economic inequality are largely political - the result of deliberate political decisions to shape markets in ways that benefit the already-privileged at the expense of a more-or-less unaware public. The authors weave a historical narrative which Kevin Drum (who says the same things that I am saying about the book's importance) summarizes cogently here. This is not necessarily original - a lot of leftwing and left-of-center writers have been making similar claims for a long time. What is new is both the specific evidence that the authors use, and their conscious and deliberate effort to reframe what is important about American politics.

First - the evidence. Hacker and Pierson draw on work by economists like Picketty and Saez on the substantial growth in US inequality (and on comparisons between the US and other countries), but argue that many of the explanations preferred by economists (the effects of technological change on demand for skills) simply don't explain what is going on. First, they do not explain why inequality is so top-heavy - that is, why so many of the economic benefits go to a tiny, tiny minority of individuals among those with apparently similar skills. Second, they do not explain cross national variation - why the differences in the level of inequality among advanced industrialized countries, all of which have gone through more-or-less similar technological shocks, are so stark. While Hacker and Pierson agree that technological change is part of the story, they suggest that the ways in which this is channeled in different national contexts is crucial. And it is here that politics plays a key role.

Many economists are skeptical that politics explains the outcome, suggesting that conventional forms of political intervention are not big enough to have such dramatic consequences. Hacker and Pierson's reply implicitly points to a blind spot of many economists - they argue that markets are not `natural,' but instead are constituted by government policy and political institutions. If institutions are designed one way, they result in one form of market activity, whereas if they are designed another way, they will result in very different outcomes. Hence, results that appear like `natural' market operations to a neo-classical economist may in fact be the result of political decisions, or indeed of deliberate political inaction. Hacker and Pierson cite e.g. the decision of the Clinton administration not to police derivatives as an example of how political coalitions may block reforms in ways that have dramatic economic consequences.

Hence, Hacker and Pierson turn to the lessons of ongoing political science research. This is both a strength and a weakness. I'll talk about the weakness below - but I found the account of the current research convincing, readable and accurate. It builds on both Hacker and Pierson's own work and the work of others (e.g. the revisionist account of American party structures from Zaller et al. and the work of Bartels). This original body of work is not written in ways that make it easily accessible to non-professionals - while Bartels' book was both excellent and influential, it was not an easy read. Winner-Take-All Politics pulls off the tricky task of both presenting the key arguments underlying work without distorting them and integrating them into a highly readable narrative.

As noted above, the book sets out (in my view quite successfully) to reframe how we should think about American politics. It downplays the importance of electoral politics, without dismissing it, in favor of a focus on policy-setting, institutions, and organization.

In Hacker and Pierson's account, these three together account for the systematic political bias towards greater inequality. In simplified form: Organizations - and battles between organizations over policy as well as elections - are the structuring conflicts of American politics. The interests of the rich are represented by far more powerful organizations than the interests of the poor and middle class. The institutions of the US provide these organizations and their political allies with a variety of tools to promote new policies that reshape markets in their interests. This account is in some ways neo-Galbraithian (Hacker and Pierson refer in passing to the notion of `countervailing powers'). But while it lacks Galbraith's magisterial and mellifluous prose style, it is much better than he was on the details.

Even so (and here begin the criticisms) - it is not detailed enough. The authors set the book up as a whodunit: Who or what is responsible for the gross inequalities of American economic life? They show that the other major suspects have decent alibis (they may inadvertently have helped the culprit, but they did not carry out the crime itself. They show that their preferred culprit had the motive and, apparently, the means. They find good circumstantial evidence that he did it. But they do not find a smoking gun. For me, the culprit (the American political system) is like OJ. As matters stand, I'm pretty sure that he committed the crime. But I'm not sure that he could be convicted in a court of law, and I could be convinced that I was wrong, if major new exculpatory evidence was uncovered.

The lack of any smoking gun (or, alternatively, good evidence against a smoking gun) is the direct result of a major failure of American intellectual life. As the authors observe elsewhere, there is no field of American political economy. Economists have typically treated the economy as non-political. Political scientists have typically not concerned themselves with the American economy. There are recent efforts to change this, coming from economists like Paul Krugman and political scientists like Larry Bartels, but they are still in their infancy. We do not have the kinds of detailed and systematic accounts of the relationship between political institutions and economic order for the US that we have e.g. for most mainland European countries. We will need a decade or more of research to build the foundations of one.

Hence, while Hacker and Pierson show that political science can get us a large part of the way, it cannot get us as far as they would like us to go, for the simple reason that political science is not well developed enough yet. We can identify the causal mechanisms intervening between some specific political decisions and non-decisions and observed outcomes in the economy. We cannot yet provide a really satisfactory account of how these particular mechanisms work across a wider variety of settings and hence produce the general forms of inequality that they point to. Nor do we yet have a really good account of the precise interactions between these mechanisms and other mechanisms.

None of this is to discount the importance of this book. If it has the impact it deserves, it will transform American public arguments about politics and policymaking. I cannot see how someone who was fair minded could come away from reading this book and not be convinced that politics plays a key role in the enormous economic inequality that we see. And even if it is aimed at a general audience, it also challenges academics and researchers in economics, political science and economic sociology both to re-examine their assumptions about how economics and politics work, and to figure out ways better to engage with the key political debates of our time as Hacker and Pierson have done. If you can, buy it.

Great Faulkner's Ghost (Washington, DC)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) Many people have observed that American politics and the American economy reached some kind of turning point around 1980, which conveniently marks the election of Ronald Reagan. Some also pointed to other factors such as the deregulation of stock brokerage commissions in 1975 and the high inflation of the 1970s. Other analysts have put the turning point back in 1968, when Richard Nixon became President on the back of a wave of white, middle-class resentment against the 1960s. Hacker and Pierson, however, point the finger at the 1970s. As they describe in Chapter 4, the Nixon presidency saw the high-water market of the regulatory state; the demise of traditional liberalism occurred during the Carter administration, despite Democratic control of Washington, when highly organized business interests were able to torpedo the Democratic agenda and begin the era of cutting taxes for the rich that apparently has not yet ended today.

Why then? Not, as popular commentary would have it, because public opinion shifted. Hacker and Pierson cite studies showing that public opinion on issues such as inequality has not shifted over the past thirty years; most people still think society is too unequal and that taxes should be used to reduce inequality. What has shifted is that Congressmen are now much more receptive to the opinions of the rich, and there is actually a negative correlation between their positions and the preferences of their poor constituents (p. 111). Citing Martin Gilens, they write, "When well-off people strongly supported a policy change, it had almost three times the chance of becoming law as when they strongly opposed it. When median-income people strongly supported a policy change, it had hardly any greater chance of becoming law than when they strongly opposed it" (p. 112). In other words, it isn't public opinion, or the median voter, that matters; it's what the rich want.

That shift occurred in the 1970s because businesses and the super-rich began a process of political organization in the early 1970s that enabled them to pool their wealth and contacts to achieve dominant political influence (described in Chapter 5). To take one of the many statistics they provide, the number of companies with registered lobbyists in Washington grew from 175 in 1971 to nearly 2,500 in 1982 (p. 118). Money pouring into lobbying firms, political campaigns, and ideological think tanks created the organizational muscle that gave the Republicans a formidable institutional advantage by the 1980s. The Democrats have only reduced that advantage in the past two decades by becoming more like Republicans-more business-friendly, more anti-tax, and more dependent on money from the super-rich. And that dependency has severely limited both their ability and their desire to fight back on behalf of the middle class (let alone the poor), which has few defenders in Washington.

At a high level, the lesson of Winner-Take-All Politics is similar to that of 13 Bankers: when looking at economic phenomena, be they the financial crisis or the vast increase in inequality of the past thirty years, it's politics that matters, not just abstract economic forces. One of the singular victories of the rich has been convincing the rest of us that their disproportionate success has been due to abstract economic forces beyond anyone's control (technology, globalization, etc.), not old-fashioned power politics. Hopefully the financial crisis and the recession that has ended only on paper (if that) will provide the opportunity to teach people that there is no such thing as abstract economic forces; instead, there are different groups using the political system to fight for larger shares of society's wealth. And one group has been winning for over thirty years.

Citizen John (USA)

In Winner-Take-All Politics, two political science professors explain what caused the Middle Class to become vulnerable. Understanding this phenomenon is the Holy Grail of contemporary economics in the U.S.

Some may feel this book is just as polarizing as the current state of politics and media in America. The decades-long decline in income taxes of wealthy individuals is cited in detail. Wage earners are usually subjected to the FICA taxes against all their ordinary income (all or almost their entire total income). But the top wealthy Americans may have only a small percentage (or none) of their income subjected to FICA taxes. Thus Warren Buffett announced that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Buffett has cited income inequality for "poisoning democracy."

When you search the Net for Buffett quotes on inequality, you get a lot of results showing how controversial he became for stating the obvious. Drawing attention to the inequity of the tax regime won him powerful enemies. Those same people are not going to like the authors for writing Winner-Take-All. They say these political science people are condescending because they presume to tell people their political interests.

Many of studies of poverty show how economic and political policies generally favor the rich throughout the world, some of which are cited in this book. Military spending and financial bailouts in particular favor the wealthy. Authors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson document a long U.S. policy trend favoring wealthy Americans. This trend resulted in diminished middle class access to quality healthcare and education, making it harder to keep up with the wealthy in relative terms. Further, once people have lost basic foundations of security, they are less willing and able to take on more risk in terms of investing or starting a business.

The rise of special interests has been at the expense of the middle class, according to the authors. Former President Carter talked about this and was ridiculed. Since then government has grown further from most of us. Even federal employees are not like most of us anymore. In its August 10, 2010 issue, USA Today discussed government salaries: "At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds."

An excellent documentary showing how difficult it is to address income inequality is One Percent, by Jamie Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jared Diamond Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed shows examples of what can happen when a society disregards a coming disaster until too late. I hope that Winner-Take-All will prompt people to demand more of elected officials and to arrest the growing income gap for the sake of our democracy.

Michael Emmett Brady "mandmbrady" (Bellflower, California ,United States)

4.5 stars-Wall Street speculators control both parties, September 19, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This book basically argues that Wall Street controls both political parties through the use of massive campaign contributions and lobbyists who buy off both the Republicans and Democrats in the White House,Senate and House.This is essentially correct but obvious.Anyone can go back to the 1976 Jimmy Carter campaign and simply verify that the majority of his campaign funds and advisors came from Wall Street.This identical conclusion also holds with respect to Ronald Reagan,George H W Bush,Bill Clinton,George W Bush and Barack Obama. The only Presidents/Presidential candidates not dominated by Wall Street since 1976 were Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.

For instance,it is common knowledge to anyone who carefully checks to see where the money is coming from that Wall Street financiers, hedgefunds, private equity firms and giant commercial banks are calling the shots. For example, one could simply read the July 9,2007 issue of FORTUNE magazine to discover who the major backers of John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were. One could also have read Business Week(2-25-2008) or the Los Angeles Times of 3-21-2008.Through February, 2008 the major donors to the McCain campaign were 1)Merrill Lynch, 2) Citigroup, 3)Goldman Sachs, 4)J P Morgan Chase and 5)Credit Suisse

The major donors to the Hillary Clinton campaign were 1)Goldman Sachs, 2)Morgan Stanley, 3)Citigroup, 4)Lehman Brothers and 5)J P Morgan Chase.

Guess who were the major donors to the Obama campaign ? If you guessed 1)Goldman Sachs,2)UBS Ag,3)J P Morgan Chase ,4)Lehman Brothers and 5)Citigroup, then you are correct.

It didn't matter who became President-Hillary Clinton,Barack Obama or John McCain.All three had been thoroughly vetted by Wall Street. The campaign staffs of all three candidates ,especially their economic and finance advisors, were all Wall Street connected. Wall Street would have been bailed out regardless of which party won the 2008 election.

Obama is not going to change anything substantially in the financial markets. Neither is Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Kerry or Sen. Schumer, etc. Nor is any Republican candidate going to make any changes, simply because the Republican Party is dominated even more so by Wall Street(100%) than the Democratic Party(80%). The logical solution would be to support a Third Party candidate, for example, Ross Perot .

One aspect of the book is deficient. True conservatives like Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs have been warning about the grave dangers of hallowing out and downsizing the American Manufacturing -Industrial sector, with the consequent offshoring and/or loss of many millions of American jobs, for about 20 years at the same time that the " financial services " sector has exploded from 3% of the total service sector in 1972 to just under 40% by 2007. This is what is causing the great shrinkage in the middle class in America .

Matt Milholland (California)

An Important Book, October 9, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This is a phenomenal book and everyone interested in how American politics works (or more accurately, doesn't work) should pick it up. It's both really smart and really accessible to a lay audience, which is rare for a political science book.

Extreme economic inequality and the near paralysis of our governing institutions has lead to a status-quo that is almost entirely indifferent to the needs of working families. Hacker & Pierson chronicle the rise of this corrupt system and the dual, yet distinct, roles the Republican and Democratic Parties have played in abetting it.

Seriously, it's top-notch. Read this book.

Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" By(Phoenix, AZ.)

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Timely, but Also Off-Base in Some Regards, September 15, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) The thirty-eight biggest Wall Street companies earned $140 billion in 2009, a record that all taxpayers who contributed to their bailouts can be proud of. Among those, Goldman Sachs paid its employees an average $600,000, also a record, and at least partially attributable to our bailout of AIG, which promptly gave much of the money to Goldman. Prior to that, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned an average of $892 million in 2007. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is framed as a detective story about how we got to inequality levels where the top 300,000 (0.1%) receive over 20% of national income, vs. 13.5% for the bottom 180 million (60% of the population).

Between 1947 and 1973, real family median income essentially doubled, and the growth percentage was virtually the same for all income levels. In the mid-1970s, however, economic inequality began to increase sharply and middle-incomes lagged. Increased female workforce participation rates and more overtime helped cushion the stagnation or decline for many (they also increased the risk of layoffs/family), then growing credit card debt shielded many families from reality. Unfortunately, expectations of stable full-time employment also began shrinking, part-time, temporary, and economic risk-bearing (eg. taxi drivers leasing vehicles and paying the fuel costs; deliverymen 'buying' routes and trucks) work increased, workers covered by employer-sponsored health insurance fell from 69% in 1979 to 56% in 2004, and retirement coverage was either been dropped entirely or mostly converted to much less valuable fix-contribution plans for private sector employees. Some exceptions have occurred that benefit the middle and lower-income segments - Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Medicaid, and Medicare were initiated or expanded, but these have not blunted the overall trend. Conversely, welfare reform, incarceration rates rising 6X between 1970 and 2000, bankruptcy reform, and increased tax audits for EITC recipients have also added to their burden, Social Security is being challenged again (despite stock market declines, enormous transition costs, and vastly increased overhead costs and fraud opportunity), and 2009's universal health care reform will be aggressively challenged both in the courts and Washington.

Authors Hacker and Pierson contend that growing inequality is not the 'natural' product of market rewards, but mostly the artificial result of deliberate government policies, strongly influenced by industry lobbyists and donations, new and expanded conservative 'think tanks,' and inadequate media coverage that focused more on the 'horse race' aspects of various initiatives than their content and impact. First came the capital gains tax cuts under President Carter, then deregulation of the financial industry under Clinton, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the financial bailouts in 2008-09. The authors contend that if the 1970 tax structure remained today, the top gains would be considerably less.

But what about the fact that in 1965 CEOs of large corporations only earned about 24X the average worker, compared to 300+X now? Hacker and Pierson largely ignore the role of board-room politics and malfeasance that have mostly allowed managers to serve themselves with payment without regard to performance and out of proportion to other nations. In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European managers made an average $12.5 million, only one-third as much as the 20 highest-earning U.S. executives. Yet, the Europeans led larger firms - $65.5 billion in sales vs. $46.5 billion for the U.S. Asian CEOs commonly make only 10X-15X what their base level employees make. Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (world's largest), made $234,700 in 2008, less than 2% of the $19.6 million awarded Jamie Dimon, CEO of the world's fourth-largest bank, JPMorgan Chase.

"Winner-Take-All Politics" also provides readers with the composition of 2004 taxpayers in the top 0.1% of earners (including capital gains). Non-finance executives comprised 41% of the group, finance professionals 18.4%, lawyers 6%, real estate personages 5%, physicians 4%, entrepreneurs 4%, and arts and sports stars 3%. The authors assert that this shows education and skills levels are not the great dividers most everyone credits them to be - the vast majority of Americans losing ground to the super-rich includes many well-educated individuals, while the super-rich includes many without a college education (Sheldon Adelson, Paul Allen, Edgar Bronfman, Jack Kent Cook, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Wayne Huizenga, Steve Jobs, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Wozniak, and Mark Zuckerberg).

Authors Hacker and Pierson are political science professors and it is understandable that they emphasize political causes (PACs, greater recruitment of evangelical voters, lobbying - eg. $500 million on health care lobbying in 2009, filibusters that allow senators representing just 10% of the population to stop legislation and make the other side look incompetent, etc.) for today's income inequality. However, their claim that foreign trade is "largely innocent" as a cause is neither substantiated nor logical. Foreign trade as practiced today pads corporate profits and executive bonuses while destroying/threatening millions of American jobs and lowering/holding down the incomes of those affected. Worse yet, the authors don't even mention the impact of millions of illegal aliens depressing wage rates while taking jobs from Americans, nor do they address the canard that tax cuts for and spending by the super-wealthy are essential to our economic success (refuted by Moody's Analytics and Austan Goolsbee, Business Week - 9/13/2010). They're also annoyingly biased towards unions, ignoring their constant strikes and abuses in the 1960s and 1970s, major contributions to G.M., Chrysler, and legacy airline bankruptcies, and current school district, local, and state financial difficulties.

Bottom-Line: It is a sad commentary on the American political system that growing and record levels of inequality are being met by populist backlash against income redistribution and expanding trust in government, currently evidenced by those supporting extending tax cuts for the rich and railing against reforming health care to reduce expenditures from 17.3+% of GDP to more internationally competitive levels (4-6%) while improving patient outcomes. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is interesting reading, provides some essential data, and point out some evidence of the inadequacy of many voters. However, the authors miss the 'elephant in the room' - American-style democracy is not viable when at most 10% of citizens are 'proficient' per functional literacy tests ([...]), and only a small proportion of them have the time and access required to sift through the flood of half-truths, lies, and irrelevancies to objectively evaluate 2,000+ page bills and other political activity. (Ideology-dominated economic professionals and short-term thinking human rights advocates are two others.) Comments (2)

Brian Kodi

"Americans live in Russia, but they think they live in Sweden." - Chrystia Freeland, March 26, 2011 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

No one should doubt the rising income inequality in America, which the authors trace back to the late 1970s since the latter part of Carter's presidency in what they call the "30 Year War". Zachary Roth, in a March 4th Time magazine article stated "A slew of conservative economists of unimpeachable academic credentials--including Martin Feldstein of Harvard, Glenn Hubbard, who was President Bush's top economic adviser, and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke--have all acknowledged that inequality is on the rise."

And why should we care that most of the after tax income growth since 30 years ago has gone the way of the richest Americans in a "winner-take-all" economy? Because as Supreme Court justice biographer Melvin Urofsky stated, "in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people." (p. 81) Because if unchecked, a new economic aristocracy may replace the old hereditary aristocracy America's Founders fought to defeat (p. 298). Because unequal societies are unhappy societies, and inequality can foster individual resentment that may lead to a pervasive decline in civility and erosion of culture.

And why should we be concerned that this trend in rising inequality may not experience the period of renewal the authors are optimistic about? Because unlike the shock of the 1930s' Great Depression that served as the impetus for the politics of middle class democracy, the potential shockwaves of the 2008 Great Recession were tempered by massive government stimulus, resulting in no meaningful financial reform, and an extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy. And because of the lottery mentality of a large swath of the population which opposes tax increases on the rich. One day, they or their children too can share in the American dream. According to an October 2000 Time-CNN poll, 19 percent of Americans were convinced they belonged to the richest 1 percent. Another 20 percent thought they'd make the rank of the top 1 percent at some point in their lives. That's quite a turnover in the top 1 percent category to accommodate 20 percent of the population passing through.

Mr. Hacker and Mr. Pierson have put together powerful arguments on the root causes of income inequality in the U.S., its political and economic ramifications, and to a lesser extent, a roadmap to returning democracy to the masses. This is an eye opening and disturbing, yet informative book, even for readers who may disagree with their opinions.

J. Strauss (NYC)

3.0 out of 5 stars great history of big money influence on policy but needs more analysis of the ways policy affects the winner-take-all economy, September 21, 2011 See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

Writing:

A bit hokey and repetitive for the first couple chapters. Much better after that. Stick with it if you're interested in the subject.

Content:

This book does a very good job explaining how and why certain special interest groups (notably those that represent the wealthiest .1%) have come to have such a stranglehold on government, particularly Congress. I come away with a clear understanding of how the wealthiest citizens are able to exert their influence over legislative policy and enforcement at the federal level.

What I would have liked more of are better explanations of the mechanisms through which government policies exacerbate the winner-take-all economy. Tax policy (rates and loopholes) is the most obvious answer, and the book provides plenty of stats on the regression of tax policy over the past 30 years.

But complicated, interesting, and largely missing from public discourse is why PRE-TAX incomes have become so much more radically skewed during that time. This is certainly touched on - the authors are deliberate in saying it's not JUST tax policy that's contributing to increased inequality - but I would've liked much more analysis of the other policy-driven factors. "Deregulation" is too general an explanation to paint a clear picture.

The authors make it clear that they believe the increasing divide in pre-tax incomes (the winner-take-all economy) is not the inevitable result of technological changes and of differences in education ("the usual suspects"), but of policy decisions made at the state and, especially, federal levels. Personally, I wasn't fully convinced that technological change has little or nothing to do with the skew (though I agree that while education goes a long way toward explaining the gap between poor and middle class, it doesn't explain much of the gap between middle class and super rich). But I do believe, as they do, that public policy plays a large role in influencing the extent of inequality in pre-tax incomes, even beyond more obvious market-impacting factors like union influence, and mandates including the minimum wage, restrictions on pollution, workplace safety and fairness laws, etc.

Off the top of my head, here are some regulatory issues that affect market outcomes and can influence the extent of winner-take-all effects in the marketplace (a few of these may have been mentioned in the book, but none were discussed in detail):

And many more. I know regulatory issues like that play huge roles in the distribution of pre-tax "market" incomes, but I'd like to have a better understanding of how, and also to be better able to articulate how in response to those who seem to believe taxes (and perhaps obvious restrictions, such as on pollution or the minimum wage) are the only significant means through which governments influence wealth disparities.

There wasn't a whole lot of discussion of these or similar regulatory issues in the book. I would like to see another edition, or perhaps another book entirely, that does. Please let me know if you have any recommendations.


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"You load 16 tons and whaddaya get??
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don'tcha call me 'Cause-I can't go…
I owe my soul to the Company Store"

-- "Sixteen Tons"

[Jun 23, 2019] Neoliberal schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education

Apr 11, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

FionaMcW , 11 Apr 2019 06:36

Schools are teaching to the test. As someone who recently retrained as a secondary science teacher - after nearly 30 years as a journalist - I know this to be true.
Olympia1881 -> Centrecourt , 11 Apr 2019 05:46
Education is a prime example of where neoliberalism has had a negative effect. It worked well when labour was pumping billions into it and they invested in early intervention schemes such as sure start and nursery expansion. Unfortunately under the tories we have had those progressive policies scaled right back. Children with SEND and/or in care are commodities bought and sold by local authorities. I've been working in a PRU which is a private company and it does good things, but I can't help but think if that was in the public sector that it would be in a purpose built building rather than some scruffy office with no playground.

The facilities aren't what you would expect in this day in age. If we had a proper functioning government with a plan then what happens with vulnerable children would be properly organised rather than a reactive shit show.

DrMidnite , 10 Apr 2019 17:04
"Schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education."
Boy do they. I work in Business/IT training and as the years have rolled on I and every colleague I can think of have noticed more and more people coming to courses that they are unfit for. Not because they are stupid, but because they have been taught to be stupid. So used to being taught to the test that they are afraid to ask questions. Increasingly I get asked "what's the right way to do...", usually referring to situation in which there is no right way, just a right way for your business, at a specific point in time.
I had the great pleasure of watching our new MD describe his first customer-facing project, which was a disaster, but they "learned" from it. I had to point out to him that I teach the two disciplines involved - businesss analysis and project management - and if he or his team had attended any of the courses - all of which are free to them - they would have learned about the issues they would face, because (astonishingly) they are well-known.
I fear that these incurious adult children are at the bottom of Brexit, Trump and many of the other ills that afflict us. Learning how to do things is difficult and sometimes boring. Much better to wander in with zero idea of what has already been done and repeat the mistakes of the past. I see the future as a treadmill where the same mistakes are made repetitively and greeted with as much surprise as if they had never happened before. We have always been at war with Eastasia...

[Jun 21, 2019] A Slow Death The Ills of the Neoliberal Academic

Highly recommended!
The term Casializatin was repced by more correct term "neoliberalization" for clarity.
Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberalization, a word that says much in, and of, itself, is seen as analogue of broader outsourcing initiatives. Militaries do it, governments do it, and the university does it. Services long held to be the domain of the state, itself an animation of the social contract, the spirit of the people, have now become the incentive of the corporate mind, and, it follows, its associated vices. The entire scope of what has come to be known as outsourcing is itself a creature of propaganda, cheered on as an opportunity drawing benefits rather than an ill encouraging a brutish, tenuous life. ..."
"... Practitioners and policy makers within the education industry have become devotees of the amoral dictates of supply and demand, underpinned by an insatiable management class. Central to their program of university mismanagement is the neoliberal academic, a creature both embraced and maligned in the tertiary sectors of the globe. ..."
"... The neoliberal academic is meant to be an underpaid miracle worker, whose divining acts rescue often lax academics from discharging their duties. (These duties are outlined in that deceptive and unreliable document known as a "workplan", as tedious as it is fictional.) The neoliberal academic grades papers, lectures, tutors and coordinates subjects. The neoliberal provides cover, a shield, and an excuse for a certain class of academic manager who prefers the calling of pretence to the realities of work. ..."
"... Often, these neoliberal academics are students undertaking a postgraduate degree and subject to inordinate degrees of stress in an environment of perennial uncertainty. ..."
"... A representative sample of PhD students studying in Flanders, Belgium found that one in two experienced psychological distress, with one in three at risk of a common psychiatric disorder. Mental health problems tended to be higher in PhD students "than in the highly educated general population, highly education employees and higher education students." ..."
"... Neoliberalization can be seen alongside a host of other ills. If the instructor is disposable and vulnerable, then so are the manifestations of learning. Libraries and research collections, for instance, are being regarded as deadening, inanimate burdens on the modern, vibrant university environment. Some institutions make a regular habit of culling their supply of texts and references: we are all e-people now, bound to prefer screens to paper, the bleary-eyed session of online engagement to the tactile session with a book. ..."
Jun 21, 2019 | dissidentvoice.org

A Slow Death: The Ills of the Neoliberal Academic

by Binoy Kampmark / June 20th, 2019

Any sentient being should be offended. Eventually, the Neoliberalization of the academic workforce was bound to find lazy enthusiasts who neither teach, nor understand the value of a tenured position dedicated to that musty, soon-to-be-forgotten vocation of the pedagogue. It shows in the designs of certain universities who confuse frothy trendiness with tangible depth: the pedagogue banished from the podium, with rooms lacking a centre, or a focal point for the instructor. Not chic, not cool, we are told, often by learning and teaching committees that perform neither task. Keep it modern; do not sound too bright and hide the learning: we are all equal in the classroom, inspiringly even and scrubbed of knowledge. The result is what was always to be expected: profound laziness on the part of instructors and students, dedicated mediocrity, and a rejection of all things intellectually taxing.

Neoliberalization, a word that says much in, and of, itself, is seen as analogue of broader outsourcing initiatives. Militaries do it, governments do it, and the university does it. Services long held to be the domain of the state, itself an animation of the social contract, the spirit of the people, have now become the incentive of the corporate mind, and, it follows, its associated vices. The entire scope of what has come to be known as outsourcing is itself a creature of propaganda, cheered on as an opportunity drawing benefits rather than an ill encouraging a brutish, tenuous life.

One such text is Douglas Brown and Scott Wilson's The Black Book of Outsourcing . Plaudits for it resemble worshippers at a shrine planning kisses upon icons and holy relics. "Brown & Wilson deliver on the best, most innovative, new practices all aimed at helping one and all survive, manage and lead in this new economy," praises Joann Martin, Vice President of Pitney Bowes Management Services. Brown and Wilson take aim at a fundamental "myth": that "Outsourcing is bad for America." They cite work sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America (of course) that "the practice of outsourcing is good for the US economy and its workers."

Practitioners and policy makers within the education industry have become devotees of the amoral dictates of supply and demand, underpinned by an insatiable management class. Central to their program of university mismanagement is the neoliberal academic, a creature both embraced and maligned in the tertiary sectors of the globe.

The neoliberal academic is meant to be an underpaid miracle worker, whose divining acts rescue often lax academics from discharging their duties. (These duties are outlined in that deceptive and unreliable document known as a "workplan", as tedious as it is fictional.) The neoliberal academic grades papers, lectures, tutors and coordinates subjects. The neoliberal provides cover, a shield, and an excuse for a certain class of academic manager who prefers the calling of pretence to the realities of work.

Often, these neoliberal academics are students undertaking a postgraduate degree and subject to inordinate degrees of stress in an environment of perennial uncertainty. The stresses associated with such students are documented in the Guardian's Academics Anonymous series and have also been the subject of research in the journal Research Policy . A representative sample of PhD students studying in Flanders, Belgium found that one in two experienced psychological distress, with one in three at risk of a common psychiatric disorder. Mental health problems tended to be higher in PhD students "than in the highly educated general population, highly education employees and higher education students."

This is hardly helped by the prospects faced by those PhDs for future permanent employment, given what the authors of the Research Policy article describe as the "unfavourable shift in the labour-supply demand balance, a growing popularity of short-term contracts, budget cuts and increased competition for research sources".

There have been a few pompom holders encouraging the Neoliberalization mania, suggesting that it is good for the academic sector. The explanations are never more than structural: a neoliberal workforce, for instance, copes with fluctuating enrolments and reduces labour costs. "Using neoliberal academics brings benefits and challenges," we find Dorothy Wardale, Julia Richardson and Yuliani Suseno telling us in The Conversation . This, in truth, is much like suggesting that syphilis and irritable bowel syndrome is necessary to keep you on your toes, sharp and streamlined. The mindset of the academic-administrator is to assume that such things are such (Neoliberalization, the authors insist, is not going way, so embrace) and adopt a prostrate position in the face of funding cuts from the public purse.

Neoliberalization can be seen alongside a host of other ills. If the instructor is disposable and vulnerable, then so are the manifestations of learning. Libraries and research collections, for instance, are being regarded as deadening, inanimate burdens on the modern, vibrant university environment. Some institutions make a regular habit of culling their supply of texts and references: we are all e-people now, bound to prefer screens to paper, the bleary-eyed session of online engagement to the tactile session with a book.

The neoliberal, sessional academic also has, for company, the "hot-desk", a spot for temporary, and all too fleeting occupation. The hot-desk has replaced the work desk; the partitions of the office are giving way to the intrusions of the open plan. The hot-desker, like coitus, is temporary and brief. The neoliberal academic epitomises that unstable reality; there is little need to give such workers more than temporary, precarious space. As a result, confidentiality is impaired, and privacy all but negated. Despite extensive research showing the negative costs of "hot-desking" and open plan settings, university management remains crusade bound to implement such daft ideas in the name of efficiency.

Neoliberalization also compounds fraudulence in the academy. It supplies the bejewelled short cut route, the bypass, the evasion of the rigorous things in learning. Academics may reek like piddling middle class spongers avoiding the issues while pretending to deal with them, but the good ones at least make some effort to teach their brood decently and marshal their thoughts in a way that resembles, at the very least, a sound whiff of knowledge. This ancient code, tested and tried, is worth keeping, but it is something that modern management types, along with their parasitic cognates, ignore. In Australia, this is particularly problematic, given suggestions that up to 80 percent of undergraduate courses in certain higher learning institutions are taught by neoliberal academics.

The union between the spread sheet manager and the uninterested academic who sees promotion through the management channel rather than scholarship, throws up a terrible hybrid, one vicious enough to degrade all in its pathway. This sort of hybrid hack resorts to skiving and getting neoliberals to do the work he or she ought to be doing. Such people co-ordinate courses but make sure they get the wallahs and helpers desperate for cash to do it. Manipulation is guaranteed, exploitation is assured.

The economy of desperation is cashed in like a reliable blue-chip stock: the skiver with an ongoing position knows that a neoliberal academic desperate to earn some cash cannot dissent, will do little to rock the misdirected boat, and will have to go along with utterly dotty notions. There are no additional benefits from work, no ongoing income, no insurance, and, importantly, inflated hours that rarely take into account the amount of preparation required for the task.

The ultimate nature of the Neoliberalization catastrophe is its diminution of the entire academic sector. Neoliberals suffer, but so do students. The result is not mere sloth but misrepresentation of the worst kind: the university keen to advertise a particular service it cannot provide sufficiently. This, in time, is normalised: what would students, who in many instances may not even know the grader of their paper, expect? The remunerated, secure academic-manager, being in the castle, can raise the drawbridge and throw the neoliberals to the vengeful crowd, an employment environment made safe for hypocrisy.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com . Read other articles by Binoy .

This article was posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2019 at 9:00pm and is filed under Neoliberalization , Education , Universities .

[Jun 21, 2019] Men need not apply: university set to open jobs just to women

Since when female sex is the guarantee of the academic achievement ? And why we want party between sexes in academic jobs ?
Jun 18, 2019 | www.sciencemag.org

A Dutch engineering university is taking radical action to increase its share of female academics by opening job vacancies to women only. Starting on 1 July, the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) in the Netherlands will not allow men to apply for permanent academic jobs for the first 6 months of the recruitment process under a new fellowship program. If no suitable applicant has been found within that time, men can then apply, but the selection committee will still have to nominate at least one candidate of each gender. The [insane] plan was announced today and is already attracting controversy.

[Jun 20, 2019] Meritocracy is a Lie by Gary Olson

Notable quotes:
"... Sherman found that her interviewees, all in the top 1-2 percent of income or wealth or both, had thoroughly imbibed the narrative of meritocracy to rationalize their affluence and immense privileges. That is, they believed they deserved all their money because of hard work and individual effort. Most identified themselves as socially and political liberal and took pains to distinguish themselves from "bad" rich people who flaunt their wealth. ..."
"... Finally, meritocracy is the classic American foundation myth and provides the basis for an entire array of other fairy tales. Foremost, this illusion serves to justify policies that foster economic inequality and hinder the development of social movements. After so many decades of neoliberal ideology, this lie is now firmly lodged in the public's collective consciousness but I'm convinced that with effort and relying on the evidence, it can be expunged. ..."
May 02, 2019 | dissidentvoice.org
In 2017, Sociology Professor Rachel Sherman wrote Uneasy Street: The Anxiety of Affluence , a book which drew upon 50 in-depth interviews with Uber-wealthy New Yorkers in order to obtain a picture of just how they perceived their status.

Sherman found that her interviewees, all in the top 1-2 percent of income or wealth or both, had thoroughly imbibed the narrative of meritocracy to rationalize their affluence and immense privileges. That is, they believed they deserved all their money because of hard work and individual effort. Most identified themselves as socially and political liberal and took pains to distinguish themselves from "bad" rich people who flaunt their wealth. Although one unselfconsciously acknowledged "I used to say I was going to be a revolutionary but then I had my first massage."

One striking characteristic was that these folks never talk about money and obsess over the "stigma of privilege." One typical respondent whose wealth exceeded $50 million told Sherman, "There's nobody who knows how much money we spend. You're the only person I've ever said the numbers to out-loud." Another couple who had inherited $50 million and lived in a penthouse had the post office change their mailing address to the floor number because PH sounded "elite and snobby." Another common trait was removing the price tags from items entering the house so the housekeeper and and staff didn't see them. As if the nanny didn't know

Her subjects (who remained anonymous) readily acknowledged being extremely advantaged but remained "good people, normal people," who work hard, are careful about ostentatious consumption, and above all, "give back." They spend considerable time trying to legitimate inequality and Sherman concludes they've largely succeeded in feeling "morally worthy."

As a follow-up to this study, Prof. Sherman has been conducting similar in-depth interviews with young people whose parents or ancestors accumulated sizable fortunes, wealth they now have or will soon inherit. Sherman's recent piece, "The Rich Kid Revolution," ( The New York Times , 4/28/19) reveals a stark contrast in self-perception from her earlier findings.

First, her interviewees totally "get" the lie of meritocracy as they ruefully skewer family myths about individual effort, scrimping and saving and the origins of wealth. One young woman who's in line to inherit a considerable fortune told Sherman, "My dad has always been a CEO, and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that."

Sherman discovered that whether the immense fortunes came from "the direct dispossession of indigenous people, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt." One response has been that some wealthy people under age 35 have formed organizations to fund social justice initiatives.

Second, many of her respondents have read about racialized capitalism and harbor no illusions about their own success. From access to the "right" schools and acquiring cultural capital to social networking and good, high paying jobs, they readily acknowledged that it's all derived from their class (and race) privilege. Third, they are convinced the economic system is "immoral," equality of opportunity does not exist and their wealth and privileges are absolutely "unearned." Finally, they grasp, often from personal observation, that traditional philanthropy is primarily about keeping those at the top in place, obtaining generous tax breaks and treating symptoms while ignoring the causes rooted in the very social structures from which they benefit.

Beyond the article's hyperbolic title and a certain vagueness about where this new consciousness may lead, the piece -- whether intentionally or not -- does raise issues that demand much wider public discussion.

First, a note about philanthro-capitalism or as Peter Buffet (Warren Buffet's son) terms it, "conscience laundering." In Chris Rock's pithy phrase, "Behind every fortune is a great crime" and given what we know about the sources of great wealth -- the collectivity -- these monies should be supporting public needs that are democratically determined not the cherry-picked, pet projects of billionaires. And this reveals another motive behind private charity: the desire to stifle any enthusiasm for an activist government responsible to the public will.

I should add that whenever I hear a philanthropist piously proclaim, "I just wanted to give something back," my first impulse is to shout "Why not give it all back?" That is, I've always been partial to the moral injunction, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required" (Luke 12:48). And although I won't attempt to improve on scripture, I might suggest "From whom much is taken, much is owed."

Second, one might ask about the case where a person of modest means succeeds at something and accumulates a fortune? We've all heard or read ad infinitum, someone exclaim, "Damn it! Nobody even handed me anything. I did it all on my own. I'm entirely self-made." Isn't that evidence of individual merit? No. For starters, as Chuck Collins, heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune, once put it, "Where would wealthy entrepreneurs be without taxpayer investments in the Internet, transportation, public education, the legal system, the human genome project and so on?" Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, has calculated the societal contribution at ninety percent of what people earn in Northwest Europe and the United States.

In addition to the sources mentioned above, just off the top of my head I can list many other factors that belie this powerfully seductive but wholly fictional narrative, one that's also touted to and embraced by many members of the working class: Child labor, Chinese and Irish immigrant labor (railroads), eminent domain, massacres of striking workers, state repression of unions, Immigration Act of 1864, public land grabs, corporate welfare, installing foreign dictators to guarantee cheap labor and resources, inheritance laws, public schools and universities, public expense mail systems, property and contract laws, government tax breaks incentives to business, Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure trust in the stock market, the U.S. military, and a police state to keep the rabble from picking up pitchforks. Another factor that almost merits its own paragraphs is pure luck. By any objective criteria, we can conclude that absent this arrangement there would be no accumulation of private wealth.

Finally, meritocracy is the classic American foundation myth and provides the basis for an entire array of other fairy tales. Foremost, this illusion serves to justify policies that foster economic inequality and hinder the development of social movements. After so many decades of neoliberal ideology, this lie is now firmly lodged in the public's collective consciousness but I'm convinced that with effort and relying on the evidence, it can be expunged.

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. He can be reached at: olsong@moravian.edu . Read other articles by Gary .

This article was posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 at 2:22pm and is filed under Economic Inequality , Meritocracy , Opinion .

[Jun 19, 2019] America s Suicide Epidemic

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes . What's more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually -- the suicide rate -- has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides , even though the murder rate gets so much more attention. ..."
"... In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6%), New Hampshire (48.3%), Kansas (45%), Idaho (43%). ..."
"... Since 2008 , suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth. The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally , it ranks 27th. ..."
"... The rates in rural counties are almost double those in the most urbanized ones, which is why states like Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota sit atop the suicide list. Furthermore, a far higher percentage of people in rural states own guns than in cities and suburbs, leading to a higher rate of suicide involving firearms, the means used in half of all such acts in this country. ..."
"... Education is also a factor. The suicide rate is lowest among individuals with college degrees. Those who, at best, completed high school are, by comparison, twice as likely to kill themselves. Suicide rates also tend to be lower among people in higher-income brackets. ..."
"... Evidence from the United States , Brazil , Japan , and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. ..."
"... One aspect of the suicide epidemic is puzzling. Though whites have fared far better economically (and in many other ways) than African Americans, their suicide rate is significantly higher . ..."
"... The higher suicide rate among whites as well as among people with only a high school diploma highlights suicide's disproportionate effect on working-class whites. This segment of the population also accounts for a disproportionate share of what economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have labeled " deaths of despair " -- those caused by suicides plus opioid overdoses and liver diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Though it's hard to offer a complete explanation for this, economic hardship and its ripple effects do appear to matter. ..."
"... Trump has neglected his base on pretty much every issue; this one's no exception. ..."
Jun 19, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves here. This post describes how the forces driving the US suicide surge started well before the Trump era, but explains how Trump has not only refused to acknowledge the problem, but has made matters worse.

However, it's not as if the Democrats are embracing this issue either.

BY Rajan Menon, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University's Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. His latest book is The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention Originally published at TomDispatch .

We hear a lot about suicide when celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade die by their own hand. Otherwise, it seldom makes the headlines. That's odd given the magnitude of the problem.

In 2017, 47,173 Americans killed themselves. In that single year, in other words, the suicide count was nearly seven times greater than the number of American soldiers killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars between 2001 and 2018.

A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes . What's more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually -- the suicide rate -- has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides , even though the murder rate gets so much more attention.

In other words, we're talking about a national epidemic of self-inflicted deaths.

Worrisome Numbers

Anyone who has lost a close relative or friend to suicide or has worked on a suicide hotline (as I have) knows that statistics transform the individual, the personal, and indeed the mysterious aspects of that violent act -- Why this person? Why now? Why in this manner? -- into depersonalized abstractions. Still, to grasp how serious the suicide epidemic has become, numbers are a necessity.

According to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control study , between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate increased in every state in the union except Nevada, which already had a remarkably high rate. In 30 states, it jumped by 25% or more; in 17, by at least a third. Nationally, it increased 33% . In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6%), New Hampshire (48.3%), Kansas (45%), Idaho (43%).

Alas, the news only gets grimmer.

Since 2008 , suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth. The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally , it ranks 27th.

More importantly, the trend in the United States doesn't align with what's happening elsewhere in the developed world. The World Health Organization, for instance, reports that Great Britain, Canada, and China all have notably lower suicide rates than the U.S., as do all but six countries in the European Union. (Japan's is only slightly lower.)

World Bank statistics show that, worldwide, the suicide rate fell from 12.8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 10.6 in 2016. It's been falling in China , Japan (where it has declined steadily for nearly a decade and is at its lowest point in 37 years), most of Europe, and even countries like South Korea and Russia that have a significantly higher suicide rate than the United States. In Russia, for instance, it has dropped by nearly 26% from a high point of 42 per 100,000 in 1994 to 31 in 2019.

We know a fair amount about the patterns of suicide in the United States. In 2017, the rate was highest for men between the ages of 45 and 64 (30 per 100,000) and those 75 and older (39.7 per 100,000).

The rates in rural counties are almost double those in the most urbanized ones, which is why states like Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota sit atop the suicide list. Furthermore, a far higher percentage of people in rural states own guns than in cities and suburbs, leading to a higher rate of suicide involving firearms, the means used in half of all such acts in this country.

There are gender-based differences as well. From 1999 to 2017, the rate for men was substantially higher than for women -- almost four-and-a-half times higher in the first of those years, slightly more than three-and-a-half times in the last.

Education is also a factor. The suicide rate is lowest among individuals with college degrees. Those who, at best, completed high school are, by comparison, twice as likely to kill themselves. Suicide rates also tend to be lower among people in higher-income brackets.

The Economics of Stress

This surge in the suicide rate has taken place in years during which the working class has experienced greater economic hardship and psychological stress. Increased competition from abroad and outsourcing, the results of globalization, have contributed to job loss, particularly in economic sectors like manufacturing, steel, and mining that had long been mainstays of employment for such workers. The jobs still available often paid less and provided fewer benefits.

Technological change, including computerization, robotics, and the coming of artificial intelligence, has similarly begun to displace labor in significant ways, leaving Americans without college degrees, especially those 50 and older, in far more difficult straits when it comes to finding new jobs that pay well. The lack of anything resembling an industrial policy of a sort that exists in Europe has made these dislocations even more painful for American workers, while a sharp decline in private-sector union membership -- down from nearly 17% in 1983 to 6.4% today -- has reduced their ability to press for higher wages through collective bargaining.

Furthermore, the inflation-adjusted median wage has barely budged over the last four decades (even as CEO salaries have soared). And a decline in worker productivity doesn't explain it: between 1973 and 2017 productivity increased by 77%, while a worker's average hourly wage only rose by 12.4%. Wage stagnation has made it harder for working-class Americans to get by, let alone have a lifestyle comparable to that of their parents or grandparents.

The gap in earnings between those at the top and bottom of American society has also increased -- a lot. Since 1979, the wages of Americans in the 10th percentile increased by a pitiful 1.2%. Those in the 50th percentile did a bit better, making a gain of 6%. By contrast, those in the 90th percentile increased by 34.3% and those near the peak of the wage pyramid -- the top 1% and especially the rarefied 0.1% -- made far more substantial gains.

And mind you, we're just talking about wages, not other forms of income like large stock dividends, expensive homes, or eyepopping inheritances. The share of net national wealth held by the richest 0.1% increased from 10% in the 1980s to 20% in 2016. By contrast, the share of the bottom 90% shrank in those same decades from about 35% to 20%. As for the top 1%, by 2016 its share had increased to almost 39% .

The precise relationship between economic inequality and suicide rates remains unclear, and suicide certainly can't simply be reduced to wealth disparities or financial stress. Still, strikingly, in contrast to the United States, suicide rates are noticeably lower and have been declining in Western European countries where income inequalities are far less pronounced, publicly funded healthcare is regarded as a right (not demonized as a pathway to serfdom), social safety nets far more extensive, and apprenticeships and worker retraining programs more widespread.

Evidence from the United States , Brazil , Japan , and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. If so, the good news is that progressive economic policies -- should Democrats ever retake the White House and the Senate -- could make a positive difference. A study based on state-by-state variations in the U.S. found that simply boosting the minimum wage and Earned Income Tax Credit by 10% appreciably reduces the suicide rate among people without college degrees.

The Race Enigma

One aspect of the suicide epidemic is puzzling. Though whites have fared far better economically (and in many other ways) than African Americans, their suicide rate is significantly higher . It increased from 11.3 per 100,000 in 2000 to 15.85 per 100,000 in 2017; for African Americans in those years the rates were 5.52 per 100,000 and 6.61 per 100,000. Black men are 10 times more likely to be homicide victims than white men, but the latter are two-and-half times more likely to kill themselves.

The higher suicide rate among whites as well as among people with only a high school diploma highlights suicide's disproportionate effect on working-class whites. This segment of the population also accounts for a disproportionate share of what economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have labeled " deaths of despair " -- those caused by suicides plus opioid overdoses and liver diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Though it's hard to offer a complete explanation for this, economic hardship and its ripple effects do appear to matter.

According to a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve , the white working class accounted for 45% of all income earned in the United States in 1990, but only 27% in 2016. In those same years, its share of national wealth plummeted, from 45% to 22%. And as inflation-adjusted wages have decreased for men without college degrees, many white workers seem to have lost hope of success of any sort. Paradoxically, the sense of failure and the accompanying stress may be greater for white workers precisely because they traditionally were much better off economically than their African American and Hispanic counterparts.

In addition, the fraying of communities knit together by employment in once-robust factories and mines has increased social isolation among them, and the evidence that it -- along with opioid addiction and alcohol abuse -- increases the risk of suicide is strong . On top of that, a significantly higher proportion of whites than blacks and Hispanics own firearms, and suicide rates are markedly higher in states where gun ownership is more widespread.

Trump's Faux Populism

The large increase in suicide within the white working class began a couple of decades before Donald Trump's election. Still, it's reasonable to ask what he's tried to do about it, particularly since votes from these Americans helped propel him to the White House. In 2016, he received 64% of the votes of whites without college degrees; Hillary Clinton, only 28%. Nationwide, he beat Clinton in counties where deaths of despair rose significantly between 2000 and 2015.

White workers will remain crucial to Trump's chances of winning in 2020. Yet while he has spoken about, and initiated steps aimed at reducing, the high suicide rate among veterans , his speeches and tweets have never highlighted the national suicide epidemic or its inordinate impact on white workers. More importantly, to the extent that economic despair contributes to their high suicide rate, his policies will only make matters worse.

The real benefits from the December 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act championed by the president and congressional Republicans flowed to those on the top steps of the economic ladder. By 2027, when the Act's provisions will run out, the wealthiest Americans are expected to have captured 81.8% of the gains. And that's not counting the windfall they received from recent changes in taxes on inheritances. Trump and the GOP doubled the annual amount exempt from estate taxes -- wealth bequeathed to heirs -- through 2025 from $5.6 million per individual to $11.2 million (or $22.4 million per couple). And who benefits most from this act of generosity? Not workers, that's for sure, but every household with an estate worth $22 million or more will.

As for job retraining provided by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the president proposed cutting that program by 40% in his 2019 budget, later settling for keeping it at 2017 levels. Future cuts seem in the cards as long as Trump is in the White House. The Congressional Budget Office projects that his tax cuts alone will produce even bigger budget deficits in the years to come. (The shortfall last year was $779 billion and it is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020.) Inevitably, the president and congressional Republicans will then demand additional reductions in spending for social programs.

This is all the more likely because Trump and those Republicans also slashed corporate taxes from 35% to 21% -- an estimated $1.4 trillion in savings for corporations over the next decade. And unlike the income tax cut, the corporate tax has no end date . The president assured his base that the big bucks those companies had stashed abroad would start flowing home and produce a wave of job creation -- all without adding to the deficit. As it happens, however, most of that repatriated cash has been used for corporate stock buy-backs, which totaled more than $800 billion last year. That, in turn, boosted share prices, but didn't exactly rain money down on workers. No surprise, of course, since the wealthiest 10% of Americans own at least 84% of all stocks and the bottom 60% have less than 2% of them.

And the president's corporate tax cut hasn't produced the tsunami of job-generating investments he predicted either. Indeed, in its aftermath, more than 80% of American companies stated that their plans for investment and hiring hadn't changed. As a result, the monthly increase in jobs has proven unremarkable compared to President Obama's second term, when the economic recovery that Trump largely inherited began. Yes, the economy did grow 2.3% in 2017 and 2.9% in 2018 (though not 3.1% as the president claimed). There wasn't, however, any "unprecedented economic boom -- a boom that has rarely been seen before" as he insisted in this year's State of the Union Address .

Anyway, what matters for workers struggling to get by is growth in real wages, and there's nothing to celebrate on that front: between 2017 and mid-2018 they actually declined by 1.63% for white workers and 2.5% for African Americans, while they rose for Hispanics by a measly 0.37%. And though Trump insists that his beloved tariff hikes are going to help workers, they will actually raise the prices of goods, hurting the working class and other low-income Americans the most .

Then there are the obstacles those susceptible to suicide face in receiving insurance-provided mental-health care. If you're a white worker without medical coverage or have a policy with a deductible and co-payments that are high and your income, while low, is too high to qualify for Medicaid, Trump and the GOP haven't done anything for you. Never mind the president's tweet proclaiming that "the Republican Party Will Become 'The Party of Healthcare!'"

Let me amend that: actually, they have done something. It's just not what you'd call helpful. The percentage of uninsured adults, which fell from 18% in 2013 to 10.9% at the end of 2016, thanks in no small measure to Obamacare , had risen to 13.7% by the end of last year.

The bottom line? On a problem that literally has life-and-death significance for a pivotal portion of his base, Trump has been AWOL. In fact, to the extent that economic strain contributes to the alarming suicide rate among white workers, his policies are only likely to exacerbate what is already a national crisis of epidemic proportions.


Seamus Padraig , June 19, 2019 at 6:46 am

Trump has neglected his base on pretty much every issue; this one's no exception.

DanB , June 19, 2019 at 8:55 am

Trump is running on the claim that he's turned the economy around; addressing suicide undermines this (false) claim. To state the obvious, NC readers know that Trump is incapable of caring about anyone or anything beyond his in-the-moment interpretation of his self-interest.

JCC , June 19, 2019 at 9:25 am

Not just Trump. Most of the Republican Party and much too many Democrats have also abandoned this base, otherwise known as working class Americans.

The economic facts are near staggering and this article has done a nice job of summarizing these numbers that are spread out across a lot of different sites.

I've experienced this rise within my own family and probably because of that fact I'm well aware that Trump is only a symptom of an entire political system that has all but abandoned it's core constituency, the American Working Class.

sparagmite , June 19, 2019 at 10:13 am

Yep It's not just Trump. The author mentions this, but still focuses on him for some reason. Maybe accurately attributing the problems to a failed system makes people feel more hopeless. Current nihilists in Congress make it their duty to destroy once helpful institutions in the name of "fiscal responsibility," i.e., tax cuts for corporate elites.

dcblogger , June 19, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Maybe because Trump is president and bears the greatest responsibility in this particular time. A great piece and appreciate all the documentation.

Svante , June 19, 2019 at 7:00 am

I'd assumed, the "working class" had dissappeared, back during Reagan's Miracle? We'd still see each other, sitting dazed on porches & stoops of rented old places they'd previously; trying to garden, fix their car while smoking, drinking or dazed on something? Those able to morph into "middle class" lives, might've earned substantially less, especially benefits and retirement package wise. But, a couple decades later, it was their turn, as machines and foreigners improved productivity. You could lease a truck to haul imported stuff your kids could sell to each other, or help robots in some warehouse, but those 80s burger flipping, rent-a-cop & repo-man gigs dried up. Your middle class pals unemployable, everybody in PayDay Loan debt (without any pay day in sight?) SHTF Bug-out bags® & EZ Credit Bushmasters began showing up at yard sales, even up North. Opioids became the religion of the proletariat Whites simply had much farther to fall, more equity for our betters to steal. And it was damned near impossible to get the cops to shoot you?

Man, this just ain't turning out as I'd hoped. Need coffee!

Svante , June 19, 2019 at 7:55 am

We especially love the euphemism "Deaths O' Despair." since it works so well on a Chyron, especially supered over obese crackers waddling in crusty MossyOak™ Snuggies®

https://mobile.twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/1140998287933300736
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=apxZvpzq4Mw

DanB , June 19, 2019 at 9:29 am

This is a very good article, but I have a comment about the section titled, "The Race Enigma." I think the key to understanding why African Americans have a lower suicide rate lies in understanding the sociological notion of community, and the related concept Emil Durkheim called social solidarity. This sense of solidarity and community among African Americans stands in contrast to the "There is no such thing as society" neoliberal zeitgeist that in fact produces feelings of extreme isolation, failure, and self-recriminations. An aside: as a white boy growing up in 1950s-60s Detroit I learned that if you yearned for solidarity and community what you had to do was to hang out with black people.

Amfortas the hippie , June 19, 2019 at 2:18 pm

" if you yearned for solidarity and community what you had to do was to hang out with black people."
amen, to that. in my case rural black people.
and I'll add Hispanics to that.
My wife's extended Familia is so very different from mine.
Solidarity/Belonging is cool.
I recommend it.
on the article we keep the scanner on("local news").we had a 3-4 year rash of suicides and attempted suicides(determined by chisme, or deduction) out here.
all of them were despair related more than half correlated with meth addiction itself a despair related thing.
ours were equally male/female, and across both our color spectrum.
that leaves economics/opportunity/just being able to get by as the likely cause.

David B Harrison , June 19, 2019 at 10:05 am

What's left out here is the vast majority of these suicides are men.

Christy , June 19, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Actually, in the article it states:
"There are gender-based differences as well. From 1999 to 2017, the rate for men was substantially higher than for women -- almost four-and-a-half times higher in the first of those years, slightly more than three-and-a-half times in the last."

jrs , June 19, 2019 at 1:58 pm

which in some sense makes despair the wrong word, as females are actually quite a bit more likely to be depressed for instance, but much less likely to "do the deed". Despair if we mean a certain social context maybe, but not just a psychological state.

Ex-Pralite Monk , June 19, 2019 at 10:10 am

obese cracker

You lay off the racial slur "cracker" and I'll lay off the racial slur "nigger". Deal?

rd , June 19, 2019 at 10:53 am

Suicide deaths are a function of the suicide attempt rate and the efficacy of the method used. A unique aspect of the US is the prevalence of guns in the society and therefore the greatly increased usage of them in suicide attempts compared to other countries. Guns are a very efficient way of committing suicide with a very high "success" rate. As of 2010, half of US suicides were using a gun as opposed to other countries with much lower percentages. So if the US comes even close to other countries in suicide rates then the US will surpass them in deaths. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_methods#Firearms

Now we can add in opiates, especially fentanyl, that can be quite effective as well.

The economic crisis hitting middle America over the past 30 years has been quite focused on the states and populations that also tend to have high gun ownership rates. So suicide attempts in those populations have a high probability of "success".

Joe Well , June 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

I would just take this opportunity to add that the police end up getting called in to prevent on lot of suicide attempts, and just about every successful one.

In the face of so much blanket demonization of the police, along with justified criticism, it's important to remember that.

B:H , June 19, 2019 at 11:44 am

As someone who works in the mental health treatment system, acute inpatient psychiatry to be specific, I can say that of the 25 inpatients currently here, 11 have been here before, multiple times. And this is because of several issues, in my experience: inadequate inpatient resources, staff burnout, inadequate support once they leave the hospital, and the nature of their illnesses. It's a grim picture here and it's been this way for YEARS. Until MAJOR money is spent on this issue it's not going to get better. This includes opening more facilities for people to live in long term, instead of closing them, which has been the trend I've seen.

B:H , June 19, 2019 at 11:53 am

One last thing the CEO wants "asses in beds", aka census, which is the money maker. There's less profit if people get better and don't return. And I guess I wouldn't have a job either. Hmmmm: sickness generates wealth.

[Jun 17, 2019] Matt Taibbi Exposes The Great College Loan Swindle

Notable quotes:
"... If you want to take the risk of going into debt to attend college, you better come out with skills that are in high demand. ..."
Nov 05, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Matt Taibbi via RollingStone.com,

How universities, banks and the government turned student debt into America's next financial black hole...

On a wind-swept, frigid night in February 2009, a 37-year-old schoolteacher named Scott Nailor parked his rusted '92 Toyota Tercel in the parking lot of a Fireside Inn in Auburn, Maine. He picked this spot to have a final reckoning with himself. He was going to end his life.

Beaten down after more than a decade of struggle with student debt, after years of taking false doors and slipping into various puddles of bureaucratic quicksand, he was giving up the fight. "This is it, I'm done," he remembers thinking. "I sat there and just sort of felt like I'm going to take my life. I'm going to find a way to park this car in the garage, with it running or whatever."

Nailor's problems began at 19 years old, when he borrowed for tuition so that he could pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine. He graduated summa cum laude four years later and immediately got a job in his field, as an English teacher.

Bu t he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher's $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan "rehabilitation" program that added to his overall balance. "That's when the noose began to tighten," he says.

The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. "In the middle of class too, while I was teaching," he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward "rehabilitation," and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. "Not one dollar of it goes to principal," says Nailor. "I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die."

After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. "At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching," he says.

Nailor had more than once reached the stage in his thoughts where he was thinking about how to physically pull off his suicide. "I'd been there before, that just was the worst of it," he says. "It scared me, bad."

He had a young son and a younger daughter, but Nailor had been so broken by the experience of financial failure that he managed to convince himself they would be better off without him. What saved him is that he called his wife to say goodbye. "I don't know why I called my wife. I'm glad I did," he says. "I just wanted her or someone to tell me to pick it up, keep fighting, it's going to be all right. And she did."

From that moment, Nailor managed to focus on his family. Still, the core problem – the spiraling debt that has taken over his life, as it has for millions of other Americans – remains.

Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry – from Donald Trump himself to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who sets much of the federal loan policy, to Julian Schmoke, onetime dean of the infamous DeVry University, whom Trump appointed to police fraud in education.

Americans don't understand the student-loan crisis because they've been trained to view the issue in terms of a series of separate, unrelated problems.

They will read in one place that as of the summer of 2017, a record 8.5 million Americans are in default on their student debt, with about $1.3 trillion in loans still outstanding.

In another place, voters will read that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing, soaring in a seemingly market-defying arc that for nearly a decade now has run almost double the rate of inflation. Tuition for a halfway decent school now frequently surpasses $50,000 a year. How, the average newsreader wonders, can any child not born in a yacht afford to go to school these days?

In a third place, that same reader will see some heartless monster, usually a Republican, threatening to cut federal student lending. The current bogeyman is Trump, who is threatening to slash the Pell Grant program by $3.9 billion, which would seem to put higher education even further out of reach for poor and middle-income families. This too seems appalling, and triggers a different kind of response, encouraging progressive voters to lobby for increased availability for educational lending.

But the separateness of these stories clouds the unifying issue underneath: The education industry as a whole is a con. In fact, since the mortgage business blew up in 2008, education and student debt is probably our reigning unexposed nation-wide scam.

It's a multiparty affair, what shakedown artists call a "big store scheme," like in the movie The Sting : a complex deception requiring a big cast to string the mark along every step of the way. In higher education, every party you meet, from the moment you first set foot on campus, is in on the game.

America as a country has evolved in recent decades into a confederacy of widescale industrial scams. The biggest slices of our economic pie – sectors like health care, military production, banking, even commercial and residential real estate – have become crude income-redistribution schemes, often untethered from the market by subsidies or bailouts, with the richest companies benefiting from gamed or denuded regulatory systems that make profits almost as assured as taxes. Guaranteed-profit scams – that's the last thing America makes with any level of consistent competence. In that light, Trump, among other things, the former head of a schlock diploma mill called Trump University, is a perfect president for these times. He's the scammer-in-chief in the Great American Ripoff Age, a time in which fleecing students is one of our signature achievements.

It starts with the sales pitch colleges make to kids. The thrust of it is usually that people who go to college make lots more money than the unfortunate dunces who don't. "A bachelor's degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime" is how Georgetown University put it. The Census Bureau tells us similarly that a master's degree is worth on average about $1.3 million more than a high school diploma.

But these stats say more about the increasing uselessness of a high school degree than they do about the value of a college diploma. Moreover, since virtually everyone at the very highest strata of society has a college degree, the stats are skewed by a handful of financial titans. A college degree has become a minimal status marker as much as anything else. "I'm sure people who take polo lessons or sailing lessons earn a lot more on average too," says Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice, which advocates for debt forgiveness and other reforms. "Does that mean you should send your kids to sailing school?"

But the pitch works on everyone these days, especially since good jobs for Trump's beloved "poorly educated" are scarce to nonexistent. Going to college doesn't guarantee a good job, far from it, but the data show that not going dooms most young people to an increasingly shallow pool of the very crappiest, lowest-paying jobs. There's a lot of stick, but not much carrot, in the education game.

It's a vicious cycle. Since everyone feels obligated to go to college, most everyone who can go, does, creating a glut of graduates. And as that glut of degree recipients grows, the squeeze on the un-degreed grows tighter, increasing further that original negative incentive: Don't go to college, and you'll be standing on soup lines by age 25.

With that inducement in place, colleges can charge almost any amount, and kids will pay – so long as they can get the money. And here we run into problem number two: It's too easy to find that money.

Parents, not wanting their kids to fall behind, will pay every dollar they have. But if they don't have the cash, there is a virtually unlimited amount of credit available to young people. Proposed cuts to Pell Grants aside, the landscape is filled with public and private lending, and students gobble it up. Kids who walk into financial-aid offices are often not told what signing their names on the various aid forms will mean down the line. A lot of kids don't even understand the concept of interest or amortization tables – they think if they're borrowing $8,000, they're paying back $8,000.

Nailor certainly was unaware of what he was getting into when he was 19. "I had no idea [about interest]," he says. "I just remember thinking, 'I don't have to worry about it right now. I want to go to school.' " He pauses in disgust. "It's unsettling to remember how it was like, 'Here, just sign this and you're all set.' I wish I could take the time machine back and slap myself in the face."

The average amount of debt for a student leaving school is skyrocketing even faster than the rate of tuition increase.

In 2016, for instance, the average amount of debt for an exiting college graduate was a staggering $37,172. That's a rise of six percent over just the previous year. With the average undergraduate interest rate at about 3.7 percent, the interest alone costs around $115 per month, meaning anyone who can't afford to pay into the principal faces the prospect of $69,000 in payments over 50 years.

So here's the con so far.

You must go to college because you're screwed if you don't.

Costs are outrageously high, but you pay them because you have to, and because the system makes it easy to borrow massive amounts of money

The third part of the con is the worst: You can't get out of the debt.

Since government lenders in particular have virtually unlimited power to collect on student debt – preying on everything from salary to income-tax returns – even running is not an option. And since most young people find themselves unable to make their full payments early on, they often find themselves perpetually paying down interest only, never touching the principal. Our billionaire president can declare bankruptcy four times, but students are the one class of citizen that may not do it even once.

October 2017 was supposed to represent the first glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, one of the few avenues for wiping out student debt. The idea, launched by George W. Bush, was pretty simple: Students could pledge to work 10 years for the government or a nonprofit and have their debt forgiven. In order to qualify, borrowers had to make payments for 10 years using a complex formula. This month, then, was to start the first mass wipeouts of debt in the history of American student lending. But more than half of the 700,000 enrollees have already been expunged from the program for, among other things, failing to certify their incomes on time, one of many bureaucratic tricks employed to limit forgiveness eligibility. To date, fewer than 500 participants are scheduled to receive loan forgiveness in this first round.

Moreover, Trump has called for the program's elimination by 2018, meaning that any relief that begins this month is likely only temporary. The only thing that is guaranteed to remain real for the immediate future are the massive profits being generated on the backs of young people, who before long become old people who, all too often, remain ensnared until their last days in one of the country's most brilliant and devious moneymaking schemes.

Everybody wins in this madness, except students. Even though many of the loans are originated by the state, most of them are serviced by private or quasi-private companies like Navient – which until 2014 was the student-loan arm of Sallie Mae – or Nelnet, companies that reported a combined profit of around $1 billion last year (the U.S. government made a profit of $1.6 billion in 2016!). Debt-collector companies like Performant (which generated $141.4 million in revenues; the family of Betsy DeVos is a major investor), and most particularly the colleges and universities, get to prey on the desperation and terror of parents and young people, and in the process rake in vast sums virtually without fear of market consequence.

About that: Universities, especially public institutions, have successfully defended rising tuition in recent years by blaming the hikes on reduced support from states. But this explanation was blown to bits in large part due to a bizarre slip-up in the middle of a controversy over state support of the University of Wisconsin system a few years ago.

In that incident, UW raised tuition by 5.5 percent six years in a row after 2007. The school blamed stresses from the financial crisis and decreased state aid. But when pressed during a state committee hearing in 2013 about the university's finances, UW system president Kevin Reilly admitted they held $648 million in reserve, including $414 million in tuition payments. This was excess hidey-hole cash the school was sitting on, separate and distinct from, say, an endowment fund.

After the university was showered with criticism for hoarding cash at a time when it was gouging students with huge price increases every year, the school responded by saying, essentially, it only did what all the other kids were doing. UW released data showing that other major state-school systems across the country were similarly stashing huge amounts of cash. While Wisconsin's surplus was only 25 percent of its operating budget, for instance, Minnesota's was 29 percent, and Illinois maintained a whopping 34 percent reserve.

When Collinge, of Student Loan Justice, looked into it, he found that the phenomenon wasn't confined to state schools. Private schools, too, have been hoarding cash even as they plead poverty and jack up tuition fees. "They're all doing it," he says.

While universities sit on their stockpiles of cash and the loan industry generates record profits, the pain of living in debilitating debt for many lasts into retirement. Take Veronica Martish. She's a 68-year-old veteran, having served in the armed forces in the Vietnam era. She's also a grandmother who's never been in trouble and consid?ers herself a patriot. "The thing is, I tried to do everything right in my life," she says. "But this ruined my life."

This is an $8,000 student loan she took out in 1989, through Sallie Mae. She borrowed the money so she could take courses at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Connecticut. Five years later, after deaths in her family, she fell behind on her payments and entered a loan-rehabilitation program. "That's when my nightmare began," she says.

In rehabilitation, Martish's $8,000 loan, with fees and interest, ballooned into a $27,000 debt, which she has been carrying ever since. She says she's paid more than $63,000 to date and is nowhere near discharging the principal. "By the time I die," she says, "I will probably pay more than $200,000 toward an $8,000 loan." She pauses. "It's a scam, you see. Nothing ever comes off the loan. It's all interest and fees. And they chase you until you're old, like me. They never stop. Ever."

And that's the other thing about lending to students: It's the safest grift around.

There's probably no better symbol of the bankruptcy of the education industry than Trump University. The half-literate president's effort at higher learning drew in suckers with pathetic promises of great real-estate insights (for instance, that Trump "hand-picked" the instructors) and then charged them truckfuls of cash for get-rich-quick tutorials that students and faculty later described as "almost completely worthless" and a "total lie." That Trump got to settle a lawsuit on this matter for $25 million and still managed to be elected president is, ironically, a remarkable testament to the failure of our education system. About the only example that might be worse is DeVry University, which told students that 90 percent of graduates seeking jobs found them in their fields within six months of graduation. The FTC found those claims "false and unsubstantiated," and ordered $100 million in refunds and debt relief, but that was in 2016 – before Trump put DeVry chief Schmoke, of all people, in charge of rooting out education fraud. Like a lot of things connected to politics lately, it would be funny if it weren't somehow actually happening.?"Yeah, it's the fox guarding the henhouse," says Collinge. "You could probably find a worse analogy."

But the real problem with the student-loan story is that it's so poorly understood by people not living the nightmare. There's so much propaganda that blames the borrowers for taking on the debt in the first place that there's often little sympathy for people in hopeless situations. To make matters worse, band-aid programs that supposedly offer help hypnotize the public into thinking there are ways out, when the "help" is usually just another trick to add to the balance.

"That's part of the problem with the narrative," says Nailor, the schoolteacher. "People think that there's help, so what are you complaining about? All you got to do is apply for help."

But the help, he says, coming from a for-profit predatory system, often just makes things worse. "It did for me," he says. "It does for a lot of people."

jcaz -> ThirdWorldNut , Nov 5, 2017 7:36 PM

So..... This guy is working ONE job, part-time.... How does he fill the rest of his day?

Take away his student loan, he's still living on $18K/yr- you're still broke...

Moe Hamhead -> Escrava Isaura , Nov 5, 2017 8:05 PM

The real flaw is associating "higher" education with value. Get a job. Earn an income. Find an interest for your free time. Raise a family. Spare the four years of wasted time and money.

NoPension -> Grimaldus , Nov 5, 2017 9:10 PM

Colleges.....those bastions of conservatism.

WhackoWarner -> CunnyFunt , Nov 5, 2017 7:10 PM

Yeah there is a predatory lending story here...

Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:08 PM

If you want to take the risk of going into debt to attend college, you better come out with skills that are in high demand. Otherwise you are much better off going into the military, or going to trade school. BTW, thank the Clintons for making it impossible to get out of student debt through bankruptcy.

Krungle -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:14 PM

If you want to give out loans to kids then you should accept the risk that they might default on that debt and leave you with the tab. Let's stop the coddling the banker bullshit. They lobbied to make this loans extremely difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. They wanted all the profit and none of the risk. Let them assume risk and they'll stop handing out loans to unqualified borrowers.

Boxed Merlot -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:16 PM

Amen! If the money for an "education" is more difficult to obtain, that ought to be a clue as to the value of the information / training one is purchasing. The fact it's so easy to get is all one needs to know about the worth of what's being spewed by those dispensing their so-called knowledge / truth.

Allow the lawful discharge through bankruptcy and punish every single financial institution, (and especially their individual persons who oversaw the process), that has profited off of ballooning "principle" amounts that even come close to doubling an original amount with ties to any government official that voted to place these kind of loans in such a category.

This is madness! "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees,..." Isaiah 10:1

jmo

t0mmyBerg -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:50 PM

Finally at least one person gets it. The inability to discharge student loan debt through the taint of bankruptcy is one of the greatest financial crimes of the last century. Entirely unAmerican. America used to be all about fresh starts. That is one reason our business life is more vibrant than say many places in Europe with less benign laws. Same goes for individuals. If you go through the pain of bankruptcy there is no reason you shouldnt get that debt discharged. Whomever voted for that law, whether Clintons or others should be beaten to death.

CunnyFunt -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:25 PM

Hobart's 38-week combo welder program costs $16,625. A trained kid willing to travel and work in the field would make more than an engineering graduate who paid a quarter-million for his degree.

ElwinCthulhu -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:35 PM

No mention made of the rats nest Social Justice program$ infesting college and university campuses across the country, at untold cost, worthless sullshit.

PrefabSprout -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:54 PM

But if you go into the military, you get poisoned and dehabilitated by bazillion vaccines, which you can't refuse.

Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 7:11 PM

Not that the student loan thing isn't another banker scam, but the lead story doesn't make sense.

Firstly, educators get loan forgiveness after a decade or two of public service. And there are income contingent repayment plans. And lawyers have, in fact, been able to get these things discharged. None of this changes the scam that is giving out high interest loans to kids to pursue an education. But you might want to start with a sob story that makes more sense. How about a pediatrician with 400k in loans and making 100k a year living in a coastal city? Or how about the art history majors at private liberal arts schools with 200k in debt making $10/hour as a barista? But teachers are one of the few groups that has an actual federal out.

JohnG -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:06 PM

Maybe. My wife is a teacher in a Title I, low income school, and had been for 13 years..... She also has about 13K remaining in student loans, originally federal direct and Perkins loans. With her over 10 years in title I schools, she should be able to get them forgiven, except that she consolidated these loans before I met her, and now they are "serviced" by AES, a private lender, and they are no longer eligible for discharge. This I call the "Consolidation Scam."

bluskyes , Nov 5, 2017 7:15 PM

Should have taken a math course first.

uhland62 -> bluskyes , Nov 5, 2017 7:27 PM

Pay off debt before you have children. There is no law that you must have children, if the debt makes it impossible. I would have liked a lot of tings but could not afford them.

dwboston , Nov 5, 2017 7:19 PM

Taibbi has some gall to blame Trump, DeVos and others for the student debt explosion, but not one word about Obama or the government's takeover of the student loan market as part of Obamacare? The student loan market was folded into the ACA as part of the fake accounting to make the ACA numbers "work". Every market the govenrment insinuates itself into - housing, health care, college tuition, etc. - gets distorted and costs explode. Taibbi's yet another dishonest liberal.

TheLastTrump -> dwboston , Nov 5, 2017 7:31 PM

Yikes- is this factual? If so fuck him. All name, no cattle.

Obama began his turn as destroyer in chief at the height of the Great Recession, everyone & their brother was running into the safety of college & student loans to pay the bills. I recall watching the local parking lots swell. :) So there's that.

But numbers are off the charts every year because younger millennials expect the govt to forgive all those loans at some point. That's how many thought 20 years ago & it's worse today.

dwboston -> TheLastTrump , Nov 5, 2017 9:11 PM

It is:

"The nexus between the student loan program and ObamaCare is purely opportunistic. As the Affordable Care Act was passing through Congress, its wheels greased by the wholly fraudulent assertion that it didn't need 60 votes to pass the Senate, the administration decided to put in a provision eliminating the private student loan industry, fully federalizing the program. What was not widely understood at the time was that it hoped to raid the funds paid by students to provide money for the bottomless pit known as ObamaCare"

http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/dick-morris/302247-loans-subsidize...

allgoodmen , Nov 5, 2017 7:22 PM

Good article from Matt Taibbi, but you can count on this bolshevik to leave out Clinton complicity in the for-profit student loan scandals:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/09/06/bill_clinton_earned_milli...

TheLastTrump , Nov 5, 2017 7:26 PM

American college farm. Biggest swindle there is. Your education is an afterthought.

kenny500c , Nov 5, 2017 7:30 PM

No reason student debt should be treated differently from other debts, allow it to be written off in BK court.

[Jun 17, 2019] Student Loan Debt Is the Enemy of Meritocracy

In 1980, the states subsidized 70% of the cost per student. Today it is less than 30% and the amount of grants and scholarships has likewise declined. Tax cuts for rich people and conservative hatred for education are the biggest problem.
Notable quotes:
"... "easy" student loans are a subsidy to colleges, ..."
"... 1965 median family income was $6900, more than 200% of the cost of a year at NU. Current median family income is about 75% of a year at NU. ..."
"... Allowing young adults to avoid challenging and uncomfortable and difficult subjects under the guise of compassion is the enemy of meritocracy. Financial illiteracy is the enemy of meritocracy. ..."
"... The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget. ..."
"... JUST HAD AN IDEA THAT MIGHT LIMIT THE DAMAGE OF THESE PHONEY ONLINE COLLEGES (pardon shouting, but I think it's justified): ..."
"... of-paying) IF a built for that purpose government agency APPROVES said loan. What do you think? ..."
"... Kaplan Ed is among the worst of the worst of internet federal loan and grant sucking diploma mills. ..."
"... Because every event in today's economy is the wish of the wealthy. Do you see why they suddenly wish to deeply educate the proles? ..."
economistsview.typepad.com
Thomas Piketty on a theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!:
Student Loan Debt Is the Enemy of Meritocracy in the US: ...the amount of household debt and even more recently of student debt in the U.S. is something that is really troublesome and it reflects the very large rise in tuition in the U.S. a very large inequality in access to education. I think if we really want to promote more equal opportunity and redistribute chances in access to education we should do something about student debt. And it's not possible to have such a large group of the population entering the labor force with such a big debt behind them. This exemplifies a particular problem with inequality in the United States, which is very high inequality and access to higher education. So in other countries in the developed world you don't have such massive student debt because you have more public support to higher education. I think the plan that was proposed earlier this year in 2015 by President Obama to increase public funding to public universities and community college is exactly justified.
This is really the key for higher growth in the future and also for a more equitable growth..., you have the official discourse about meritocracy, equal opportunity and mobility, and then you have the reality. And the gap between the two can be quite troublesome. So this is like you have a problem like this and there's a lot of hypocrisy about meritocracy in every country, not only in the U.S., but there is evidence suggesting that this has become particularly extreme in the United States. ... So this is a situation that is very troublesome and should rank very highly in the policy agenda in the future in the U.S.

DrDick -> Jeff R Carter:

"college is heavily subsidized"

Bwahahahahahahaha! *gasp*

In 1980, the states subsidized 70% of the cost per student. Today it is less than 30% and the amount of grants and scholarships has likewise declined. Tax cuts for rich people and conservative hatred for education are the biggest problem.

cm -> to DrDick...

I don't know what Jeff meant, but "easy" student loans are a subsidy to colleges, don't you think? Subsidies don't have to be paid directly to the recipient. The people who are getting the student loans don't get to keep the money (but they do get to keep the debt).

DrDick -> to cm...

No I do not agree. If anything, they are a subsidy to the finance industry (since you cannot default on them). More basically, they do not make college more affordable or accessible (his point).

cm -> to DrDick...

Well, what is a subsidy? Most economic entities don't get to keep the money they receive, but it ends up with somebody else or circulates. If I run a business and somebody sends people with money my way (or pays me by customer served), that looks like a subsidy to me - even though I don't get to keep the money, much of it paid for operational expenses not to forget salaries and other perks.

Just because it is not prearranged and no-strings (?) funding doesn't mean it cannot be a subsidy.

The financial system is involved, and benefits, whenever money is sloshing around.

Pinkybum -> to cm...

I think DrDick has this the right way around. Surely one should think of subsidies as to who the payment is directly helping. Subsidies to students would lower the barrier of entry into college. Subsidies to colleges help colleges hire better professors, offer more classes, reduce the cost of classes etc. Student loans are no subsidy at all except to the finance industry because they cannot be defaulted on and even then some may never be paid back because of bankruptcies.

However, that is always the risk of doing business as a loan provider. It might be interesting to assess the return on student loans compared to other loan instruments.

mrrunangun -> to Jeff R Carter...

The cost of higher education has risen relative to the earning power of the student and/or the student's family unless that family is in the top 10-20% wealth or income groups.

50 years ago it was possible for a lower middle class student to pay all expenses for Northwestern University with his/her own earnings. Tuition was $1500 and room + board c $1000/year. The State of Illinois had a scholarship grant program and all you needed was a 28 or 29 on the ACT to qualify for a grant that paid 80% of that tuition. A male student could make $2000 in a summer construction job, such as were plentiful during those booming 60s. That plus a low wage job waiting tables, night security, work-study etc could cover the remaining tuition and expense burden.

The annual nut now is in excess of $40,000 at NU and not much outside the $40,000-50,000 range at other second tier or elite schools.

The state schools used to produce the bedrock educated upper middle class of business and professional people in most states west of the seaboard. Tuition there 50 years ago was about $1200/year and room and board about $600-800 here in the midwest. Again you could put yourself through college waiting tables part-time. It wasn't easy but it was possible.

No way a kid who doesn't already possess an education can make the tuition and expenses of a private school today. I don't know what the median annual family income was in 1965 but I feel confident that it was well above the annual nut for a private college. Now it's about equal to it.

mrrunangun -> to mrrunangun...

1965 median family income was $6900, more than 200% of the cost of a year at NU. Current median family income is about 75% of a year at NU.

anne -> to 400 ppm CO2...

Linking for:

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Presentation-National-Debt.png

Click on "Share" under the graph that is initially constructed and copy the "Link" that appears:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=13Ew

March 22, 2015

Federal debt, 1966-2014

This allows a reader to understand how the graph was constructed and to work with the graph.

ilsm:

The US spends half the money the entire world spends on war, that is success!

Massive student debt, huge doses poverty, scores of thousands [of annual neglect related] deaths from the wretched health care system etc are not failure!

tew:

Poor education is the enemy of meritocracy. Costly, bloated administrations full of non-educators there to pamper and pander to every possible complaint and special interest - that is the enemy of meritocracy.

Convincing kids to simple "follow their dreams" regardless of education cost and career potential is the enemy of meritocracy. Allowing young adults to avoid challenging and uncomfortable and difficult subjects under the guise of compassion is the enemy of meritocracy. Financial illiteracy is the enemy of meritocracy.

Manageable student debt is no great enemy of meritocracy.

cm -> to tew...

This misses the point, aside frm the victim blaming. Few people embark on college degrees to "follow their dream", unless the dream is getting admission to the middle class job market.

When I was in elementary/middle school, the admonitions were of the sort "if you are not good in school you will end up sweeping streets" - from a generation who still saw street cleaning as manual labor, in my days it was already mechanized.

I estimate that about 15% or so of every cohort went to high school and then college, most went to a combined vocational/high school track, and some of those then later also went college, often from work.

This was before the big automation and globalization waves, when there were still enough jobs for everybody, and there was no pretense that you needed a fancy title to do standard issue work or as a social signal of some sort.

Richard H. Serlin:

Student loans and college get the bulk of the education inequality attention, and it's not nearly enough attention, but it's so much more. The early years are so crucial, as Nobel economist James Heckman has shown so well. Some children get no schooling or educational/developmental day care until almost age 6, when it should start in the first year, with preschool starting at 3. Others get high quality Montessori, and have had 3 years of it by the time they enter kindergarten, when others have had zero of any kind of education when they enter kindergarten.

Some children spend summers in high quality summer school and educational programs; others spend three months digressing and learning nothing. Some children get SAT prep programs costing thousands, and high end educational afterschool programs; others get nothing after school.

All these things should be available in high quality to any child; it's not 1810 anymore Republicans, the good old days of life expectancy in the 30s and dirt poverty for the vast majority. We need just a little more education in the modern world. But this also makes for hugely unequal opportunity.

Observer -> to Observer...

Data on degree by year ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_attainment_in_the_United_States

Observer -> to Syaloch...

One needs to differentiate between costs (total dollars spent per student credit hour or degree, or whatever the appropriate metric is) and price (what fraction of the cost is allocated to the the end-user student).

Note that the level of state funding impacts price, not cost; that discussion is usually about cost shifting, not cost reduction.

I'd say that the rate of increase in costs is, more or less, independent of the percent of costs borne by the state. You can indeed see this in the increase in private schools, the state funding is small/nil (particularly in schools without material endowments, where actual annual fees (prices) must closely actual match annual costs). Price discounts and federal funding may both complicate this analysis.

I think much more effort should be spent on understanding and controlling costs. As with health care, just saying "spend more money" is probably not the wise or even sustainable path in the long term.

Costs were discussed at some length here a year(?) or so ago. There is at least one fairly comprehensive published analysis of higher education costs drivers. IIRC, their conclusion was that there were a number of drivers - its not just food courts or more administrators. Sorry, don't recall the link.

Syaloch -> to cm...

Actually for my first job out of college at BLS, I basically was hired for my "rounded personality" combined with a general understanding of economic principles, not for any specific job-related skills. I had no prior experience working with Laspeyres price indexes, those skills were acquired through on-the-job training. Similarly in software development there is no degree that can make you a qualified professional developer; the best a degree can do is to show you are somewhat literate in X development language and that you have a good understanding of general software development principles. Most of the specific skills you'll need to be effective will be learned on the job.

The problem is that employers increasingly want to avoid any responsibility for training and mentoring, and to shift this burden onto schools. These institutions respond by jettisoning courses in areas deemed unnecessary for short-term vocational purposes, even though what you learn in many of these courses is probably more valuable and durable in the long run than the skills obtained through job-specific training, which often have a remarkably short shelf-life. (How valuable to you now is all that COBOL training you had back in the day?)

I guess the question then is, is the sole purpose of higher education to provide people with entry-level job skills for some narrowly-defined job description which may not even exist in a decade? A lot of people these days seem to feel that way. But I believe that in the long run it's a recipe for disaster at both the individual and the societal level.

Richard H. Serlin -> to Observer...

"Observer"

The research is just not on you side, as Heckman has shown very well. Early education and development makes a huge difference, and at age 5-7 (kindergarten) children are much better off with more schooling than morning to noon. This is why educated parents who can afford it pay a lot of money for a full day -- with afterschool and weekened programs on top.

Yes, we're more educated than 1810, but I use 1810 because that's the kind of small government, little spending on education (you want your children educated you pay for it.) that the Republican Party would love to return us to if they thought they could get away with it. And we've become little more educated in the last 50 years even though the world has become much more technologically advanced.

anne:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=14T9

January 30, 2015

Student Loans Outstanding as a share of Gross Domestic Product, 2007-2014


http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=14Ta

January 30, 2015

Student Loans Outstanding, 2007-2014

(Percent change)

anne:

As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/

July 25, 2009

Why Markets Can't Cure Healthcare
By Paul Krugman

Judging both from comments on this blog and from some of my mail, a significant number of Americans believe that the answer to our health care problems - indeed, the only answer - is to rely on the free market. Quite a few seem to believe that this view reflects the lessons of economic theory.

Not so. One of the most influential economic papers of the postwar era was Kenneth Arrow's "Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Health Care," * which demonstrated - decisively, I and many others believe - that health care can't be marketed like bread or TVs. Let me offer my own version of Arrow's argument.

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don't know when or whether you'll need care - but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor's office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can't be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can't just trust insurance companies either - they're not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers' point of view - they actually refer to it as "medical costs." This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there's a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need - not everyone agrees, but most do - this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.

The second thing about health care is that it's complicated, and you can't rely on experience or comparison shopping. ("I hear they've got a real deal on stents over at St. Mary's!") That's why doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code, why we expect more from them than from bakers or grocery store owners.

You could rely on a health maintenance organization to make the hard choices and do the cost management, and to some extent we do. But HMOs have been highly limited in their ability to achieve cost-effectiveness because people don't trust them - they're profit-making institutions, and your treatment is their cost.

Between those two factors, health care just doesn't work as a standard market story.

All of this doesn't necessarily mean that socialized medicine, or even single-payer, is the only way to go. There are a number of successful healthcare systems, at least as measured by pretty good care much cheaper than here, and they are quite different from each other. There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn't work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence.

* http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/82/2/PHCBP.pdf

anne -> to anne...

http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CUUR0000SEEB01?output_view=pct_12mths

January 30, 2015

College tuition and fees, 1980–2015

(Percentage change)

1980 ( 9.4)
1981 ( 12.4) Reagan
1982 ( 13.4)
1983 ( 10.4)
1984 ( 10.2)

1985 ( 9.1)
1986 ( 8.1)
1987 ( 7.6)
1988 ( 7.6) Bush
1989 ( 7.9)

1990 ( 8.1)
1991 ( 10.2)
1992 ( 10.7) Clinton
1993 ( 9.4)
1994 ( 7.0)

1995 ( 6.0)
1996 ( 5.7)
1997 ( 5.1)
1998 ( 4.2)
1999 ( 4.0)

2000 ( 4.1)
2001 ( 5.1) Bush
2002 ( 6.8)
2003 ( 8.4)
2004 ( 9.5)

2005 ( 7.5)
2006 ( 6.7)
2007 ( 6.2)
2008 ( 6.2)
2009 ( 6.0) Obama

2010 ( 5.2)
2011 ( 5.0)
2012 ( 4.8)
2013 ( 4.2)
2014 ( 3.7)

January

2015 ( 3.6)


Syaloch -> to anne...

I believe so, as I noted above. The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.

Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.

anne -> to Syaloch...

Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.

[ Look to the paper by Kenneth Arrow, which I cannot copy, for what is to me a convincing explanation as to the market defeating factors of healthcare. However, I have no proper explanation about education costs and am only speculating or looking for an analogy. ]

anne -> to Syaloch...

The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.

[ Nicely expressed. ]

Peter K. -> to anne...

"As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?"

Yes, exactly. They aren't normal markets. There should be heavy government regulation.

Denis Drew:

JUST HAD AN IDEA THAT MIGHT LIMIT THE DAMAGE OF THESE PHONEY ONLINE COLLEGES (pardon shouting, but I think it's justified):

Only allow government guaranteed loans (and the accompanying you-can-never-get-out-of-paying) IF a built for that purpose government agency APPROVES said loan. What do you think?

Denis Drew -> to cm...

A big reason we had the real estate bubble was actually the mad Republican relaxation of loan requirements -- relying on the "free market." So, thanks for coming up with a good comparison.

By definition, for the most part, people taking out student loans are shall we say new to the world and more vulnerable to the pirates.
* * * * * * * * * *
[cut and paste from my comment on AB]
Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post.

According to an article in the Huffington Post At Kaplan University, 'Guerrilla Registration' Leaves Students Deep In Debt, Kaplan Ed is among the worst of the worst of internet federal loan and grant sucking diploma mills. Going so far as to falsely pad bills $5000 or so dollars at diploma time - pay up immediately or you will never get your sheepskin; you wasted your time. No gov agency will act.

According to a lovely graph which I wish I could patch in here the Post may actually be currently be kept afloat only by purloined cash from Kaplan:

earnings before corporate overhead

2002 - Kaplan ed, $10 mil; Kaplan test prep, $45 mil: WaPo, $100 mil
2005 - Kaplan ed, $55 mil; Kaplan test prep, $100 mil; WaPo, $105 mil
2009 - Kaplan ed, $255 mil; Kaplan test prep, $5 mil; WaPo negative $175 mil

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/22/kaplan-university-guerilla-registration_n_799741.html

Wonder if billionaire Bezos will reach out to make Kaplan Ed victims whole. Will he really continue to use Kaplan's pirated money to keep WaPo whole -- if that is what is going on?

Johannes Y O Highness:

"theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!: "

Too damn high
but why?

Because! Because every event in today's economy is the wish of the wealthy. Do you see why they suddenly wish to deeply educate the proles?

Opportunity cost! The burden of the intelligentsia, the brain work can by carried by robots or humans. Choice of the wealthy? Humans, hands down. Can you see the historical background?

Railroad was the first robot. According to Devon's Paradox, it was overused because of its increment of efficiency. Later, excessive roadbeds were disassembled. Rails were sold as scrap.

The new robots are not heavy lifters. New robots are there to do the work of the brain trust. As first robots replaced lower caste jokers, so shall new robots replace upper caste jokers. Do you see the fear developing inside the huddle of high rollers? Rollers now calling the play?

High rollers plan to educate small time hoods to do the work of the new robots, then kill the new robots before the newbie 'bot discovers how to kill the wealthy, to kill, to replace them forever.

Terrifying fear
strikes

Observer:

Good bit of data on education costs here

http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/

This chart shows state spending per student and tuition ...

" overall perhaps the best description of the data is something along the lines of "sometimes state appropriations go up and sometimes they go down, but tuition always goes up." "

http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/2012/12/04/chart-of-the-week-state-appropriations-and-public-tuitions/

[Jun 17, 2019] The debt trap how the student loan industry betrays young Americans Money by Daniel Rivero

Sep 06, 2017 | www.theguardian.com The Guardian

Navient, spun off from Sallie Mae, has thrived as student loan debt spirals across the US. Its story reveals how, instead of fighting inequality, the education industry is reinforcing it

Nathan Hornes: 'Navient hasn't done a thing to help me. They just want their money. And they want it now.' Photograph: Fusion

A mong the 44 million Americans who have amassed our nation's whopping $1.4tn in student loan debt, a call from Navient can produce shivers of dread.

Navient is the primary point of contact, or the "servicer", for more student loans in the United States than any other company, handling 12 million borrowers and $300bn in debt. The company flourished as student loan debt exploded under the Obama administration, and its stock rose sharply after the election of Donald Trump.

But Navient also has more complaints per borrower than any other servicer, according to a Fusion analysis of data. And these mounting complaints repeatedly allege that the company has failed to live up to the terms of its federal contracts, and that it illegally harasses consumers . Navient says most of the ire stems from structural issues surrounding college finance – like the terms of the loans, which the federal government and private banks are responsible for – not about Navient customer service.

Navient has positioned itself to dominate the lucrative student loan industry in the midst of this crisis, flexing its muscles in Washington and increasingly across the states. The story of Navient's emerging power is also the story of how an industry built around the idea that education can break down inequities is reinforcing them.The tension at the center of the current controversy around student loans is simple: should borrowers be treated like any other consumers, or do they merit special service because education is considered a public good?

Often, the most vulnerable borrowers are not those with the largest debt, but low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color – especially those who may attend less prestigious schools and are less likely to quickly earn enough to repay their loans, if they graduate at all.

Last year, Navient received 23 complaints per 100,000 borrowers, more than twice that of the nearest competitor, according to Fusion's analysis. And from January 2014 to December 2016, Navient was named as a defendant in 530 federal lawsuits. The vast majority were aimed at the company's student loans servicing operations. (Nelnet and Great Lakes, the two other biggest companies in the student loans market, were sued 32 and 14 times over the same period, respectively.)

Many of the complaints and lawsuits aimed at the company relate to its standard practice of auto-dialing borrowers to solicit payments.

Shelby Hubbard says she has long been on the receiving end of these calls as she has struggled to pay down her debt. Hubbard racked up over $60,000 in public and private student loans by the time she graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a basic healthcare-related degree.

"It consumes my every day," Hubbard said of the constant calls. "Every day, every hour, starting at 8 o'clock in the morning." Unlike mortgages, and most other debt, student loans can't be wiped away with bankruptcy.

These days, Hubbard, 26, works in Ohio as a logistics coordinator for traveling nurses. She's made some loan payments, but her take-home pay is about $850 every two weeks. With her monthly student loan bill at about $700, roughly half her income would go to paying the loans back, forcing her to lean more heavily on her fiancé. "He pays for all of our utilities, all of our bills. Because at the end of the day, I don't have anything else to give him," she said. The shadow of her debt hangs over every discussion about their wedding, mortgage payments, and becoming parents.

The power and reach of the student loan industry stacks the odds against borrowers. Navient doesn't just service federal loans, it has a hand in nearly every aspect of the student loan system. It has bought up private student loans, both servicing them and earning interest off of them. And it has purchased billions of dollars worth of the older taxpayer-backed loans, again earning interest, as well as servicing that debt. The company also owns controversial subsidiary companies such as Pioneer Credit Recovery that stand to profit from collecting the debt of loans that go into default.

label="How the Trump administration is undermining students of color | Mark Huelsman and Vijay Das" href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/15/trump-administration-students-color-debt">

And just as banks have done with mortgages, Navient packages many of the private and pre-2010 federal loans and sells them on Wall Street as asset-backed securities. Meanwhile, it's in the running to oversee the Department of Education's entire student debt web portal, which would open even more avenues for the company to profit from – and expand its influence over – Americans' access to higher education.

The federal government is the biggest lender of American student loans, meaning that taxpayers are currently on the hook for more than $1tn . For years, much of this money was managed by private banks and loan companies like Sallie Mae. Then in 2010, Congress cut out the middlemen and their lending fees, and Sallie Mae spun off its servicing arm into the publicly traded company Navient.

Led by former Sallie Mae executives, Navient describes itself as "a leading provider of asset management and business processing solutions for education, healthcare, and government clients." But it is best known for being among a handful of companies that have won coveted federal contracts to make sure students repay their loans. And critics say that in pursuit of getting that money back, the Department of Education has allowed these companies to all but run free at the expense of borrowers.

"The problem is that these servicers are too big to fail," said Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. "We have no place to put the millions of borrowers whom they are servicing, even if they are not doing the servicing job that we want them to do."

In its last years, the Obama administration tried to rein in the student loan industry and promoted more options for reduced repayment plans for federal loans. Since then, Donald Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos , has reversed or put on hold changes the former education secretary John B King's office proposed and appears bent on further loosening the reins on the student loan industry , leaving individual students little recourse amid bad service.

In late August, DeVos's office announced that it would stop sharing information about student loan servicer oversight with the federal consumer watchdog agency known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB.

Earlier this year, as complaints grew, the CFPB sued Navient for allegedly misleading borrowers about the repayment options it is legally obligated to provide.

A central allegation is that Navient, rather than offering income-based repayment plans, pushed some people into a temporary payment freeze called forbearance. Getting placed into forbearance is a good Band-Aid but can be a terrible longer-term plan. When an account gets placed in forbearance, its interest keeps accumulating, and that interest can be added to the principal, meaning the loans only grow.

Lynn Sabulski, who worked in Navient's Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, call center for five months starting in 2012, said she experienced first-hand the pressure to drive borrowers into forbearance.

"Performing well meant keeping calls to seven minutes or under," said Sabulski. "If you only have seven minutes, the easiest option to put a borrower in, first and foremost, is a forbearance." Sabulski said if she didn't keep the call times short, she could be written up or lose her job.

Navient denies the allegations, and a spokeswoman told Fusion via email seven and a half minutes was the average call time, not a target. The company maintains "caller satisfaction and customer experience" are a significant part of call center representatives' ratings.

But in a 24 March motion it filed in federal court for the CFPB's lawsuit, the company also said: "There is no expectation that the servicer will act in the interest of the consumer." Rather, it argued, Navient's job was to look out for the interest of the federal government and taxpayers.

Navient does get more per account when the servicer is up to date on payments, but getting borrowers into a repayment plan also has a cost because of the time required to go over the complex options.

The same day the CFPB filed its lawsuit, Illinois and Washington filed suits in state courts. The offices of attorneys general in nine other states confirmed to Fusion that they are investigating the company.

At a recent hearing in the Washington state case, the company defended its service: "The State's claim is not, you didn't help at all, which is what you said you would do. It's that, you could've helped them more." Navient insists it has forcefully advocated in Washington to streamline the federal loan system and make the repayment process easier to navigate for borrowers.

And it's true, Navient, and the broader industry, have stepped up efforts in recent years to influence decision makers. Since 2014, Navient executives have given nearly $75,000 to the company's political action committee, which has pumped money mostly into Republican campaigns, but also some Democratic ones. Over the same timespan, the company has spent more than $10.1m lobbying Congress, with $4.2m of that spending coming since 2016. About $400,000 of it targeted the CFPB, which many Republican lawmakers want to do away with.

Among the 22 former federal officials who lobby for Navient is the former US representative Denny Rehberg, a Republican, who once criticized federal aid for students as the welfare of the 21st century. His fellow lobbyist and former GOP representative Vin Weber sits on a board that has aired attack ads against the CFPB, as well as on the board of the for-profit college ITT Tech , which shuttered its campuses in 2016 after Barack Obama's Department of Education accused it of predatory recruitment and lending.

In response to what they see as a lack of federal oversight, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia recently required student loan servicers to get licenses in their states. Not surprisingly, Fusion found a sharp increase in Navient's spending in states considering such regulations, with the majority of the $300,000 in Navient state lobbying allocated since 2016.

In Maine and Illinois, the legislatures were flooded with Navient and other industry lobbyists earlier this year, after lawmakers proposed their own versions of the license bills. The Maine proposal failed after Navient argued the issue should be left to the federal government. The Illinois bill passed the legislature, but the Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, vetoed it in August following lobbying from an industry trade group . Rauner said the bill encroached on the federal government's authority.

Researchers argue more data would help them understand how to improve the student loan process and prevent more people from being overwhelmed by debt. In 2008, Congress made it illegal for the Department of Education to make the data public, arguing that it was a risk for student privacy. Private colleges and universities lobbied to restrict the data. So, too, did Navient's predecessor, Sallie Mae, and other student loan servicing companies.

Today, companies like Navient have compiled mountains of data about graduations, debt and financial outcomes – which they consider proprietary information. The lack of school-specific data about student outcomes can be life-altering, leading students to pick schools they never would have picked. Nathan Hornes, a 27-year-old Missouri native, racked up $70,000 in student loans going to Everest College, an unaccredited school, before he graduated.

"Navient hasn't done a thing to help me," Hornes told Fusion. "They just want their money. And they want it now."

label="The US cities luring millennials with promises to pay off their student debts" href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/10/the-us-cities-luring-millennials-with-promises-to-pay-off-their-student-debts">

Hornes' loans were recently forgiven following state investigations into Everest's parent company Corinthian. But many other borrowers still await relief.

Better educating teens about financial literacy before they apply to college will help reduce their dependence on student loans, but that doesn't change how the deck is stacked for those who need them. A few states have made community colleges free , reducing the need for student loan servicers.

But until the Department of Education holds industry leaders like Navient more accountable, individual states can fix only so much, insists Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the industry's most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill.

"Navient's view is, hey, I'm just going to take this money from the Department of Education and maximize Navient's profits, rather than serving the students," Warren said. "I hold Navient responsible for that. But I also hold the Department of Education responsible for that. They act as our agent, the agent of the US taxpayers, the agent of the people of the United States. And they should demand that Navient does better."

Laura Juncadella, a production assistant for The Naked Truth also contributed to this article

The Naked Truth: Debt Trap airs on Fusion TV 10 September at 9pm ET. Find out where to watch here

[Jun 17, 2019] Student Debt Bondage Becoming More Widespread

Oct 18, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

A fresh story at Bloomberg, which includes new analysis, shows the ugly student debt picture is getting uglier. The driver is that higher education costs keep rising, often in excess of the likely wages for graduates. The article's grim conclusion: "The next generation of graduates will include more borrowers who may never be able to repay."

Student debt is now the second biggest type of consumer debt in the US. At $1.5 trillion, is is second only to the mortgage market, and is also bigger than the subprime market before the crisis, which was generally pegged at $1.3 trillion. 1 Bloomberg also points out that unlike other categories of personal debt, student debt balances has shown consistent, or one might say persistent, growth since the crisis.

From the article:

Student loans are being issued at unprecedented rates as more American students pursue higher education . But the cost of tuition at both private and public institutions is touching all-time highs , while interest rates on student loans are also rising. Students are spending more time working instead of studying . (Some 85 percent of current students now work paid jobs while enrolled.) Experts and analysts worry that the next generation of graduates could default on their loans at even higher rates than in the immediate wake of the financial crisis.

The last sentence is alarming. As graduates of the class of 2009 like UserFriendly can attest, the job market was desperate. And for the next few years, the unemployment rate of new college graduates was higher than that of recent high school graduates. One of the corollaries of that is that more college graduates than before were taking work that didn't require a college degree; this is still a significant trend today. And on top of that, studies have found that early career earnings have a significant impact on lifetime earnings. While there are always exceptions, generally speaking, pay levels key off one's earlier compensation, so starting out at a lower income level is likely to crimp future compensation.

And on top of that, interest costs are rising. The rate for direct undergraduate loans is 5% and for graduate and professional schools, 6.6%. So student debt costs will also go up even before factoring in inflating school costs. So the ugly picture of delinquencies and defaults is destined to get worse.

Students attending for-profit universities and community colleges represented almost half of all borrowers leaving school and beginning to repay loans in 2011. They also accounted for 70 percent of all defaults. As a result, delinquencies skyrocketed in the 2011-12 academic year, reaching 11.73 percent.

Today, the student loan delinquency rate remains almost as high, which Scott-Clayton attributes to social and institutional factors, rather than average debt levels. "Delinquency is at crisis levels for borrowers, particularly for borrowers of color, borrowers who have gone to a for-profit and borrowers who didn't ultimately obtain a degree," she said, highlighting that each cohort is more likely to miss repayments on their loans than other public and private college students.

Those most at risk of delinquency tend to be, counterintuitively, those who've incurred smaller amounts of debt, explained Kali McFadden, senior research analyst at LendingTree. Graduates who leave school with six-figure degrees that are valued in the marketplace -- such as post-graduate law or medical degrees -- usually see a good return on their investment.

I'm a little leery of cheerful generalizations like "big ticket borrowers for professional degrees do better." "Better" may still not be that good. Recall that law school and in the last year, business school enrollments have fallen because candidates question whether the hard costs and loss of income while in school will pay off. And there are some degrees, like veterinary medicine, that are so pricey it's hard to see how they could possibly make economic sense.

What is distressing about this ugly picture is the lack of effective activism by the victims. I am sure some are trying, but in addition to the burden of being so overwhelmed by the debt burden as to lack the time and energy to do anything beyond cope, is the fact that being in debt is stigmatized in our society, and borrowers may not want to deal with condescension and criticism. Another obstacle to organizing is that most of the victims are lower income and/or from minority groups, which means Team Dem can ignore them on the usual assumption that they have nowhere else to go. It is also harder to create an effective coalition across disparate economic, geographic, and age groups

But the experience of the post-Civil War South says things could get a lot worse. From Matt Stoller in 2010:

A lot of people forget that having debt you can't pay back really sucks. Debt is not just a credit instrument, it is an instrument of political and economic control.

It's actually baked into our culture. The phrase 'the man', as in 'fight the man', referred originally to creditors. 'The man' in the 19th century stood for 'furnishing man', the merchant that sold 19th century sharecroppers and Southern farmers their supplies for the year, usually on credit. Farmers, often illiterate and certainly unable to understand the arrangements into which they were entering, were charged interest rates of 80-100 percent a year, with a lien places on their crops. When approaching a furnishing agent, who could grant them credit for seeds, equipment, even food itself, a farmer would meekly look down nervously as his debts were marked down in a notebook. At the end of a year, due to deflation and usury, farmers usually owed more than they started the year owing. Their land was often forfeit, and eventually most of them became tenant farmers.

They were in hock to the man, and eventually became slaves to him. This structure, of sharecropping and usury, held together by political violence, continued into the 1960s in some areas of the South. As late as the 1960s, Kennedy would see rural poverty in Arkansas and pronounce it 'shocking'. These were the fruits of usury, a society built on unsustainable debt peonage.

Sanders has made an issue of student debt, but politicians who want big bucks from financiers and members of the higher education complex pointedly ignore this issue. As we've pointed out, top bankruptcy scholar Elizabeth Warren won't even endorse a basic reform, that of making student debt dischargable in bankruptcy. So it may take student debtors becoming a bigger percentage of voters for this issue to get the political traction it warrants.

______

1 Higher estimates typically included near subprime mortgages then called "Alt A".

Geo , October 18, 2018 at 5:02 am

There are many, many passages in this obscure old book called The Bible speaking of usury as a grave sin. So many it is actually one of the most clear and condemned sins in the entire book. Maybe we could see if any of our Congress persons have ever heard of it? They could learn something from it regarding this topic.
That said, it's passages on gender equality and family structures are pretty outdated and abhorrent so I wouldn't want them to get any bad ideas from this book on those subjects.

https://www.openbible.info/topics/usury

Neujack , October 18, 2018 at 5:56 am

Indeed, all of the old "Iron Age religions" (Judaism, Early Christianity, and Islam) explicitly denounce usury.

The great irony of the Deep South in te USA is that they've been frequently banning Sharia law, even when Sharia law is one of the few types of law in the world which explicitly bans charging interest.

L , October 18, 2018 at 9:57 am

It is always intriguing how many politicians are so eager to endorse a literalist fealty to the social structures of the bible but ignore, or even vehemently rail against, the more balanced social restrictions on things like usury or the old idea of a debt jubilee. But then Jesus himself railed (physically) against embedding money in religion and now we have "entrepreneurial churches" who preach a "doctrine of prosperity" so I guess times have changed.

xformbykr , October 18, 2018 at 11:23 am

Michael Hudson wrote about the history of 'debt jubilees' and debt cancellation today.

https://michael-hudson.com/2018/01/could-should-jubilee-debt-cancellations-be-reintroduced-today/

Pete , October 18, 2018 at 5:46 am

I graduated 10 years ago and the most frustrating part was everyone telling me it would be alright and ignoring thw whole you never recover thing. I am still unable to find worthwhile employment and probably never will be able to.

kurtismayfield , October 18, 2018 at 6:56 am

You really can't listen to many of us over 40.. we really lived in complete my different conditions. When I got out of college in the 90's they were basically hiring everyone with a pulse in tech. From what I have seen from recent graduates it's getting easier, as I am seeing a lot more intershops turn into job offers. But for the generation that you are part of, it's an economic hole that may never be recovered from simply because you were born at the wrong time.

Looking at that graph, notice how the only debt that is backstopped completely by the federal government is growing the fastest. The no default on student loans rules have to be rescinded.

Big River Bandido , October 18, 2018 at 10:05 am

I graduated in the 1990s, and if you were not in tech, the job market was just as lousy as it is now.

The Rev Kev , October 18, 2018 at 6:13 am

Extrapolating from these trends, then in a few years the only young people that would be able to afford higher education in the United States would the the children of the ten per cent – plus a smattering of scholarships to talented individuals found worthy of supporting. It follows then that as these educated people entered the workforce, that over time that the people that would be running the country would be children of the elite in a sort of inbred system. It sounds a lot like 19th century class-based Britain that if you ask me.
As for the country itself it would be disastrous. Going by present population levels, it would mean that instead of recruiting the leaders and thinkers of the country from the present population of 325 million, that at most you would be recruiting them from a base level of about 30-40 million. It is to be hoped that these people are not from the shallow end of the gene pool. You can forget about any idea of an even-handed meritocracy and America would be competing against countries that might employ the idea of a full meritocracy in the recruitment of their leaders. I wonder how that might work out.

Brooklin Bridge , October 18, 2018 at 6:46 am

You could put that whole paragraph in the present tense quite nicely.

Eclair , October 18, 2018 at 6:56 am

"I wonder how that might work out." Ummm . the Monty Pythons had an idea in the 1970's.

The "Upper Class Twit of the Year" competition. Gotta love the "Kick a Beggar" event.

Henry Moon Pie , October 18, 2018 at 5:13 pm

"America would be competing against countries that might employ the idea of a full meritocracy in the recruitment of their leaders. I wonder how that might work out"

Would the performance of U. S. men in international soccer competition be a similar situation?

eg , October 18, 2018 at 6:40 am

Why is America so determined to reconstruct an aristocracy its founders abhorred?

zagonostra , October 18, 2018 at 8:41 am

They only abhorred the British aristocracy, they framed to Constitution to create a home grown one; and, they succeeded beyond their wildest dream.

Matthew , October 18, 2018 at 10:00 am

Because they think it will help them stay rich?

Big River Bandido , October 18, 2018 at 10:06 am

an aristocracy its founders abhorred

Alexander Hamilton liked the idea very much. It's why the musical is SO popular among the neoliberal set.

KYrocky , October 18, 2018 at 11:47 am

The concept of student debt as it exists today would be repulsive to our Founders. Not just for the larger issue of our country being on the trajectory of becoming an economic aristocracy, but specifically because the Federal government is profiting tremendously from this crushing usury being applied to majority and the least among us.
Our Founders had no problem with the conquest and seizure of Native Americans land, and they fully respected the rights and claims of other European countries to do the same. One of their strongest repudiations of the aristocracy was the expansion of private property rights beyond what was known under any monarchy on the planet to that point in history. In the pre-industrial world the vast majority of people lived in an agrarian society and economy. Owning land secured you with your livelihood, your living, and much of your resources; it fully supported most families.

For its founding and for generation after generation the United States government gave land to countless men for military service, government service, homesteds, etc. Expansions by the Louisiana Purchase and war and treaties with other European nations, quickly resulting in making these lands available for settlement to our citizens and to immigrants.

The point is that for well over 100 years the government provided to its citizens a huge amount of what our citizens needed to live their lifetimes through these grants of land. These land grants were then passed from generation to generation and formed the economic foundations for millions of people, their children and their next generations.

Our Government did this.

The United States ceased to be a predominantly agrarian country in the mid 20th century. But they did not stop aiding our people and their economic needs. Our government (Federal and states) did continue to provide to our population through public education (very affordable college), the GI Bill that served millions with income, housing and educational benefits, Social Security, Medicare, etc.

Since our country's very founding our government has recognized the benefit and need to facilitate the support of its citizens. The American economy became the greatest on earth because of our land conquest heritage and our collective investments as a nation. No one did it all on their own, and no one pretended they did.

Reagan killed this legacy. Reagan claimed that our nations success and our heritage was built on our history of rugged individualism and that our government was the obstacle to returning to these roots. It was a lie; nothing could have been further from the truth.

Student debt, as it exists to day, is crippling the economic futures of the millions who have accrued this debt and the millions to come, year after year, who will do the same. The student is debt is robbing our nation of the economic activity that historically matriculated out from those passing from college to the world. That has come almost to an end. Worse yet, our government has positioned itself to also profit off this debt, and to prevent the indebted from escaping this type of debt through the legal means available for virtually all other forms of debt.

Our student debt is un-American. It is a cancer on our economy. It exists for the vast short term profit of the few at the expense of our nations future.

Avalon Sparks , October 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Amazing essay, thank you!

zagonostra , October 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Admirable and well thought-out post.

I hope people keep in mind it was the Democrats, specifically Joe Biden, who made student debt even more crippling and heartless by changing the bankruptcy laws so that creditors can garnish your Social Security benefits (assuming Mitch McConnell doesn't gut them first).

Republicans are open about what they hope to accomplish, you have to clear the verbal BS that clouds what Democrats are after, but at the end of the day they are both about enslavement and debt bondage over unwashed masses.

Mobee , October 18, 2018 at 7:32 am

I'm sure it's often the parents that end up paying the debt, as my sister is doing. Parents have deep pockets and are desperate to help their loved ones get a good start in life.

In my sister's case, they sent their girls to private high school, where they spent the money that could have paid for college. Not a smart decision. But they love their children and really wanted to do give them the best.

Now the girls are struggling to make a living and my sister cannot afford to retire.

Musicismath , October 18, 2018 at 8:18 am

There are so many feedback loops, multipliers, and perverse incentives driving forward this bubble (and its calamitous social and cultural effects) that it's hard to know where to begin.

As Goldman Sachs have pointed out , student-loan-based securities are increasingly "attractive" investments for speculators:

Although the "bubble" is getting bigger, it's not a risk to overall financial stability, Goldman's Marty Young and Lotfi Karoui said in a recent note. In fact, there's one segment of the market that's emerging as an attractive investment.

It's the $190 billion of outstanding [student] loans that are held within asset-backed securities (ABS) refinanced by private lenders such as SoFi.

With these securities, lenders pool loans that have similar risk profiles and sell them as instruments in the public markets. Investors profit as graduates pay back their principal and interest.

So the more student debt there is, and the higher the interest rates are, the better, from that perspective.

It's undeniable, too, that high student loan burdens mean graduates are slower to form households and will probably have fewer children than they would otherwise. Their diminished spending power, meanwhile, adds to the ongoing erosion of the "real economy," in favour of the financial one. Student loans therefore disrupt the basic means of social reproduction. The resulting declines in fertility then demand high rates of immigration to compensate. A fact cheered on, inevitably, by the open borders crowd (a substantial number of whom, oddly or not, seem to work in or for universities).

So we see yet another instance in which "right" neoliberalism and "left" identitarianism go hand in hand–forming, indeed, two heads of the same beast. Student loans have enabled the enormous inflation in tuition costs that have plagued the Anglosphere over the last couple of decades. This fees income feeds the academic beast (or at least its administrators and senior managers), while driving the one economic and social crisis (mass migration and the resulting populist backlash) that "left neoliberals," centrists, and Clinton/Progress types appear to care about. It's a self-licking ice cream of catastrophic size and reach.

Petunia , October 18, 2018 at 9:09 am

One specific example: hospital chaplains are facing a big retirement crisis. And yet the job requires (to be hoard certified): an undergraduate degree & then a Master's of Divinity degree, plus a year-long residency. For a job that pays around $60,000 to $70,000. At least one school, Princeton, funds almost all of their divinity students. But I don't think it's the norm. And then you throw in the fact that such person ideally would be emotionally & spiritually mature, with enough life experience to meet with a wide range of people, who are often facing financial hardship due to being sick (as well as existential concerns). I don't even know how to begin reframing the job or the qualifications or the salary to fit America in 2020. There are a lot of other angles, such as: what about well-qualified people who can't afford seminary? I know there needs to be a way to screen-out and screen-in the best people (who won't proselytize), but is a Master's degree the right hurdle? But, I must say, the need for access to interfaith Spiritual Care is only increasing, as times get tougher & other hospital staff (RNs) don't have time to sit and listen. People are in pain, not only in their bodies. One thought leader in the field has speculated that the job will just go away due to lack of advocacy & inability to evolve into a profit center.

redleg , October 18, 2018 at 9:23 am

It would be interesting to see that student loan debt chart superimposed over %adjuncts and number of administrators. Its pretty easy to guess what that would look like, but seeing that would be decisive.

Fiddler Hill , October 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm

I think a little delineation is in order. I've been an adjunct professor and believe the increasing use of adjuncts at universities has been very beneficial overall -- in terms of the quality of education students are getting. Unfortunately, as we know, that's not why universities are hiring so many more adjuncts; they're being hired because schools can get away with paying them abysmally.

The situation is so embarrassing that, at the university where I was teaching five years ago, the full-time faculty passed a resolution asking the administration to give the entire projected increase in teaching salaries entirely to the adjuncts, an amazing act of selflessness.

The relevance to our discussion here, of course, is the insupportable increase in the annual cost of attending college even as the schools radically reduce their overall expenditures on faculty salaries.

Di Modica's Dumb Steer , October 18, 2018 at 9:49 am

So how long before this leads to a mass "We Won't Pay" movement? I'm stuck on the dumb treadmill myself, but I wouldn't begrudge an entire generation for just saying no. Sure, they can garnish wages and the like, but if 30 million people simultaneously say 'eff this', it's more than just a wrench in the works it's drastic enough to force action.

DolleyMadison , October 18, 2018 at 10:45 am

Why DO they keep paying? The debts are always bought by debt collectors who don't even have COPIES promissory notes. Let them sue you and show up for the hearing and demand proof. They can still ruin your "credit" but if student loans haven't taught you to eschew credit nothing will. If EVERYONE "walked away" what could they do?

Tangled up in Texas , October 18, 2018 at 11:01 am

Unfortunately that is never going to happen. This society has been trained to worship at the altar of the FICO score, and most job seekers cannot afford to have a low score. Said score will be examined and potentially held against you when pursuing employment.

Also, employers frown upon employees who do not pay their bills and then have their wages garnished – at least the smaller emlpoyers do. This creates extra work for the employer and makes the employee suspect, as in irresponsible.

This problem was created by the political class and is going to require a political solution, i.e. legislation to assist the student loan borrower or a debt jubilee. Unfortunately, there's too much money being made off the student borrower – even if the practice is killing the host. And the "I got mine" crowd will not allow a jubilee even if it is for the greater good of society. Lastly, student loan borrowers coming from a different era (who have paid off their loans) will begrudge the forgiving of the loans and consider them undeserved. In this case, perhaps the best resolution is to give everyone money toward their student loans – whether they are currently paid or unpaid.

I cannot jeopardize my employment by joining in a "eff this" movement as much as I would like to. Instead, I will continue on this treadmill called life, pay my bills and hope to escape as unscathed as possible.

Harrison Bergeron , October 18, 2018 at 1:42 pm

I work for a company that contracts with department of Ed to get student loan borrowers out if default and back into the hands of loan servicers. The amount of money sloshing around is stunning. I'm sure they've got well paid lobbyists telling legislators that people will be unemployed if student loans are reformed. I owe well over six figures so the irony is not lost on me. Hiring one half of the working class to debt collect from the other.

Tomonthebeach , October 18, 2018 at 2:58 pm

Who pays for diploma-mill educations, and why? I have always assumed that people attended cash-n-carry schools because they did not qualify aptitude/grade-wise for entrance to a state school, OR a 3rd party like DOD or VA was footing the tab. Both assumptions appear to be supported by data. Given the far-above-average drop/flunkout rate of diploma mills. I know from my military career that enlisted members sign up for courses (local or online) at diploma mills to get extra points toward promotions – at Navy expense. Personally, I would not pay to send my dog to such institutions to learn how to sit up and beg.

One thing is certain, collich kidz do not appear to spend nearly as much time researching where they go to $chool as they do buying the car they drive.

Democrita , October 18, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Jumping into the conversation a little late, but my alma mater recently embarked on a major rethink of the college business model, and cut tuition from around 50k to around 30k. We even got a writeup from Frank Bruni for it .

College officials (I'm relatively active as a fundraiser for my class) describe it as a shift to a "philanthropy model" of funding. Which worries me for lots of reasons. But at least it's a conversation-starter.

It's also very much a school that is not for people looking to buy a future income flow, but rather an education.

[Jun 17, 2019] I'm a 29-Year-Old With $235k in Student Debt. I'll Never Pay It Back

The person was definitely taken for a ride. He does not write how he obtained such a huge debt. It is difficult to do attending state college.
Also when you are young you often stupid, and when you became wiser, it's too late.
Notable quotes:
"... The price of a college education has quadrupled since the 1980s while wages haven't budged and rents went up by 50 percent. No wonder nearly 5 million American are in default on their student loans. At this rate, 40 percent of borrowers are expected to be in default by 2023. ..."
"... College was supposed to be about getting ahead in life. But it's become a driver of inequality . It does not have to be this way. ..."
"... Got to call BS on the 120k debt from a "state school". ..."
"... I do not understand how you got $120k of debt attending a state school for undergraduate. Either your stayed there 6 or more years or you basically earned no money during any summer or school year of your entire undergraduate and went to a really expensive school. ..."
Jun 17, 2019 | finance.yahoo.com

I have $235,000 of student debt. The first $120,000 came with a bachelor's degree from my state school. Another $70,000 or so came with my master's degree. The remainder is accrued interest.

The suggested minimum monthly payment on my private debt alone is approximately $1,200. For reference: that's nearly rent for the 600-square-foot apartment where I live with my partner in New Jersey.

Without income driven repayment, the minimum payment amount for my federal student debt would be around $1,000.

I would have to begin devoting half of my income to debt payment if I cared to pay it off by 2042. I can't do that because I make just under $4,000 per month. And that income is a fairly new development in my life. Why would I choose to pay down my debt if it meant I wouldn't be able to afford basic living expenses?

Short of winning the lottery, there's no way I could ever afford to pay off my debt. And though I have a higher debt burden than most, I'm certainly not alone.

One in four American adults has student debt . And that amount will grow over the coming years. Seven in 10 college graduates are now graduating with student debt , with the greatest burden falling on people of color , low-income borrowers , and women .

Meanwhile more and more people can't make their minimum payments.

The price of a college education has quadrupled since the 1980s while wages haven't budged and rents went up by 50 percent. No wonder nearly 5 million American are in default on their student loans. At this rate, 40 percent of borrowers are expected to be in default by 2023.

I'm privileged to have made it through the first few years of repayment. With a financial hardship agreement with Sallie Mae, my parents – cosigners on my private loans – pay $600 per month to keep default at bay from our family and allow me to live a decent life. And through an income driven repayment plan (IDR) with Navient, I've been paying less than $50 per month on my public loans, though that could change as my income changes.

My parents cosigned my loans because we're first-generation immigrants. Moving to the U.S. was about giving me a chance to live my best life. College was a critical component and we couldn't afford it any other way. The only reason they can afford those $600 monthly payments now is because they paid off their 30-year mortgage just a few years ago.

My parents are in their 60s and 70s and will live the rest of their lives with my student debt. Likely so will I. Again – we won't be alone.

Three million Americans over the age of 60 are paying off student debt . Approximately 40,000 of them are having Social Security or other government payments garnished .

College was supposed to be about getting ahead in life. But it's become a driver of inequality . It does not have to be this way.

Some economists say that forgiving student debt would boost GDP by $100 billion per year for ten years and add several million jobs to the economy. It would unlock the capacity of 44 million Americans to buy homes , launch small businesses , and retire with dignity.

Congress could pay for it by repealing the $1.5 trillion tax cut it passed in 2017. Primarily benefiting the wealthy and corporations, even Goldman Sachs says that whatever economic boost the tax cut brought with it has passed.

And to keep future generations from suffering under the burden of student debt, Congress could make public colleges, universities, and trade schools in the United States free.

The federal government already spends $80 billion per year on grants and tax breaks for students pursuing higher education. It spends another $100 billion every year issuing new student loans.

That's $180 billion the U.S. could stop spending on a broken system if it decided to invest it in a new one. Coincidently, that amount is more than enough to cover the cost of that new system.

Tuition at public institutions of higher education totals $63 billion . Add cost of living and that number reaches $127 billion . With the remaining $53 billion, the U.S. can invest in expanding access to higher education with job training and small business accelerators.

Until then, I'm focused on keeping the cost of servicing my debt low while I do other things a 29-year-old should be doing, like saving for an emergency fund or a down payment on a house.

I'm spending my money in a way that invests in my future. Can the country do the same?


J Jive Turkey 7 hours ago

$235k for a job that pays less than $48k/year. I'm sure there was no cheaper way to go about this, like, say, taking general education credits at a community college before transferring over to the 'State School'. Millennials are awesome.

W WillyWonga 7 hours ago

I had around $3K in student loan debt when I graduated. That's because I received some grants (partly based on my grades) and I WORKED...and WORKED SOME MORE...while I was studying. Two P/T jobs that were the equivalent of a full-time job, maybe more on certain weeks, whenever I could get the extra work.

My parents didn't co-sign anything for me. My dad passed long before I graduated high school, and my family home went into foreclosure so my mom had a horrible credit rating and didn't have two dimes to rub together.

Your story is an example of why we should NOT forgive student loan debt. No one forced you to take the loans out, and given your somewhat cavalier attitude towards it there's a good chance you'll ring up debt someplace else and expect others to pay for that too.

J James 6 hours ago

I'm playing my tiny little violin for you. I worked night shifts to pay my way through college. Then for my second degree in engineering, I co-oped and graduated with money in the bank. Seven years of 60 hour weeks, but it was worth it. I retired in my mid-50s.

j jim 7 hours ago

so a state school plus masters and you are making $4k a month? And "Some economists say that forgiving student debt would boost GDP by $100 billion per year for ten years and add several million jobs to the economy" Sure in the Bernie Sanders way of how things work.

R R 5 hours ago

Got to call BS on the 120k debt from a "state school". This is a problem with the younger generations. They do not want to work while going to college so they take out a ton of loans and then complain when they get out and have a life long debt barring some windfall. I say the issue is the government and companies giving these loans without making sure they pay them back. That is an investment for them so they should have programs to help them stay on track and make sure they get well paying jobs. I retired from a company after 32 years at 50. They paid for my education and I moved up the ladder pretty fast. I was over their clinical labs when I retired and I started in the warehouse.

T Theo the Cat 7 hours ago

I do not understand how you got $120k of debt attending a state school for undergraduate. Either your stayed there 6 or more years or you basically earned no money during any summer or school year of your entire undergraduate and went to a really expensive school.

R Really 7 hours ago

Maybe your partner ought to be helping you pay off your debt. I helped my partner. That's how "partner" is defined. Also, the notion that if we all absorb your debt will allow you to buy a house, I say, BS. I don't want to take any risk financing your house buy (through any government support -- FHA, VA, FDIC insurance on banks covering your mortgage, etc.) since you were not good for your student loan debt. No way.

P Paul 7 hours ago

My kids are in their 20s and they are in community school to get associate degrees. They wanted to go to a university and get bachelor's but we can't afford it. So we lived within our means and our kids deprived themselves of that "college experience". And now thru our taxes, we will have to pay for someone else's student loans? How is that fair?

D Dustin 6 hours ago

Typical millennial....doesn't want to have to pay for anything. My wife and I are in our 40's and we made the last payment on her student debt this year. I didn't complain about it for the last 15 years, I just paid it off.

P Pete 7 hours ago

The parents busted their hump to pay off their mortgage then get saddled with a $600 per month payment because of the kid's degree that lead to nowhere?

[Jun 14, 2019] The Twilight of Equality Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy by Lisa Duggan

Notable quotes:
"... For example, she discusses neoliberal attempts to be "multicultural," but points out that economic resources are constantly redistributed upward. Neoliberal politics, she argues, has only reinforced and increased the divide between economic and social political issues. ..."
"... Because neoliberal politicians wish to save neoliberalism by reforming it, she argues that proposing alternate visions and ideas have been blocked. ..."
Jun 14, 2019 | www.amazon.com

S. Baker 5.0 out of 5 stars Summary/Review of Twilight of Equality November 27, 2007

Duggan articulately connects social and economic issues to each other, arguing that neoliberal politics have divided the two when in actuality, they cannot be separated from one another.

In the introduction, Duggan argues that politics have become neoliberal - while politics operate under the guise of promoting social change or social stability, in reality, she argues, politicians have failed to make the connection between economic and social/cultural issues. She uses historical background to prove the claim that economic and social issues can be separated from each other is false.

For example, she discusses neoliberal attempts to be "multicultural," but points out that economic resources are constantly redistributed upward. Neoliberal politics, she argues, has only reinforced and increased the divide between economic and social political issues.

After the introduction, Duggan focuses on a specific topic in each chapter: downsizing democracy, the incredible shrinking public, equality, and love and money. In the first chapter (downsizing democracy), she argues that through violent imperial assertion in the Middle East, budget cuts in social services, and disillusionments in political divides, "capitalists could actually bring down capitalism" (p. 2).

Because neoliberal politicians wish to save neoliberalism by reforming it, she argues that proposing alternate visions and ideas have been blocked. Duggan provides historical background that help the reader connect early nineteenth century U.S. legislation (regarding voting rights and slavery) to perpetuated institutional prejudices.

[Jun 11, 2019] Open borders and illegal immigration are NeoLiberal tactics to promote wage arbitrage.

Jun 11, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

MG , Jun 11, 2019 8:40:24 AM | 129

@donkeytale

You stated, "Let's also ignore the fact that the sons and grandsons of the unionised postwar generation for the most part subsequently rejected blue collar work no matter what the pay. This is a sign of decadence I will grant you, and I am guilty as charged. "

This canard doesn't hold up in the face of empirical evidence. One example: 20,000 waiting in line for lousy warehouse jobs at Amazon. The fact is, open borders and illegal immigration are NeoLiberal tactics to promote wage arbitrage. In California, those impacted the most by illegal immigration are African Americans. Whole sectors, such as hotel maintenance and janitorial service, had been unionized, and had principally employed black workers whose salaries enabled them to move into the middle class. The hotel industry welcomed the influx of illegal immigrants willing to work for drastically lower wages. Black workers were replaced and the union destroyed. Unfortunately, many in the US and globally have been so propagandized about illegal immigration that even mentioning illegal immigration gets one falsely labeled racist. in the US, Democrats use illegal immigration as a "demographic strategy," which enables Democrats to remain in power while remaining wholly loyal to Wall Street and doing nothing to ameliorate the misery of the bottom 90%.

[Jun 07, 2019] Eight Reasons Why Inequality Ruins the Economy

The question is at what level of inequality it turns toxic. Druker mentioned the coefficient 20 between salary of the top executive and average salary paid by the corporation.
Notable quotes:
"... Inequality encourages the rich to invest not innovation but in what Sam Bowles calls " guard labour" (pdf) – means of entrenching their privilege and power. ..."
"... Unequal corporate hierarchies – what Jeffrey Nielsen calls rank-based organizations – can demotivate junior employees. ..."
"... "Economic inequality leads to less trust" say (pdf) Eric Uslaner and Mitchell Brown. ..."
"... Inequality can prevent productivity-enhancing changes, as Sam Bowles has described . We have good evidence that coops can be more efficient than hierarchical ones, but the spread of them is prevented by credit constraints. ..."
"... Inequality can cause the rich to be fearful of future redistribution or nationalization, which will make them loath to invest. ..."
"... Inequalities of power – in the sense of workers' voices being less heard than they were in the post-war period and trades unions becoming less powerful – have allowed governments to abandon the aim of truly full employment and given firms more ability to boost profits by suppressing wages and conditions. That has disincentivized investments in labour-saving technologies. ..."
"... The high-powered incentives that generate inequality within companies can backfire . As Benabou and Tirole have shown (pdf) , they encourage bosses to hit measured targets and neglect less measurable things that are nevertheless important for a firm's success such as a healthy corporate culture. ..."
"... High management pay can entrench what Joel Mokyr calls the "forces of conservatism" which are antagonistic to technical progress. ..."
"... Erik Brynjolfsson signalled the "winner take all" dynamics of Silicon Valley as an example on how technology drives inequality nowadays. ..."
Jun 07, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Chris Dillow, an economics writer at Investors Chronicle. He blogs at Stumbling and Mumbling, and is the author of New Labour and the End of Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @CJFDillow. Originally published at Stumbling and Mumbling ; cross posted from Evonomics

I welcome Professor Sir Angus Deaton's report into inequality . I especially like its emphasis (pdf) upon the causes of inequality:

To understand whether inequality is a problem, we need to understand the sources of inequality, views of what is fair and the implications of inequality as well as the levels of inequality. Are present levels of inequalities due to well-deserved rewards or to unfair bargaining power, regulatory failure or political capture?

I fear, however, that there might be something missing here – the impact that inequality has upon economic performance.

My chart shows the point. It shows the 20-year annualized rate of growth in GDP per worker-hour. It's clear that this was much stronger during the relatively egalitarian period from 1945 to the mid-70s than it was before or since, when inequality was higher.

This might, of course, be coincidence: maybe WWII caused both a backlog of investment and innovation which allowed a subsequent growth spurt and a desire for greater equality.

Or it might not. This is not the only evidence for the possibility that inequality is bad for growth. Roland Benabou gave the example (pdf) of how egalitarian South Korea has done much better than the unequal Philippines. And IMF researchers have found (pdf) a "strong negative relation" between inequality and the rate and duration of subsequent growth spells across 153 countries between 1960 and 2010.

Correlations, of course, are only suggestive. They pose the question: what is the mechanism whereby inequality might reduce growth? Here are eight possibilities:

1. Inequality encourages the rich to invest not innovation but in what Sam Bowles calls " guard labour" (pdf) – means of entrenching their privilege and power. This might involve restrictive copyright laws, ways of overseeing and controlling workers, or the corporate rent-seeking and lobbying that has led to what Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles call the " captured economy. " An especially costly form of this rent-seeking was banks' lobbying for a "too big to fail" subsidy . This encouraged over-expansion of the banking system and the subsequent crisis, which has had a massively adverse effect upon economic growth .

2. Unequal corporate hierarchies – what Jeffrey Nielsen calls rank-based organizations – can demotivate junior employees. One study of Italian football teams, for example, has found that "high pay dispersion has a detrimental impact on team performance." That's consistent with a study of Bundesliga and NBA teams by Benno Torgler and colleagues which found that "positional concerns and envy reduce individual performance."

3. "Economic inequality leads to less trust" say (pdf) Eric Uslaner and Mitchell Brown. And we've good evidence that less trust means less growth . One reason for this is simply that if people don't trust each other they'll not enter into transactions where there's a risk of them being ripped off.

4. Inequality can prevent productivity-enhancing changes, as Sam Bowles has described . We have good evidence that coops can be more efficient than hierarchical ones, but the spread of them is prevented by credit constraints. Poverty reduces education levels by making it impossible to afford books, or encouraging bright but poor students to leave earlier than they should, and women and BAME people might avoid careers for which they are otherwise well-suited because of a lack of role modelss

5. Inequality can cause the rich to be fearful of future redistribution or nationalization, which will make them loath to invest. National Grid is belly-aching, maybe rightly, that Labour's plan to nationalize it will delay investment . But it should instead ask: why is Labour proposing such a thing, and why is it popular ?

6. Inequalities of power – in the sense of workers' voices being less heard than they were in the post-war period and trades unions becoming less powerful – have allowed governments to abandon the aim of truly full employment and given firms more ability to boost profits by suppressing wages and conditions. That has disincentivized investments in labour-saving technologies.

7. The high-powered incentives that generate inequality within companies can backfire . As Benabou and Tirole have shown (pdf) , they encourage bosses to hit measured targets and neglect less measurable things that are nevertheless important for a firm's success such as a healthy corporate culture. Or they might crowd out intrinsic motivations such as professional ethics. Big bank bonuses, for example, encouraged mis-selling and rigging markets rather than productive activities.

8. High management pay can entrench what Joel Mokyr calls the "forces of conservatism" which are antagonistic to technical progress. Reaping the full benefits of new technologies often requires organizational change. But why bother investing in this if you are doing very nicely thanks to the increased (pdf) market power of your firm? And if you have, or hope to have, a big salary from a corporate bureaucracy why should you set up a new company?

My point here is that what matters is not so much the level of inequality as the effect it has. And it might well be a pernicious one. If inequality has contributed to weaker growth, then it is very likely to have contributed to the rise of populism and to Brexit and the divisions with which both are associated. In this way, inequality does political damage too.

From this perspective, pointing out that the Gini coefficient has been flat for years (which is true if we ignore housing costs) is like saying that because the bus has stopped moving we need not care about the man who has been run over by it. It misses the main point.

Ignacio , June 7, 2019 at 5:18 am

Very good analysis on the consequences of inequality. I miss a conclusive one: disengagement . It is, in part, an objective of the wealthy because it discourages political participation of the masses. It is also root of populist movements. But maybe the most critical consequence of disengagement now is the difficulty to implement social changes badly needed to fight climate change.

rd , June 7, 2019 at 9:43 am

The re-engagement is often in a revolutionary cause.

Nelson Lowhim , June 7, 2019 at 6:49 am

Big one is health goes down for everyone. Sooner or later we all hurt

Jesper , June 7, 2019 at 8:10 am

Who/what wins when reason encounters power?

The reason why there is inequality is because that is what people in power want. So while there are many reasons why inequality is a problem to be resolved I believe that the only way to deal with it is to use power. The power of the ballot at the election. Voting for people with history of serving other interests than the electorate and then trying to reason with them to get them to change their mind is a bad idea.

Is there anyone who believes that the powers that be will change simply by presenting logical arguments to them?

The healthcare situation in the US is the best example. There are few, if any, logical arguments to have a healthcare system as the US has. Is there really anything to do but to elect people who will change it? Or is there a possibility to change the minds of the politicians who maintains it?

Mark Anderlik , June 7, 2019 at 11:10 am

There is more to do than just elect the "right" people to office, which is important. As we painfully know, elected leaders have a rather sorry record of making change, so simple reliance on the ballot is inadequate. We need resilience, mutual aid and organizational support in the polis, independent of the political class. This in order to not only elect good leaders, but also to hold them accountable from day one. To create such requires the long work of organizing. Organizing is not just advocacy (lobbying, e.g.) nor just mobilizing (mass demos, e.g.), it is about changing lives. When done properly, organizing changes politics and its possibilities in fundamental ways. But when done right, it is literally one person at a time over time. No quick fixes, no easy solutions. Are we up to this or not? That is the question facing us all.

Jim A. , June 7, 2019 at 8:33 am

High levels of inequality lead to the economy being demand-limited rather than capital-limited. Now either one can choke off economic growth, but monetary stimulus is more sustainable when it operates on the latter than the former. Buliding a new factory and employing more people in it is hopefully* going to be better for the economy in the long term than loaning cash strapped people money to be paid back with interest.
*But not always, look at all that dark fiber installed during the dot com boom.

rd , June 7, 2019 at 10:38 am

We are paying off our existing debt we built up while raising kids. It doesn't matter how much cheap debt Mr. Powell and Mr. Dimon want to throw at us, we aren't going to use it and will continue paying off the old debt. the bank calculators tell us we could take on hundreds of thousands of debt to buy a bigger house, fancy cars etc. but that is not happening. One of the key reasons is that we look at the political uncertainty and know that ultimately the best defense is low debt levels and well-diversified savings.

The high student debt levels many people have taken on means they are not taking on much new debt. so they used the debt to pay the universities but that is probably not as productive for the economy as buying condos, houses, cars, etc.

Many other people have been taking on debt because they don't make enough to cover their ongoing expenses. In a recession, that debt is likely to be high risk.

Corporations have been issuing lots of covenant-light junk bonds because Mr. Bernanke and Powell have provided inexpensive money. Many of those will likely go south in a recession creating a bigger issue. Unlike the dark fiber, most of that has not been for long-term capital projects so is unlikely to provide that economic stimulus in the future.

Jim A. , June 7, 2019 at 12:23 pm

And a big part of the reason debt levels are so high is because the wealthy have much more money to lend than they can find productive uses for. High debt levels are the direct result and evidence of a greater concentration of wealth than is optimal.

rd , June 7, 2019 at 10:01 am

Here is a good analysis of income distribution from 1913 to 2012. https://eml.berkeley.edu//~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2012.pdf

It is pretty clear that the period of low income inequality from WW II to the early 80s coincided with the giant productivity bump. So when Trump says "Make America Great Again" which I have assumed relates to that post-WW II boom, is he calling for reduced inequality and better sharing of wealth across the society? Or does he assume that the policies that lead to reduced productivity growth are what make America great?

While the stats aren't strong, my understanding is that the Gilded Age of the 1870s was another classic period of concentrated wealth that then started a period of frequent depressions from the 1880s to WW II, including the Panic of 1908 and the Great Depression. The Great Depression was preceded by a brief period of high inequality in the Roaring 20s that was not erased until after the 1937 stock market drop and the beginning of WW II.

I think the most interesting thing about inequality is how much distortion a short period of it can put into a society. It appears that it takes 2-3 decades for society to fully recover from each decade of high inequality. This is similar to the relative rates of stock market recovery compared to a stock market drop.

My primary hope is that we can come out of this period of inequality without a major global conflict. I suspect that the retiring of the baby boomers and the stress that puts on the system will lead to the realization of many retirees that they are on the menu instead of picking from the menu. That will likely begin to change their voting patterns in the coming decade coinciding with the growing political clout of the millenials.

shinola , June 7, 2019 at 11:28 am

Point #6 has me confused (that's not so difficult to do). The section ends with this sentence:

"That has disincentivized investments in labour-saving technologies."

Huh? I've been under the impression that not only labor-saving but labor-eliminating tech. is a very big deal. A big selling point for automation is that by eliminating jobs & job-related expenses it more than pays for itself.

Ignacio , June 7, 2019 at 12:15 pm

You point to the interesting debate on technology and jobs. IMO labour-saving techs mostly shift jobs. Whether it destroys more or less than those created is open to many informed and uninformed discussions. It almost certainly ends in higher productivity, but what about inequality? For some time technology raised all boats but lately not. I would argue that technology itself is not the evil. Erik Brynjolfsson signalled the "winner take all" dynamics of Silicon Valley as an example on how technology drives inequality nowadays.

Jim A. , June 7, 2019 at 12:31 pm

The big question is what happens to those doing the jobs that are left? If they share in the benefits of productivity growth through higher wages, they can buy more of OTHER products and services which creates demand and provides employment for those creating those products. But If they do not get higher wages, those displaced are competing for jobs with other displaced workers and depressing wages. The economy simply works better, with fewer speculative bubbles and more economic security for the vast majority when productivity gains are linked to rising pay, as they were in the post-war period. How to achieve this is a non-trivial question, but increasing the minimum wage and capital gains taxes are a start.

rd , June 7, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Some of the jobs have been automated. However, many have gone overseas to cheaper labor. Instead of keeping the jobs in country and using automation to reduce the labor cost and increase productivity, they just shipped everything off. In some cases where they kept the work in country, they simply moved the jobs to non-union states where the workers would work for much less.

If all you are concerned about is earnings per share, it doesn't really matter where or how the work gets done as long as you reduced the cost per unit revenue.

Simeon Hope , June 7, 2019 at 11:48 am

Someone, please remind me why we all need more growth in our economy. So far as I was aware, it was capitalism's need for constant growth that was a major cause of climate change. Whilst inequality has dreadful effects in other ways, surely lowering overall growth might be a good thing for the natural world. Infinite growth on a finite planet can go on only so long without serious consequences – or so it seems. The much-vaunted and much-hated Green New Deal takes as given that there is such a thing as green growth. Is there?

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/17/that-green-growth-at-the-heart-of-the-green-new-deal-its-malignant/
https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/09/12/why-growth-cant-be-green/
https://www.degrowth.info/en/2015/10/the-decoupling-debate-can-economic-growth-really-continue-without-emission-increases/

[Jun 06, 2019] Student Debt in America: Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist

Notable quotes:
"... Still this is a clear and provable case of racket. Academic racket but still a racket. ..."
"... But even minor prosecution of those academic rentiers is impossible under neoliberalism as regulators are captured and corrupted. ..."
"... And students mostly are too badly informed and too naïve to shop around and find a better price. Which is still possible. For example using community college for the first two years and then transferring credits to a state university. And if student is talented enough he always can get masters at Ivy League school later and it will cost less. ..."
"... 8% insurance policy, ..."
"... The explosion in administrative employment and the resulting bureaucratic bloat and costs is ridiculous and unsustainable, including the promised pension and benefit payouts in the years to come. ..."
"... Young people borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to attend private, for-profit colleges (???) or to study the humanities, social sciences, or business is a waste of time and money for the vast majority. ..."
"... Most urban/suburban high schools have evolved into what might be described as college preparatory girls schools where a large majority of males are marginalized as necessary nuisances and the vast majority of kids learn little that is practical to participating as gainfully employed and self-supporting adults. ..."
"... But that is not an accident, of course. Feminization and infantilization of the society and economy has been underway coincident with deindustrialization and financialization since the 1970s-80s. ..."
"... The cost containment of colleges is the same as what is needed for healthcare. The government should intervene since it is the principal financier in more ways than one. ..."
"... To my knowledge and experience with Federal Direct Loans, students can go into forbearance at any time. There is also a 3 year window of no interest accumulation. After the 3 years, interest accumulates. ..."
Nov 27, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com
On student loans: Student Debt in America: Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist : ... Borrowing is risky, financial decisions are not always rational, and people often do a poor job of properly weighing the interests of their present and future selves.

The private enterprise system is built to limit overborrowing by sharing risk between lenders and borrowers. ... They charge more interest when they take on more risk. Because most loans can be discharged in bankruptcy, lenders share the cost of default. ...

But the federal student loan program doesn't work that way. Those ads that run on bus stop signs and on late-night television - "No Cash? No Credit? No Problem!" - are essentially the Department of Education's official policy on student loans.

On the front end, the department is the world's nicest, most accommodating lender. Interest rates ... are lower than banks charge... Borrowing for college is essentially an entitlement...

When the loan bill finally comes due, the federal government transforms into a heartless loan collector. You don't need burly men with brass knuckles to enforce debts when you have the Internal Revenue Service..., which can and will follow you as long as you live.

The government acts this way because the federal student loan program has been removed from the norms and values of prudent lending. Because the Department of Education doesn't consider risk, it takes no responsibility. If life, luck and bad choices leave you ... in the hole, it's all on you. ...

Most college students ... pay back their loans and enjoy the fruits of their degrees. But most pack-a-day smokers don't die of lung cancer. And most people who bought cars with Takata airbags from 2002 to 2008 weren't killed by shrapnel from explosions. Nevertheless, we still regard small risks of catastrophic outcomes as problems to be solved. ...

Just one quick comment. We need to solve the student loan problem for existing loans, but I wish talk about how to address this problem going forward was more about how to provide adequate funding for colleges so that large loans aren't needed in the first place rather than focusing on how to change the loan program itself.

Posted by Mark Thoma on Friday, November 27, 2015 at 11:28 AM in Economics , Education , Universities | Permalink Comments (10)

likbez

=== quote ===

@run75441 -> Sanjait...

The cost containment of colleges is the same as what is needed for healthcare. The government should intervene since it is the principal financier in more ways than one.

=== end of quote ===

Very true. May be even the idea of the net of eligible providers (in network vs out of network) can be borrowed form healthcare.

As this is a public good, it should be severe punishment including jail terms for inflating the cost of education. For example I think Mankiw should be at investigated using RICO act for the cost of his textbook. But I think that students who enroll into Mankiw class are already second rate students because at this point they should do some research about who Mankiw really is and avoid his classes like a plague.

Still this is a clear and provable case of racket. Academic racket but still a racket.

But even minor prosecution of those academic rentiers is impossible under neoliberalism as regulators are captured and corrupted.

And students mostly are too badly informed and too naïve to shop around and find a better price. Which is still possible. For example using community college for the first two years and then transferring credits to a state university. And if student is talented enough he always can get masters at Ivy League school later and it will cost less.

Please note that quality of university education is already very problematic. Switching to preparing "ready for jobmarket" graduates backfired. I would say that quality now is dismal as student lacks fundamentals. They are now kind of "bug of tricks" degree holders.

So the idea of cost control of college education can't be refuted with the hypothesis that it will lower the quality of education. Essentially what Ivy league college degree buys is the first place in a heap of resumes to major companies (some companies simply discard resumes from applicant who do not have Ivy League education).

Now about subsidies. Neoliberal colleges are for profit business with academic sharks no different that sharks in chemical or pharmaceutical companies. They do not care about education, only about lining this own pockets. As simple as that.

That means that in a current environment any "broad" subsidies will result in raising of the cost of education. I would make subsidies more focused, subject to means test as well as passing a qualifying exam similar to GED. After all at this point the society invests some money into student.

djb

so is he saying that we shouldn't give student loans unless a bank would loan the money

that's means many people who can now afford college wont be able to

and this:

"Most college students don't end up like Ms. Kelley. They pay back their loans and enjoy the fruits of their degrees. But most pack-a-day smokers don't die of lung cancer. And most people who bought cars with Takata airbags from 2002 to 2008 weren't killed by shrapnel from explosions. Nevertheless, we still regard small risks of catastrophic outcomes as problems to be solved."

is he kidding me??? My student loans required an 8% insurance policy, money I didn't even get to use, came out before I could pay tuition room and board, but I still owed it. The fact that most people pay their student loans means the government doesn't lose anything from student loans

Dan Berg

Rather than "provide adequate (more) funding (taxes)for colleges" - how about ways to reduce cost? Beginning with the absurd costs of textbooks; administrative bloat; disparities between tenured and part-time teachers; etc


Lilly -> Dan Berg...

...and I will add sports in here. A good analysis was published by HP: How College Students Are Bankrolling The Athletics Arms Race
http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/ncaa/sports-at-any-cost

pgl -> Dan Berg...

"Beginning with the absurd costs of textbooks"

Here is where Greg Mankiw will tell you he needs to charge $300 a book for his text because he wants his kids to be rich.

A Thomas

And how does anyone propose to remedy monies being deducted from Social Security for delinquent student loans when the person (victim) cannot make timely payments because of AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT. While illegal, it is practiced by a majority of employers. Often the Soc Sec recipient is reduced to living at poverty level - even though they want to work and would if they could find paying employment.

Or does anyone want to remedy this? Just let the "old folks" starve and become homeless!!!!!!

RGC

"As a senator from Delaware -- a corporate tax haven where the financial industry is one of the state's largest employers -- Biden was one of the key proponents of the 2005 legislation that is now bearing down on students like Ryan. That bill effectively prevents the $150 billion worth of private student debt from being discharged, rescheduled or renegotiated as other debt can be in bankruptcy court.

Biden's efforts in 2005 were no anomaly. Though the vice president has long portrayed himself as a champion of the struggling middle class -- a man who famously commutes on Amtrak and mixes enthusiastically with blue-collar workers -- the Delaware lawmaker has played a consistent and pivotal role in the financial industry's four-decade campaign to make it harder for students to shield themselves and their families from creditors, according to an IBT review of bankruptcy legislation going back to the 1970s."

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/32426-joe-biden-backed-bills-to-make-it-harder-for-americans-to-reduce-their-student-debt

BC

80-85% of jobs today and in the future will not require post-secondary training or a university credential. If accelerating automation and elimination of service employment (retail, health care, education, gov't, legal, etc.) continues apace as anticipated, including middle- and upper-income employment, there will be still fewer jobs requiring post-secondary "education" that pay what was once perceived as breadwinner compensation.

Universities all over the US have since the 1970s-80s become costly public jobs programs primarily for females at low or no productivity and increasing cost to the private sector (as in the case of "health" care). The explosion in administrative employment and the resulting bureaucratic bloat and costs is ridiculous and unsustainable, including the promised pension and benefit payouts in the years to come.

Young people borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to attend private, for-profit colleges (???) or to study the humanities, social sciences, or business is a waste of time and money for the vast majority.

Most urban/suburban high schools have evolved into what might be described as college preparatory girls schools where a large majority of males are marginalized as necessary nuisances and the vast majority of kids learn little that is practical to participating as gainfully employed and self-supporting adults.

But that is not an accident, of course. Feminization and infantilization of the society and economy has been underway coincident with deindustrialization and financialization since the 1970s-80s.

Sanjait said.. . November 27, 2015 at 11:39 PM

there should be a subsidy for college, because otherwise people tend to underinvest in education. Individuals are often liquidity constrained or just short sighted.

But IMO we are doing the subsidies all wrong. We are offering subsidized loans and tax deductions. We should instead be using plain old grants more often. That's how you ensure access to people who would otherwise lack it.

But the grants should be relatively small. They should just be sufficient to coverage get of a public university education, without a little t of extra amenities. The critics of higher ed who say that subsidies are driving up the costs are half right. It's really consumer preferences, for the most part. But that doesn't mean government should contribute to that problem, of that taxpayers should pay limitless amounts. Some price pressure should still be left to exist.

run75441 -> Sanjait... November 28, 2015 at 05:51 AM

The cost containment of colleges is the same as what is needed for healthcare. The government should intervene since it is the principal financier in more ways than one.

run75441

Mark:

I am not sure of what you know; but, this might be a good place to start. http://www.deltacostproject.org/ "The Delta Cost Project" http://www.deltacostproject.org/

There is a movement afoot from the Jason Delisles, Matt Chingos, and the Beth Akers of both the New America Foundation and Brookings who advocate interest rates do not matter, higher interest rates make sense for advanced degrees, and student loans should be risk sensitive using Fair Market Valuation techniques.

Getting a student loan is like checking into a Roach Motel. You can sign in via your signature; but, you can never check out without paying it off. If you default, it gets worst for you as stated in the story. So the risk to the Federal Gov and taxpayers is minimal. Indeed some would tell you, the Gov makes more money in default than in payoff. I also think there is more to the story than being revealed.

Fix interest rates and keep them low at http://angrybearblog.com/2015/11/for-profit-college-student-loan-default-and-the-economic-impact-of-student-loans.html . Indeed households without student loans are buying at a higher rate than those households with student loans. In some cases, it is worsening.

The highest default rate is with those who have student loans of < $10,000 [~39% of them have loans of less than $10,000 (NY Fed)] and are the result of Community Colleges. Potentially these are people attempting to improve their status in life. Student loan borrowers with $100,000 of debt had a default rate of 18% and are also the higher earners after graduation.

To my knowledge and experience with Federal Direct Loans, students can go into forbearance at any time. There is also a 3 year window of no interest accumulation. After the 3 years, interest accumulates. The 3 year window of no interest accumulation needs to be expanded to cover what we experienced since 2008 and perhaps go as long as 10 years. The 20-25 life time of IBR should be shortened to 10 - 15 years. This is not like students ordered up a 2008 recession, they were penalized unknowingly and were encouraged to seek a college education of sorts. The same holds true for those returning to college to better themselves.

Not only does student debt hurt the student, it is also playing out in the overall economy as I reported using NY Fed information at AB. Households with Student Loan Debt are a higher risk than those without Student Loan Debt. They are buying fewer homes and autos than households without Student Loan debt.

State financing has decreased. In Michigan it has gone from ~60% to ~30% with families picking up the load through various sources. Perhaps expanding the public service to erase college debt after 10 years would make more sense than doing so with strings attached.

Colleges do not appear to be cost sensitive to what the market may bear. There has always been a need for them and like healthcare colleges are allowed to increase as needed in cost without question. If you can not pay it upfront, you can always borrow it seems to rule. The new programs was supposed to hold colleges accountable for default rates. From the get-go, the administration let some of them off the hook.

My $.02

[Jun 06, 2019] Debt Slaves: 7 Out Of 10 Americans Believe That Debt Is A Necessity In Their Lives

Notable quotes:
"... And I haven't even discussed one of the most insidious forms of debt yet. ..."
"... Most of us will spend our entire lives paying off debt. ..."
"... That is why we are called debt slaves – our hard work makes others extremely wealthy. ..."
Jul 30, 2015 | zerohedge.com
Could you live without debt? Most Americans say that they cannot.

According to a brand new Pew survey, approximately 7 out of every 10 Americans believe that "debt is a necessity in their lives", and approximately 8 out of every 10 Americans actually have debt right now. Most of us like to think that "someday" we will get out of the hole and quit being debt slaves, but very few of us ever actually accomplish this.

That is because the entire system is designed to trap us in debt before we even get out into the "real world" and keep us in debt until we die. Sadly, most Americans don't even realize what is being done to them.

In America today, debt is considered to be just part of normal life. We go into debt to go to college, we go into debt to buy a vehicle, we go into debt to buy a home, and we are constantly using our credit cards to buy the things that we think we need.

As a result, this generation of Americans is absolutely swimming in debt. The following are some of the findings of the Pew survey that I mentioned above

*"8 in 10 Americans have debt, with mortgages the most common liability."

*"Although younger generations of Americans are the most likely to have debt (89 percent of Gen Xers and 86 percent of millennials do), older generations are increasingly carrying debt into retirement."

*"7 in 10 Americans said debt is a necessity in their lives, even though they prefer not to have it."

Most of us wish that we didn't have any debt, but we have bought into the lie that it is a necessary part of life in America in the 21st century.

It has been estimated that 43 percent of all American households spend more money than they make each month, and U.S. households are more than 11 trillion dollars in debt at this point.

When it comes to government debt, that is easy for us to blame on someone else, but all of this household debt is undoubtedly something that we have done to ourselves.

It all starts at a very early age for most of us. When we are still in high school, we are endlessly told about how important a college education is. All of the authority figures in our lives insist that we should just try to get into the best school that we possibly can and to not even worry about how much it will cost.

So many of us go into staggering amounts of debt before we even get out into the working world. We had faith that the "good jobs" that were being promised to us would be there when we graduated.

Unfortunately, in this day and age those "good jobs" end up being a mirage more often than not.

But whether or not we can find a good job, we still have to pay off all that debt.

According to new data that was recently released, the total amount of student loan debt in the United States has risen to a grand total 1.2 trillion dollars. If you can believe it, that total has more than doubled over the past decade.

Right now, there are approximately 40 million Americans that are paying off student loan debt. For many of them, they will keep making payments on this debt until they are senior citizens.

Another way that they get you while you are still in school is with credit card debt.

I got my first credit card while I was in college, and nobody ever taught me about the potential dangers.

Today, the average U.S. household that has at least one credit card has approximately $15,950 in credit card debt.

So let's say that you have that much credit card debt and you are paying an annual interest rate of 17 percent. If you only pay the minimum payment each month, it will take you 229 months to pay your credit card off, and during that time you will have paid $13,505.82 in interest charges.

In other words, you will almost have paid twice as much for everything that you originally bought with your credit card by the time it is all said and done.

This is why banks love to give you credit cards. If they can get back nearly twice as much money as they originally give you, they get rich and you get poor.

Most of us get loaded down with even more debt when we go to buy a vehicle. Instead of saving up and getting what we can afford, many of us end up getting the largest loans that we can qualify for.

In a previous article, I discussed the fact that the average auto loan at signing in America today is approximately $27,000. In order to get the monthly payments down to a level where we can afford them, many of these auto loans are now being stretched out for six or seven years. In fact, the number of auto loans that exceed 72 months has hit at an all-time high of 29.5 percent.

It is the same thing with home loans.

In the old days, it was extremely rare for a mortgage to be stretched over 30 years, but today that is pretty much the standard.

Sadly, most people don't understand how much money this is costing them.

If you take out a $300,000 mortgage at 3.92 percent and stretch it over 30 years, you will end up paying back a grand total of $510,640.

In other words, you will pay for two houses by the time you are done.

Yes, we all need somewhere to live, and there are definitely negatives to renting as well. But it is very important that we all understand what is being done to us.

And I haven't even discussed one of the most insidious forms of debt yet.

Have you noticed that most doctors and most hospitals will never tell you how much something is going to cost in advance?

They get us when we are at our most vulnerable. When there is something wrong with us physically, we are often desperate to get help. So we don't ask too many questions and we just go along with whatever they say.

But then later we get the bill and we are often completely shocked by what they have charged us.

If you are completely unethical, it is a great business model. People that are extremely desperate and needy come to you and you don't even have to tell them how much your services are going to cost. And then once they leave, you send them an absolutely outrageous bill for whatever you feel like charging.

Frankly, I don't know how a lot of people working in the medical field live with themselves. In their extreme greed, they are ruining the lives of millions of ordinary American families.

One very disturbing study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either currently have medical bill problems or are paying off medical debt. And collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from about 30 million of us each and every year.

Most of us will spend our entire lives paying off debt.

That is why we are called debt slaves – our hard work makes others extremely wealthy.

ebworthen

All by design. The great lie is that you should "work hard and be responsible".

Yeah? Why? Because it feeds the beast in Wall Street and Washington? The bailouts and free money for the banks/corporations/insurers wiped that idea off the slate.

Give me sound money and start producing again while offering me interest on my savings and we can start talking about responsibility. The example set by Wall Street and Washington is that debt is good, so what the fuck do they expect regular folks to do, keep carrying their bags?

Fuck you assholes, to Hell and back on a bed of nails.

European American

I must confess. I declared bankruptcy back in the late 80's. Not proud of that time in my life but it was legal and it literally saved me. Since then, "If I can't buy that product/service with the cash in my wallet, then I wasn't suppose to have it." has been my philosophy for the last 25 years, and even though the State stills owns my real estate, more or less (various taxes), I'm basically free. Debt is a killer of ones mental, physical and emotional immune system. I highly recommend avoiding IT at all costs. Debit card is the only plastic money in my wallet, along with some fiat currency. My bank is the color of Gold and SIlver.

Ignorance is bliss

In General People are stupid

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0he0cqHH20

yogibear

And people wonder how Hitler took over in Germany.

People in the US are now more gullible than the Germans in the 20's.

Tough to keep liberty.

All the US needs is a full-fledged tyrant.

Hugh G Rection

Speaking of gullible, take a look in the mirror.

http://thegreateststorynevertold.tv/

chrsn

Step one: stop tying in the quantity of your possessions with your self-worth. That shift in mindset alone will keep a lot of debt out of your life.

toady

This is one of the few topics around here that actually makes me feel good. 100% debt free for last ten years.

Paying off everything off ahead of time, cutting down the interest, was my primary goal for years.

Them damn bankers won't squeeze another penny out of me!

NoDebt

Welcome to the club. Been a member for about that long myself.

I knew I'd like the financial freedom. I knew I'd like how much money it saved me.

What it took a few years debt-free to understand was that in a world measured in debt, I would become invisible. I can not be viewed using their technology any more. I'm a steath bomber with glider wings and a zero coefficient of drag.

LightSpender

If the 100th monkey effect applies here, we will be part of an awakened populace that watches the ctrl+alt+del of USD and the resultant house of cards.

Korea98

As we know debt is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it is worth becoming an indentured servent for a payout later.

We take out a loan, or at least most of us, for a house. This helps us build up equity instead of wasting it all on rent every month. By retirement people should own their home outright and not have to pay rent during their retirement. Most smart people are even able to downsize and stick some money in their savings.

A large percentage of people take out a loan for school. We have all read articled of idiots getting a 4 year degree in women's studies at a fancy private school, having a loan of $120,000, and never being able to pay it off. But the smart people who go to school maybe a state school, for a degree that is marketable do better than those without a degree.

A reliable car can help us save time, thus money, getting to and from work and other places. The key buying something basic and reliable and not a brand new sports car.

I'm glad we have the ability to borrow money. It has helped me immensily in my own personal life. And I would say, I would be worse off without it.

Treason Season
NoDebt

Ugh. You all know my screen name, what it stands for and my opinions on debt. Posting up on this subject borders on the tedious for me, but for those who haven't heard it yet, here it is....

If you have a valid financial reason for going into debt, that is to say you have a well-considered goal for your debt exposure, debt is not necessarily bad. For instance, if you are going to be a professional photographer you might need to buy some cameras and photography equipment that will be necessary for you to exist in that world. You are INVESTING in yourself. Nothing wrong with using debt for that if you can't pay as you go straight out of pocket.

Further down the totem pole is something like buying a house. A collateralized obligation. One you have the USE of the asset while you pay it off. I'm less enthusiastic about this sort of stuff but if it's a necessity (like having a place to live) I can't fault you for doing it. BUT IT WILL NEVER MAKE YOU MORE PRODUCTIVE OR INCREASE YOUR EARNING POWER. You feeling me on this? The key here is to pay that bitch down as fast as possible and minimize your interest expense because it's a pure dead-weight loss to you.

ANYTHING else, you don't need to go into debt over. So just don't. Better to do without than go into debt over anything beyond this point.

There really are very few exceptions to these simple rules (unless you are a government in which case everything is an excuse to go into debt since you're just spending other people's money).

[Jun 06, 2019] For Profit College, Student Loan Default, and the Economic Impact of Student Loans

We should object to the neoliberal complete "instumentalization" of education: education became just a mean to get nicely paid job. And even this hope is mostly an illusion for all but the top 5% of students...
And while students share their own part of responsibility for accumulating the debt the predatory behaviour of neoliberal universities is an important factor that should not be discounted and perpetrators should be held responsible. Especially dirty tricks of ballooning its size and pushing students into "hopeless" specialties, which would be fine, if they were sons or daughters of well to do and parent still support then financially.
Actually neoliberalism justifies predatory behaviour and as such is a doomed social system as without solidarity some members of financial oligarchy that rules the country sooner or later might hand from the lampposts.
Notable quotes:
"... It also never ceases to amaze me the number of anti-educational opinions which flare up when the discussion of student loan default arises. There are always those who will prophesize there is no need to attain a higher level of education as anyone could be something else and be successful and not require a higher level of education. Or they come forth with the explanation on how young 18 year-olds and those already struggling should be able to ascertain the risk of higher debt when the cards are already stacked against them legally. ..."
"... There does not appear to be much movement on the part of Congress to reconcile the issues in favor of students as opposed to the non-profit and for profit institutes. ..."
"... It's easy to explain, really. According to the Department of Education ( https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans ) you're going to be paying off that loan at minimum payments for 25 years. Assuming your average bachelor's degree is about $30k if you go all-loans ( http://collegecost.ed.gov/catc/ ) and the average student loan interest rate is a generous 5% ( http://www.direct.ed.gov/calc.html ), you're going to be paying $175 a month for a sizable chunk of your adult life. ..."
"... Majoring in IT or Computer Science would have a been a great move in the late 1990's; however, if you graduated around 2000, you likely would have found yourself facing a tough job market.. Likewise, majoring in petroleum engineering or petroleum geology would have seemed like a good move a couple of years ago; however, now that oil prices are crashing, it's presumably a much tougher job market. ..."
"... To confuse going to college with vocational education is to commit a major category error. I think bright, ambitious high school graduates– who are looking for upward social mobility– would be far better served by a plumbing or carpentry apprenticeship program. A good plumber can earn enough money to send his or her children to Yale to study Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer. ..."
"... A bright working class kid who goes off to New Haven, to study medieval lit, will need tremendous luck to overcome the enormous class prejudice she will face in trying to establish herself as a tenure-track academic. If she really loves medieval literature for its own sake, then to study it deeply will be "worth it" even if she finds herself working as a barista or store-clerk. ..."
"... As a middle-aged doctoral student in the humanities you should not even be thinking much about your loans. Write the most brilliant thesis that you can, get a book or some decent articles published from it– and swim carefully in the shark-infested waters of academia until you reach the beautiful island of tenured full-professorship. If that island turns out to be an ever-receding mirage, sell your soul to our corporate overlords and pay back your loans! Alternatively, tune in, drop out, and use your finely tuned research and rhetorical skills to help us overthrow the kleptocratic regime that oppresses us all!! ..."
"... Genuine education should provide one with profound contentment, grateful for the journey taken, and a deep appreciation of life. ..."
"... Instead many of us are left confused – confusing career training (redundant and excessive, as it turned out, unfortunate for the student, though not necessarily bad for those on the supply side, one must begrudgingly admit – oops, there goes one's serenity) with enlightenment. ..."
"... We all should be against Big Educational-Complex and its certificates-producing factory education that does not put the student's health and happiness up there with co-existing peacefully with Nature. ..."
"... Remember DINKs? Dual Income No Kids. Dual Debt Bad Job No House No Kids doesn't work well for acronyms. Better for an abbreviated hash tag? ..."
"... I graduated law school with $100k+ in debt inclusive of undergrad. I've never missed a loan payment and my credit score is 830. my income has never reached $100k. my payments started out at over $1000 a month and through aggressive payment and refinancing, I've managed to reduce the payments to $500 a month. I come from a lower middle class background and my parents offered what I call 'negative help' throughout college. ..."
"... my unfortunate situation is unique and I wouldn't wish my debt on anyone. it's basically indentured servitude. it's awful, it's affects my life and health in ways no one should have to live, I have all sorts of stress related illnesses. I'm basically 2 months away from default of everything. my savings is negligible and my net worth is still negative 10 years after graduating. ..."
"... My story is very similar to yours, although I haven't had as much success whittling down my loan balances. But yes, it's made me a socialist as well; makes me wonder how many of us, i.e. ppl radicalized by student loans, are out there. Perhaps the elites' grand plan to make us all debt slaves will eventually backfire in more ways than via the obvious economic issues? ..."
Nov 09, 2015 | naked capitalism

It also never ceases to amaze me the number of anti-educational opinions which flare up when the discussion of student loan default arises. There are always those who will prophesize there is no need to attain a higher level of education as anyone could be something else and be successful and not require a higher level of education. Or they come forth with the explanation on how young 18 year-olds and those already struggling should be able to ascertain the risk of higher debt when the cards are already stacked against them legally. In any case during a poor economy, those with more education appear to be employed at a higher rate than those with less education. The issue for those pursuing an education is the ever increasing burden and danger of student loans and associated interest rates which prevent younger people from moving into the economy successfully after graduation, the failure of the government to support higher education and protect students from for-profit fraud, the increased risk of default and becoming indentured to the government, and the increased cost of an education which has surpassed healthcare in rising costs.

There does not appear to be much movement on the part of Congress to reconcile the issues in favor of students as opposed to the non-profit and for profit institutes.

Ranger Rick, November 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

It's easy to explain, really. According to the Department of Education ( https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans ) you're going to be paying off that loan at minimum payments for 25 years. Assuming your average bachelor's degree is about $30k if you go all-loans ( http://collegecost.ed.gov/catc/ ) and the average student loan interest rate is a generous 5% ( http://www.direct.ed.gov/calc.html ), you're going to be paying $175 a month for a sizable chunk of your adult life.

If you're merely hitting the median income of a bachelor's degree after graduation, $55k (http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=77 ), and good luck with that in this economy, you're still paying ~31.5% of that in taxes (http://www.oecd.org/ctp/tax-policy/taxing-wages-20725124.htm ) you're left with $35.5k before any other costs. Out of that, you're going to have to come up with the down payment to buy a house and a car after spending more money than you have left (http://www.bls.gov/cex/csxann13.pdf).

Louis, November 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm

The last paragraph sums it up perfectly, especially the predictable counterarguments. Accurately assessing what job in demand several years down the road is very difficult, if not impossible.

Majoring in IT or Computer Science would have a been a great move in the late 1990's; however, if you graduated around 2000, you likely would have found yourself facing a tough job market.. Likewise, majoring in petroleum engineering or petroleum geology would have seemed like a good move a couple of years ago; however, now that oil prices are crashing, it's presumably a much tougher job market.

Do we blame the computer science majors graduating in 2000 or the graduates struggling to break into the energy industry, now that oil prices have dropped, for majoring in "useless" degrees? It's much easier to create a strawman about useless degrees that accept the fact that there is a element of chance in terms of what the job market will look like upon graduation.

The cost of higher education is absurd and there simply aren't enough good jobs to go around-there are people out there who majored in the "right" fields and have found themselves underemployed or unemployed-so I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of many people in my generation.

At the same time, I do believe in personal responsibility-I'm wary of creating a moral hazard if people can discharge loans in bankruptcy. I've been paying off my student loans (grad school) for a couple of years-I kept the level debt below any realistic starting salary-and will eventually have the loans paid off, though it may be a few more years.

I am really conflicted between believing in personal responsibility but also seeing how this generation has gotten screwed. I really don't know what the right answer is.

Ulysses, November 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm

"The cost of higher education is absurd and there simply aren't enough good jobs to go around-there are people out there who majored in the "right" fields and have found themselves underemployed or unemployed-so I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of many people in my generation."

To confuse going to college with vocational education is to commit a major category error. I think bright, ambitious high school graduates– who are looking for upward social mobility– would be far better served by a plumbing or carpentry apprenticeship program. A good plumber can earn enough money to send his or her children to Yale to study Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer.

A bright working class kid who goes off to New Haven, to study medieval lit, will need tremendous luck to overcome the enormous class prejudice she will face in trying to establish herself as a tenure-track academic. If she really loves medieval literature for its own sake, then to study it deeply will be "worth it" even if she finds herself working as a barista or store-clerk.

None of this, of course, excuses the outrageously high tuition charges, administrative salaries, etc. at the "top schools." They are indeed institutions that reinforce class boundaries. My point is that strictly career education is best begun at a less expensive community college. After working in the IT field, for example, a talented associate's degree-holder might well find that her employer will subsidize study at an elite school with an excellent computer science program.

My utopian dream would be a society where all sorts of studies are open to everyone– for free. Everyone would have a basic Job or Income guarantee and could study as little, or as much, as they like!

Ulysses, November 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

As a middle-aged doctoral student in the humanities you should not even be thinking much about your loans. Write the most brilliant thesis that you can, get a book or some decent articles published from it– and swim carefully in the shark-infested waters of academia until you reach the beautiful island of tenured full-professorship.

If that island turns out to be an ever-receding mirage, sell your soul to our corporate overlords and pay back your loans! Alternatively, tune in, drop out, and use your finely tuned research and rhetorical skills to help us overthrow the kleptocratic regime that oppresses us all!!

subgenius, November 9, 2015 at 3:07 pm

except (in my experience) the corporate overlords want young meat.

I have 2 masters degrees 2 undergraduate degrees and a host of random diplomas – but at 45, I am variously too old, too qualified, or lacking sufficient recent corporate experience in the field to get hired

Trying to get enough cash to get a contractor license seems my best chance at anything other than random day work.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef, November 9, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Genuine education should provide one with profound contentment, grateful for the journey taken, and a deep appreciation of life.

Instead many of us are left confused – confusing career training (redundant and excessive, as it turned out, unfortunate for the student, though not necessarily bad for those on the supply side, one must begrudgingly admit – oops, there goes one's serenity) with enlightenment.

"I would spend another 12 soul-nourishing years pursuing those non-profit degrees' vs 'I can't feed my family with those paper certificates.'

jrs, November 9, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I am anti-education as the solution to our economic woes. We need jobs or a guaranteed income. And we need to stop outsourcing the jobs that exist. And we need a much higher minimum wage. And maybe we need work sharing. I am also against using screwdrivers to pound in a nail. But why are you so anti screwdriver anyway?

And I see calls for more and more education used to make it seem ok to pay people without much education less than a living wage. Because they deserve it for being whatever drop outs. And it's not ok.

I don't actually have anything against the professors (except their overall political cowardice in times demanding radicalism!). Now the administrators, yea I can see the bloat and the waste there. But mostly, I have issues with more and more education being preached as the answer to a jobs and wages crisis.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef -> jrs, November 9, 2015 at 3:50 pm

We all should be against Big Educational-Complex and its certificates-producing factory education that does not put the student's health and happiness up there with co-existing peacefully with Nature.

Kris Alman, November 9, 2015 at 11:11 am

Remember DINKs? Dual Income No Kids. Dual Debt Bad Job No House No Kids doesn't work well for acronyms. Better for an abbreviated hash tag?

debitor serf, November 9, 2015 at 7:17 pm

I graduated law school with $100k+ in debt inclusive of undergrad. I've never missed a loan payment and my credit score is 830. my income has never reached $100k. my payments started out at over $1000 a month and through aggressive payment and refinancing, I've managed to reduce the payments to $500 a month. I come from a lower middle class background and my parents offered what I call 'negative help' throughout college.

my unfortunate situation is unique and I wouldn't wish my debt on anyone. it's basically indentured servitude. it's awful, it's affects my life and health in ways no one should have to live, I have all sorts of stress related illnesses. I'm basically 2 months away from default of everything. my savings is negligible and my net worth is still negative 10 years after graduating.

student loans, combined with a rigged system, turned me into a closeted socialist. I am smart, hard working and resourceful. if I can't make it in this world, heck, then who can? few, because the system is rigged!

I have no problems at all taking all the wealth of the oligarchs and redistributing it. people look at me like I'm crazy. confiscate it all I say, and reset the system from scratch. let them try to make their billions in a system where things are fair and not rigged...

Ramoth, November 9, 2015 at 9:23 pm

My story is very similar to yours, although I haven't had as much success whittling down my loan balances. But yes, it's made me a socialist as well; makes me wonder how many of us, i.e. ppl radicalized by student loans, are out there. Perhaps the elites' grand plan to make us all debt slaves will eventually backfire in more ways than via the obvious economic issues?

[Jun 06, 2019] A Former For-Profit Deal Maker Takes On the Plight of Nonprofits by Goldie Blumenstyk

University of Phoenix is a typical diploma mill designed for producing debt-slaves... Private equity sharks like Mark DeFusco try to devour weaker colleges, which no longer get enough state support.
The game plan is to strips assets like land and buildings. Essentially nobody can stop them.
Notable quotes:
"... Mr. DeFusco, 51, is a veteran of the for-profit-college industry. For the past five years, he's been a deal maker with Berkery Noyes, an investment bank that handles many mergers and acquisitions of education and information companies that often don't get publicized. From 2002 to 2005, as a new wave of private-equity investors came onto the scene, he was president of Vatterott College, a privately held institution based in St. Louis. He was a top manager at the University of Phoenix for 10 years before that, at a time when it was broadening its footprint and becoming the national powerhouse it is today. ..."
"... Voluble and refreshingly unslick, Mr. DeFusco was the guy on the PBS Frontline documentary College Inc. who, with just a little coaxing, memorably discussed how "very, very well" he and his University of Phoenix colleagues made out financially as the university expanded. "I did better than I ever imagined," he said on the show. ..."
"... It wasn't a pipe dream, he says. Working with a colleague with years of experience at Catholic colleges, Jack P. Calareso, president of Anna Maria College, he had identified 25 Catholic colleges, with enrollments ranging in size from 400 to 3,000, as acquisition targets. ..."
"... Two East Coast private-equity investors, he says, "committed more resources than I could spend"-about $500-million over four years. And he says they weren't the sort of investors looking for a fast buck. (The investors asked him not to reveal their identities; Mr. Calareso, who sat in on some of the meetings with investors and colleges, confirmed the details of the venture in an interview.) ..."
"... The idea, Mr. DeFusco says, was to operate the colleges with "a portfolio view," taking advantage of their strengths and economies of scale on things like marketing and student recruiting, keeping their Catholic mission, investing in new programs and facilities where it made sense, and eventually scrapping some programs that underperformed. ..."
Aug 05, 2010 | chronicle.com

Courtesy of Frontline, (c) 1995-2010 WGBH Educational Foundation

Mark DeFusco has worked with an investment bank and was a top manager at the U. of Phoenix.

Mark DeFusco has a new gig, and it may speak volumes about the evolving higher-education landscape and the fate of financially struggling private colleges.

Until a few months ago, Mr. DeFusco was working with major investors on plans to buy and bundle up ailing regionally accredited colleges. Now, believing that the once-friendly climate for such nonprofit conversions has grown chilly, he's shifted gears. Instead of buying up troubled colleges, he's going to work with two veteran academics at the University of Southern California to form a consultancy focused on saving them.

"I've been very busy these last five years telling for-profit businesses what's valuable" about themselves, says Mr. DeFusco. The goal of the consultancy is to help nonprofits capitalize on their most valuable traits, too.

"We don't want to see potentially good assets fail," says Mr. DeFusco of the new venture, which will be run out of Southern Cal's Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis and headed by Mr. DeFusco and the professors Guilbert C. Hentschke and William G. Tierney.

Considering how Mr. DeFusco has been in the thick of the education industry's most important trends for two decades, this latest move is worth watching.

Mr. DeFusco, 51, is a veteran of the for-profit-college industry. For the past five years, he's been a deal maker with Berkery Noyes, an investment bank that handles many mergers and acquisitions of education and information companies that often don't get publicized. From 2002 to 2005, as a new wave of private-equity investors came onto the scene, he was president of Vatterott College, a privately held institution based in St. Louis. He was a top manager at the University of Phoenix for 10 years before that, at a time when it was broadening its footprint and becoming the national powerhouse it is today.

Voluble and refreshingly unslick, Mr. DeFusco was the guy on the PBS Frontline documentary College Inc. who, with just a little coaxing, memorably discussed how "very, very well" he and his University of Phoenix colleagues made out financially as the university expanded. "I did better than I ever imagined," he said on the show.

Until a few months ago, he thought he might have found another gold mine of a business, one that would be not only lucrative for him and his enthusiastic investors, but also, he says, beneficial to higher education writ large.

His plan was to form an investor-backed "roll-up"-a company comprising several small nonprofit colleges that it would buy, and then continue to operate, but with a single back-office operation for administrative functions.

"You could really have efficiencies" without each college having its own bursar, its own registrar, he says, replaying a theme that many higher-education reformers before him have espoused.

It wasn't a pipe dream, he says. Working with a colleague with years of experience at Catholic colleges, Jack P. Calareso, president of Anna Maria College, he had identified 25 Catholic colleges, with enrollments ranging in size from 400 to 3,000, as acquisition targets.

"I wanted to get to them before they got onto your list," he says, referring to the list published in The Chronicle last year citing the 100-plus nonprofit colleges that had failed the Department of Education's financial-responsibility test.

On Second Thought

Two East Coast private-equity investors, he says, "committed more resources than I could spend"-about $500-million over four years. And he says they weren't the sort of investors looking for a fast buck. (The investors asked him not to reveal their identities; Mr. Calareso, who sat in on some of the meetings with investors and colleges, confirmed the details of the venture in an interview.)

The idea, Mr. DeFusco says, was to operate the colleges with "a portfolio view," taking advantage of their strengths and economies of scale on things like marketing and student recruiting, keeping their Catholic mission, investing in new programs and facilities where it made sense, and eventually scrapping some programs that underperformed.

"I really wanted to get into heaven," he says. And the moves might have helped keep some traditional colleges alive, along with the values they perpetuate. "When my kids go to college, I hope there is still tenure and there's still academic freedom."

Mr. DeFusco says he had support from two bishops and actually had in hand three letters of intent from colleges willing to be acquired. (He wouldn't name them.) Then his lawyers advised him in early spring that the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accreditor that had been known for allowing such conversions over the past five years, had begun to take a tougher line. Eighteen of his 25 targets were in that accreditors' region.

The Higher Learning Commission rejected the conversion of nonprofit Dana College in July and of Rochester College in February, based on new policies it adopted in June 2009 and toughened in February.

Mr. DeFusco says he got the message. Before that commission approves another conversion, he believes, "it's going to be a couple of years-guaranteed."

Sylvia Manning, president of the commission since June 2008, says the new policy does not ban nonprofit-to-for-profit conversions-in fact the continued reaccreditation of two converted institutions, Waldorf College in January and the College of Santa Fe in October, came after the policy was adopted in June.

It was under her predecessor Steven D. Crow that institutions including the American College of Education (formerly Barat College), Grand Canyon University, and Ashford University (formerly the Franciscan University of the Prairies) were acquired by companies and allowed to significantly shift their emphasis to online education while keeping their accreditation.

She allows that in general, the new policy creates a much higher bar than what existed under her predecessor.

"It's quite possible people are reading this and are saying, 'Oh my God,'" Ms. Manning says, The new standards are not intended to block purchases or keep new owners from introducing new styles of management and curricula to the institutions they're acquiring, she says. "We're not saying you can't change them," she says of the colleges. But for colleges' accreditation to transfer upon a sale, "you can't transform them."

Ms. Manning says she never spoke with Mr. DeFusco and declined to comment on his assessment of her commission's stance, or of his sense that other regional accreditors are following suit. "My guess is that he's doing his own reading of tea leaves," says Ms. Manning.

A New Deal

Mr. DeFusco says many of the forces that would have made his roll-up venture a success lead him to believe that his shift in gears toward a hands-on consulting project focused on struggling colleges will also keep him very busy, albeit probably with a smaller payday.

"A lot of schools are in trouble," says Mr. DeFusco. In the course of his research for his new venture, he and his team estimated that 15 to 45 colleges could fail each year for the next five years.

Too many colleges are discounting their tuition too heavily in pursuit of students, needlessly holding onto underutilized property that could better used to raise capital ("In this climate, those buildings are an anchor that drown you," he says), and maintaining administrative functions that could be better handled through outsourcing or collaboration.

Worse, he says, many boards of trustees are unaware of the severity of their institutions' problems. If you were on the board of a for-profit company operating like that, "you'd be sued," he says.

A tad less bluntly, Southern Cal's Mr. Tierney, a professor of higher education, echoes much of Mr. DeFusco's concern about the prospects for higher education, especially in the near term. "Some of us are getting very sober about a rebound," he says. The policy-analysis center has had a long interest in business-focused approaches and the role of markets in higher education. Mr. Tierney and Mr. Hentschke have written or co-edited two books on for-profit colleges.

So the idea of teaming up with Mr. DeFusco (who himself received a Ph.D. from Southern Cal) to work as turnaround consultants and help some colleges "stop the bleeding" was appealing, says Mr. Tierney. This month Mr. DeFusco will join the university as a senior research associate at the center.

Although there is no shortage of consultants already mining this territory-Bain, Huron, the Education Advisory Board, and advisers organized by the Association of Governing Boards, to name just a few-Mr. Tierney says the combination of Mr. DeFusco's business experience and his and Mr. Hentschke's understanding of academic culture and the role of shared governance gives their venture a niche. Also, he notes, it may be the first such higher-education consulting group to operate from within a university.

The consultants will help with short-term strategies, governance, and operational audits. They will also offer "workout" expertise; workout is the term used when companies go out of business. As a university effort, the consultancy can also call upon the expertise of other academics in the School of Education and the rest of the university. The consulting entity will pay a portion of its earnings as overhead to Southern Cal in return for administrative support.

Mr. Tierney says he hopes to begin signing up clients by Labor Day. "If nobody calls by January 1, well, then this was an interesting idea."

It all seems pretty fast-paced to Mr. Tierney. But that's been a lesson in itself for Mr. DeFusco, as he prepares to immerse himself more directly in traditional academe. "August off?" he responded incredulously when Mr. Tierney told him the schedule. August is when colleges are sweating the most over whether enough students will show up to cover the budget. "This is your most important month," he says.

For higher education, this new gig may or may not be a bellwether. For Mr. DeFusco, it will certainly require some adjusting.

[Jun 06, 2019] Neoliberal Restructuring of University Education

Notable quotes:
"... Despite somewhat different tactics, both the Republicans and the Democrats, as parties of Wall Street, aim to impose austerity on the working class in order to deal with the fiscal crisis of the state. The aim is to cut domestic programs and public services, and teacher unions are a prime target. Merit pay for teachers and union "flexibility" is a part of the Obama administration's education program. From this perspective, compliant union officials are a means to instruct teachers and other public employees to make concessions "voluntarily." This approach was articulated by a Wisconsin public official who defended teacher and other public unions' right to exist because unions have been a means to negotiate concessions in wages and benefits peacefully. But some ideologically driven Republican legislators want to go further to make deep cuts in the education budget and break teacher unions and organized labor entirely. This would eliminate the remaining organized working-class resistance against the attempt to make workers pay for the crisis, and would undermine a key support for the Democratic Party. ..."
monthlyreview.org

2011 Volume 63, Issue 03 (July-August)

Dangers and Opportunities of the Present Crisis

Education , Political Economy

Jammed into a thundering crowd of thousands of chanting people in Madison, Wisconsin, it looks like a dam has broken. The new Wisconsin Tea Party governor brazenly accelerated what has been a bipartisan agenda to undermine public education and weaken teacher and other public employee unions. His "budget repair bill"-an assault on public employee unions, schools, and low-income health care-was met with immediate, massive, determined resistance that began with a walkout by Madison public school teachers.

Over three weeks, thousands of teachers, social workers, firefighters, and public and private sector workers of every stripe have demonstrated in communities across the state and piled into busses headed to the state capital. Protesters occupied the capital building for more than two weeks. Two of the rallies were estimated at over one hundred thousand people. There were many signs, such as "Recall Walker," "If you can read this, thank a teacher," and "Stop the War on Workers," but also something more: handmade signs saying "This is Class War" and "End Corporate Greed." A young woman at the rally on March 11 after the state legislature passed the governor's union-busting bill, held up a placard proclaiming, "Teacher by Day, Freedom Fighter by Night."

As I write this, in March 2011, a sleeping giant is stirring. The broad U.S. working class has absorbed blow after blow, concessions and job losses one after the other, stagnating wages for thirty years, and two wars costing trillions of dollars. The greatest capitalist crisis since the Great Depression brought a trillion-dollar bailout of the biggest banks and investment houses, the loss of ten million homes to foreclosure by the banks, and 10 percent official unemployment. A broad process of structural adjustment is under way to make the working and middle classes pay for the crisis created by Wall Street. But recent attempts at the state level to impose austerity measures may be just too much for people to take. The attack on public workers and sell-off of public assets-from schools, to municipal utilities, to bridges and roads-may go too far. This is a watershed moment.

Despite somewhat different tactics, both the Republicans and the Democrats, as parties of Wall Street, aim to impose austerity on the working class in order to deal with the fiscal crisis of the state. The aim is to cut domestic programs and public services, and teacher unions are a prime target. Merit pay for teachers and union "flexibility" is a part of the Obama administration's education program. From this perspective, compliant union officials are a means to instruct teachers and other public employees to make concessions "voluntarily." This approach was articulated by a Wisconsin public official who defended teacher and other public unions' right to exist because unions have been a means to negotiate concessions in wages and benefits peacefully. But some ideologically driven Republican legislators want to go further to make deep cuts in the education budget and break teacher unions and organized labor entirely. This would eliminate the remaining organized working-class resistance against the attempt to make workers pay for the crisis, and would undermine a key support for the Democratic Party.

In Wisconsin, union responses to the Tea Party agenda were mixed. Despite the fact that their own data show real earnings for Wisconsin teachers declined by 2.3 percent over the last decade,1 the leadership of the Wisconsin Education Association Council and some other unions gave in to Walker's demand for financial concessions early on. They drew the line, however, at automatic union dues collection and the right to bargain collectively over working conditions such as class size, that affect children's learning. Their slogan was "It's not about the money, it's about our rights [to bargain collectively]." Other labor organizations, notably the South Central Federation of Labor in Wisconsin and the National Nurses United, put the blame on Wall Street and called for closing corporate tax loopholes. The nurses union said, "Working people did not create the recession or the budgetary crisis facing federal, state and local governments-and there can be NO more concessions, period."2

There is a long and complex road ahead with no clear outcome. But education is the frontline in class warfare by the rich against the working class. The assault on public education, teachers, and their unions has been evolving over the past thirty years as part of the neoliberal restructuring of the global capitalist economy, but the current crisis of capitalism has accelerated this assault.3 Education has been a key sector in the neoliberalization of social policy and the neoliberal political economy of cities. The resistance to these policies has been broad at classroom and school levels and in a growing movement of education activists allied with parents and students. Education, for those in power, plays a key role in social reproduction of the labor force and in ideological legitimation of the social order. Those who, conversely, have seen education as a way to strengthen democratic participation in society and human liberation have always contested these goals. There is a rich history of people of color, women, workers, educators, and social movements fighting for democratic, inclusive, liberatory education. The crisis and the accelerated assault on teachers and public education are sharpening the contest over the right to public education and the role of education in society.

In this article, I review the neoliberal project to restructure education, particularly its relationship to neoliberal urban development, and responses to it. I discuss implications of privatization and austerity measures for public education and its function in social reproduction. I argue that this crisis is a moment of danger but also opportunity, not only to defend public education, but also to reshape it as part of the struggle for a new social order based on human liberation.

Neoliberal Restructuring of Public Education

When President Obama appointed Arne Duncan, former-CEO of Chicago Public Schools, to head the U.S. Department of Education in 2008, he signaled an intention to accelerate a neoliberal education program that has been unfolding over the past two decades. This agenda calls for expanding education markets and employing market principles across school systems. It features mayoral control of school districts, closing "failing" public schools or handing them over to corporate-style "turnaround" organizations, expanding school "choice" and privately run but publicly funded charter schools, weakening teacher unions, and enforcing top-down accountability and incentivized performance targets on schools, classrooms, and teachers (e.g., merit pay based on students' standardized test scores). To spur this agenda, the Obama administration offered cash-strapped states $4.35 billion in federal stimulus dollars to "reform" their school systems. Competition for these "Race to the Top" funds favored states that passed legislation to enable education markets.

Race to the Top, although originating in U.S. government, is actually part of a global neoliberal thrust toward the commodification of all realms of existence. In a new round of accumulation by dispossession, liberalization of trade has opened up education, along with other public sectors, to capital accumulation, and particularly to penetration of the education sectors of the periphery (e.g., Latin America, parts of Asia, Africa). Under the Global Agreement on Trade in Services, all aspects of education and education services are subject to global trade.4 The result is the global marketing of schooling from primary school through higher education. Schools, education management organizations, tutoring services, teacher training, tests, curricula online classes, and franchises of branded universities are now part of a global education market. Education markets are one facet of the neoliberal strategy to manage the structural crisis of capitalism by opening the public sector to capital accumulation. The roughly $2.5 trillion global market in education is a rich new arena for capital investment.5

In the United States, charter schools are a vehicle to commodify and marketize education. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated. They eliminate democratic governance, and, although they may be run by nonprofit community organizations or groups of teachers or parents, the market favors scaling up franchises of charter school management organizations or contracting out to for-profit education management organizations that get management fees to run schools and education programs.6 For example, EdisonLearning, a transnational for-profit management organization, claims it serves nearly one-half million students in twenty-five states in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Dubai.7

The market mechanisms and business management discourses and practices that are saturating public education in the United States are all too familiar to teachers and students worldwide. Globally, nations are restructuring their education systems for "human capital" development to prepare students for new types of work and labor relations.8 This policy agenda has been aggressively pushed by transnational organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Objectives and performance targets are the order of the day, and testing is a prominent mechanism to steer curriculum and instruction to meet these goals efficiently and effectively.

In the United States, the neoliberal restructuring of education is deeply racialized. It is centered particularly on urban African American, Latino, and other communities of color, where public schools, subject to being closed or privatized, are driven by a minimalist curriculum of preparing for standardized tests. The cultural politics of race is also central to constructing consent for this agenda. As Stephen Haymes argues, the "concepts 'public' and 'private' are racialized metaphors. Private is equated with being 'good' and 'white' and public with being 'bad' and 'Black.'"9 Disinvesting in public schools, closing them, and opening privately operated charter schools in African-American and Latino communities is facilitated by a racist discourse that pathologizes these communities and their public institutions. But "failing" schools are the product of a legacy of educational, economic, and social inequities experienced by African Americans, Latinos/as, and Native Americans.10 Schools serving these communities continue to face deeply inequitable opportunities to learn, including unequal funding, curriculum, educational resources, facilities, and teacher experience. High stakes accountability has often compounded these inequities by narrowing the curriculum to test preparation-producing an exodus of some of the strongest teachers from schools in low-income communities of color.11

Neoliberalization of public education is also an ideological project, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, to "change the soul," redefining the purpose of education and what it means to teach, learn, and participate in schooling. Tensions between democratic purposes of education and education to serve the needs of the workforce are longstanding. But in the neoliberal framework, teaching is driven by standardized tests and performance outcomes; principals are managers, and school superintendents are CEOs; and learning equals performance on the tests with teachers, students, and parents held responsible for "failure." Education, which is properly seen as a public good, is being converted into a private good, an investment one makes in one's child or oneself to "add value" in order better to compete in the labor market. It is no longer seen as part of the larger end of promoting individual and social development, but is merely the means to rise above others. Democratic participation in local schools is rearticulated to individual "empowerment" of education consumers-as parents compete for slots in an array of charter and specialty schools. In Chicago, twelve thousand parents and students attended the 2010 "High School Fair" sponsored by Chicago Public Schools, and six thousand attended the "New Schools Expo" of charter and school choice options. The political significance of this neoliberal shift stretches beyond schools to legitimize marketing the public sector, particularly in cities, and to infuse market ideologies into everyday life.

New Orleans–Feasting on Tragedy 12

Nowhere did the rollback of social welfare policies and public institutions occur with greater force than in hurricane-devastated New Orleans. In the words of George Lipsitz, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina ushered in an orgy of "legalized looting to enable corporations to profit from the misfortunes of poor people."13 Education was at the leading edge. The state at all levels, in alliance with local and national capital and neoliberal think tanks, took advantage of the chaos wreaked by Katrina and the exodus of low-income working-class African Americans from the city to dismantle their public schools. This was a strategic move to exclude low-income African Americans from the city altogether. They not only had no homes to return to, they had no schools. Before Katrina hit in August 2005, there were sixty-three thousand students in New Orleans public schools; about twenty-four thousand began classes there in the fall of 2008.14

Just weeks after the hurricane, the state of Louisiana took over one hundred public schools and began turning over millions of dollars of taxpayer money to private organizations to run them. The state dismissed all forty-five hundred public school teachers, broke the city's powerful black-led teachers' union, and dismantled the school system's administrative infrastructure.15 Right-wing foundations quickly issued reports calling for vouchers, and President Bush proposed $1.9 billion for K-12 students with $488 million targeted for vouchers to be used in schools anywhere in the country. An influential report by the Urban Institute hailed New Orleans as an opportunity for a grand experiment to decentralize and privatize the public school system through vouchers and charter schools.16 Less than a month after the hurricane devastated the city, the U.S. Department of Education gave the state of Louisiana $20.9 million to reopen existing charter schools and open new ones, and nine months later, the department gave the state an additional $23.9 million for new charter schools, most in New Orleans. Prior to Katrina, there were five charter schools in the city. After the hurricane, the state took over most of the schools and established the Recovery School District, an open arena for charter schools. Of the fifty-five schools opened in New Orleans in 2006-2007, thirty-one were public charter schools.17 In 2010, out of eighty-eight public schools in New Orleans, sixty-one were charters run by a variety of operators.18 The pro-market Fordham Foundation judged New Orleans the best city in the United States for charter school expansion.19 All this was done by government fiat guided by think tanks such as the Urban Institute, and backed by corporate foundations such as the Gates Foundation. Excluded were the working-class African American and Latino/a parents, students, teachers, and community members, many of whom had been literally excluded from the city itself by redevelopment policies that made it impossible to return.20

It would be hard to deny that New Orleans's schools were in bad shape before the hurricane. In 1997 per-pupil school funding was 16 percent lower than the average of poorly funded urban districts nationally.21 The New Orleans situation reflects a long-term pattern of disinvestment in inner-city areas, beginning with cuts in federal funding to cities in the 1980s, followed by the shift to an entrepreneurial model of urban governance that prioritizes attracting private investment, tourism, and real estate investment.22 Today charter schools in New Orleans are part of creating a "good business climate" in a "revitalized" (gentrified) whiter New Orleans.

Chicago–Disinvestment, Privatization, and Gentrification

Chicago is another exemplar of the logic of disinvestment and privatization that is playing out in urban school districts.23 Chicago's Renaissance 2010 education plan was carried out in partnership with the state and the Commercial Club of Chicago, an organization of the powerful corporate and financial interests in the city. The object was to close public schools and expand charter schools. It has become a national model enshrined in the propagandistic claim of "the Chicago Miracle." Across African-American communities, the mayoral-appointed school board has closed schools on the grounds of low achievement. Others, particularly in gentrifying Latino/a communities, have been closed for low enrollment, despite evidence to the contrary. The board has replaced neighborhood schools with charter schools or selective enrollment schools that most neighborhood children are unable to attend. School closings have resulted in increased mobility, spikes in violence, and neighborhood instability as children are transferred to schools out of their neighborhoods.24 Moreover, Renaissance 2010 has not increased educational opportunities for most students, with 80 percent of displaced students attending schools no better than the ones that were closed.25

This policy eliminates schools that are anchors in their communities, contributing to further disinvestment. In gentrifying areas, closing neighborhood schools and replacing them with schools branded for the middle class facilitates the displacement of working-class families. Chicago, like New Orleans, is an example of the intertwining of education policy and neoliberal urban development. Real estate development is a pivotal sector in urban economies, and closing neighborhood public schools in disinvested areas to open up elite, selective-enrollment public schools or prestigious charter schools is part of the neoliberal restructuring of urban space.26 This nexus of education policy and real estate development is located in the spatial logics of capital-the physical location of production facilities, the built environment of cities, and places of consumption are devalued and selectively rebuilt in order to establish a "new locational grid" for capital accumulation.27 In other disinvested, low-income neighborhoods, students attending under-resourced and struggling public schools are a ready consumer base for the proliferation of charter schools, particularly large charter school chains that target these areas.

In response, parents, teachers, and students are challenging school closings and market solutions, and are demanding democratic participation and community-driven processes to improve public schools and increase resources. In fall 2010, parents at an elementary school in a Mexican immigrant community in Chicago occupied a school field house for forty-three days to force the school board to agree to construct a school library. In 2001 parents in another working-class Mexican neighborhood were compelled to conduct a nineteen-day hunger strike to get a new high school in their community, after the school board had used funds allocated for their school to build two state-of-the-art, selective-enrollment high schools in gentrifying areas of the city. Both of these actions followed years of petitioning the mayor-appointed board of education with no results. Organized resistance to neoliberal policies has prevented some school closings and, most significantly, also spawned a progressive caucus that won the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union, the third largest teachers' union local in the country.

The "Good Sense" in Neoliberal Education Policy

Yet some measures to reign in teacher unions have support on the ground, as teachers and parents have gravitated to privately run charter schools and vouchers. Certainly venture philanthropists (such as the Gates and Fordham Foundations), charter school operators, business federations (such as Chicago's Commercial Club), and politicians of both parties have deployed enormous economic, political, and symbolic resources to promote education markets and performance pay for teachers as the only alternative to struggling neighborhood public schools and "bad" teaching.28 They have raised the cap on charter school expansion, funded charter school ventures, and established policies like those in New Orleans and Chicago to expand education markets. However, neoliberal policies are not simply imposed from above. They also materialize through the actions of parents and teachers navigating a disinvested, degraded, and often racist public school system. Looked at this way, neoliberalism is a process that works its way into the discourses and practices of schools, through the actions of not only elites, but also marginalized and oppressed people acting in conditions not of their own making.

Tom Pedroni demonstrates this in his study of African-American parents' participation in the Milwaukee voucher movement.29 Pedroni interprets the participation of African-American parents in the voucher program against a background of prolonged struggles and failures to win a modicum of educational equity and respect for their children and themselves as public school parents. Pedroni argues that, for these parents, the identity of educational consumer offers greater dignity and agency than that of citizen-supplicant to an unresponsive and racist public school system that has never fully included African-American children. Like charter school parents and teachers I interviewed in Chicago, Pedroni proposes that parents see themselves as education consumers in the face of a post-welfare state that offers no real alternative.30 Drawing on Gramsci's theory of "good sense" in the ideological construction of hegemonic social alliances, this insight is an opening to reframe the struggle to defend public education by drawing on the real concerns of parents who ally themselves with education markets.

There is no point in romanticizing public schools (or other welfare state institutions). While they have provided free universal education and spaces where people can make claims for justice, and are sometimes empowering and liberating, they have historically been saturated with inequalities and exclusions.31 The benefits the white middle class has had from public schools have often been allowed it to ignore a thoroughly inequitable public school system. Critical education scholars have long criticized public schools for reproducing a stratified labor force and the dispositions and ideologies that support capitalism, racism, and gender oppression. Exclusionary, paternalistic, disrespectful, even brutal treatment of African American, Latino/a, and other people of color and women at the hands of public housing authorities, public hospitals, the police and judicial systems, public welfare agencies, elected officials, city agencies, and schools make existing public institutions deeply problematic places. And teacher union leaders have too often failed to take up progressive causes and ally themselves with working-class parents and communities of color.32

Understanding the appeal of charter schools, choice, and teacher accountability is essential to build alliances not only to defend public education in this period but to develop a program for democratic and just public schools, as well. Resisting predatory neoliberal policies requires acknowledging and grappling with the exclusions and inequities of public institutions.33 This raises the questions: What of public education do we wish to defend; what must be reconstructed, and how can it fulfill its democratic potential?34

Structural Adjustment and Education

As the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-08 hit, the Bush and Obama administrations, in league with Wall Street, moved swiftly to socialize the losses of investors through massive taxpayer funded bailouts. This was followed by furloughs (wages cuts) for public workers and worker concessions in the bailed-out private sector (e.g., auto) under the rationale that "there is no alternative" and "we all have to sacrifice."

As the crisis continues to reverberate, states and municipalities face fiscal crises of monumental proportions. The loss of tax revenues combined with government losses in the financial markets have thrown state budgets across the country into massive debt. Public worker pension funds, health insurance benefits, and funding for public services are in real trouble. At the time of this writing, California has a projected budget deficit of $28 billion over the next eighteen months.35 Instead of raising taxes on the rich and corporations, state governments are selling off public assets and imposing austerity measures on the poor, workers, and the middle class, with public-sector workers an immediate target. The state of California is instituting draconian cuts in education, health, and programs for youth and the elderly. This scenario is repeated in state legislatures and city halls across the country. In Wisconsin, Walker pushed through $100 million in tax cuts to corporations, while his bill would cut over $800 million for education alone.36 The broad working class is expected to endure repeated reductions in wages, pensions, and hard-won benefits, drastic cuts in public services, and further loss of personal assets, particularly homes, while municipal services and infrastructure such as bridges and roads are sold off to investors.

City governments are particularly hard hit by the crisis because of their reliance on real estate taxes, housing markets, and investments in financial markets. Urban school districts have already laid off thousands of teachers, increased class sizes, pushed to reduce teacher pensions, and cut out music, gym, kindergarten, bilingual programs, after-school and youth programs, and more. These austerity measures are certain to hit hardest those least able to bear them, low-income schools of color, where these are the very programs that offer some hope.37

Dangers and Opportunities of the Present Moment

Social austerity ultimately creates contradictions for capital as well. As capital continues to flow into the inflated financial sector at the expense of the productive sector, and as the state pays for the crisis with cuts in education and general social welfare, there is an unfolding crisis of social reproduction.38 Public education plays an important role in the reproduction of the labor force, political legitimation, and social stability. The problem with franchising and contracting out schools to an assortment of private operators is that the state has less control over these functions of schools. Inflated class sizes, cuts in education programs, and teachers' eroding salaries and working conditions can only degrade public education, particularly in low-income schools. This will exacerbate an already two-tiered education system. Detroit's Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb (a graduate of the Broad Foundation's Superintendent Academy) has proposed closing half the district's schools and putting up to sixty students in a classroom.39

Under Governor Walker's plan, two thousand Wisconsin teachers and school staff would lose their jobs, and the average teacher would lose $5500 to $7000 in net compensation. The average 2011 teacher salary in Wisconsin is $50,627.40 According to a new report by the OECD (Paine & Schleicher, 2011), the pay, working conditions, and qualifications of U.S. teachers are already low in comparison with those of teachers in other advanced economies.41 From the standpoint of capital, serious disinvestment in public education has consequences for the preparation of its workforce. It also has implications for social stability, with more students in affected schools dropping out. The security state is a looming presence in this scenario.

Wisconsin foreshadows the political cost of undermining the living standards and expectations of those who have come to be defined as "middle class," such as teachers. The Tea Party agenda is laying bare the capitalist offensive against the working class. A twenty-foot long banner proclaiming, "Tax the Rich" hung from the third floor of the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda throughout the people's occupation. With leaflets and treatises plastering the walls of the capitol, rallies filled with home-made placards, and hours of conversation between unlikely allies, the three-week-long Wisconsin occupation and rallies were a giant democratic political forum. And this was replicated in town squares throughout the state. For many, this was their first political protest.

The results of this politicization are yet to be seen, but the budget bills themselves are making connections for people between cuts in education and the assault on teacher unions with those of other public- and private-sector workers and farmers. Legions of firefighters and their families from towns around the state marched militantly through the capitol building, fists pumping the air as they chanted, "The workers united will never be defeated."

In addition to slashing state aid to public schools by nearly $834 million, Walker has proposed sweeping changes to Medicaid-funded programs including BadgerCare, which provides health coverage to low-income Wisconsin families, and a $96 million cut in aid to local governments, including cities, towns, and counties. At the rally of over one hundred thousand on March 12, farmers, in a show of "Farm Labor Unity," drove their tractors to Madison for a "tractorcade" around the capitol building. Roughly eleven thousand farmers receive BadgerCare. This is a compelling moment to connect attacks on education to the capitalist crisis, particularly the parasitic financialization, war spending, and tax cuts for the rich that have looted the public coffers, bankrupted states, and threaten our schools. This is, moreover, an opportunity to expose the crisis-ridden logic of capitalism itself and to engage in serious discussion about the world we wish to see.

The Potential of an Education Movement

In the past few years, a multifaceted education movement in and outside classrooms has emerged against neoliberal education restructuring and in resistance to racism, gender and heterosexist oppression, and militarization of schools. Liberatory education projects and social-justice-oriented schools have sprouted up in cracks in the public system. There are freedom schools and popular education projects outside public schools, and community-based youth activist organizations across the country. The immigrant rights movement and organized opposition to the criminalization of youth through the "school to prison pipeline" have begun to link political and educational issues. Organizations of activist teachers and community educators in a number of cities have joined together to form national networks. (The Education for Liberation Network and Teacher Activist Groups are examples.) These groups have joined parents and students in community coalitions to stop school closings and privatization, prevent mayoral takeovers of urban school districts, defend undocumented students, and challenge high-stakes testing. With the victory of a progressive caucus to lead the Chicago Teachers Union, there is also a significant progressive force in the heart of the American Federation of Teachers. Although there is some overlap, these various streams are not yet organized around a coherent program or analysis of the problem.42

The outpouring of teachers and other workers against union busting and austerity budgets has changed the terrain. Thousands of people who have never attended a protest before are in the streets and engaged politically. So far, this motion is mainly defensive, and some are willing to make concessions to help capitalism extricate itself from the crisis.43 On the one hand, there is the possibility that the protests will be subsumed by the electoral politics of the Democratic Party, much like the current focus in Wisconsin on recalling Republican legislators, or diverted to scapegoating people of color and immigrants. On the other hand, the challenge to taken-for-granted living standards opens a space to see social arrangements differently. This is a moment that can reveal the systemic connections between the bailout of Wall Street and social privations, a moment to connect attacks on workers with other social struggles-particularly to see the common threads between wars for domination, oppression of people of color, and the unfolding austerity regime.44

Buried in Governor Walker's proposed 2012-2013 budget is a measure to repeal access to in-state tuition for undocumented students and eliminate Food Share benefits (food stamps) for documented ("legal")immigrants.45 How Wisconsin's majority white teachers, union members, and farmers will respond will be important. Bridging deep divisions along lines of race, ethnicity, and immigrant status, and challenging racial oppression are central to building a counter-hegemonic alliance with the power to defeat austerity measures and move toward a proactive politics that challenges capitalism itself. Although it is only now coalescing, a movement that links education with immigrant rights and other social struggles can play an important role in teacher unions and in student community, and parent organizations.

In classrooms, critical educators are positioned to help young people understand why their schools are under attack and to "connect the dots" to the structural crisis of capitalism. Revitalized teacher unions are in a strategic position to insist that Wall Street pay for the crisis. Although the U.S. context is different, there is much to learn from social movement teacher unionism outside the United States (e.g., in Oaxaca, Honduras, and South Africa) and its central role in social struggles for democracy, against neoliberalism, and for social liberation.46 This is a moment not simply to defend the public education we have, but to advocate for a just, inclusive, democratic, humanizing education that prefigures the society we wish to have-one premised not on exploitation but on the full development of human beings in social solidarity.

Pauline Lipman (plipman [at] uic.edu) is an education activist and professor of educational policy studies at University of Illinois at Chicago. Her latest book is The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City (2011).

[Jun 06, 2019] Majority Of Recent College Grads Don't Have Jobs Lined Up, Survey Shows

Notable quotes:
"... Well, we all know thats ********. The real unemployment rate is 21.2% (shadow stats). ..."
"... Fields of occupation that do make money are saturated. You get your foot in the door via 2 ways: sheer luck or you know someone in that field. ..."
"... Most jobs offered are at minimum wage. Another big secret that is never told. The average hours worked in the US is 34.5. Part time. Also, missing here is what kind of degree students in the study are graduating with. So I assume this is bachelor degrees. Something looked upon today as increasingly like an associate's degree, meaning if you really want to risk more debt & RISK that you MIGHT find a job when you graduate, you will need a Masters or a doctorate. This increases your loan burden to 60,000 for your average masters or more. 100,000+ for a doctorate. ..."
"... Student loans and the increasing need for a Masters degree is a major scam to accrue more debt slavery. A Masters DOES NOT increase your chances Today of a job in your field of study. Ten years ago my daughter graduated with 8 friends and only 2 got jobs in their chosen fields of study, one a teacher who doesn't make much at 37,000 a year and the other went on to get a doctorate and did get a job in her chosen field of study at great pay but with nearly 200,000 in student loan debt ..."
"... Parents need to get involved in all facets of determining aptitude and major selection that can pay dividends in the job market. Too many kids just go to college as an extension of high school with the "I'll figure it out later" attitude. These are also the ones you see working as cashiers ..."
Jun 06, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Majority Of Recent College Grads Don't Have Jobs Lined Up, Survey Shows

by Tyler Durden Thu, 06/06/2019 - 13:21 2 SHARES Twitter Facebook Reddit Email Print

American students carry an aggregate pile of student loan debt equivalent to roughly $1.5 trillion, a generational burden that has helped contribute to plunging birth rates, lower home-ownership rates among young people, and even lower rates of stock ownership, as more young people dedicate more financial resources to paying down debt.

But to gauge exactly how much a students' finances factor into their decisions about which school to attend and which majors to choose, MidAmerica Nazarene University surveyed 2,000 recent graduates from around the country to learn more about how they financed their degrees, and how much they will owe after graduation.

Given the cost of higher education in the US, the majority of students answered that post-grad job prospects influenced the major they selected (those who answered 'no' either really enjoy studying STEM, or majored in gender studies).

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It might seem surprising given the financial stakes, but the survey also showed that more than 60% of recent grads didn't have jobs lined up when they received their diplomas.

For those who did choose their careers based on financial considerations, a majority said they would have picked another line of work if finances weren't a consideration (but hey, we can't all be artists).

Once upon a time, there wasn't as much of a correlation between a students' field of study and their eventual chosen career (investment bankers who studied English at Middlebury College wound up on Wall Street thanks to 'Uncle Jim's' connections). But as the world of higher education becomes increasingly costly and cut throat, situations like this are becoming increasingly rare.

One of the more telling data points in the study was the gauge of graduates' feelings about the job market. Even with unemployment at multi-decade lows, a majority of graduates had a negative outlook on the job market.

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The overwhelming majority of students took out loans to pay for some or all of college, with 71% taking out loans and the average amount borrowed equivalent to just over $25,000.

In addition to taking on loans, most college students receive at least some help from family members or other sources, as only one-quarter of respondents said they completely self-financed their degree.

On average, students expect to pay off their loans in 9.5 years, meaning that most of these students will be in their mid-30s when they finally reach a zero balance.

Imagine what that number would be if students had no help from their families?


CatInTheHat , 20 seconds ago link

Even with unemployment at multi-decade lows, a majority of graduates had a negative outlook on the job market."

Well, we all know thats ********. The real unemployment rate is 21.2% (shadow stats).

There is a gap here as to why these graduates don't have jobs lined up when they graduate, which is not mentioned in the article.

1. Fields of occupation that do make money are saturated. You get your foot in the door via 2 ways: sheer luck or you know someone in that field.

2. Most jobs offered are at minimum wage. Another big secret that is never told. The average hours worked in the US is 34.5. Part time. Also, missing here is what kind of degree students in the study are graduating with. So I assume this is bachelor degrees. Something looked upon today as increasingly like an associate's degree, meaning if you really want to risk more debt & RISK that you MIGHT find a job when you graduate, you will need a Masters or a doctorate. This increases your loan burden to 60,000 for your average masters or more. 100,000+ for a doctorate.

3. Student loans and the increasing need for a Masters degree is a major scam to accrue more debt slavery. A Masters DOES NOT increase your chances Today of a job in your field of study. Ten years ago my daughter graduated with 8 friends and only 2 got jobs in their chosen fields of study, one a teacher who doesn't make much at 37,000 a year and the other went on to get a doctorate and did get a job in her chosen field of study at great pay but with nearly 200,000 in student loan debt.

Before offshoring Americans not cut out for college went to work at the local plants like their parents did. The propaganda ever since has been you're a nobody and has been, only to attend college accruing tens of thousands of debt, to wind up in some **** minimum wage job because you can't find one in YOUR field of study or you can and learn that starting pay is minimum wage but you take whatever is offered because if you don't you're in trouble when loans come due 6 months later.

And that right there turns promising young people into debt slaves. Just as is planned by *** oligarchs at the FED RESERVE.

Gophamet , 6 minutes ago link

Parents need to get involved in all facets of determining aptitude and major selection that can pay dividends in the job market. Too many kids just go to college as an extension of high school with the "I'll figure it out later" attitude. These are also the ones you see working as cashiers who damn near have a **** hemorrhage when they have to make change without the help of the register. Do your kids a solid and work with them in their career quests and by all means, get involved with their education and most important, read to them when they're young. It is ******* criminal to charge tremendous tuition and graduate students ill prepared for the challenges of life. Then again if you got the cash, you can probably buy a degree from some Cuck in the Dean's office!

delta0ne , 8 minutes ago link

when I graduated College (Cumlaude btw) nobody lined up to hand me decent job with nice salary. AND we didn't have Lyft or Uber back then. so what's changed besides the fact that we have Uber and Lyft?

EcoJoker , 9 minutes ago link

Here in shitinois, there is harper college, which is free if you pay your real estate taxes and maintain good grades. Why the **** would anyone pay for a university to bend you over.

Dutch1206 , 16 minutes ago link

Because the economy never recovered from 2008-2009. The only thing that came out of that crisis is cheaper and easier debt. People bash millennials but then neglect to acknowledge the generation that raised them. This **** storm started with the Baby Boomers and has only gotten worse.

Here's things most millennials weren't doing in 2008/2009:

1.) Buying more house than they could afford with those great teaser rates

2.) Selling mortgages for houses people couldn't afford.

3.) Running TBTF banks.

4.) Using derivatives to hedge derivatives to hedge derivatives.

5.) Working in Washington, voting to bail out said TBTF banks, even though we operate in a "capitalist" country.

I'm not making up excuses for my situation because I'm not saddled with loan debt, have a good job, and am self-supporting. But let's lay the blame where it should be. On the Boomers. The generation that had it the easiest out of all of them and basically contributed nothing positive to society other than piling up debt.

AOC , 39 seconds ago link

you are blaming the victim, and if you don't realize that you should go learn how the world works before spreading your ignorance

SummerSausage , 21 minutes ago link

Trigglypuff isn't fielding multiple VP offers? WUT?

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/8gTPc-KE8EA/hqdefault.jpg

ToSoft4Truth , 24 minutes ago link

There's always an opening at Escort Alligator.

brokebackbuck , 24 minutes ago link

if they want to hire me, I expect to be compensated for the ******** economy they created after bailing out too big to fail in 2008

Richard III , 24 minutes ago link

If they can fog a mirror, the Army will take them.

SummerSausage , 20 minutes ago link

But they want someone else to fog the mirror for them.

sticky_pickles , 26 minutes ago link

"why join the prols when you can just control the means?"

SummerSausage , 26 minutes ago link

Not much demand for soy boys with degrees in wymyn's rage poetry in the 4th century.

DSCH , 17 minutes ago link

Not much demand for Americans majoring in STEM either jackoff.

Teamtc321 , 31 minutes ago link

What should be pointed out imo, is that a major amounts of Graduates have just went thru 4-6 years of a Liberal Borg.

They are un-hire-able, brain washed, worthless air breathing parasites.

Those who have interned or worked at firms within their chosen profession, built relationship's, showed ability to perform and contribute, will be hired if not already.

Those Libtard Borg stooges will have to go back to Mom's Basement for further instruction..............

sillycat , 21 minutes ago link

very wrong. american engineers and computer science graduates stay jobless while corps hire from india and china. look at youtube vids of google staff meetings...

SummerSausage , 19 minutes ago link

Very few graduates meet that classification.

Teamtc321 , 17 minutes ago link

Not wrong at all, I have worked with freshly graduated Mechanical and Electrical Engineers. For years they were actually put with me once per month for a full 5 days. 3 at a time usually for training.

Everything I stated above is 100 % spot on, Fact. They usually are complete idiots. Not worth having around, at all.

Solosides , 14 minutes ago link

At my last Solidworks job I was able to run circles around the company's college trained "mechanical engineer". He eventually quit.

Snout the First , 7 minutes ago link

There is nothing more useless than a newly graduated engineer. I was useless when I graduated with my BSCHE 40+ years ago. It takes around five to ten years before an engineer is really contributing.

Teamtc321 , 1 minute ago link

I actually had a few but each and everyone of them grew up within family trades, or worked at a trade so they had great hands on experience way prior to going to College. Most put their way through school or contributed at similar trades to sharpen their skills.

I was very similar and was lucky to have some guide me in the correct direction at that age imo. It did help, a lot...........

We_The_People , 31 minutes ago link

So social justice gender studies doesn't have a real job? Well No ****!!!!

These universities aren't teaching these kids ANYTHING of any use for the real world and employers know that! Within the next few years, a liberal degree in whatever will be completely useless. Enjoying payback your loans dumbasses

The next generation better be taking notes and looking at a trade for high school!

enfield0916 , 32 minutes ago link

I have a a job for a fresh college grad. If you are cute, haven't slept with all the college athletes, have a non-land-whale decent body and can cook a meal that doesn't taste like crap.

Reply to my comment here and I have an opening for a sugar bay - aka sexy college girl wifey ;)

In return I will provide you with a free place to live, feed you, take care of you and this will be a temporary arrangement until you can prove that you won't leave me with 50% of my life savings by going to court.

Roomate prenup shall be signed electronically before you move in with me.

???ö? , 32 minutes ago link

Their future on Skid Row .

RafterManFMJ , 33 minutes ago link

But but "muh economy!"

its bestus economy ever!

SummerSausage , 23 minutes ago link

If you don't major in trigger warnings and require safe zones.

roy565658 , 36 minutes ago link

𝐆­𝐨­𝐨­𝐠­𝐥­𝐞 𝐢­𝐬 𝐩­𝐚­𝐲­𝐢­𝐧­𝐠 𝟗­𝟕­$ 𝐩­𝐞­𝐫 𝐡­𝐨­𝐮­𝐫,𝐰­𝐢­𝐭­𝐡 𝐰­𝐞­𝐞­𝐤­𝐥­𝐲 𝐩­𝐚­𝐲­𝐨­𝐮­𝐭­𝐬.𝐘­𝐨­𝐮 𝐜­𝐚­𝐧 𝐚­𝐥­𝐬­𝐨 𝐚­𝐯­𝐚­𝐢­𝐥 𝐭­𝐡­𝐢­𝐬.𝐎­𝐧 𝐭­𝐮­𝐞­𝐬­𝐝­𝐚­𝐲 𝐈 𝐠­𝐨­𝐭 𝐚 𝐛­𝐫­𝐚­𝐧­𝐝 𝐧­𝐞­𝐰 𝐋­𝐚­𝐧­𝐝 𝐑­𝐨­𝐯­𝐞­𝐫 𝐑­𝐚­𝐧­𝐠­𝐞 𝐑­𝐨­𝐯­𝐞­𝐫 𝐟­𝐫­𝐨­𝐦 𝐡­𝐚­𝐯­𝐢­𝐧­𝐠 𝐞­𝐚­𝐫­𝐧­𝐞­𝐝 $­𝟏­𝟏­𝟕­𝟓­𝟐 𝐭­𝐡­𝐢­𝐬 𝐥­𝐚­𝐬­𝐭 𝐟­𝐨­𝐮­𝐫 𝐰­𝐞­𝐞­𝐤­𝐬..𝐰­𝐢­𝐭­𝐡-𝐨­𝐮­𝐭 𝐚­𝐧­𝐲 𝐝­𝐨­𝐮­𝐛­𝐭 𝐢­𝐭'𝐬 𝐭­𝐡­𝐞 𝐦­𝐨­𝐬­𝐭-𝐜𝐨­𝐦­𝐟­𝐨­𝐫­𝐭­𝐚­𝐛­𝐥­𝐞 𝐣­𝐨­𝐛 𝐈 𝐡­𝐚­𝐯­𝐞 𝐞­𝐯­𝐞­𝐫 𝐝­𝐨­𝐧­𝐞 .. 𝐈­𝐭 𝐒­𝐨­𝐮­𝐧­𝐝­𝐬 𝐮­𝐧­𝐛­𝐞­𝐥­𝐢­𝐞­𝐯­𝐚­𝐛­𝐥­𝐞 𝐛­𝐮­𝐭 𝐲­𝐨­𝐮 𝐰­𝐨­𝐧­𝐭 𝐟­𝐨­𝐫­𝐠­𝐢­𝐯­𝐞 𝐲­𝐨­𝐮­𝐫­𝐬­𝐞­𝐥­𝐟 𝐢­𝐟 𝐲­𝐨­𝐮 𝐝­𝐨­𝐧'𝐭 𝐜­𝐡­𝐞­𝐜­𝐤 𝐢­𝐭.

click this link════►►► http://www.worktoday33.com

I am Groot , 36 minutes ago link

They don't have jobs lined up because the want ads aren't hiring 300lb, green and purple haired, nose ring wearing, transgendered justice warrior promoting, half-vegan, pedo, ***, basket weavers for their company.

NoDebt , 34 minutes ago link

Wanted: Professional college protester. Low pay, but you're still on campus where it's safe.

NoDebt , 37 minutes ago link

I didn't either. Took the whole summer off to party. Sometime around September I started looking for a job. Not one God damned job offered for an economist (that was my major). What a rip, I thought. So I ended up where everyone else ends up- sales. It was at that job I actually got an education.

Lt. Frank Drebin , 37 minutes ago link

Most college grads had no buisness going to college in the first place.

Some of the dumbest people got into these colleges. Then they took out loans so they could get a job to pay off their student loan debt. Congratulations, you played yourselves.

I am Groot , 35 minutes ago link

Most of the fucktards in college are to stupid to dig ditches.

foodstampbarry , 22 minutes ago link

Too not to. Agree with your comment though. ;)

Solosides , 17 minutes ago link

Out of high school they would have had the ability to dig ditches. But after 4 years of liberal arts and feminism training, they aren't even capable of stringing together a coherent sentence.

gilhgvc , 39 minutes ago link

How about showing WHICH majors these idiots went for and then correlate that to the jobs and salaries that are ACTUALLY available for those majors......a major in Art History WON"T FIND A JOB... .a Engineering major is ALREADY GETTING OFFERS, their junior year. QUIT WASTING MONEY ON WORTHLESS DEGREES. That alone solves EVERY problem in this article

[Jun 06, 2019] Resisting the Neoliberalization of Higher Education A Challenge to Commonsensical Understandings of Commodities and Consumptio

Jun 06, 2019 | journals.sagepub.com

In this article, we explore commodities and consumption , two concepts that are central to critiques of the neoliberal university. By engaging with these concepts, we explore the limits of neoliberal logic. We ground this conceptual entanglement in Marxist and post-Marxist traditions given our understanding of neoliberalism both as an extension of and as a meaningfully different form of capitalism. As colleges and universities enact neoliberal economic assumptions by focusing on revenue generation, understanding students as customers, and construing their faculty as temporary service providers, the terms commodity and consumption have become commonplace in critical higher education literature. When critiques concerning the commodification and consumption of higher education are connected with these theoretical and conceptual foundations, they not only become more effective but also provide a more meaningful guide upon which current and future scholars can build.

[Jun 06, 2019] Neoliberalism and Higher Education by Stanley Fish

Notable quotes:
"... The solution is the privatization of everything (hence the slogan "let's get governments off our backs"), which would include social security, health care, K-12 education, the ownership and maintenance of toll–roads, railways, airlines, energy production, communication systems and the flow of money. (This list, far from exhaustive, should alert us to the extent to which the neoliberal agenda has already succeeded.) ..."
"... The assumption is that if free enterprise is allowed to make its way into every corner of human existence, the results will be better overall for everyone, even for those who are temporarily disadvantaged, let's say by being deprived of their fish. ..."
"... the passage from a state in which actions are guided by an overarching notion of the public good to a state in which individual entrepreneurs "freely" pursue their private goods, values like morality, justice, fairness, empathy, nobility and love are either abandoned or redefined in market terms. ..."
"... Neoliberalism, David Harvey explains, delivers a "world of pseudo-satisfactions that is superficially exciting but hollow at its core." ("A Brief History of Neoliberalism.") ..."
"... Harvey and the other critics of neoliberalism explain that once neoliberal goals and priorities become embedded in a culture's way of thinking, institutions that don't regard themselves as neoliberal will nevertheless engage in practices that mime and extend neoliberal principles -- privatization, untrammeled competition, the retreat from social engineering, the proliferation of markets. These are exactly the principles and practices these critics find in the 21st century university, where (according to Henry Giroux) the "historical legacy" of the university conceived "as a crucial public sphere" has given way to a university "that now narrates itself in terms that are more instrumental, commercial and practical." ("Academic Unfreedom in America," in Works and Days.) ..."
"... This new narrative has been produced (and necessitated) by the withdrawal of the state from the funding of its so-called public universities. If the percentage of a state's contribution to a college's operating expenses falls from 80 to 10 and less (this has been the relentless trajectory of the past 40 years) and if, at the same time, demand for the "product" of higher education rises and the cost of delivering that product (the cost of supplies, personnel, information systems, maintenance, construction, insurance, security) skyrockets, a huge gap opens up that will have to be filled somehow. ..."
"... Faced with this situation universities have responded by (1) raising tuition, in effect passing the burden of costs to the students who now become consumers and debt-holders rather than beneficiaries of enlightenment (2) entering into research partnerships with industry and thus courting the danger of turning the pursuit of truth into the pursuit of profits and (3) hiring a larger and larger number of short-term, part-time adjuncts who as members of a transient and disposable workforce are in no position to challenge the university's practices or agitate for an academy more committed to the realization of democratic rather than monetary goals. In short , universities have embraced neoliberalism. ..."
Mar 08, 2009 | blogs.nytimes.com

Here is an often cited definition by Paul Treanor: "Neoliberalism is a philosophy in which the existence and operation of a market are valued in themselves, separately from any previous relationship with the production of goods and services . . . and where the operation of a market or market-like structure is seen as an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action, and substituting for all previously existing ethical beliefs." ("Neoliberalism: Origins, Theory, Definition.")

In a neoliberal world, for example, tort questions -- questions of negligence law -- are thought of not as ethical questions of blame and restitution (who did the injury and how can the injured party be made whole?), but as economic questions about the value to someone of an injury-producing action relative to the cost to someone else adversely affected by that same action. It may be the case that run-off from my factory kills the fish in your stream; but rather than asking the government to stop my polluting activity (which would involve the loss of jobs and the diminishing of the number of market transactions), why don't you and I sit down and figure out if more wealth is created by my factory's operations than is lost as a consequence of their effects?

As Ronald Coase put it in his classic article, "The Problem of Social Cost" (Journal of Law and Economics, 1960): "The question to be decided is: is the value of the fish lost greater or less than the value of the product which the contamination of the stream makes possible?" If the answer is more value would be lost if my factory were closed, then the principle of the maximization of wealth and efficiency directs us to a negotiated solution: you allow my factory to continue to pollute your stream and I will compensate you or underwrite the costs of your moving the stream elsewhere on your property, provided of course that the price I pay for the right to pollute is not greater than the value produced by my being permitted to continue.

Notice that "value" in this example (which is an extremely simplified stand-in for infinitely more complex transactions) is an economic, not an ethical word, or, rather, that in the neoliberal universe, ethics reduces to calculations of wealth and productivity. Notice too that if you and I proceed (as market ethics dictate) to work things out between us -- to come to a private agreement -- there will be no need for action by either the government or the courts, each of which is likely to muddy the waters (in which the fish will still be dying) by introducing distracting moral or philosophical concerns, sometimes referred to as "market distortions."

Whereas in other theories, the achieving of a better life for all requires a measure of state intervention, in the polemics of neoliberalism (elaborated by Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek and put into practice by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher), state interventions -- governmental policies of social engineering -- are "presented as the problem rather than the solution" (Chris Harman, "Theorising Neoliberalism," International Socialism Journal, December 2007).

The solution is the privatization of everything (hence the slogan "let's get governments off our backs"), which would include social security, health care, K-12 education, the ownership and maintenance of toll–roads, railways, airlines, energy production, communication systems and the flow of money. (This list, far from exhaustive, should alert us to the extent to which the neoliberal agenda has already succeeded.)

The assumption is that if free enterprise is allowed to make its way into every corner of human existence, the results will be better overall for everyone, even for those who are temporarily disadvantaged, let's say by being deprived of their fish.

The objection (which I am reporting, not making) is that in the passage from a state in which actions are guided by an overarching notion of the public good to a state in which individual entrepreneurs "freely" pursue their private goods, values like morality, justice, fairness, empathy, nobility and love are either abandoned or redefined in market terms.

Short-term transactions-for-profit replace long-term planning designed to produce a more just and equitable society. Everyone is always running around doing and acquiring things, but the things done and acquired provide only momentary and empty pleasures (shopping, trophy houses, designer clothing and jewelry), which in the end amount to nothing. Neoliberalism, David Harvey explains, delivers a "world of pseudo-satisfactions that is superficially exciting but hollow at its core." ("A Brief History of Neoliberalism.")

Harvey and the other critics of neoliberalism explain that once neoliberal goals and priorities become embedded in a culture's way of thinking, institutions that don't regard themselves as neoliberal will nevertheless engage in practices that mime and extend neoliberal principles -- privatization, untrammeled competition, the retreat from social engineering, the proliferation of markets. These are exactly the principles and practices these critics find in the 21st century university, where (according to Henry Giroux) the "historical legacy" of the university conceived "as a crucial public sphere" has given way to a university "that now narrates itself in terms that are more instrumental, commercial and practical." ("Academic Unfreedom in America," in Works and Days.)

This new narrative has been produced (and necessitated) by the withdrawal of the state from the funding of its so-called public universities. If the percentage of a state's contribution to a college's operating expenses falls from 80 to 10 and less (this has been the relentless trajectory of the past 40 years) and if, at the same time, demand for the "product" of higher education rises and the cost of delivering that product (the cost of supplies, personnel, information systems, maintenance, construction, insurance, security) skyrockets, a huge gap opens up that will have to be filled somehow.

Faced with this situation universities have responded by (1) raising tuition, in effect passing the burden of costs to the students who now become consumers and debt-holders rather than beneficiaries of enlightenment (2) entering into research partnerships with industry and thus courting the danger of turning the pursuit of truth into the pursuit of profits and (3) hiring a larger and larger number of short-term, part-time adjuncts who as members of a transient and disposable workforce are in no position to challenge the university's practices or agitate for an academy more committed to the realization of democratic rather than monetary goals. In short , universities have embraced neoliberalism.

Meanwhile, even those few faculty members with security of employment do their bit for neoliberalism when they retire to their professional enclaves and churn out reams of scholarship (their equivalent of capital) that is increasingly specialized and without a clear connection to the public interest: "[F]aculty have progressively . . . favored professionalism over social responsibility and have . . . refused to take positions on controversial issues"; as a result they have "become disconnected from political agency and thereby incapable of taking a political stand" (McClennen, Works and Days).

... ... ...

Stanley Fish is a professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, in Miami. In the Fall of 2012, he will be Floersheimer Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. He has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Duke University and the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of 15 books, most recently “Versions of Antihumanism: Milton and Others”; “How to Write a Sentence”; “Save the World On Your Own Time”; and “The Fugitive in Flight,” a study of the 1960s TV drama. “Versions of Academic Freedom: From Professionalism to Revolution” will be published in 2014.

[Jun 05, 2019] America's Demise In One Simple Chart - The Path To A FIRE Economy

Notable quotes:
"... finance...is not value added....it is value SUBTRACTED! ..."
"... A job at McDonald's then was merely a job you had to make a little money on the side while attending colleges that were FREE to very low cost. Now, McDonald's is one of many low wage jobs in this GIG economy that are utilized as life sustaining. ..."
"... Production of debt instead of production of things. US is one of the largest producers of debt. Financialization as planned by the bankers. ..."
Jun 05, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

venturen , 2 hours ago link

finance...is not value added....it is value SUBTRACTED!

venturen , 3 hours ago link

when you can create $10 Trillion out of thin air and then give it to a select few...what did you think would happen. Instead of arresting the criminal bankers....we rescued them!

They are criminal by nature and are programmed to steal ever more! I know hundreds of NYC bankers and lawyers.....they are NOT NICE PEOPLE!

Handful of Dust , 2 hours ago link

+1,000

Between Bush and Obama bailing them out, and then destroying the middle class with regulations, Obamacare, ZIRP, offshoring, etc.....

CatInTheHat , 2 hours ago link

...Narcissists/sociopaths in America now outnumber empaths

exlcus , 2 hours ago link

America's Demise In One Simple Chart

This is one time that a ZH headline was not click bait. Not only is FIRE bigger than manufacturing, even .GOV is bigger than manufacturing now too. We're fucked, big time.

CatInTheHat , 2 hours ago link

Another boomer who lives in a state of alternate reality. Boomers were privy to government jobs and manufacturing in the US aplenty. They also were privy to government subsidies that don't exist today.

A job at McDonald's then was merely a job you had to make a little money on the side while attending colleges that were FREE to very low cost. Now, McDonald's is one of many low wage jobs in this GIG economy that are utilized as life sustaining.

Offshoring, the disappearance of government subsidies and social programs (thanks to boomers love for BILL CLINTON), wealth inequality (See the FED/Obama bank bailout/QE), stagnant wages, student loan debt, 22 TRILLION US DEBT, & 9/11 & 17 years of WAR & MORE WAR, has caused this country to become BANKRUPT.

Living in your parents basement, or with roommates, one paycheck from the streets to living on the streets is how it is for that kid YOU destroyed through your voting for sociopaths who took away the very jobs and entitlements YOU were privy to that no longer exist.

RasinResin , 1 hour ago link

I like your sarcasm, but the truth is something different entirely. Median home in 2000 - 164K. Now - 313K. Median income during the same period rose 3k. Clarified.

Handful of Dust , 1 minute ago link

If interest rates ever correct, those houses will be $164k again.

Expat , 3 hours ago link

LOL. All hail Donald! Our Real Estate Over-Lord and King of Low Interest Rates!

... ... ...

j0nx , 1 hour ago link

Bs. If they feared that then they wouldn't have ever raised rates effectively killing the refi market and putting downward pressure on prices for the past 2 years.

yogibear , 1 hour ago link

Production of debt instead of production of things. US is one of the largest producers of debt. Financialization as planned by the bankers.

desirdavenir , 1 hour ago link

Financialization as embraced by the boomers, eager to go for the fast money with no skills and no hard work.

CatInTheHat , 27 minutes ago link

Yeah it is. I wouldn't have a kid and raise it in this country today if my life depended on it. May be that's why birth rates in the US are at historic lows.

besnook , 1 hour ago link

if the country was run by shoe shine boys there would be shoe shine palaces on every corner and a law requiring everyone to get a shoeshine 3 times/day. the usa is run by banksters. you get the result described.

wonger , 1 hour ago link

ADP just missed by 153,000 jobs, bye bye real estate

HideTheWeenie , 1 hour ago link

Real Estate:They're mot making more of it ... Because they made too much of it.

BuyDash , 3 hours ago link

It happened in the blink of an eye. I told you, soon Caucasian areas will just start dying out. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Teja , 1 hour ago link

Curse of consumerist car-focussed societies everywhere. Same for Japan, China. Don't think that skin pigments will protect against it, though.

The only counter-trends are societies like the Amish, or maybe orthodox Jews. Their inoculation against most aspects of consumer society has the side effect of exponential population growth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_Amish_population

TeethVillage88s , 1 hour ago link

Via Global Macro Monitor,

We originally posted this chart in February 2011 , which we just updated also breaking out the real estate industry from FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate). It is still just as shocking as it was back when we first produced it.

Economy Jumps The Shark. The U.S. economy jumped the shark in 1990 when FIRE overtook the manufacturing sector in terms of its contribution to GDP.

So... Finance Capitalism is real, Mises?

[May 23, 2019] Approximately half of residents of Detroit are functionally illiterate

May 23, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Gold Banit , 28 minutes ago link

Half of the DemoRat voters can't read...Sad

DETROIT (WWJ) – According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are "functionally illiterate." The alarming new statistics were released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund on Wednesday.

WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund's Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means.

"Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job -- those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what's on the bottle, how many you should take just your basic everyday tasks," she said.

"I don't really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that's another question," Tyler-Ruiz said.

Some of the Detroit suburbs also have high numbers of functionally illiterate: 34 percent in Pontiac and 24 percent in Southfield.

"For other major urban areas, we are a little bit on the high side We compare, slightly higher, to Washington D.C.'s urban population, in certain *** codes in Washington D.C. and in Cleveland," she said.

Tyler-Ruiz said only 10 percent of those who can't read have gotten any help to resolve it.

The report will be used to provide better training for local workers.

Note: Illiteracy rates are from the National Institute for Literacy , as reported in a new study by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund .

[May 15, 2019] Tariffs won't bring back manufacturing jobs...

The key factor here is that the USA is a neoliberal state which means profits before people and outsourcing to area with lower labor cost. Like leopard can't change its spots, neoliberalism can't change it "free movement of goods and labor" principles, or it stop being neoliberalism.
No jobs will come back to the USA as financial oligarchy is transnational body that uses the USA military as an enforcer for their gang. It does not care one bit about the common people in the USA.
May 15, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Originally from: Pepe Escobar Warns Over US-China Tensions The Hardcore Is Yet To Come

... ... ...

Where are our jobs?

Pause on the sound and fury for necessary precision. Even if the Trump administration slaps 25% tariffs on all Chinese exports to the US, the IMF has projected that would trim just a meager slither – 0.55% – off China's GDP. And America is unlikely to profit, because the extra tariffs won't bring back manufacturing jobs to the US – something that Steve Jobs told Barack Obama eons ago.

What happens is that global supply chains will be redirected to economies that offer comparative advantages in relation to China, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos. And this redirection is already happening anyway – including by Chinese companies.

BRI represents a massive geopolitical and financial investment by China, as well as its partners; over 130 states and territories have signed on. Beijing is using its immense pool of capital to make its own transition towards a consumer-based economy while advancing the necessary pan-Eurasian infrastructure development – with all those ports, high-speed rail, fiber optics, electrical grids expanding to most Global South latitudes.

The end result, up to 2049 – BRI's time span – will be the advent of an integrated market of no less than 4.5 billion people, by that time with access to a Chinese supply chain of high-tech exports as well as more prosaic consumer goods.

Anyone who has followed the nuts and bolts of the Chinese miracle launched by Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping in 1978 knows that Beijing is essentially exporting the mechanism that led China's own 800 million citizens to, in a flash, become members of a global middle class.

As much as the Trump administration may bet on "maximum pressure" to restrict or even block Chinese access to whole sectors of the US market, what really matters is BRI's advance will be able to generate multiple, extra US markets over the next two decades.

We don't do 'win-win'

There are no illusions in the Zhongnanhai, as there are no illusions in Tehran or in the Kremlin. These three top actors of Eurasian integration have exhaustively studied how Washington, in the 1990s, devastated Russia's post-USSR economy (until Putin engineered a recovery) and how Washington has been trying to utterly destroy Iran for four decades.

Beijing, as well as Moscow and Tehran, know everything there is to know about Hybrid War, which is an American intel concept. They know the ultimate strategic target of Hybrid War, whatever the tactics, is social chaos and regime change.

The case of Brazil – a BRICS member like China and Russia – was even more sophisticated: a Hybrid War initially crafted by NSA spying evolved into lawfare and regime change via the ballot box. But it ended with mission accomplished – Brazil has been reduced to the lowly status of an American neo-colony.

Let's remember an ancient mariner, the legendary Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng He, who for three decades, from 1405 to 1433, led seven expeditions across the seas all the way to Arabia and Eastern Africa, reaching Champa, Borneo, Java, Malacca, Sumatra, Ceylon, Calicut, Hormuz, Aden, Jeddah, Mogadiscio, Mombasa, bringing tons of goods to trade (silk, porcelain, silver, cotton, iron tools, leather utensils).

That was the original Maritime Silk Road, progressing in parallel to Emperor Yong Le establishing a Pax Sinica in Asia – with no need for colonies and religious proselytism. But then the Ming dynasty retreated – and China was back to its agricultural vocation of looking at itself.

They won't make the same mistake again. Even knowing that the current hegemon does not do "win-win". Get ready for the real hardcore yet to come.


Tachyon5321 , 35 minutes ago link

The Swine fever is sweeping china hog farms and since the start of 2019 200+ millions hogs have been culled. Chinese hog production is down from 2016 high of 700 million to below 420 million by the end of the year. The fever is not under control.

Soybeans from Ukraine are unloaded at the port in Nantong, in eastern China. Imports of soy used to come from the US, but have slumped since the trade war began. Should point out that the Ukraine soy production matures at a different time of the year than the US soybean. The USA planting season starts in Late april, may and june. Because of the harvest time differences worldwide the USA supplies 80% of the late maturing soybeans needed by October/Nov and December.

A propaganda story by the Asian Times

BT , 46 minutes ago link

Orange Jesus just wants to be re-elected in 2020 and MIGA.

Son of Captain Nemo , 52 minutes ago link

Perhaps this is one of the "casualties" ( https://www.rt.com/news/459355-us-austria-embassy-mcdonalds/ ) of economic war given the significance of China and just how important it is to the U.S. in it's purchases of $USD to maintain the illusion of it's reserve currency status and "vigor"...

Surprised this didn't happen first at the U.S. Embassies in Russia and China?... Obviously Ronald McDonald has turned into a charity of sorts helping out Uncle $am in his ailing "health" these dayz!...

SUPER SIZE ME!... Cause I'm not lovin it anymore!... I'm needin it!!!!

joego1 , 52 minutes ago link

If Americans want to wear shoes they can make them or have a robot make them. Manufacturing can happen in the U.S. **** what Steve Jobs told Oblamy .

ElBarto , 1 hour ago link

I've never understood this "jobs aren't coming back" argument. Do you really think that it will stop tariffs? They're happening. Better start preparing.

ZakuKommander , 1 hour ago link

Oh, right, tariffs WILL bring back American jobs! Then why didn't the Administration impose them fully in 2017? Why negotiate at all; just impose all the tariffs!?! lol

Haboob , 1 hour ago link

Pepe is correct as usual. Even if America tariffs the world the jobs aren't coming back as corporations will be unable to turn profits in such a highly taxed country like America would be. What could happen however is America can form an internal free market again going isolationist with new home grown manufacturing.

Gonzogal , 41 minutes ago link

You VERY obviously have ZERO knowledge of Chinas history and its discoveries/inventions etc USED BY THE WEST.

I suggest that you keep your eyes open for "History Erased-China" on Y Tube. The series shows what would happen in todays world if countries and their contributions to the world did not happen.

here is a preview: https://youtu.be/b6PJxuheWfk

[May 14, 2019] Employers say this is the most annoying characteristic of new grads

"Excessive zeal" is really a problem with people on their first job. But at the same the companies try to pressure new hires to do more.
Notable quotes:
"... "Patience is the one word I would tell [new grads] to think about and remember," Wolfe says. "You're not going to know everything walking in the door, especially if you've just graduated college. Really be a sponge and ask tons of questions." ..."
May 14, 2019 | finance.yahoo.com

A new pack of college grads are gearing up to enter the job market -- this year, 1.9 million people will graduate with a bachelor's degree, and another 1 million will graduate with a master's or doctorate degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics .

Employers plan to hire 17% more graduates than in previous years, and with the unemployment rate at 3.6% , it's a great time to enter the job market. According to LinkedIn , Amazon , EY (Ernst and Young) , Price WaterHouse Coope r, Deloitte , and Lockheed Martin plan to hire the most new grads this year. Graduates are flocking toward professions like software engineer, registered nurse, salesperson, teacher and accountant, according to LinkedIn.

It's important to have your resume ready and your interview skills polished as you start the application process. It typically takes five months to find a job, according to a study by Ranstad Recruiting . But once you secure a position, it's important to prepare for the professional world by keeping your expectations in check, says Paul Wolfe , senior vice president at Indeed .

"Patience is the one word I would tell [new grads] to think about and remember," Wolfe says. "You're not going to know everything walking in the door, especially if you've just graduated college. Really be a sponge and ask tons of questions."

[May 14, 2019] How Much Money Do You Need to Be Wealthy in America

May 14, 2019 | finance.yahoo.com

(Bloomberg) -- Rich is relative.

Merely having a net worth of $1 million, it seems, doesn't mean you're wealthy. In Charles Schwab's annual Modern Wealth Survey, the amount people said it took to be considered rich averaged out to $2.3 million. That, the company said, is "more than 20 times the actual median net worth of U.S. households."

It's also a very slight drop from the $2.4 million average in the two previous iterations of the survey.The older one gets, the higher the bar goes, predictably. Among baby boomers (roughly age 55 to 73), the average net worth you need to be considered wealthy is $2.6 million, 35% higher than what millennials envision as the admission price to the plutocracy.

For someone to be deemed merely financially comfortable, the required net worth shrinks significantly. The average amount was $1.1 million, and only Generation Z (about age 9 to age 22, though Schwab's sample was 18 to 22) cited a number below $1 million ($909,600, to be exact.)

The Schwab survey, which took a national sample of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 21 and 75, also revealed that the majority of Americans really crave real estate. More than 50% of respondents across generations said that if they got a $1 million windfall, they'd spend it, and the most popular purchase would be a place to live -- particularly among millennials (roughly age 22 to 37). Those millennials also took issue with the premise of the survey. More than three-quarters of them said their personal definition of wealth was really about the way they live their lives, rather than a discrete dollar amount.

Nevertheless, 60% of them aren't all that worried, since they plan to be wealthy within one to 10 years. The survey results suggest an interesting strategy to help them get there -- ignore their friends' social media posts.

How's that? Well, it seems virtual covetousness has taken on a life of its own for the digital generation. According to the survey, overspending because of what they see on social media (in tandem with the ease with which it takes your cash) was the largest "bad" influence on how they managed their money.

And the negative influence of social media on spending is only going to grow. In March, Instagram announced that it's testing a shopping feature called Checkout that lets users buy things directly within the app, rather than being directed to a retailer's website. So much for one-stop shopping. Now you won't even have to stop.With 59% of the Americans surveyed saying they live paycheck to paycheck, instant gratification comes with a high price. While a strong economy and low unemployment are helping consumers stay current on their debt payments, the largest U.S. banks are seeing losses on credit cards outpace those of auto and home loans at a rate not seen in at least 10 years.And when the bottom does finally fall out, the last thing most Americans will be thinking of is whether they qualify as wealthy.

To contact the author of this story: Suzanne Woolley in New York at swoolley2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

[May 11, 2019] America s Industrial Gold Rush is Over

Notable quotes:
"... I see a lot of people saying, "They should just move to where the jobs are." 1) They would need accurate and defined information about where the jobs are that are looking for their skills 2) They would need some money to get there 3) They would need a place to stay and the rents and mortages are sky high 'where the jobs are' 4) They would have to be welcome. Two previous mass migrations within the USA come to mind: Black Americans out of the South and the dust bowl migrations to California. They were not welcomed with "open arms". ..."
"... I think the author understates the importance of Corporations being Good Citizens and Good Persons. ..."
"... My father was selected to go to Akron for training and if he passed the tests and did well in the training he might get a chance at Managing a Firestone Store. He was gone for weeks at a time for this process and was even required to go to Akron for more training after becoming a store manager. My father was an intelligent person but did not have a college degree. But I can see now that Firestone did an outstanding job training their store managers in all aspects of the job. Just think about that for a while. ..."
"... Corporations today hate themselves because its only about the money. I guess the point I am trying to make is this loss of Corporate Responsibility to the Nation and its Citizens was something that did exist but is now long gone. ..."
"... All across the West you can find old ghost towns. Towns that flourished until the gold or silver ran out of the local hill. The towns then were deserted. The similar thing can happen when a major employer runs out of "gold'. What the article ignores is all of the other reasons towns die. ..."
"... I would much rather rural stay rural and not become urban. There is more to the quality of life than a constant red hot economy. ..."
"... "The schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, liberals get elected and raise taxes, etc." One only needs to look at Kansas to see that this sentence is flawed. It needs to be changed and re-ordered to properly represent cause and effect. "Conservatives cut taxes, the schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, etc." ..."
"... The days of being qualified for good, well paying work without having more than a mediocre high school are in the past. This doesn't necessarily mean college because the trades require more education than ever before. Cutting school funding to pay for tax cuts is a loser's game. Trickle down economics has failed. ..."
May 11, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

I recently read and reviewed Tim Carney's excellent book Alienated America , a sort of combination of the "how we got Trump" genre with the sociological works of researchers like Robert Putnam and Charles Murray. Carney's exploration of the Trump phenomenon, and his grappling with the timeless question of economic security versus personal responsibility in regard to the formation of virtue, family, and community, are among the best you'll find. There is a deeper subtext in his book, however, that is not excavated. But first, a quick recap.

As in most treatments of inequality, geographic immobility, deindustrialization, and related issues, Alienated America features the requisite visits to faded old towns with ghostly main streets, and paeans to the blue-collar jobs that once allowed men with high school educations to comfortably own homes, raise families, and retire with pensions.

Through a long analysis, including a fascinating visit to a fracking camp in North Dakota -- awash in money but utterly lacking in neighborliness and community -- Carney concludes that wealth alone does not produce human flourishing. It is rather community and what social researchers call "civil society" that makes the American Dream possible. Obviously, money helps, but it is not sufficient, nor, in Carney's telling, even necessary.

... ... ...

Indeed, large numbers of human settlements never do, and never have . A one-dimensional, economically undiversified city is essentially a housing tract for a factory or a wharf or whatever industry drives its economy. What is left when that economic engine breaks down? A company town without a company. This is the fate that has befallen many of America's declining places, and it is hard to argue that this economic reality doesn't play a direct role in the decline of the family and of civil society. Is this a "materialist" explanation? Perhaps. But it may also be true.

There are those who admirably hope and work for revival, for restoration in places like Gary, Detroit, or any number of gutted small towns. But many of the buildings in these ghostly, empty blocks, even with their mighty and almost pleasantly timeworn facades, are far beyond the point where renovation is economical. For now, poverty is a sort of preservative. More money, for many hollowed-out cities, would simply mean more demolition.

To urbanist and declinist James Howard Kunstler, it may simply be the case that the national gold rush of petroleum-fueled industrial growth is over . If this is the case, the crisis of declining America is a structural, inexorable economic reality on the order of the Industrial Revolution itself.

... ... ...

The unwinding of rural and post-industrial America is a human tragedy, not to be written off, much less tacitly celebrated. Yet the facts of the post-industrial landscape may not care about remaining working-class feelings. This does not mean that any of these places " deserve to die ." But it may well mean that their collapse is beyond the ability of policy -- or church -- to alter.

Addison Del Mastro is assistant editor of The American Conservative . He tweets at @ad_mastro .

Tim , says: May 9, 2019 at 6:56 pm

Interesting and probably spot on. It doesn't take a degree in economics or history to understand how prosperity came and went; a passing knowledge of the 20th century will suffice. Dating back to the '20s we experienced a classic example of the boom/bust cycle, with the bust of the 30s lasting basically the entire decade. The good times rwith the onset of WWII and continued afterward because we, of all the major combatant nations, actually experienced minimal economic, social, and cultural disruption. The devastation elsewhere was sufficient to provide us a head-start worth a couple decades of strong growth. It wound down around the beginning of the 70s, coincident with the end of the Vietnam War. We retained some strong advantages, though, and they were sufficient to provide more growth – on paper at least – even as today's yawning income-distribution gap began to open up. The the Cold War ended and the days of free-trade saving the world (aka 'Globalism') commenced. It seemed great for awhile but now we're left holding an empty bag and the rest of the world has sidelined our old industrial workforce through off-shoring for the sake of cheaper labor. Nope, there's no turning back.
LarsX , says: May 9, 2019 at 9:30 pm
"Yet the facts of the post-industrial landscape may not care about remaining working-class feelings."

Well, somebody sure as hell better care about working-class feelings or Trump will only be act one.

JonF , says: May 10, 2019 at 6:20 am
Re: The revival of the American Dream requires the re-churching of America.

Maybe, but it also requires jobs paying a living wage that offer a reasonable degree of long-term security (It's the latter is lacking in short-lived fracking boom towns)

LouB , says: May 10, 2019 at 10:37 am
Having lived in the inner Chicago burbs since the mid 1970's I have watched Chicago turn from being an industrial powerhouse to a have and have not economy. If you're working in professional/service sector or part of the management of multinational globalist activity you're doing reasonably well. What's swept under the rug is that Chicago and their ilk hide the vast swaths of decayed blight and human warehousing with pretty downtown / privileged few neighborhoods. Most of our once great second city serves little purpose other than to provide housing for the poverty class. So called "Revitalization" only provides window dressing for the parade of the chosen few.

Prior to living in Chicago, my folks lived in a small city in western IL that was a poster child for the small town decay referred to above that Mr. Williamson thinks should die.

The town was famous for their productivity. Civic pride was evident in most all aspects of community life there. A major steel mill anchored the economy as well as numerous smaller hardware manufacturers. The steel mill went belly up, the hardware manufacturers became distributors of Asian made goods.

The gravy train just dried up. Times aren't so good now for the town that holds so many fond memories for me. Progress. I guess.

Kent , says: May 10, 2019 at 11:08 am
@hooly:

"Americans are the descendants of people who crossed oceans and continents for a better life, why are Americans who live in this dying towns so different? I just don't get it."

Because there is no longer a place with a better life. People left families and homes because life could be dramatically better someplace else.

An unemployed steel-worker used to making $60,000/year in a $100,000 house isn't going to find life somehow better making $8/hour as a barista in San Francisco with a $2000/month rent.

LT , says: May 10, 2019 at 11:31 am
I see a lot of people saying, "They should just move to where the jobs are."
1) They would need accurate and defined information about where the jobs are that are looking for their skills
2) They would need some money to get there
3) They would need a place to stay and the rents and mortages are sky high 'where the jobs are'
4) They would have to be welcome. Two previous mass migrations within the USA come to mind: Black Americans out of the South and the dust bowl migrations to California. They were not welcomed with "open arms".
Tick Tock , says: May 10, 2019 at 12:09 pm
First let me say that I agree with the author almost 90+%. But I think the author understates the importance of Corporations being Good Citizens and Good Persons. That is clearly what has happened to America. As the son of a former Firestone Store Manager, I can attest that Firestone trained all of their store managers in Akron, OH.

My father was selected to go to Akron for training and if he passed the tests and did well in the training he might get a chance at Managing a Firestone Store. He was gone for weeks at a time for this process and was even required to go to Akron for more training after becoming a store manager. My father was an intelligent person but did not have a college degree. But I can see now that Firestone did an outstanding job training their store managers in all aspects of the job. Just think about that for a while.

The Company cared what the Company looked like everywhere, not just in Akron, OH. There was almost no turnover in my father's store of employees. He was finally burnt out from dealing with the public in retail sales but they promoted him to District Manager a job that he kept till he passed away. No employer today gives a crap about any employee or any client. Of course you can't learn to love someone else till you learn to love yourself. Corporations today hate themselves because its only about the money. I guess the point I am trying to make is this loss of Corporate Responsibility to the Nation and its Citizens was something that did exist but is now long gone.

While some will surely say I am crazy, I strongly believe that a very high progressive tax rate on individuals and corporations would help to change this attitude and at least get money into circulation. We also have to remove the corrupt and criminal group that has taken over the US Corporations and with that the Governments both National and Local or the US is doomed.

Steve M , says: May 10, 2019 at 12:53 pm
All across the West you can find old ghost towns. Towns that flourished until the gold or silver ran out of the local hill. The towns then were deserted. The similar thing can happen when a major employer runs out of "gold'. What the article ignores is all of the other reasons towns die.

The schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, liberals get elected and raise taxes, etc. A town can survive with a big company leaving, but if all of the social factors cause the best, brightest and hardest working people to pull up roots and leave, maybe the town didn't die, it committed suicide.

Johann , says: May 10, 2019 at 2:36 pm
Spot on Daniel P. Donnelly!

I would much rather rural stay rural and not become urban. There is more to the quality of life than a constant red hot economy. And really, today, many rural areas are more rural than they were a generation ago. Yes, farms are bigger and so there are fewer people on more land and so many small rural towns have dried up. Personally, I love it. More room to hunt and fish, less hectic, more fresh air, and more freedom.

LFC , says: May 10, 2019 at 2:37 pm
"The schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, liberals get elected and raise taxes, etc." One only needs to look at Kansas to see that this sentence is flawed. It needs to be changed and re-ordered to properly represent cause and effect. "Conservatives cut taxes, the schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, etc."

The days of being qualified for good, well paying work without having more than a mediocre high school are in the past. This doesn't necessarily mean college because the trades require more education than ever before. Cutting school funding to pay for tax cuts is a loser's game. Trickle down economics has failed.

[May 11, 2019] Having grown up and gone to university in Germany it is simply incomprehensible to me that there is tuition supporters on the political left in the US

Access to the college is a privilege that typically is granted to children with high IQ. In europlpe that is doene via entrance exams. If you pass you are in, if not, so be it. So the very notion of college is discriminative in this sense, as it should be. All this posturing about neighborhoods with bad schools does not change the fact that individual with high IQ can prosper and pass entrance earn to the college even graduating from "bad schools", so mostly marginal individual are affected.
But if you need to pay for the college that poor kids with high IQ are cut out. Forever. and that's grossly unfair (as many things under neoliberalism)
Notable quotes:
"... As a matter of principle, an egalitarian society of the future that I'd want to help building would in fact contain free or inexpensive access to any level of education, at a high base standard of quality. Like, every school is a good school, there is a mechanism for tackling exceptions, and everyone can access whatever level of basic education or fundamental vocational training without having to pay for it in major financial hardship. (There are of course many ways to implement such a system.) ..."
"... I'm surprised at the number of people on this thread who seem to think the purpose of free university education is to help lift people out of poverty. How many times do you have to be shown that this upward mobility thing is a Ponzi scheme? The goal of free education is to ensure that poor people can get access to the same things rich people can, so that everyone is able to live a fulfilling life. ..."
"... Harry @82 -- my understanding is that while the NHS has improved health outcomes for everyone, it has also (counter-intuitively) increased health inequality. More affluent people are better able to take advantage of healthcare. The interventions which tend to reduce health inequality are things like clean water and closing the sewers, not universal access to care. ..."
"... (*) Under German law, students can sue their parents if they have the means but refuse to fund an adequate education. But of course you would rather not sue your parents. ..."
"... Poor children should be able to go to university. That's a simple statement of what is right. Warrens offering a fix for ONE of the two big barriers to doing that. Her fix also helps middle class kids. Lucky them! Why should a poor kid care? ..."
"... I think focusing on high income parents is a bit misleading. Yes the very poorest don't go to college, but plenty of kids from median income, and sub-median income, households do. And plenty of kids are graduating from college and getting jobs that don't pay particularly well, and probably will never pay brilliantly. ..."
"... Also once again: we target income inequality, not variation. We don't oppose a program because 30% of the population won't use it. If you're going to make that your yardstick for public investment then you should at least try to address the consequences for public funding of women's health, childcare, and indeed universal health coverage! ..."
May 11, 2019 | crookedtimber.org

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 6:30 am ( 52 )

@Christina.H
"Having grown up and gone to university in Germany it is simply incomprehensible to me that there is tuition supporters on the political left in the U.S".

"Having grown up in the US, Italy and Germany and gone to university in Germany -(for FREE) I very well understand -- that there are tuition supporters on the so called political left in the U.S. -- as firstly -- if you ever have grown up in a family where most of the members have such a emotional -(and funny) attachment to "their schools" -(and universities) -- as "them Anglo-Saxons" you very well understand that:

2. -- how far the so called "left" in the U.S. is -- concerning "being progressive" -- so "many moons" behind the European Left -- which get's illustrated by this what did Nia Psaka write: "one of those supposedly-left-but-actually-right arguments that I get so tired of."

Ben 2 05.07.19 at 2:56 pm ( 65 )
"Opportunity cost" is bearing a huge load in the argument, and it can't take the weight

Is there an opportunity cost in the sense that the US can't afford to do Warren's plan and also spend the same amount on prek-12 ? No.

Is there an opportunity cost politically? Also no. An administration that can create a new wealth tax ex nihilio to free wage slaves from debt bondage -- for this what this is -- is also an administration that can spend huge sums on prek-12 at the same time

We're left with an opportunity cost for airing policy ideas during a campaign. Here there *are* actual trade offs involved; attention / time is limited etc.

But, uh, a quarter of that wealth tax which pays the college plan goes toward establishing universal pre-k.

What we're left with is an argument that "Warren's proposal for universal prek and writing down college debt / cheap state college is crowding out talk during the campaign for increased k-12 spending"

Which rests on the assumptions 1) "a campaign which talks about universal prek / fixing college debt won't increase k-12 spending on the same scale once in power unless it's talked about during the campaign"

and

2) "the best way to get k-12 spending talked about during the campaign is to denigrate the fixing college debt proposal"

Neither of which, at least to me, is obvious or that coherent.

Contrast this with a shrewd political calculation for *not* mentioning massive k-12 funding increases during the campaign. It's a charged issue which cuts across usual infra-coalition groups, so the effect of bringing it up is complex and the positives are mitigated more than prek / college. And, as explored above, an admin which can do prek / college can also do k-12. (The Arne Duncan example cuts both ways; the 08 campaign wasn't caught over massive changes in fed education policy, but it still happened.)

Lastly, prek/fixing college debt are *overwhelmingly popular*. It's *tremendous political terrain to occupy*. It gets people used to spending huge sums of money on education, and it does so in a way that even non-brain-worked Republicans have to nod in agreement makes good fiscal sense.

Muddying those waters based on the dubious assumptions above, and ignoring the other political dynamics, seems unwise.

steven t johnson 05.07.19 at 3:46 pm ( 69 )
Somehow I thought the main topic of the OP was how Warren's plan would increase inequality, which still strikes me as highly dubious, especially as argued in the link. Apparently the real topic is supposed to be how funding public college tuition for all students increases inequality by diverting funds from primary education (and maybe secondary?)

I'm not convinced the implicit premise that a poor education is the main generator of inequality. I rather think lack of high-paying jobs, unemployment, inordinate rewards to owners of property, a multitude of secondary forms of exploitation such as higher prices for necessities in poor neighborhoods and so on, endlessly, have much more to do with that. Improvements to primary and secondary education like Warren's improvements to tertiary education, are a reform, of minor effect in the end as regards to reducing inequality.

Insofar as some colleges and universities graduate credentials more acceptable to the bosses, credentialism is not to be reformed by increasing funding to preK12 schooling. The fact that you can't say "a degree from a comprehensive regional university is worth as much as a degree from a public flagship" also reduces all benefit of education to simple monetary returns. Further, it abstracts from the benefits to social mobility in the lower ranks of society. Personally I think economic anxiety fuels status anxiety, that the prospect of no change or even descent goads people into seeking scapegoats who will be the historical ones.

In short, I tend to think the primary inequality in other words is in property.

Further the massive funding increases imagined as the alternative excluded by Warren will still have their effects undercut but a multitude of structural deficits. The lesser revenues from the poor districts are bad enough. Any reform that could help that would be desirable. But in the long run the suburbs need to be reintegrated into urban life, the elite need to be reintegrated into common life and those areas where social decay has rotted the fabric of society need to be rebuilt. And by the way, those rotted areas also include rural ones and deindustrialized ones as well as inner cities.

Matt 05.07.19 at 8:49 pm ( 74 )
The break in the pipeline comes well before college. Poor neighborhoods have bad schools and rich neighborhoods have good schools, because they're locally funded. This is not to say that the cost of education from a state college is not a problem, but rather that there is a bigger problem which might be easily solved with a lot of money.

I think it's even harder than equalizing funding. According to Ballotpedia's analysis of spending in America's largest school districts , the Baltimore City Public School System actually spends more per student than the Palo Alto Unified School District. But it has a lower graduation rate and I suspect that their graduates would not fare well against the Palo Alto graduates on measures of academic skills. Comparisons like this are a right-wing favorite for showing that the "real" problem is not insufficient spending on students but actually unions, or bureaucracy, or big city corruption

I think that the problem is that some school districts have much harder jobs than others, because some students live desperate lives outside of school. Desperation among students is not uniformly distributed across school districts.

Some students start the school year prepared to acquire and apply academic knowledge from day 1. Some students start with a raft of unmet basic needs. Like food, shelter, and safety.

You can deliver more education-per-dollar if the schools just focus on education and medical services/psychological counseling/basic nutrition/law enforcement are well-handled elsewhere. That seems to me the greatest advantage of affluent school districts, charter schools, and schools in other developed nations: they don't have to compensate as often for overwhelming problems in their students' lives that come from outside the campus. Affluent districts also having newer books, more electives, and less crowded classrooms is just the icing on the cake.

steven t johnson 05.07.19 at 9:12 pm ( 75 )
Ben2@72 writes of "tools to resist " This would be one of the nonmonetary benefits to Warren's college reform excluded from Baum and Turner's presentation. It's one reason why I think the benefit of the college education to the lower income families isn't measured by the extra $7 700 higher (not highest, though,) income families would receive. But even solely in money terms, I still fancy that most under $35 000 families will find $2 300 makes a bigger difference in meeting necessities than the over $120 000 families will get from $11 000.

To quote from the link, again:
""'Free tuition' is the opposite of progressive policymaking
It's presented as leveling the playing field. It would worsen economic inequality."

Baum and Turner's essential criticism is about the money payments, discussed in a misleading way. Two working parents, both with an income about $60 000, would get maybe, at most, $11 000 in a year. IN US politics this is supposed to be middle class, but I think real middle class people own property (not a mortgage.) No, I don't think we're talking about Warren making the world more unequal.

Most of the other thrown in criticisms, like the different monetary values of credentials from regional comprehensive vs. public flagship, do indeed implicitly assume that educational inequality is a prime cause, if not the cause, of inequality. I still haven't followed the logic of how Warren's college reform makes this worse.

Warren's plan is a school voucher plan for that part of the school system that isn't free. Extra subsidies to some parents when there is a publicly provided alternative, as in primary and secondary education, does actually have the regressive effects wrongly claimed by Baum and Turner. Doing away with this bug in Warren's proposed college system could be resolved by price controls to equalize college tuitions, which requires public provision of schools in the long run to keep the system from collapsing, which to be effective would probably require in the long run some sort of industrial policy giving a better idea of labor needs. And that might end up giving students stipends to go into areas where anticipated needs are highest. Etc. Etc.

Chris (merian) W. 05.08.19 at 1:51 am ( 79 )
I think one of the reasons this policy proposal isn't discussed in these terms, and comes across as progressive, is that it is being framed not as higher education funding, but as debt relief.

And I think that the levels of debt that people get themselves into just for wanting an education in line with their interests and talents (even leaving aside the whole aspects of preparing for certain types of jobs) is, to me, a problem. As a first generation higher education graduate (from Europe, now living in the US) with no family money this sort of situation would have put me into even more of a state of permanent anxiety. College graduates of not even very long ago talk of times where you could finance a year of tuition at a solid state school by working through the summer. This time is very far from the realities of today, even in places where in-state tuition is considered "affordable" (as in the institution I consider my home).

As a matter of principle, an egalitarian society of the future that I'd want to help building would in fact contain free or inexpensive access to any level of education, at a high base standard of quality. Like, every school is a good school, there is a mechanism for tackling exceptions, and everyone can access whatever level of basic education or fundamental vocational training without having to pay for it in major financial hardship. (There are of course many ways to implement such a system.)

I'm not really fundamentally feeling much in conflict with Harry's argument, though, because OF COURSE PreK-12 has the bigger impact for fighting inequality. So we'd disagree about priorities, mostly. (I hope, because I hope that inexpensive access to tertiary and non-tertiary post-secondary education is also something Harry subscribes to.)

A twist, though, is that I'm not sure it's only money that K-12 is missing. Sure, there are means-starved districts that first and foremost need MONEY. But others have, at least on an international scale, a lot of funding, but it doesn't lead to good educational outcomes. The reasons for this are myriad: For good outcome, you also need high-quality curricula, teaching being a valued profession, and students who are psychologically and physically in a position to focus on learning. Schools alone can't heal traumatized communities. So much as I will always join the cries for more funds for education, it would be a mistake to think you can just throw money at the problem, at least not through the channels that money has been used traditionally.

faustusnotes 05.08.19 at 5:09 am ( 81 )
I'm surprised at the number of people on this thread who seem to think the purpose of free university education is to help lift people out of poverty. How many times do you have to be shown that this upward mobility thing is a Ponzi scheme? The goal of free education is to ensure that poor people can get access to the same things rich people can, so that everyone is able to live a fulfilling life.

Also I'm surprised at the number of people who, after the last 30 years of vicious anti-poor rhetoric from the right and from "centrists" (i.e. crypto-rightists), still think it's a good idea to propose programs that target only the very poor through tight means testing. Yes, they are ultimately more "progressive" since they definitely help the poor more than those on middle incomes. They are also extremely vulnerable to political attack because the majority of the population doesn't benefit from them.

I mean, does anyone on here seriously think that if the UK National Health Service (NHS) were designed only to benefit people on welfare, it would still be around now after Thatcher? The only thing that stopped her from completely killing it was the fact that her own constituency depended on it.

Also, imagine someone in the Labour left in 1944, talking like Harry (and others) about the NHS: saying that this universal health coverage thing is not progressive because middle class people would also benefit. They would be laughed out of the party room. It's madness to talk this way. If something -- education, healthcare, transportation, environmental protection -- is a public good you fund it publicly so everyone can afford it and access it, and then no matter how much the rich and their centrist shills may hate it, they'll never be able to cancel it.

Mrmister 05.08.19 at 1:32 pm ( 84 )
Harry @82 -- my understanding is that while the NHS has improved health outcomes for everyone, it has also (counter-intuitively) increased health inequality. More affluent people are better able to take advantage of healthcare. The interventions which tend to reduce health inequality are things like clean water and closing the sewers, not universal access to care.

This is also part of why I think an absolute prioritarian/progressivism is misguided. Beyond the working poor who were helped by the NHS, just less than the middle and upper classes were, the genuinely worst off people are another group entirely: the mentally ill, homeless, addicted, those trapped in domestic violence and sex trafficking, etc. They will often fail to benefit from even generally downward distribution programs because the problems with reaching and helping them are technical and complex. But we should not wait on the problems resolution or, worse yet, political resolution before pursuing other moderate forms of downward distribution aimed at helping eg the working poor.

With respect to Warren's proposal, it is not maximally progressive but is more progressive than the status quo and additionally strikes me as an excellent way to convince lower middle through upper class people that they, too, are part of the Great Society, which is important given that their political influence is considerable. People still wax nostalgic about the days that a tradesman's kid could go to a flagship state school on summer job money and enter into the professional world -- despite the fact that a tradesman's kid, and presumably bright, is far from the worst off, that still seems worth bringing back.

TM 05.08.19 at 1:45 pm ( 85 )
Isn't it true that the wealthy can get substantial tax reductions by deducting educational expenses, and those deductions are higher the wealthier the parents and the more expenses their education? If I understand correctly, those tax savings need to be counted against the benefits that would accrue to the wealthy.

I studied at University in Germany on a means tested benefit (for living expenses -- remember there was and is no tuition) which unfortunately was converted to a repayable grant in the 1980s and later to 50% repayable. Wealthy parents of students could actually get higher benefits from tax deductions than the poor students could get from this program. I wouldn't have begrudged the affluent kids the same benefit that I enjoyed -- in fact I felt it was unfair that they had to depend on their parents while I was entitled to my own money (*). But I think it exceedingly unfair that their parents could get those tax deductions. Best would be to raise the taxes and fund a living wage for all.

(*) Under German law, students can sue their parents if they have the means but refuse to fund an adequate education. But of course you would rather not sue your parents.

Faustusnotes 05.08.19 at 2:21 pm ( 87 )
Mrmister is wrong, the NHS helped all people in Britain including the very poor.

Harry, I don't get your response. Are you trying to say that free education only helps the most educated? This is true in the trivial sense that it only helps people who can qualify for university. Similarly free cancer care only helps those with cancer! What of it? Unless you think anyone who wants to go to university should be allowed in, this is irrelevant. Perhaps you're trying to imply that warrens proposal only helps the wealthy because only the wealthy get good high school? Well yes, and the nhs gave better health outcomes to wealthier people and non-smokers, so what? That's not an argument against making it universal, it's an argument for banning smoking. You shouldn't conflate the problems in high school funding with university funding, because the upshot of that is that the few poor kids (of whom I am one) who manage to fight free of our shit high school education have done it for nothing because we can't get into uni because it's too expensive. Yes it's better to do both! But as people above have observed it's hard for the federal govt to fix secondary education (fuck, they can't even stop school shootings!) So fix what you can and come back to the next stages later. America has sooooo many problems that it's madness to oppose fixing the ones you can because some people who are benefiting from an inequality the federal govt can't fix will benefit a little more from its efforts to fix the ones it can fix.

Poor children should be able to go to university. That's a simple statement of what is right. Warrens offering a fix for ONE of the two big barriers to doing that. Her fix also helps middle class kids. Lucky them! Why should a poor kid care?

Cian 05.08.19 at 3:27 pm ( 90 )
I think focusing on high income parents is a bit misleading. Yes the very poorest don't go to college, but plenty of kids from median income, and sub-median income, households do. And plenty of kids are graduating from college and getting jobs that don't pay particularly well, and probably will never pay brilliantly.

Secondly there is the way that college has increased very rapidly in the past 10 years, mostly at the state level. There are a range of reasons for this, but a generation of students have been forced to pay more money than previous generations for higher education, during a period when college education is becoming necessary for a wider range of jobs.

Thirdly there is the debt element. Not only is student debt becoming a more and more significant problem (affecting career choices and the economy), but the way that students are unable to escape it even into bankruptcy is an outrage.

I don't particularly care if wealthier parents also benefit from this. The solution would seem to be to tax them more. And one could also craft this in ways which would be less helpful to them (for example focus solely on state colleges and remove tax savings for education).

I also think we should spend more on K-12 schooling, preschool and a range of other things. I don't see these two things as particularly incompatible. The advantage of this policy is (like healthcare) is that it is good politics as it would have a quick and measurable impact, which would build political credibility (which could then be used for tougher fights, like increased taxation for education, infrastructure, transport, etc). There was an interesting interview with one of Corbyn's ex-advisors recently, who pointed out that you can't just raise taxes immediately. Instead you have to build people's trust that taxes will be used in ways that benefit them, and that will then change the way people think about taxes. This is one way to change that conversation.

You also need to be careful interpreting recent studies like those by Dixon et al (I used to work with Anna and I know the context of her studies). The NHS has gone backward since the end of the Labour government, and a lot of studies published in the last 10 years are actually showing the consequence of Tory attacks on the system, not the long-term outcomes of the NHS as a whole. Also the NHS was massively underfunded relative to European systems during the Thatcher era, and that has long-term implications for the structure of the system and its effects on inequality, which New Labour was not in power long enough to reverse.

Harry I think this is important:

Warren or any other President in the near future is going to do more than one big thing altogether, let alone in education, and I want people to take seriously the opportunity cost of this being the one big thing in education.

But I think you're underestimating how transformative the end of student debt will be for a lot of poor people. And given that a lot of the other strategies you identify are not feasible for the federal government (due to the states), I think you overstate this issue in this case.

David J. Littleboy 05.10.19 at 6:38 am ( 111 )
The problem with "vouchers" in a K-12 context is that they are used to steal funding from public schools and give it to private and/or religious schools. They're a scam. If you are doing vouchers for public college, they don't have that problem. (Leo Casey has this right.)

Also, on means testing. I think that means testing is largely a bad idea. If you are funding things from a progressive income tax, then the very rich are getting much less back than they are putting in, and that's fine. Also, it's easy for means testing to be made demeaning to recipients of the aid. If everyone gets and has to use vouchers*, that can't happen. Also, implementing means testing isn't free, and a lot of the time, it'll cost as much as it saves. And finally, if you can force rich folks to declare the benefit as income, you can tame much of it back in taxes (this works great for the sort of childbearing encouragement programs the Japanese ought to be implementing, i.e. direct, generous, flat rate (same amount for any child) child support payments to everyone who has a child.)

*: In my fantasy world here, the vouchers are more of payments to the schools for educating people than benefits to the students. Sort of like how Obamacare only pays insurers if they actually pay for medical care. (Obamacare is way more wonderful than you think.)

TM 05.10.19 at 9:52 am ( 113 )
TJ 93: "There are some tax breaks available, but these income out for a couple at earned income of around $230,000"

Can you tell us how much in annual college cost an affluent family could at the most deduct? And is it restricted to tuition? Until what age do the parents get a dependent deduction for a child in college and how much does it save them in taxes?

I don't know the details of the plan discussed here but if it is true that the parents can save taxes by having a child in college/uni (as is the case in Germany) then it would seem fair to me to publicly fund the college expenses for everybody while at the same time denying affluent parents the deduction (as is not the case in Germany).

Collin Street 05.11.19 at 12:04 am ( 117 )
Also, on means testing. I think that means testing is largely a bad idea.

Means testing for education specifically is a problem because basically nobody has "means" when they're twenty. [and absolutely nobody has means when they're fifteen]. Practically when people say means-testing here they mean -- although they may not recognise it or admit it -- parental means testing, and

Remember: the core of opposition to welfare is that it weakens dependence on rich relatives and other patronage networks, and thus reduces the ability of abusers to find people willing to subject themselves to abuse. Because education and student means-testing effectively means parental means-testing, a means-testing framework basically eliminates the children-of-the-rich -- a-fortiori the children-of-rich-abusers -- from protection. Of course the abusers are OK with means-tested welfare here, it leaves their targets unprotected. [see slavery: more expensive and lower productivity than free labour, but you can rape people and beat them to death, which some find more attractive than money, enough to fight a war over.]

[which is to say: if you make a model of right-wing thinking that supposes the sole motivation of right-wingers is to emotionally and physically abuse people and to create spaces and situations where that can happen, you get something that's like 90% accurate to what the actual right actually propose and implement. I mean, slavery! Free workers are more productive and cost about the same or less [lower overheads through savings in chains] but you can't rape them or beat them to death and that was worth fighting a war over.]

[I did once consider an education voucher that was structured with a taper like some welfare payments: for every extra dollar put in by the parents/holder, the voucher goes down fifty cents ]

[vouchers rely on individual selection, of course, and there are well-known problems with quality guarantees here with education, given the long timeframes and &c]

[the thought just struck me that the education and professional-development elements of employment -- which have to be hugely important if we're not doing lifetime jobs -- are also underserved by market self-regulation ]

Faustusnotes 05.11.19 at 1:32 am ( 118 )
Harry, what is this? You say it's means tested and you also say it doesn't help the poor. Are you saying warrens plan is means tested to ensure it only goes to the wealthy? Because that doesn't seem likely to me.

Also once again: we target income inequality, not variation. We don't oppose a program because 30% of the population won't use it. If you're going to make that your yardstick for public investment then you should at least try to address the consequences for public funding of women's health, childcare, and indeed universal health coverage!

nastywoman 05.11.19 at 3:06 pm ( 122 )
@
"I want the most talented kids taking the course they're most suited for."

Me too -- and as "Free Public Education" in "Civilised Western Democracies" wants exactly the same thing -- there is no reason -- for anybody -- to support any kind of educational system which depends on "privatized" -- aka "privately financed" education" -- as it allows "Rich kids --
even if they are NOT the most talented --
to become doctors and vets".

So "the most talented kids" should become doctors and vets -- Right? -- And they only can become doctors and vets -- if they don't have to buy themselves into becoming doctors and vets.

Right?

As buying yourself -(without talent) into "better education" -- (of whatever level) -- is only possible in a society where school kids and students have to pay for their education.

Right?

It's like currently trying to get a Green Card for my homeland -(or a permit to reside in the UK) You can buy it with absolutely NO talent.

Or in other words: That's why (civilised and social) countries like France -(or Germany) never will go back to any type of education where -- YOUR -(or your families) dough matters MORE -- than your talent.

One of the major ("policies"?) in fighting inequality!

And could this comment please be posted?

[May 11, 2019] Is Warren's college plan progressive -- Crooked Timber

Notable quotes:
"... It's not obvious to me that universal access to college education is a progressive goal. ..."
"... I think it is extremely important to understand where Warren is coming from on this. Warren initially became active in politics because she recognized the pernicious nature of debt and the impact it had on well-being. I ..."
"... Warren's emphasis in this particular initiative, it seems to me, is to alleviate debt so that individuals can pursue more advanced functionings/capabilities. ..."
"... The more a college degree is the norm, the worse things are for people without one. Making it easier to get a college degree increases the degree to which its the norm, and will almost inevitably have the same impact on the value of a college degree as the growth in high-school attendance (noted by Sam Tobin-Hochstadt above) had on the value of a high school degree. ..."
"... The debate on this subject strikes me as misguided because it says nothing about what students learn. A good high school education should be enough to prepare young people for most kinds of work. In most jobs, even those allegedly requiring college degrees, the way people learn most of what they need to know is through on the job training. Many high school graduates have not received a good education, though, and go to college as, in effect, remedial high school. ..."
May 11, 2019 | crookedtimber.org

Is Warren's college plan progressive?

by Harry on May 6, 2019 Ganesh Sitaraman argues in the Garun that, contrary to appearances, and contrary to the criticism that it has earned, Elizabeth Warren's college plan really is progressive, because it is funded by taxation that comes exclusively from a wealth tax on those with more than $50 million in assets. Its progressive, he says, because it redistributes down. In some technical sense perhaps he's right.

But this, quite odd, argument caught my eye:

But the critics at times also suggest that if any significant amount of benefits go to middle-class or upper-middle class people, then the plan is also not progressive. This is where things get confusing. The critics can't mean this in a specific sense because the plan is, as I have said, extremely progressive in the distribution of costs. They must mean that for any policy to be progressive that it must benefit the poor and working class more than it benefits the middle and upper classes. T his is a bizarre and, I think, fundamentally incorrect use of the term progressive .

The logic of the critics' position is that public investments in programs that help everyone, including middle- and upper-class people, aren't progressive. This means that the critics would have to oppose public parks and public K-12 education, public swimming pools and public basketball courts, even public libraries. These are all public options that offer universal access at a low (or free) price to everyone.

But the problem isn't that the wealthy get to benefit from tuition free college. I don't think anyone objects to that. Rather, the more affluent someone is, on average, the more they benefit from the plan. This is a general feature of tuition-free college plans and it is built into the design. Sandy Baum and Sarah Turner explain:

But in general, the plans make up the difference between financial aid -- such as the Pell Grant and need-based aid provided by states -- and the published price of public colleges. This means the largest rewards go to students who do not qualify for financial aid. In plans that include four-year colleges, the largest benefits go to students at the most expensive four-year institutions. Such schools enroll a greater proportion of well-heeled students, who have had better opportunities at the K-12 level than their peers at either two-year colleges or less-selective four-year schools. (Flagship institutions have more resources per student, too.) .

For a clearer picture of how regressive these policies are, consider how net tuition -- again, that's what most free-tuition plans cover -- varies among students at different income levels at four-year institutions. For those with incomes less than $35,000, average net tuition was $2,300 in 2015-16; for students from families with incomes between $35,000 and $70,000, it was $4,800; for those between $70,000 and $120,000, it was $8,100; and finally, for families with incomes higher than $120,000, it was more than $11,000. (These figures don't include living expenses.)

Many low-income students receive enough aid from sources like the Pell Grant to cover their tuition and fees. At community colleges nationally, for example, among students from families with incomes less than $35,000, 81 percent already pay no net tuition after accounting for federal, state and institutional grant aid, according to survey data for 2015-16. At four-year publics, almost 60 percent of these low-income students pay nothing.

... ...

.


Mike Huben 05.06.19 at 1:16 pm ( 1 )

If you take progressivism to mean "improvement of society by reform", Warren's plan is clearly progressive. It reduces the pie going to the rich, greatly improves the lot of students who are less than rich, and doesn't harm the poor.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

nastywoman 05.06.19 at 1:37 pm ( 2 )
@
"Is Warren's college plan progressive"?

Who cares – as long as this plan -(and hopefully an even more extended plan) puts an end to a big part of the insanity of the (stupid and greedy) US education system?

In other words – let's call it "conservative" that might help to have it passed!

Trader Joe 05.06.19 at 1:49 pm ( 3 )
The difficulty with the plan as proposed is not whether it is progressive or not but that it targets the wrong behavior – borrowing for education. If the goal is to make education more accessible – subsidize the university directly to either facilitate point of admission grants in the first place or simply bring down tuition cost to all attendees.

Under this proposal (assuming one thinks Warren would win and it could get passed) the maximizing strategy is to borrow as much as one possibly can with the hope/expectation that it would ultimately be forgiven. If that's the "right" strategy, then it would benefit those with the greatest borrowing capacity which most certainly is not students from low income families but is in fact families which could probably pay most of the cost themselves but would choose not to in order to capture a benefit they couldn't access directly by virtue of being 'too rich' for grants or other direct aid.

L2P 05.06.19 at 1:50 pm ( 4 )
"Rather, the more affluent someone is, on average, the more they benefit from the plan. "

This doesn't seem like a fair description of what's going on. If Starbucks gives a free muffin to everyone who buys a latte, it's theoretically helping the rich more than the poor under this way of looking at things. The rich can afford the muffin; the poor can't. So the rich will get more free muffins. But the rich don't give a crap. They can easily just buy the damn muffin in the first place. They're not really being helped, because the whole damn system helps them already. They're just about as well off with or without the free muffin.

Same here. My kid's going to Stanford. I'm effin rich and I don't give a crap about financial aid. If it was free I'd have an extra 75k a year, but how many Tesla's do I need really? How many houses in Hawaii do I need? But when I was a kid I was lower middle class. I didn't even apply to Stanford because it was just too much. Yeah, I could have gone rotc or gotten aid, but my parents just couldn't bust out their contribution. Stanford just wasn't in the cards. And Stanford's a terrible example, it had needs blind admissions and can afford to just give money away if it wants.

This sort of analysis is one step above bullshit.

bianca steele 05.06.19 at 2:02 pm ( 5 )
I don't understand the fear, in certain areas of what's apparently the left, of giving benefits to people in the middle of the income/wealth curve.

The expansion of the term "middle class" doesn't help with this, nor does the expansion of education. These debates often sound as if some of the participants think of "middle class" as the children of physicians and attorneys, who moreover are compensated the way they were in the 1950s.

The ability to switch between "it's reasonable to have 100% college attendance within 5 years from now" and "of course college is only for the elite classes" is not reassuring to the average more or less educated observer (who may or may not be satisfied, depending on temperament and so on, with the answer that of course such matters are above her head).

Ben 05.06.19 at 2:12 pm ( 7 )
The actual plan is for free tuition at public colleges. So not "the most expensive four-year institutions" that Baum and Turner discuss. [HB: they're referring to the most expensive 4-year public institutions]

There's also expanded support for non-tuition expenses, means-tested debt cancellation, and a fund for historically black universities, all of which make the plan more progressive. And beyond that, I could argue that, for lower-income students on the margin of being able to attend and complete school, we should count not only the direct financial aid granted, but also the lifetime benefits of the education the aid enables. But suffice it to say, I think you're attacking a caricature.

Dave 05.06.19 at 2:17 pm ( 9 )
the college plan does not actually offer 'universal access'

Given that something like one third of Americans gets a college degree, Warren's plan seems good enough. It's not obvious to me that universal access to college education is a progressive goal.

Michael Glassman 05.06.19 at 3:46 pm ( 16 )
I think it is extremely important to understand where Warren is coming from on this. Warren initially became active in politics because she recognized the pernicious nature of debt and the impact it had on well-being. If you are trying to get out from under the burden of debt your capabilities for flourishing are severely restricted, and these restrictions can easily become generational. One of the more difficult debts that people are facing are student debts. This was made especially difficult by the 2005 bankruptcy bill which made it close to impossible for individuals to get out from under student debt by entering in to Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Warren's emphasis in this particular initiative, it seems to me, is to alleviate debt so that individuals can pursue more advanced functionings/capabilities. So if you think that the definition of progressive is creating situations where more individuals in a society are given greater opportunities for flourishing then the plan does strike me as progressive (an Aristotelian interpretation of Dewey such as promoted by Nussbaum might fall in this direction). There is another issue however that might be closer to the idea of helping those from lowest social strata, something that is not being discussed near enough. Internet technologies helped to promote online for profit universities which has (and I suppose continues to) prey and those most desperate to escape poverty with limited resources. The largest part of their organizations are administrators who help students to secure loans with promises of high paying jobs once they complete their degrees. These places really do prey on the most vulnerable (homeless youth for instance) and they bait individuals with hope in to incurring extremely high debt. The loan companies are fine with this I am guess because of the bankruptcy act (they can follow them for life). This is also not regulated (I think you can thank Kaplan/Washington Post for that). Warren's initiative would help them get out from under debt immediately and kick start their life.

I agree k-12 is more important, but it is also far more complicated. This plan is like a shot of adrenaline into the social blood stream and it might not even be necessary in a few years. I think it dangerous to make the good the enemy or the perfect, or the perfect the critic of the good.

nastywoman 05.06.19 at 5:28 pm ( 22 )
– and how cynical does one have to be – to redefine a plan canceling the vast majority of outstanding student loan debt – as some kind of ("NON-progressive") present for "the rich"?
Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 05.06.19 at 5:59 pm ( 25 )
I think this work by Susan Dynarski and others really makes the case that reducing price will change access and populations significantly: https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-U-of-Michigan-Appealed-to/245294

But even apart from that, the argument of the post seems like it would suggest that many things that we currently fund publicly are not progressive in a problematic way. Everything from arts to national parks to math research "benefits" the rich more than the poor. There's possibly a case that public provision of these goods is problematic when we as a society could spend that money on those who are more disadvantaged. But that's a very strong claim and implicates far more than free college.

Finally, it's worth comparing the previous major expansion of education in the US. The point at which high school attendance was as widespread as college attendance is now (about 70% of high school graduates enroll in college of some form right away) was around 1930, well after universal free high school was available. I think moving to universal free college is an important step to raise those rates, just as free high school was.

Leo Casey 05.06.19 at 7:31 pm ( 29 )
It strikes me that the argument made here against a universal program of tuition free college is not all that different than an argument made against social security -- that the benefits go disproportionately to middle class and professional class individuals. Since in the case of Social Security, one has to be in gainfully employed to participate and one's benefits are, up to a cap, based on one's contributions, middle class and professional class individuals receive greater benefits. Poor individuals, including those who have not been employed for long periods of time, receive less benefits. (There are quirks in this 10 second summary, such as disability benefits, but not so much as to alter this basic functioning.)

Every now and again, there are proposals to "means test" social security, using this functioning as the reasoning. A couple of points are worth considering.

First, it is the universality of social security that makes it a political 'third rail,' such that no matter how it would like to do away with such a 'socialist' program, the GOP never acts on proposals to privatize it, even when they have the Presidency and the majorities that would allow it to get through Congress. The universality thus provides a vital security to the benefits that poor and working people receive from the program, since it makes it politically impossible to take it away. Since social security is often the only pension that many poor and working people get (unlike middle class and professional class individuals who have other sources of retirement income), the loss of it would be far more devastating to them. There is an important way, therefore, that they are served by the current configuration of the system, even given its skewing.

Second, and following from the above, it is important to recognize that the great bulk of proposals to "means test" Social Security come from the libertarian right, not the left, and that they are designed to undercut the support for Social Security, in order to make its privatization politically viable.

Most colleges and universities "means test" financial aid for their students, which is one of the reasons why it is generally inadequate and heavily weighted toward loans as opposed to grants. I think it is a fair generalization of American social welfare experience history to say that "means tested" programs are both more vulnerable politically (think of the Reagan 'welfare queen' narrative) and more poorly funded than universal programs.

There are additional argument about the skewing of Social Security benefits, such as the fact that they go disproportionately to the elderly, while those currently living in poverty are disproportionately children. This argument mistakes the positive effects of the program -- before Social Security and Medicare the elderly were the most impoverished -- for an inegalitarian design element.

The solution to the fact that children bear the brunt of poverty in the US is not to undermine the program that has lifted the elderly out of poverty but to institute programs that address the problem of childhood poverty. Universal quality day care, for example, provides the greatest immediate economic benefits to middle class and professional class families who are now paying for such services, but it provides poor and working class kids with an education 'head start' that would otherwise go only to the children of those families that could afford to pay for it. And insofar as day care is provided, it makes it easier for poor and working class parents (often in one parent households) to obtain decent employment.

So the failings of universal programs are best addressed, I would argue, by filling in the gaps with more universal programs, not 'means testing' them.

To the extent that Warren's 'free tuition' proposal addresses only some of the financial disadvantages of poor and working people obtaining a college education, the response should not be "oh, this is not progressive," but what do we do to address the other issues, such as living expenses. It is not as if there are no models on how to do this. All we need to do is look at Nordic countries that provide post-secondary students both free tuition and living expenses.

christian h. 05.06.19 at 9:15 pm ( 31 )
Having grown up and gone to university in Germany it is simply incomprehensible to me that there is tuition supporters on the political left in the U.S. It's true that free college isn't universal in the same sense free K-12 education is. But neither are libraries (they exclude those who are functionally illiterate completely, and their services surely go mostly to upper middle class people who have opportunity and education to read regularly), for example. Neither are roads – the poor overwhelmingly live in inner cities, often take public transport – it's middle class suburbanites that mostly profit. Speaking of public transport, I assume Henry opposes rail; it is very middle class, the poor use buses. (The last argument actually has considerable traction in Los Angeles, it's not completely far fetched.)
SamChevre 05.06.19 at 11:57 pm ( 40 )
I agree that Warren's free college and debt forgiveness plans would not be very progressive, but I'd propose that I think the dynamic mechanism built in would make it worse than a static analysis shows.

(Note that most of my siblings and in-laws do not have college degrees; this perspective is based on my own observations.)

The more a college degree is the norm, the worse things are for people without one. Making it easier to get a college degree increases the degree to which its the norm, and will almost inevitably have the same impact on the value of a college degree as the growth in high-school attendance (noted by Sam Tobin-Hochstadt above) had on the value of a high school degree. (We're already seeing this: many positions that used to require a college degree now require a specific degree, or a masters degree.) This will increase age discrimination, and further worsen the position of the people for whom college is unattractive for reasons other than money.

To give a particular example of a mechanism (idiosyncratic, but one I know specifically). Until a couple decades ago, getting a KY electrician's license required 4 years experience under a licensed electrician, and passing the code test. Then the system changed; now it requires a 2-year degree and 2 years experience, OR 8 years experience. This was great for colleges. The working electricians don't think the new electricians are better prepared as they used to be, but all of a sudden people who don't find sitting in a classroom for an additional 2 years attractive are hugely disadvantaged. Another example would be nursing licenses; talk to any older LPN and you'll get an earful about how LPN's are devalued as RNs and BSNs have become the norm.

Dr. Hilarius 05.07.19 at 12:39 am ( 42 )
I suspect tuition reform will be complex, difficult and subject to gaming. Being simple minded I offer an inadequate but simple palliative. Make student loan debt dischargeable in bankruptcy. You can max out your credit cards on cars, clothes, booze or whatever and be able to discharge these debts but not for higher education. The inability to even threaten bankruptcy gives all the power to collection companies. Students have no leverage at all. The threat of bankruptcy would allow for negotiated reductions in principal as well as payments.

Bankruptcy does carry a lot of negative consequences so it would offset the likely objections about moral hazards, blah, blah. I would also favor an additional method of discharging student debt. If your debt is to a for-profit school that can't meet some minimum standards for student employment in their field of study then total discharge without the need for bankruptcy. For-profit vocational schools intensively target low income and minority students without providing significant value for money.

John Quiggin 05.07.19 at 1:44 am ( 44 )
Progressivity looks much better if the program sticks to free community college, at least until there is universal access to 4-year schools. That's what Tennessee did (IIRC the only example that is actually operational).
Gabriel 05.07.19 at 3:03 am ( 47 )
Harry: it doesn't seem as if you responded to my comment. I'll try again.

1. A policy is progressive if it is redistributive.
2. Warren's plan is redistributive.
3. Thus, Warren's plan is progressive.

Comments about how effective the redistribution is are fine, but to claim a non-ideal distribution framework invalidates the program's claims to being progressive seems spurious. And I don't think this definition of progressive is somehow wildly ideosyncratic.

Nia Psaka 05.07.19 at 4:01 am ( 48 )
To whine that free college is somehow not progressive because not everyone will go to college is a ridiculous argument, one of those supposedly-left-but-actually-right arguments that I get so tired of. To assume that the class makeup of matriculators will be unchanged with free college is to discount knock-on effects. This is a weird, weird post. I guess I'm going back to ignoring this site.
Kurt Schuler 05.07.19 at 4:04 am ( 49 )
The debate on this subject strikes me as misguided because it says nothing about what students learn. A good high school education should be enough to prepare young people for most kinds of work. In most jobs, even those allegedly requiring college degrees, the way people learn most of what they need to know is through on the job training. Many high school graduates have not received a good education, though, and go to college as, in effect, remedial high school.

Readers who attended an average American high school, as I did long ago, will know that there are certain students, especially boys, who are itching to be done with school. It is far more productive to give them a decent high school education and have them start working than to tell them they need another two to four years of what to them is pointless rigamarole.

Rather than extending the years of education, I would reduce the high school graduation age to 17 and reduce summer vacations by four weeks, so that a 17 year old would graduate with as many weeks of schooling as an 18 year old now. (Teachers would get correspondingly higher pay, which should make them happy.)

Harry Truman never went to college. John Major became a banker and later prime minister of Britain without doing so. Neither performed noticeably worse than their college-educated peers. If a college education is not necessary to rise to the highest office in the land, why is it necessary for lesser employment except in a few specialized areas?

An experiment that I would like to see tried is to bring back the federal civil service exam, allowing applicants without college degrees who score high enough to enter U.S. government jobs currently reserved for those with college degrees.

[May 08, 2019] Elizabeth Warren Student Loan Debt Forveness propasal: critique from the conservarives

Not all specialties are created equal. It is clear that a person who take loan to became obtain a degree in communications is deeply misguided as chances to get a well paying job with this specially are close to zero. Many "humanitarian" specialties are similar -- unemployment is almost guaranteed and if a person was misled we should prosecute greedy university administrators and jail some of them. Such specialties should have a disclaimer: employment is difficult to obtain. Unemployment is almost garanteed. Take the courses at your own risk.
At the same time for STEM degrees Warren proposal makes more sense as people who enrolled into those specialties tried a more realistic approach, but probably job market turned bad or level of talent is not enough or both. while people in this specialties are needed but their chances for employment are crippled by the flow of H1B applicants so part of those costs should be subsidized by fees for large H1B employers, such as Microsoft and Google. Or something like that.
At the same time why we should forgive a person the debt if the particular person specialized in, say, dance? What is the social value of oversupply of dancers? So probably subsidies should be selective and limited to STEM specialties and selected "high social value" humanitarian specialties.
So the loan forgiveness is a crippled, somewhat unfair but still a reasonable approach.
But the key problem is not loads but greed of neoliberal educational institutions. Cost of tuition skyrocketed after 1980 and that's not accidental: this is drect result of neoliberalism corruption of higher education. The ability of government to prosecute "too greedy" colleges is important. Limits of salary of administrators and especially president and vice president and deens are critical.
Notable quotes:
"... The total cost of Warren's plan would be $1.25 trillion over 10 years, with the debt forgiveness portion consisting of a one-time cost of $640 billion. Warren plans to pay for her plan by imposing an annual tax of 2 percent on all families that have $50 million or more in wealth. ..."
"... Warren is right to focus attention on the matter of student loans. This is a major issue for young people and experts have been warning of a crisis for years. ..."
"... After all, they are victims of a scam perpetrated by the education cartel and the federal government. ..."
"... Here's how it works: the education cartel sells the lie that only those with four-year college degrees can succeed in life. Then they steer everyone with a pulse towards a university. ..."
"... The government steps in and subsidizes student loans that allow almost anyone to go to college, regardless of their ability to pay the loans back. ..."
"... College is not for everyone and there's no reason to keep promoting that idea. ..."
"... Reduce the overabundance of administrators. The number has exploded since the 1990s. ..."
"... A lot of required courses are just padding to make the experience drag on for four years. That creates unneeded expenditures of time and money. ..."
"... several nations currently do offer virtually free college educations & I don’t believe their diplomas are of less value for it. ..."
May 08, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren recently jolted the Democratic presidential primary race by tackling one of the most important issues of our time: student loans and the cost of higher education. Warren called for canceling up to $50,000 of student loan debt for every American making under $100,000 a year. In addition, she would make two- and four-year public college tuitions free for all new students.

The total cost of Warren's plan would be $1.25 trillion over 10 years, with the debt forgiveness portion consisting of a one-time cost of $640 billion. Warren plans to pay for her plan by imposing an annual tax of 2 percent on all families that have $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren is right to focus attention on the matter of student loans. This is a major issue for young people and experts have been warning of a crisis for years.

But in most cases, it isn't right to blame student loan borrowers for their predicaments. After all, they are victims of a scam perpetrated by the education cartel and the federal government.

Here's how it works: the education cartel sells the lie that only those with four-year college degrees can succeed in life. Then they steer everyone with a pulse towards a university.

The government steps in and subsidizes student loans that allow almost anyone to go to college, regardless of their ability to pay the loans back. These loans are a trap, and not just with regard to their cost. The government, which took over the student loan industry , forbids borrowers from discharging that debt in bankruptcy proceedings.

How do such cheap and easy student loans affect universities? For starters, they have caused a proliferation of degrees that offer poor returns on investment . In addition, they have led to the dilution of the value of previously marketable degrees such as those in the humanities and international relations, as more students enter those programs than could ever hope to work in their respective fields. For example, in 2013, half of all those who had graduated from college were working in jobs that did not require degrees .

But worst of all, the easy access to student loans has destroyed the price mechanism, which is so important for determining the real supply and demand of a product. Since government is the ultimate payer, tuition has been pushed sky high. The rate of tuition increase has actually outpaced inflation threefold .

Is Elizabeth Warren's plan the solution? No! It will only make things worse.

For starters, the wealth tax that she would use to fund her plan is likely unconstitutional . But even if it was upheld by the Supreme Court, it would still be bad policy. Countries that have imposed wealth taxes like France and Sweden have found that the rich simply leave and take their assets with them rather than pay more.

As for the idea of universal student loan debt forgiveness, it is a bad policy on the merits. For starters, it does not make economic sense to forgive the debts of those who will earn at least $17,500 more a year than those who don't go to college.

Also, although the student loan bubble has been inflated by the actions of both the education cartel and government, at the end of the day, loans are a contract. Those who are able to pay them down should and not be bailed out.

... ... ...

Finally, we need to promote alternatives to college. There are many well-paying jobs out there that don't require degrees . There are also apprentice programs offered by organizations like Praxis . We should encourage entrepreneurship, which is how so many in this country have lifted themselves out of poverty. College is not for everyone and there's no reason to keep promoting that idea.

Kevin Boyd is a freelance writer based in Louisiana. He is a contributor to The Hayride, a southern news and politics site. He has also been published in , The Federalist, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , and The New York Observer among other publications.


Lert345, says: May 8, 2019 at 3:14 pm

How to make college cost effective. Two major reforms

1. Reduce the overabundance of administrators. The number has exploded since the 1990s.

2. Restructure college. Most programs don’t need to be four years long. Most can be cut to 2 1/2 – 3 years. A chemistry student should be taking courses required for a chemistry degree, nothing more (unless he/she wants to). A lot of required courses are just padding to make the experience drag on for four years. That creates unneeded expenditures of time and money.

After doing the above, then maybe we can talk about “free” college.

mrscracker, says: May 8, 2019 at 4:04 pm
I personally believe that we should each pay our own way through life as much as possible, but several nations currently do offer virtually free college educations & I don’t believe their diplomas are of less value for it.

I agree with you that other avenues like trades should be encouraged. A four year degree isn’t necessary for everyone.

DavidE, says: May 8, 2019 at 5:46 pm
@workingdad. If a wealth tax is unconstitutional, do you consider a property tax also unconstitutional?

[May 06, 2019] America s $1.6 trillion student debt woe spurring suicidal thoughts: survey

Notable quotes:
"... Most student debt is held by people with balances on the lower end of the scale, with only 0.8 percent of the U.S. population owing more than $100,000, according to Deutsche Bank economists. They have labeled the issue as a "micro problem" for individuals, rather than a macro problem for the economy. ..."
"... Yet that still equates to 2.8 million people with around $495 billion in debt as of March, according to Department of Education data. Even more worrying is that it's an increase of almost $61 billion since the end of 2017. ..."
"... In the second scenario, loans are shown over a 20-year term with rates at 7 percent. Monthly payments are smaller but the overall burden is bigger, with total interest payments on $100,000 of debt rising above $86,000. ..."
May 06, 2019 | japantimes.co.jp

The $1.6 trillion in U.S. student debt may not pose a direct threat to the economy, but it's causing anguish that goes far beyond financial concerns for the people who owe it.

One in 15 borrowers has considered suicide due to their school loans, according to a survey of 829 people conducted last month by Student Loan Planner, a debt advisory group.

Most student debt is held by people with balances on the lower end of the scale, with only 0.8 percent of the U.S. population owing more than $100,000, according to Deutsche Bank economists. They have labeled the issue as a "micro problem" for individuals, rather than a macro problem for the economy.

Yet that still equates to 2.8 million people with around $495 billion in debt as of March, according to Department of Education data. Even more worrying is that it's an increase of almost $61 billion since the end of 2017.

Student loans are the second-biggest kind of debt in America behind home mortgages and often more expensive to service relative to the amount owed because interest rates are generally higher. Not to mention that unlike buying a home, an education isn't a tangible asset that can be sold.

It's also turning into a hot political issue as next year's presidential election approaches. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed a plan to cancel loans for many borrowers, while former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed some of the knock-on effects for the economy in a presentation at the Milken Institute conference earlier this week.

"Of course millennials would love to buy a house," Hickenlooper said April 30 in Los Angeles. But, "they're buried in debt!"

The following scenarios show the monthly costs associated with different levels of student debt. The first envisages a 10-year loan at 6 percent. To put the figures into perspective, a 30-year mortgage of $400,000 at current interest rates would cost about $2,000 per month.

In the second scenario, loans are shown over a 20-year term with rates at 7 percent. Monthly payments are smaller but the overall burden is bigger, with total interest payments on $100,000 of debt rising above $86,000.

[May 06, 2019] Neoliberal Universities are corrupt by definition

May 06, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Hugh: , July 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Lobbying and campaign finance are two forms of legalized bribery. Citizens United legalized political corruption for corporations and showed the complete corruption of the Supreme Court which decided it. Astroturfed political organizations, the manufacture of "popular consent", are another form of corruption in politics. The hiding of contributors to these and other groups gives cover to their corruption.

The media are corrupt, even a lot of the blogosphere is. It is all propaganda all the time, just segmented and tailored to different audiences of rubes.

Universities are corrupt. They no longer fulfill an educational mission rather they are purveyors of the status quo. They are corrupt in their corporate structure, in their alliances with other corporations, and in their foisting of debt on to their students.

Academia is corrupt. There is the whole publish or perish thing that results in most of academia's research product being worthless and useless. This is even before we get to the quack sciences like economics. Academic economics is completely corrupt. The dominant politico-economic system of our times is kleptocracy. Yet almost no academic economist will acknowledge it let alone make it central to their point of view.

The judicial system and the judiciary are corrupt. How else to explain our two-tiered justice system? The great criminals of our times, the largest frauds in human history, are not only not prosecuted, they are not even investigated. And how can anyone take the Supreme Court to be anything but corrupt? This is an institution that except for a couple of decades around the Warren Court has, for more than 200 years, always been on the side of the haves against the have-nots, for the powerful, against the powerless, pro-slavery, pro-segregation, and anti-worker. How can anyone take decisions like Bush v. Gore or Citizens United to be anything other than corrupt, politics dressed up as legal thinking?

In a kleptocracy, all the institutions, at least those controlled by the rich and elites, are put into the service of the kleptocrats to loot or justify and defend looting and the looters. So corruption is endemic and systemic.

[May 06, 2019] Brain Drain and the Polarization of America

May 06, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Brain Drain and the Polarization of America The highly educated are concentrating together, depriving struggling communities and dividing the country. By Rachel Sheffield and Scott Winship May 3, 2019

Detroit, Michigan | Credit: Hotforphotog; Shutterstock Are we more divided as a nation today than we were before? Our new research within the Joint Economic Committee's Social Capital Project suggests that we are. The findings indicate that Americans are more frequently dividing themselves geographically and along lines of education. Highly educated Americans have increasingly moved to a handful of states over the last several decades, leaving other places behind.

This "brain drain" has clear economic implications. Beyond economics though, it's also likely draining social capital from many places, as communities lose talent and resources that would help support civic institutions. Brain drain and educational sorting exacerbate political and cultural divides as well: Americans segregate themselves into communities where they more frequently reside near those similar to themselves, decreasing the likelihood of rubbing shoulders with those who see the world differently.

The Rust Belt, the Plains, and some states in New England are experiencing high levels of brain drain.

It's not news that highly educated Americans are more likely to move. America's highly educated have consistently been more prone to pack up their bags and seek opportunity outside their hometowns. But surprisingly, there have been few attempts to quantify the magnitude of the problem and assess whether it is getting worse. To rectify that, we created brain drain measures that compare the share of people leaving their birth states who are highly educated to either the highly educated share of people staying in their birth states or the share entering the states who are highly educated. We found that today, highly educated movers in the U.S. tend to leave certain states and regions of the country at higher rates than in the past and concentrate in a smaller group of states that are home to booming metropolitan areas. This leads to growing geographic divides between areas that are thriving and places that struggle. With fewer states retaining and attracting talent, more areas are left behind.

A handful of states have become exclusive destinations for the highly educated. They not only hold onto more of their homegrown talent, but they also gain more highly educated adults than they lose. These talent-magnet states are along the West Coast, as well as the Boston-Washington corridor.

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Beyond the coasts, a few other states, like Texas, are retaining their homegrown talent while simultaneously winning a balance of talent from elsewhere.

These "brain gain" states are like an elite club whose members trade among themselves. For example, California draws the greatest share of its highly educated entrants from other brain gain states: New York, Illinois, and Texas, which are ranked third, fourth, and eighth, respectively, on net brain gain. New York pulls in highly educated entrants primarily from New Jersey (ranked sixth on net brain gain) and California. Massachusetts (ranked second) is also among its top five sending states. The most common origins of Texas's entrants include California, Illinois, and New York. New Jersey draws its highly educated from the likes of New York, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois. New York and New Jersey are among Massachusetts' most common sending states. New York, New Jersey, California, and Virginia (ranked seventh) are among the top states sending highly educated natives to Maryland.

On the opposite side of the coin are the many states that are not only bleeding highly educated adults but failing to attract others to replace them. Rust Belt states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri -- are particularly plagued by brain drain. Several Plains states -- Iowa and the Dakotas -- as well as states in New England -- Vermont and New Hampshire -- are also experiencing high levels of brain drain. Although this is hardly a new phenomenon for the Rust Belt, it's become a worsening problem over the last 50 years for the other high brain-drain states mentioned.

Brain drain's effects on state economies are obvious. Places that lose more of their highly educated adults are likely going to be economically worse off than those that retain or attract highly educated adults. And if the highly educated are concentrating in fewer areas, then more parts of the country will be prone to economic stagnation. But beyond the economic implications, brain drain also has an impact on social capital. If areas are drained of their most highly educated, those left behind may struggle to support churches, athletic leagues, parent-teacher associations, scouting groups, and so forth. These institutions matter for the well-being of communities, as they bring people together in purposeful relationships, ultimately creating the social fabric of our nation.

Another way that brain drain's educational divides can deplete social capital is by creating deeper political and cultural divides between Americans. The highly educated more often hold liberal political views compared to those with less than a college education. America's major metropolitan areas (many of the states that win the highly educated are home to thriving cities) tend to vote Democratic , while most other areas of the country vote Republican . Those living in urban areas are also more likely to hold liberal political views , whereas those living in rural areas are more commonly conservative.

Thus, as a result of brain drain and self-sorting, Americans are now more likely to live in communities where they are isolated from people who hold different ideologies and values. Less association between people of different viewpoints can exacerbate political divides, as people become more steeped in their own beliefs. When those who are different are further away, it is easier to cast them as a faceless group of opponents upon whom all blame for America's problems belongs, rather than as neighbors with whom to find common ground. Ultimately, social segregation weakens the idea that, as Americans, we share something important in common with one another.

A growing federal government only adds to the problem of geographic divide. Naturally, neither heartland traditionalists nor coastal cosmopolitans want to be ruled by the other camp. However, with more power at the national level, national elections have higher stakes for everyone. Each camp feels threatened when its party loses control. With less association among those with different viewpoints, political discourse turns into fever-pitched discord.

The strength of our relationships is crucial to the strength of our nation. Americans will have to work to make their communities places in which not only the most highly educated benefit, but others as well. We must find ways to reach across the divides that separate us.

Rachel Sheffield is a senior policy advisor in the chairman's office of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, and Scott Winship is the executive director of the committee.

[May 04, 2019] Someone is getting a raise. It just isn't you

stackoverflow.com

As is usual, the headline economic number is always the rosiest number .

Wages for production and nonsupervisory workers accelerated to a 3.4 percent annual pace, signaling gains for lower-paid employees.

That sounds pretty good. Except for the part where it is a lie.
For starters, it doesn't account for inflation .

Labor Department numbers released Wednesday show that real average hourly earnings, which compare the nominal rise in wages with the cost of living, rose 1.7 percent in January on a year-over-year basis.

1.7% is a lot less than 3.4%.
While the financial news was bullish, the actual professionals took the news differently.

Wage inflation was also muted with average hourly earnings rising six cents, or 0.2% in April after rising by the same margin in March.
Average hourly earnings "were disappointing," said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets in New York.

Secondly, 1.7% is an average, not a median. For instance, none of this applied to you if you are an older worker .

Weekly earnings for workers aged 55 to 64 were only 0.8% higher in the first quarter of 2019 than they were in the first quarter of 2007, after accounting for inflation, they found. For comparison, earnings rose 4.7% during that same period for workers between the ages of 35 and 54.

On the other hand, if you worked for a bank your wages went up at a rate far above average. This goes double if you are in management.

Among the biggest standouts: commercial banks, which employ an estimated 1.3 million people in the U.S. Since Trump took office in January 2017, they have increased their average hourly wage at an annualized pace of almost 11 percent, compared with just 3.3 percent under Obama.

Finally, there is the reason for this incredibly small wage increase fo regular workers. Hint: it wasn't because of capitalism and all the bullsh*t jobs it creates. The tiny wage increase that the working class has seen is because of what the capitalists said was a terrible idea .

For Americans living in the 21 states where the federal minimum wage is binding, inflation means that the minimum wage has lost 16 percent of its purchasing power.

But elsewhere, many workers and employers are experiencing a minimum wage well above 2009 levels. That's because state capitols and, to an unprecedented degree, city halls have become far more active in setting their own minimum wages.
...
Averaging across all of these federal, state and local minimum wage laws, the effective minimum wage in the United States -- the average minimum wage binding each hour of minimum wage work -- will be $11.80 an hour in 2019. Adjusted for inflation, this is probably the highest minimum wage in American history.
The effective minimum wage has not only outpaced inflation in recent years, but it has also grown faster than typical wages. We can see this from the Kaitz index, which compares the minimum wage with median overall wages.

So if you are waiting for capitalism to trickle down on you, it's never going to happen. span y gjohnsit on Fri, 05/03/2019 - 6:21pm

Carolinas

Teachers need free speech protection

Thousands of South Carolina teachers rallied outside their state capitol Wednesday, demanding pay raises, more planning time, increased school funding -- and, in a twist, more legal protections for their freedom of speech
SC for Ed, the grassroots activist group that organized Wednesday's demonstration, told CNN that many teachers fear protesting or speaking up about education issues, worrying they'll face retaliation at work. Saani Perry, a teacher in Fort Mill, S.C., told CNN that people in his profession are "expected to sit in the classroom and stay quiet and not speak [their] mind."

To address these concerns, SC for Ed is lobbying for the Teachers' Freedom of Speech Act, which was introduced earlier this year in the state House of Representatives. The bill would specify that "a public school district may not willfully transfer, terminate or fail to renew the contract of a teacher because the teacher has publicly or privately supported a public policy decision of any kind." If that happens, teachers would be able to sue for three times their salary.

Teachers across the country are raising similar concerns about retaliation. Such fears aren't unfounded: Lawmakers in some states that saw strikes last year have introduced bills this year that would punish educators for skipping school to protest.

[May 01, 2019] Ray Dalio: Capitalism Is Broken; Dalio Was The Highest Earning American Of 2018

May 01, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Less than a month ago, Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio was warning the world that there would be a "revolution" unless the country could fix its income inequality problem. He's also been repeatedly claiming that capitalism is broken.

Broken, that is, for everyone other than Ray Dalio , who was last year's best paid hedge fund manager, according to DealBook ; and since hedge funders generate the highest current income of all "workers", he was effectively the highest paid American in 2018 (this, of course, excludes capital gains and other non-current income), when it is estimated that Dalio earned $2 billion over the last 12 months , up from a reported $1.3 billion in 2017.

Dalio beat out other big names like Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies, who earned $1.5 billion, Ken Griffin of Citadel, who earned $870 million, David Shaw of D.E. Shaw, who earned $500 million, Chase Coleman of Tiger Global Management, who earned $465 million and Steve Cohen of Point72, who earned a tiny, by his standards, $70 million.

Of course, this raises the obvious question of whether or not Dalio is doing enough to reform a system that he rails against. "As most of you know, I'm a capitalist, and even I think capitalism is broken," Dalio wrote on Twitter in early April. He then defended the hedge fund business model to NPR last week, stating: "If you were to ask the pensioners and you were to ask our clients, who are teachers or firemen, whether we've contributed to their well-being, they would say that they, we, contribute."

Andrew Ross Sorkin questioned whether or not Dalio is putting his money where his mouth is: "...the magnitude of the hedge fund managers' compensation raises a very basic question about whether capitalism is 'broken'. Even if Mr. Dalio took home $500 million, the rest of his income could pay 10,000 families $150,000 each. "

For a little over a year now, Dalio has been warning any journalist who will listen that the looming market crash and economic downturn, which always seems to be between a year or two years away, will stress the fraying fabric of our disintegrating capitalist system to the point where it simply breaks apart. Central banks, already out of ammo from their pre-crisis stimulus programs will be powerless to pull us back from the precipice, and with our federal debt burden already so heavy, Congress will have little wiggle room to spend us out of the mess (that is, unless they finally cave to the MMTers).

But in his latest 18-page treatise entitled "Why and How Capitalism Needs To Be Reformed (Part 1)" , published - as per usual - on LinkedIn, Dalio kicks his fearmongering approach up to '11', surpassing redistributive rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and going straight for Vladimir Lenin.

According to Dalio, the flaws in the American capitalist system are breeding such horrific inequality between the wealthy and the poor that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the only sensible recourse for the unwashed masses will be a bloody revolution.

To support this theory, Dalio points to statistics showing that the bottom 60% of Americans are lagging further and further behind the top 40% in the areas of education, social mobility, assets, income and - crucially - health. American men earning the least will likely die ten years earlier than those making the most.

In previous essays, Dalio has warned about the threat of economic populism (the anti-establishment trend that helped deliver both Brexit and President Trump's stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton). Now, he's apparently identifying with populists of a different stripe (namely, those on the left). All of these sources of inequality, Dalio argues, represent an "existential threat" to the American economy, that will only be exacerbated by falling competitiveness relative to other nations and the "high risk of bad conflict."

Conveniently absolving himself and his fellow billionaires of any blame for this sad state of affairs, Dalio claimed that the cause of this sad state of affairs was simply a poorly designed system that can, with a little effort, be corrected.

"These unacceptable outcomes aren't due to either a) evil rich people doing bad things to poor people or b) lazy poor people and bureaucratic inefficiencies, as much as they are due to how the capitalist system is now working," Dalio said.

Maybe we're just conservative old fashioned pragmatists, but isn't there a bit of extremely convenient hypocrisy in calling for socialism in the year that capitalism made you the best paid person in America? And, if we're mistaken, why isn't Dalio shelling out his billions for the cause he so loudly has been advocating for?

John Law Lives , 18 minutes ago link

That's brilliant. The middle class is getting blown away like dust in the wind, and one dude makes an estimated $2 Billion in 12 months betting on a rigged game. It this what has become of the American dream?

Banana_Republic_FUBAR

[Apr 28, 2019] Prisoners of Overwork A Dilemma by Peter Dorman

Highly recommended!
This is true about IT jobs. Probably even more then for lawyers. IT became plantation economy under neoliberalism.
Notable quotes:
"... mandatory overwork in professional jobs. ..."
"... The logical so