Thursday, October 16, 2014

Robert Reich Joins The War On The Ivies

If the polls are right, my state may be saddled four more years with what is objectively the worst governor of Maine in living memory, taking that distinction from the formerly worst governor of my state, Jock Mckernan, husband of Olympia Snowe and present president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.   The reason the truly awful Paul LePage was elected, to start with, is the reason he may well be relected with a minority vote,  the independent campaign of Eliot Cutler, a man who has never held elected office but who is a multi-millionaire.   Since this is a continuation of my war against the Ivies, I bring him up to note that his educational CV is Harvard University, Harvard College and Georgetown University Law Center.

I notice that three days after I called for a land-grant grad revolt against the ivy leaguers last week,  one of their own, Robert Reich sort of declared war on the institutions, as well.  In a really eye-opening blog post he started:

Imagine a system of college education supported by high and growing government spending on elite private universities that mainly educate children of the wealthy and upper-middle class, and low and declining government spending on public universities that educate large numbers of children from the working class and the poor.

You can stop imagining. That’s the American system right now.

Government subsidies to elite private universities take the form of tax deductions for people who make charitable contributions to them. In economic terms a tax deduction is the same as government spending. It has to be made up by other taxpayers.

These tax subsidies are on the rise because in recent years a relatively few very rich people have had far more money than they can possibly spend or even give away to their children. So they’re donating it to causes they believe in, such as the elite private universities that educated them or that they want their children to attend.

Private university endowments are now around $550 billion, centered in a handful of prestigious institutions. Harvard’s endowment is over $32 billion, followed by Yale at $20.8 billion, Stanford at $18.6 billion, and Princeton at $18.2 billion.

Each of these endowments increased last year by more than $1 billion, and these universities are actively seeking additional support. Last year Harvard launched a capital campaign for another $6.5 billion.

Because of the charitable tax deduction, the amount of government subsidy to these institutions in the form of tax deductions is about one out of every three dollars contributed.

I wish I had the time to go through various proposals for laws dealing with the establishment and enrichment of these endowments and study those which originated in either the graduates of the Ivies and their equivalent in private universities or from their faculty, in other words, the institutions bending the law in their favor and in the favor of the class they serve.  And they do serve the elite with a handful of plebs thrown in for show and, I'm sure, a means of padding their typical legacy student body with the cream of the lower classes.   Reich goes into quite a bit of detail on that as well, as you can read in his article.

What this means for most of the people who don't go to the ivies and their equivalent is that government policies, clearly set up to favor those elite institutions, amounts to an attack on the public universities and colleges which most of us and our children and loved ones could possibly attend.  And through that attack on the primary vehicle of maintaining and furthering social advancement of working class and poor people, the elite make war on us.  The primary means the elite uses to attack the public universities even as they plunder the public treasury is tax law.

Divide by the relatively small number of students attending these institutions, and the amount of subsidy per student is huge.

The annual government subsidy to Princeton University, for example, is about $54,000 per student, according to an estimate by economist Richard Vedder. Other elite privates aren’t far behind. 

Public universities, by contrast, have little or no endowment income. They get almost all their funding from state governments. But these subsidies have been shrinking.

State and local financing for public higher education came to about $76 billion last year, nearly 10 percent less than a decade before.

Since more students attend public universities now than ten years ago, that decline represents a 30 percent drop per student.  

That means the average annual government subsidy per student at a public university comes to less than $4,000, about one-tenth the per student government subsidy at the elite privates. 

This is an entirely outrageous situation that has certainly had a corrupting effect on our country, exacerbated the rampant, third-world style inequality which has increased in the past half a century since that public school graduate, Lyndon Johnson, launched his abortive War on Poverty.  In passing I will note, yet again, that war was doomed to failure, as no less a figure than The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. pointed out, through the massive spending on the U.S. war in Vietnam which was largely the product of advocacy by men educated in the very elite universities under discussion.  

The Ivy league class has had an unjustifiably large influence on public policy in The United States from before the beginning of the country,  the all too brief period after the G. I. Bill of Rights, perhaps, being a short and partial lessening of that effect of allowing them to privilege themselves and the institutions that service and perpetuate them in power.  They have, mostly, done a terrible job. What they learn in those universities is a sense of entitlement among the rich and means of bending both the ideas promulgated by education and in the media to their advantage, but, worst of all, corrupting the law, making our government one of the rich, for the rich and certainly by the rich.   The role those institutions, enormously subsidized by the working class, the middle class and, yes, even the poor, has been a major corrupting influence in American life. 

Franklin Roosevelt, my nominee, with  Abraham Lincoln as the greatest presidents we have had was a product of the same elite and its universities but one who was proud to claim the title of "class traitor" for his advocacy of economic justice and equality through strengthening public institutions.  Robert Reich would seem to be following a similar path of being a champion of  The People over the Patrician class.   I certainly hope that more will join it, from the ivy class, if they will, but primarily from the far more of us who were educated in the public universities which are under attack just as the public schools are.  I truly believe that one of our own could have prevented this and was on his way to doing so when he was stopped.   Had he rejected the Harvard boys and not gotten mired in Vietnam, I have no doubt but that Lyndon Johnson would have been the hands-down winner of the title he missed out on by listening to the Best and the Brightest. 

No comments:

Post a Comment