Only $100 Billion A Year -- And It's On You!

“Think Big!” says Laura Clawson at the Daily Kos.  “Make public higher education accessible to everyone.”  You mean it isn’t?

Clawson clearly has not done much research into her topic.  College educations are easier to get than an STD these days.  A recent article in the New York Times quoted officials at the City University of New York admitting that more than 50% of its students require “remediation” in English and Math — in other words, they can’t read at an 8th grade level, and long division is till a bit of a stumper for them.  But only about 40% of them ever manage to graduate, and few of them do so on time, which increases costs substantially.  Nor is this a local phenomenon — this general dismal level of preparation and achievement is pretty much standard for so-called “public” colleges and universities.

Should it be news to any of us, the Daily Kos included, that before we can send these folks off to study college-level subjects — which should not include algebra and spelling — we need to try harder to effect meaningful improvements in our K-12 efforts, which for almost 40 years now have produced a steadily-declining level of performance by our students?  Does it make any sense whatever to spend billions on college educations for people who don’t know the multiplication tables?

Well, at least it’s affordable.  According to Clawson,

But $100 billion is just a few months of the Iraq war, circa 2008. Rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest would take care of the majority of it. Of course we already have a long wish list for that money. But what if we went back a little further? According to Sam Pizzigati of the Institute for Policy Studies points out that a return to 1961 tax rates would raise $382 billion, and more audits of the highest-income tax payers could push it up to half a trillion dollars.

So — we just pretend we’re in the middle of the most expensive portion of a major invasion, and then, everything will be all right! And we sustain this level of spending because, well, we spent that much killing insurgents in some desert somewhere, so it’s like really much cooler to spend it on peaceful stuff, isn’t it?  And if someone notices that we can’t begin to afford this, well, we just go back in time to 1961! Why 1961?

Because in 1961 the marginal tax rate on income over $200,000 was 90%.  That’s right.  Ninety $%#@*& percent. That Sam Pizzigati didn’t pick his date by accident.  Of course, in 1961, $200,000 equaled about $1.5 million in 2011 dollars — and you could deduct everything from your lunch to your daughter’s braces — but what are a few details like that when education is at stake?

Okay, this is just silly tripe, and Clawson is a starry-eyed dimwit armed with ambition (masquerading as conscience) and a computer — always a dangerous combination — made even more toxic by access to the pages of the Daily Kos, which has never let a few realities stem the tide of its wingnut agendas.

But come on — free college for everyone? Kids get a high school education for free, (we pay for it, but they don’t) and look how much respect they give that.  Why would anyone value an education where they have no skin in the game?  There are many problems with the high debt load many students have when they leave college, but making higher education a cost-free “right” is easily the worst solution imaginable.  It isn’t actually imaginable, though — is it?