It’s good to see Bernie Sanders go beyond the liberal Congressional ideas about reducing loan rates and providing tax credits, calling for free tuition that would end the United States’ status as a dinosaur in college affordability and availability.
The group I’m a part of, Students for Free Tuition, is about real solutions in education. These planks of free education aren’t even radical- it’s just an attempt to get back to higher education of yesteryear, when it was more affordable, and government assistance came from grants and not loans.
There’s a frame of thinking that voting and political participation is low because people are stupid or duped. I think it’s more so that the tepid, halfway solutions proposed won’t work, and most people know that. Free tuition makes all the sense in the world.
While this strike are tailored to the particular brutalities of for-profit education, the potential is much larger and can apply to all schools deliberately underfunded, privatized, and run in concert with student loan companies.
Of special interest is an unused but applicable clause with the Department of Education:
“The department, the senators noted, has the power to cancel federal loans for students who attended institutions that violated their rights. In fact, they pointed out, the department’s federal-loan agreements with students go as far as to spell this out, if in fine print: ‘In some cases, you may assert, as a defense against collection of your loan, that the school did something wrong or failed to do something that it should have done.’“
What is the University of California system and the Board of Regents, if not institutions that have failed to do what they should have?
I’m somewhat disgusted from watching the college football conference championship games. Not the quality of the games- they were pretty engaging, and go Spartans- but the halftime contest between two people competing for college tuition money. The Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway had two contestants throwing footballs into a hole in a giant soda can to win $100,000 in scholarships.
I don’t have a problem with a corporation handing out some money for college- it’s certainly not the most destructive way to gain publicity, but it does feel strange that people in the United States have to compete for the right to graduate debt-free. One of the long-term threads to American prosperity, especially if that prosperity is to cross class lines, are people of all ages pursuing some form of post-secondary education. High tuition rates discourage poor and lower middle class students from applying at all. And America is rapidly losing its edge in overall attainment:
And struggle in STEM majors:
I’ve previously written a detailed speech on the idea of free tertiary education in America, which you can read here. It seems that intelligent and perceptive people should focus on learning, and not fret over balance sheets unless they take an accounting class.
A new, more rigorous and well-structured study about the civilian death toll in Iraq has been published, a successor to the controversial Lancet studies of 2004 and 2006. Taken in 2011, it used a more representative sample and was able to survey most of the country- the Lancet studies had to deal with serious amount of violence and parts of the country that were a no-go for researchers.
Ultimately it puts the combined deaths of the conflict and the huge migration in and out of the country at just over 460,800. Three-fifths of the non-migratory deaths were violent in nature, the rest caused by the breakdown of services and infrastructure, like hospitals. The figure is contrasted with the second Lancet study, which put the number at over 650,000, and the Iraq Body Count, which relies on confirmed deaths, in in the 100-125,000 range. As in most surveys, a simple count will miss certain groups and regions. The new survey makes well-founded estimates and will be the standard by which any future evaluations are measured.
Americans are aware the American lives lost, but have very little idea of the massive amount of Iraqi civilians who perished as the result of the invasion and multi-pronged insurgency that followed. A 2007 poll (PDF) found that the a majority of Americans thought less than 10,000 civilians had been killed- only 15% thought it had reached six figures.
Of course, this new study reminds us once again how incredibly pointless the Iraq War was. What little was accomplished (such as a more democratic Iraq) seems to be crumbling- the exit of the last troops was followed by the arrest and trial in absentiaof the Sunni vice-president. A great many lives could have been saved by using the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to create infrastructure and eradicate disease. Universal healthcare could have been a reality years earlier. Using the Cost of War site, one can calculate what portion of war spending your town contributed. By their calculations, the money spent in Iraq was enough to supply every household in the city with solar power for forty years (obviously more, given falling solar prices).
So it is a good point of meditation. And it asks- if Iraq was such an expensive, bloody, pointless war, how did it happen? And how can people, in outrage and solidarity, keep it from happening again?
I’ve wondered how you would encapsulate the economic era that most Americans live in. The fundamental costs of living have skyrocketed. Many Americans are lucky to have zero retirement savings, because others are mired in long-term debt.
I decided to draw this graph to encapsulate what the post-industrial era had brought. With the death of high-wage unskilled labor and declining investment in training and education, wealth has turned into a sea of debt.