Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Frank’

Thomas Frank on Trump’s nationalist populism

May 24, 2017

Nobody alive has a better grasp of American politics than Thomas Frank.

Above is a video I came across of a talk he gave in April at the Kansas City Public Library.   It’s a bit long, especially to watch on a computer screen, but Frank is an entertaining speaker, as he is a writer, and I recommend listening to him if you have time.  His talk ends a little short of an hour and a question-and-answer period runs for about 30 minutes.

Frank sees Donald Trump as the latest of a line of Republican nationalist populists—his predecessors being Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and the leaders of the Tea Party.

A populist is someone who claims to speak in the name of the people against the elite.   The old Populist Party, which dominated Kansas politics in the 1890s, represented farmers and laborers and fought against bankers and railroad CEOs.

The Democratic Party used to be this kind of populist party, Frank said, but it no longer is.   Instead it represents a professional class defined by educational credentials.

In the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Democrats spoke in the name of the common people against greedy Wall Street bankers and power-hungry corporate CEOs.   But the present generation of Democratic leaders regards bankers and CEOs as classmates—members of the same college classes and same social class.

This has given an opening to nationalist populists who claim to speak for the common people against meddling bureaucrats, unpatriotic intellectuals and out-of-touch journalists.

The vast majority of Americans are either treading water economically or going under.   They are justifiably angry, and right-wing talk radio tells them a story that explains their plight and channels their anger.

The Republican populists offer no real solution, but Democrats no longer offer an alternative story.  That’s why they’ve been in decline for 50 years.  They will have a hard time coming back, Frank said, even if Donald Trump self-destructs.

I found Frank’s whole talk interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

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Thomas Frank at the Democratic convention

July 27, 2016

People say that a vote for a third-party candidate such as Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.  But in reality, a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to empower future candidates such as Donald Trump.

Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, and Robert Scheer, editor-in-chief of Truthdig, talk about how the candidacy of Donald Trump is a product of the failures of Democratic leaders such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

For the past 20 or so years, as Frank points out, the leaders of the Democratic Party have turned their backs on working people on the theory that such people have nowhere else to go.

Now Donald Trump has come along and given them somewhere else to go.  He doesn’t have good answers, but he is the only one of the two major-party candidates who is an alternative to the status quo.

If Hillary Clinton is elected, she will pursue the same policies, and, four years from now, there will be another Donald Trump—but one more self-disciplined, less openly racist and less obviously foolish and ignorant.  And that Donald Trump will likely be elected.

The video above is 47 minutes long, but worth watching.   Thomas Frank is an entertaining talker and he knows what he is talking about.

What’s the matter with the Democrats?

May 21, 2016

This was originally published on March 28, 2016

I looked forward to reading Thomas Frank’s LISTEN, LIBERAL -or- What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?  I finished reading it over the weekend, and it’s as good as I thought it would be.

It is an explanation of how the Democratic Party ceased to be an advocate for the interests of working people and organized labor, and instead became the party of the credentialed professional class, as exemplified by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Thomas Frank is best known for his book, What’s the Matter With Kansas? which is about how a once-radical state became a stronghold of the right wing.  In this book, he explains how the party of the New Deal became the party of bank bailouts and pro-corporate international trade deals.

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank

The change began with the split between college-educated idealists and blue collar union workers in the late 1960s.  Young radicals thought that the New Deal was yesterday’s news and that labor leaders such as the AFL-CIO’s George Meany were obstacles to peace in Vietnam and justice for minorities and women.

The young radicals triumphed in 1972 when they nominated George McGovern for President, under convention rules written so as to guarantee representation  for minorities, women and youth, but not for union members.

When McGovern went down in humiliating defeat, the party leaders rewrote the rules so as to prevent another McGovern from arising again.  They did not, however, return to their New Deal roots.  Instead they started to bid against the Republicans for support of the business class.

These two factions of the Democratic Party – social liberals and the business conservatives – eventually came together.

Their common ground was belief that the world should be run by an elite of smart people.  Their liberalism consisted of belief that there should be equal opportunity to enter this class based on educational credentials and professional achievement.

The idea was not to raise the material standard of living poor people and the working class in general, as in New Deal days.  It was to give everybody, through access to education, an equal chance to be part of the elite, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or social or economic class.

Then, if you still couldn’t succeed, it would be your own fault.  Maybe you didn’t study hard enough in the fifth grade.

This is not to say that Democrats became the same as Republicans.

Republican leaders wanted to be governed by an elite of tough, successful competitors.  Democratic leaders want to be governed by an elite of enlightened thinkers.

Republican leaders embrace economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are moral values.  Democratic leaders accept economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are scientific laws.  Republicans despise losers.  Democrats sympathize with losers, but do not think it is feasible to help them.

Republicans govern in the interests of the top 1 percent of income earners.  Democrats, as Frank wrote, govern in the interests of the top 10 percent.  [1]

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Hillary Clinton is not an incremental reformer

May 16, 2016

It is Bernie Sanders who is the incremental reformer.  Hillary Clinton is a defender of the status quo.  Too many people are fooled into thinking their disagreement is about the pace of change.

It is not.

Their disagreement is about whether there should be any change at all and, if so, in what direction.

He wants to limit corporate power.   She depends on corporate power, both for her campaign and her personal income.

acceptchange

Nothing Bernie Sanders advocates is radical.   Everything he proposes has been tried and worked, either in the USA or abroad.

He wants to enforce anti-trust laws and laws against financial frauds.  He wants to restore worker protections and corporate regulations that worked well in the late 20th century.  He wants to adopt a version of Canada’s popular and successful Medicare-for-all plan.

He does not—for better or worse—advocate drastic redistribution of wealth and power, only a halt to the growing concentration of wealth.  He is not a peace candidate nor a civil liberties candidate, although I think he would be less eager than Clinton to go to war or hunt down whistle-blowers.

Even though the reforms Sanders proposes are popular, Hillary Clinton says they are impossible.   She says Sanders is doing people a disservice by encouraging them to hope for the impossible.

Universal health care is “never, ever” going to happen, she says; restoring free tuition at state universities is an example of foolish “free this and free that”, and young people who hope for something better haven’t done the research.

Clinton depends for her income and her campaign funds on the corporate establishment.  That establishment is so dead set against even minor reforms that pushing them through will require the equivalent of a political revolution.

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Clintonism, Trumpism: a win-win for the 1%

April 28, 2016

In American politics today, there are three main factions and only two parties to represent them.  One faction has to lose and, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are nominated, it will be the Bernie Sanders progressives.

fatcatHillary Clinton represents the Washington and Wall Street elite, committed to perpetual war and crony capitalism.  Wall Street bankers have made her and her husband rich, neoconservative war hawks praise her and Charles Koch has said she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees.

Donald Trump speaks to the concerns of working people—especially pro-corporate trade deals and deindustrialization—but he has no real solution.

His economic nationalism, while not a complete answer to U.S. economic problems, is preferable to the corporate trade deals of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

But by pitting white working men against Hispanics, blacks, immigrants and feminists, he prevents the working class as a whole from ever having enough clout to defend their interests.

Thomas Frank wrote an excellent book about how the Republicans may be the party of the wealthy elite, representing the upper 1 percent of American income earners, but the Democrats are the party of the educated professional elite, representing the rest of the upper 10 percent.

This year’s political realignment may change this, as he himself implicitly acknowledged in a new article in Vanity Fair.  Under Hillary Clinton, Democrats are becoming the party of the upper 1 percent as well.  Here is the meat of what Frank wrote.

Rich Americans still have it pretty good. I don’t mean everything’s perfect: business regulations can be burdensome; Manhattan zoning can prevent the addition of a town-house floor; estate taxes kick in at over $5 million.   But life is acceptable. Barack Obama has not imposed much hardship, and neither will Hillary Clinton.

And what about Donald Trump?  Will rich people suffer if he is elected president?  Well, yes.  Yes, they will.  Because we all will.  But that’s a pat answer, because Trump and Trumpism are different things.  Trump is an erratic candidate who brings chaos to everything.  Trumpism, on the other hand, is the doctrine of a different Republican Party, one that would cater not to the donor class, but rather to the white working class.  Rich people do not like that idea.

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‘Do you think that we have reached the end?’

March 22, 2016

I can hardly wait to read Thomas Frank’s new book.

Here’s another excerpt.

A while ago I spoke at a firefighters convention in the Pacific Northwest, talking as I always do about the ways we have rationalized these changes to ourselves.

Firefighters are the sort of people we honor for their bravery, but they also happen to be blue-collar workers, and they have watched with increasing alarm what has been happening to folks like them for the last few decades . . . watched as the people formerly known as the heart and soul of this country had their lives taken apart bone by bone.

listen,liberal.9781627795395They themselves still make a decent living, I was told—they are some of the last unionized blue-collar workers who do—but they can see the inferno coming their way now, as their colleagues in other parts of the country get their contracts voided and their pensions reduced.

After I spoke, a firefighter from the Seattle area picked up the microphone. Workers had been watching their standard of living get whittled away for decades, he said, and up till now they had always been able to come up with ways to get by.

The first adjustment they made, he recalled, was when women entered the workforce.  Families “added that income, you got to keep your boat, or your second car, or your vacation, and everything was OK.”  Next, people ran up debt on their credit cards.  Then, in the last decade, people began “pulling home equity out,” borrowing against their houses.

“All three of those things have kept the middle class from having to sink down into abject poverty,” he said. But now all three coping mechanisms were at an end.  There were no more family members to send to work, the expiration date had passed for the home-equity MasterCard, and still wages sank. His question was this: “Is there a fourth economic savior out there, or do you think that maybe we have reached the end?”

I had no good answer for him.  Nobody does.

Source: Listen, Liberal

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Why was (and is) Bill Clinton so popular?

March 17, 2016

Thomas Frank has published another excerpt from his new book, Listen, Liberal., which I look forward to reading.  This one is about Bill Clinton, and why he is still so popular among working people and minorities despite having done so little for them when in the White House.

I would periodically ask my liberal friends if they could recall the progressive laws he got passed, the high-minded policies he fought for—you know, the good things Bill Clinton got done while he was president.   Why was it, I wondered, that we were supposed to think so highly of him—apart from his obvious personal charm, I mean?

Bill Clinton in 1992

Bill Clinton in 1992

It proved difficult for my libs.  People mentioned the obvious things: Clinton once raised the minimum wage and expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He balanced the budget.  He secured a modest tax increase on the rich.  And he did propose a national health program, although it didn’t get very far and was in fact so poorly designed it could be a model of how not to do big policy initiatives.

Other than that, not much.  No one could think of any great but hopeless Clintonian stands on principle; after all, this is the guy who once took a poll to decide where to go on vacation.  His presidency was all about campaign donations, not personal bravery—he basically rented out the Lincoln Bedroom, for chrissake, and at the end of his time in office he even appeared to sell a presidential pardon.

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Why millions of ordinary Americans back Trump

March 11, 2016

Donald Trump is a con man, a racist and a bully.  The record is clear.  But the world is full of confidence men, racists and bullies.  What sets him apart?

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas? and other great political books, took the trouble to listen for himself to several hours of Trump speeches (which I confess I have never done).

I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke.  I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years.

thomasfrank4718But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called left-wing. 

Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade.  In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy.   Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame.  He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney, he chose to pivot and talk about … trade.

It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.

Trump embellished this vision with another favorite left-wing idea: under his leadership, the government would “start competitive bidding in the drug industry”.  (“We don’t competitively bid!” he marveled – another true fact, a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.) 

Many liberals think that Trump supporters are simply out of touch with reality.  But they themselves are out of touch with how trade and immigration are changing American life.

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Corporate feminism and the cult of micro-lending

March 1, 2016

Thomas Frank, with his usual incisiveness, explains in the current issue of Harpers why so many rich liberals such as Hillary Clinton and Melinda Gates endorse micro-lending.

It is a way of identifying the interests of American women who aspire to be corporate executives or partners in law firms with Third World women basket-makers and market-place vendors.

Merely by providing impoverished individuals with a tiny loan of fifty or a hundred dollars, it was thought, you could put them on the road to entrepreneurial self-sufficiency, you could make entire countries prosper, you could bring about economic development itself.

What was most attractive about micro­-lending was what it was not, what it made unnecessary: any sort of collective action by poor people coming together in governments or unions.

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The Clinton legacy and the Democratic Party

February 17, 2016

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations taught the Republicans to accept the New Deal.

In recent times, the Clinton and Obama administrations taught the Democrats to accept Reaganomics.

Democrats cannot adequately represent working people unless they free themselves from that legacy.

Thomas Frank wrote a good article in The Guardian about this:

In my younger days, the Democratic party seemed always to be grappling with its identity, arguing over who they were and what they stood for all through the 1970s, the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

What Democrats had to turn away from, reformers of all stripes said in those days, was the supposedly obsolete legacy of the New Deal, with its fixation on working-class people.

What had to be embraced, the party’s reformers agreed, was the emerging post-industrial economy and in particular the winners of this new order: the highly educated professionals who populated its clean and innovative knowledge industries.

The figure that brought triumphant closure to that last internecine war was President Bill Clinton, who installed a new kind of Democratic administration in Washington.

Rather than paying homage to the politics of Franklin Roosevelt, Clinton passed trade deals that defied and even injured the labor movement, once his party’s leading constituency; he signed off on a measure that basically ended the federal welfare program; and he performed singular favors for the financial industry, the New Deal’s great nemesis.

Source: Thomas Frank | The Guardian

In the Reagan era, I thought that since the Republican Party had become an ideological party of the right, the Democratic Party would become an ideological party of the left, and this would result in meaningful choice for voters.

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What’s the matter with us liberal Democrats?

January 14, 2015

Barack_Obama_Hope_posterWhy did President Obama never crack down on the Wall Street banks that caused the financial crisis?

Why did Eric Holder’s Justice Department never prosecute financial fraud?  Why were the failed banks bailed out rather than put into receivership and reorganized, as was done after the savings and loan crisis?  Why didn’t the President hire regulators who were willing to do their jobs?

And why don’t we liberal Democrats care?

All these things, as Thomas Frank has pointed out with his usual eloquence, were (1) fully within the President’s power, (2) good policy and (3) hugely popular.  Instead the President invests his political capital in anti-worker initiatives such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The liberal Washington press corps says it is politically impossible for President Obama to do the things that his constituents elected him to do.  Frank debunked their arguments one by one, and pointed out that, if the pundits are right, then American politics is an exercise in futility and nothing will ever change for the better.

What the President offers working people are placebos.  He has proposed giving free tuition community college students who meet certain criteria.

I think this would be nice, but community college is already reasonably affordable.  The problem of student debt originates elsewhere.  And sending more people to college does not in itself generate more well-paying jobs.  In itself, it just means higher-educated servers at Starbucks.

I criticize President Obama a lot, but I think the deeper problem is that so many liberal Democrats are willing to go along with the Washington consensus he represents.  Thankfully, this is starting to change.

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It’s not just Fox News: how liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street by Thomas Frank for Salon.   Well worth reading in its entirety.

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The passing scene: Links & comments 9/30/14

September 30, 2014

Bernie Sanders: Longterm Democratic strategy is “pathetic”, an interview by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said the Democratic Party is too beholden to big-money donors to do anything meaningful for working people.  Instead Democrats pin their hopes on social issues, demographic changes and fear of Republican extremism.

Sanders told Thomas Frank that nothing is going to change until there is a political awakening in this country as to the power of big money and the need to overthrow it.

Obama’s Long Battle to Cut Social Security Benefits by Eric Zuesse for Washington’s Blog.

President Obama throughout his term of office has tirelessly campaigned for a budget-balancing bargain in which Social Security and Medicare would be cut.  This is not something Republicans have forced upon him.  It goes well beyond anything they have asked for.

None of this is a secret.  It is all on the public record.  Yet few of Obama’s supporters seem to notice.

Did Indiana Autoworkers Strike a Blow Against Two-Tier Contracts? by David Moberg for In These Times (via Bill Harvey)

Two-tier union contracts, in which newly-hired workers start at a lower pay rate than the incumbents, demonstrate the weakness and lack of solidarity of labor unions and their pessimism about the future.

The United Auto Workers signed a contract with a Lear Corp. auto parts plant in Hammond, Indiana, that supposedly restores the principle of equal pay for equal work.  But the price of the contract is wage reductions for sub-assembly workers.  So did the workers gain or lose?

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey, who sent me the link, pointed out that the two-tier benefits structure remains in place.

After Surgery, $117,000 Medical Bill from Doctor He Didn’t Know by Elisabeth Rosenthal for the New York Times.

Hospitals and physicians jack up medical bills by bringing in “out of network” consultants without asking the patient’s permission.  Not every ethical!

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David Malone, a British blogger who posts as Golem XIV, has written a new installment in his series about the strategy of the global over-class.   Here are links to the complete series so far.

The Next Crisis – Part One

The Next Crisis – Part Two – A manifesto for the supremacy of the 1%

The Next Crisis – Part Three – The World Turned Upside Down

These articles a bit long to read on a screen, but they contain good information and insight.

Why it made business sense to make bad loans

September 8, 2014
subprime

Click to enlarge

The subprime mortgage crisis was caused by bankers intentionally lending money to people without good incomes, sold assets or good credit records.

This is hard for a lot of people to understand.  As a friend of mine said, why would a bank lend her money unless they had good reason to believe that she would pay them back?

The answer is that what’s financially destructive for a bank as a corporation can be profitable for a banker as an individual.

Irresponsible-Borrowers-Cartoon4During the run-up to the subprime mortgage crisis, bankers got big bonuses for making high-interest loans, without regard to how risky those loans were.  In many cases, they were able to package financial instruments based on these mortgages, get high ratings for them from credit agencies and unload them on suckers.

There’s name for this practice.   It is “control fraud“.

But the Obama administration has chosen not to prosecute bankers.  Instead it is going after the small fry who put incorrect or incomplete information on their applications.   Thomas Frank wrote an article in Salon about how a California jury refused to convict a bunch of “liar’s loan” applicants on the grounds that you can’t mislead someone who isn’t interested in knowing the truth in the first place.

The article is worth reading for its clear explanation of how control fraud works, but I think Thomas Frank is over-optimistic about how much of a precedent the California jury’s verdict will create.  It depends on how many judges will allow this kind of defense to be made.  Many of them rule that the only issue is whether the form is filled out correctly, and that the largest context is irrelevant.

Alternatively the government could allow the banks to face the consequences of making bad loans.  This would provide an incentive for boards of directors to think about long-term consequences as well as short-term profit.  But the Obama administration, like administrations before it, has chosen to bail out the banks on the grounds that their failure would disrupt the economy.

The problem with bailouts is twofold.   Bailouts give recklessly-managed banks an advantage over prudently-managed banks.   And at some point the too-big-to-fail banks become too big to save.

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Some thoughts about national priorities

March 3, 2014

Mike Lofgren, author of The Party Is Over

During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there.

At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence.

Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people.

During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields.  This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined.  A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text.  They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

via Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State | Blog, Perspectives | BillMoyers.com.

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Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas?

“Inequality” is an inadequate word for the Big Smashup, but we need some term to describe all the things that have gone to make the lives of the rich so superlative and the lives of people who work so shitty and so precarious.

It is visible in the ever-rising cost of healthcare and college, in the deindustrialization of the Midwest and the ballooning of Wall Street, in the power of lobbying, in the dot-com bubble, in the housing bubble, in the commodities bubble.

It was made possible by the signal political events of our time: the collapse of the New Deal coalition; the decline of labor; the infernal populism of the New Right; the fall of antitrust and the triumph of deregulation; the rise of Ronald Reagan, and after him Newt Gingrich, and after him George W. Bush, and after him the Tea Party, all of them bringing their pet tax cuts with them to Washington.

The word is a polite one, but “inequality” is what we say when we mean to describe the ruined downtown of your city, or your constant fear that the next round of layoffs will include you, or the impeccable air conditioning of your boss’s McMansion, or the way you had to declare bankruptcy when your child got sick.  It is a pleasant-sounding euphemism for the Appalachification of our world.  “The defining challenge of our time”?: Oh, yes.

via Paul Krugman won’t save us: We need a new conversation about inequality – Salon.com.

Universities as businesses: students as cash cows

September 19, 2013

Thomas Frank wrote a great article in The Baffler of where American higher education is going.  He said a lot of things I’ve long said, but he said them better and more eloquently.

bors-youth-student-loan-debt-trophyYoung people today are told they have no possibility of ever getting a good job unless they have a college education.   But they know nothing about college, or what it has to offer.   Consequently they are helpless to prevent themselves from being cash cows for greedy college administrators, greedy textbook publishers and greedy lenders.  This isn’t true of everyone everywhere, but it is common and becoming more common.

The solution is obvious.   At least it is obvious to Thomas Frank, and to me.

College should become free or very cheap. It should be heavily subsidized by the states, and robust competition from excellent state U’s should in turn bring down the price of college across the board.  Pointless money-drains like a vast administration, a preening president, and a quasi-professional football team should all be plugged up.  Accrediting agencies should come down like a hammer on universities that use too many adjuncts and part-time teachers.  Student loan debt should be universally refinanced to carry little or no interest and should be discharge-able in bankruptcy, like any other form of debt.

But the obvious solution is highly unlikely to be adopted.

What actually will happen to higher ed, when the breaking point comes, will be an extension of what has already happened, what money wants to see happen. Another market-driven disaster will be understood as a disaster of socialism, requiring an ever deeper penetration of the university by market rationality.

Trustees and presidents will redouble their efforts to achieve some ineffable “excellence” they associate with tech and architecture and corporate sponsorships. There will be more standardized tests, and more desperate test-prep. The curriculum will be brought into a tighter orbit around the needs of business, just like Thomas Friedman wants it to be.

Professors will continue to plummet in status and power, replaced by adjuncts in more and more situations. An all-celebrity system, made possible by online courses or some other scheme, will finally bring about a mass faculty extinction—a cataclysm that will miraculously spare university administrations. And a quality education in the humanities will once again become a rich kid’s prerogative.

via The Baffler.

Student-Debt-CartoonPeople wonder why the U.S. economy is so slow to recover.  Young people have no money to spare because they are burdened with college debt.  Their parents have no money to spare because they are paying off underwater mortgages.  Their grandparents have no money to spare because they have no private pensions and they haven’t been able to save.   Again, this isn’t true of everyone, everywhere, but it is common and becoming more common.

People my age (I’m 76) who belittle today’s young people don’t remember how good we had it.  College tuition was affordable, working your way through college was feasible and nobody began life with a debt burden they might never pay off.

Click on Academy Fight Song for Thomas Frank’s full magnificent survey of the American higher education money machine.

Click on How the American University Was Killed, in Five Easy Steps, by the ‘Junct Rebellion for another splendid overview.