The Dow plunges 40% in one year. You tell me: which fella looks like Herbert Hoover and which one looks like FDR?

I recorded this interview with the University of Pennsylvania’s Adolph Reed just about a year ago, while the Dow was still cheerfully flirting with 14,000, and it originally ran on How The University Works on January 17th of this year. The sound isn’t great–I hadn’t figured out the importance of a lapel mike. But the ideas are making more sense than ever.

Reed proposes that we pay the tuition of all students at public colleges and universities in the U.S.

“The laughable thing about it,” he said, “is that it is so cheap, so unbelievably cheap. It’s the kind of sum, I hate to say it, that Congress passes out as a tip in corporate welfare.”

As if he were channeling the bailout he continued, “It’s like, ‘Here’s $900 billion–and take another $40 billion for the cab ride home.'”

While you might think austerity is an appropriate response to three decades of bungling, it’s probably time to break the “quality management” pattern of austerity with the aim of accumulating money pots that our executive class then spends freely. This has been public policy as economic feudalism, primitive accumulation: drain the serfs so that the aristocrats can buy baubles for their paramours.

Robert Reich argues persuasively that we’ll need to spend our way out of this crapstorm.

I agree. And what better way to spend some chump change than on completely tuition-free public higher education for everyone who wants it?

This is a practical, realizable ambition, says Reed–a canny investment in our collective economic wellbeing, he argues, as well as a long-overdue step toward greater equality. We could do it for less than $50 billion annually.

In part 1 of the video we talk about the way that higher ed produces a vast, captive workforce of students. 78% of undergraduates work an average of 30 hours per week, or twice as much as even the most corporate-friendly surveys think is beneficial (if the work were connected with a course of study–and most is not).

See my account of the savage exploitation of student workers here and if you think I’m exaggerating (I’m not), then take it up with the ACE.

Taking students out of the workforce would create more jobs for non-students. Students would actually acquire educations. Schools might start to graduate their students in percentages resembling those of Canada and Europe, instead of pretending that 6-year graduation rates of 40% are “normal” and not the fault of the freebooters jacking their own salaries through the roof and turning the faculty into Wal-mart greeters.

Hell, let’s go whole hog. Let’s spend some of the revenue on faculty and not on business centers. And while we’re on this whole socialist joy ride, let’s cap administrative pay at, say, four times the pay of the lowest full-time-equivalent faculty salary. So if you pay contingent faculty 2000 a class, and a full load is 4-4, the most the top administrator could earn is 4x 16,000, or $64,000. Sounds fair to me.

Boy, this is fun. The “economy” should melt down more often.






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