Why Clinton’s New Tuition-Free Higher Ed Plan Matters

by Corey Robin on July 6, 2016

The Clinton campaign made a major announcement today:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will pursue a debt-free college for all policy, including a proposal to eliminate the cost of college tuition for a significant portion of the public.

Clinton’s new proposals move her beyond previous statements that she would try to make college “as debt-free as possible“ and toward making “debt-free college available to all.”

Clinton is adding three features to her plan for higher education policy, called the “New College Compact.“ They include eliminating tuition at in-state public universities for families making under $125,000 by 2021 and restoring year-round Pell Grant funding so students can take summer classes to finish school quicker.


The plan isn’t great. I think means-testing higher ed makes about as much sense as means-testing Social Security or elementary school (though, alas, we still do that in this country through local funding and property taxes). I would have preferred free higher ed for everyone.

That said, and assuming Clinton can get this plan through (a big assumption), this is still a big step forward. For three reasons.

First, lots of men and women—students and their families—will get this benefit, not in a far-off time, but soon. And make no mistake: whether you’re going to CUNY, where annual tuition is a little over $6000, or Berkeley or Michigan, where in-state tuition is about $13,000, this will come as welcome relief to a lot of people.

Second, and more important for the long term, I’ve been saying forever that the biggest challenge facing contemporary liberalism is that, from the point of view of the average taxpayer, it has so little to offer. Imagine you’re someone who lives in a house with the median household income of about $54,000 per year. You pay your taxes, but what do you concretely get for the taxes? Sure, I can point to the roads (which are often falling apart) or the schools (which are often not so good), or, down the line, to Social Security or Medicare (which, we’re often told, aren’t in great shape either, and in the case of Social Security, certainly can’t fund a retirement). But it’s hard to make the case to your average man or woman that taxes fund things that help you concretely and directly. Particularly when, at least going back to Mondale, the only message we’ve heard from Democrats on taxes is either: a) we’ll cut them; or b) we’ll increase them in order to cut the deficit and pay off the debt.

Way beyond anything between Clinton v. Sanders, this plan by Clinton is something that can, potentially, change the way people think about their taxes and what the state can do for them. It’s a step toward a political and ideological realignment.

That said, there’s this, too:

The new plan, announced by [Clinton’s] campaign Wednesday, incorporates a major plank of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) platform and is a direct result of the private meeting Clinton had with the Vermont senator in June, the campaign said.

Clinton’s embrace of one of the most popular parts of Sanders’ platform comes as she is trying to get his core supporters — including many young people worried about college debt — to enthusiastically support her candidacy in November.

Sanders gained huge support among young voters by pushing for tuition-free public colleges nationwide, and Clinton now says she would do that for families making less than $125,000.


Which brings me to my third reason.

At moments like this, you really need to get beyond the personal politics a lot of DC and media people want to make all politics into. Despite the fact that they accuse Bernie supporters of being a cult, of worshipping an ancient socialist patriarch, they’re the ones who often think of these electoral campaigns completely in terms of personality, of who’s winning and who’s losing. To my mind, this announcement today goes way beyond the Clinton/Sanders horserace or the Clinton/Trump race. If there is anyone to be celebrated here, it’s the millions of people—particularly young people—who pushed so hard during this campaign, and who have been slowly changing American politics outside the electoral realm.

One of the biggest challenges facing democracy—as opposed to liberalism—and democratic ways of thinking and doing things, is the sense, among a lot of citizens, that political action, whether in the electoral realm or the streets, doesn’t matter. That sense is not delusion; there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that on some fundamentals, it doesn’t matter, at least not yet. But you don’t change that common sense by repeating it over and over to people. Sometimes, we on the left do that. We forget that when we do, we’re not telling the average citizen anything she doesn’t already know. We’re merely repeating what she does know. And reinforcing her sense that there’s really no point in even trying to do anything, whether at the voting booth or in the streets.

It’s way too soon to say what I’m about to say, but I’ll say it anyway: If this plan of Clinton’s does come to pass—again, a big if—it could help, ever so slightly (I stress that ever so slightly), change our sense, if we claim this victory as our own (not as a beneficent handout of an elite neoliberal politician but as a response to real pressure from citizens, particularly younger citizens who have been active in so many social movements these last few years), it could help change our sense of where power lies. It could help more people see what the good activist and the smart organizer already sees: that if we could just possibly get our shit together, we might, sometimes, find power elsewhere. Not power in the abstract, but power to change the concrete terms and conditions of our daily lives.

So here’s my new (really, hardly new at all, and actually not mine) political slogan, as we enter a season of (I hope) increasing, if ultimately finite, concessions from the neoliberal state: Take this, demand more, seize all.

Update (6:45 pm)

A hepful Vox piece reports on three other elements of the Clinton college plan that we should not be thrilled about.

What you need to remember—and I had forgotten—is that today’s plan builds off the previous plans Clinton has announced. Those plans featured three elements, which, according to this article, will remain in play and will apply to the tuition-free plan:

First, the funding for the tuition-free plan will follow the Obamacare Medicaid expansion model, which—thanks to the Supreme Court—states can refuse to participate in. That’s exactly what happened with Republican states. So even within the less than $125k range, this isn’t guaranteed to be a universal benefit.

Second, students have to work ten hours a week to get the benefit. That seems like a huge boondoggle of free labor either to the university (which might wind up firing workers) or to local employers (which could do the same). Not to mention that the whole point of taxpayer-financed benefits like this is that you deserve them as a right of citizenship—and pay for them as a taxpayer—and not because you’re earning them as a worker.

John Protevi pointed out to me that in her famous Daily News interview, Clinton gave us a sense of what she had in mind:

Okay, so you’ve got the states, you’ve got the institutions and you’ve got the families, and then students who want to take advantage of debt-free tuition have to agree to work 10 hours a week. It’s work-study at the college or university, because a couple of public institutions — Arizona State University being a prime example — have lowered their costs by using students for a lot of the work. Yes, it’s free. It’s in effect in exchange for lower tuition. So I want that to be part of the deal.

And here is a nice primer on what that Arizona State program looks like in practice:
Education at Work (EAW) begins expansion outside Cincinnati, where it was founded, at Arizona State University in an innovative three-way partnership with worldwide online payments system company PayPal. Students working at the non-profit contact center will have the opportunity to earn up to $6,000 a year in GPA-based tax-free tuition assistance in addition to an hourly wage. The students will work as part-time employees in a fast-paced, collaborative contact center environment responding to social media and email inquiries.

Go PayPal!

Third, colleges and universities have to “work to lower the cost of actually providing the education — by, for instance, experimenting with technology to lower the cost of administration.” A link in the piece takes us to an article that elaborates thus:

It’s not yet clear what colleges would be required to do about costs in order to participate in the grants, but the adviser mentioned keeping spending on administration in check and using technology to lower the cost of education — for example, making it easier for some students to fulfill some requirements online. (Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, a provider of free online courses, was one of the advisers on Clinton’s plan, according to the campaign.)

The neoliberal state giveth. And the neoliberal taketh—and taketh.

 

{ 150 comments }

1

awy 07.06.16 at 6:34 pm

you can have free college if there is sufficiently high standards, plus legitimate options for vocational training etc for those left out of college. just throwing money at the dorm building industry isn’t going to cut it

2

mjfgates 07.06.16 at 6:55 pm

“Take this, demand more, seize all.” That does seem to be what works, doesn’t it?

3

The Temporary Name 07.06.16 at 6:56 pm

If there is anyone to be celebrated here, it’s the millions of people—particularly young people—who pushed so hard during this campaign, and who have been slowly changing American politics outside the electoral realm.

Absolutely. It’s a huge effort and a long grind. My admiration goes to them and, of course, to you Corey, in your roles as advocate and activist. Good work.

4

Bob Costas 07.06.16 at 8:08 pm

Since the human capital model of higher education has been thoroughly debunked at this point, what exactly is the benefit of this supposed to be?

5

Marc 07.06.16 at 8:26 pm

@3: The millions of young people putting themselves into a lot of debt can see the point; what’s your blind spot?

6

Bob Costas 07.06.16 at 8:33 pm

I don’t think shifting the burden of the debt onto the public at large is better. In fact it’s worse because the subsidy to tuition will incentivize even more people to pursue tertiary education.

Surely the superior option is to _increase_ tuition to disincentivize people from taking on the debt in the first place?

7

Collin Street 07.06.16 at 8:41 pm

> I don’t think shifting the burden of the debt onto the public at large is better.

Your errors are invisible to you [if you could see your errors you wouldn’t make them, obviously]; the errors of others are much more visible.

Which means, inversely, that if you don’t understand why a person is doing something, it’s a good sign of an error on your part.

8

Collin Street 07.06.16 at 8:44 pm

If you want to rectify your mistakes, then… a blocky approach to being told things you don’t currently believe, that’s not gonna get you there.

9

Bob Costas 07.06.16 at 8:50 pm

Oh I understand why people are taking on debt to go to school, and why they would rather not pay for it. I’d rather not pay for the ice cream I’m eating right now. But from the societal perspective this behavior simply amounts to malinvestment, even though (obviously) it makes sense for the individual students. Surely good government should look to the interest of the nation/economy/world at large instead of the wasteful interests of a subset of the population?

10

merian 07.06.16 at 9:06 pm

I don’t think shifting the burden of the debt onto the public at large is better. In fact it’s worse because the subsidy to tuition will incentivize even more people to pursue tertiary education.

And your argument against a more educated citizenry is…? [1]

[1] I include vocational and other options outside the classical college offer in this.

11

someguy88 07.06.16 at 9:09 pm

This just what Democracy and America needs. Another Frankenstein slush fund for the Democratic party. Hey you guys and gals have been doing such a great job at controlling costs, cough, cough, cough (I almost choked to death writing that) here is a blank check from the federal government and here is another blank check from your state.

12

medrawt 07.06.16 at 9:11 pm

The argument, I assume, is that free-ish college for most is likely to be understood not as a pure good because the availability of education for whichever citizens desire to pursue it is a wonderful thing, but as part of the multi-decade, never-can-fail-can-only-be-failed society-wide conviction that education is the solution to poverty and/or inequality. Because a nation of policymakers one day noticed that people with college degrees made more than people without them, and thereby had the genius notion that if everyone went to college, everyone would earn more.

So debt-free college, in the abstract, is wonderful. But I for one (not to speak for Mr. Costas, whose Olympic coverage my mother could not abide because his eyes were “an inhuman shade of blue”) would not want it INSTEAD of (a whole bunch of stuff we’re not gonna get in the next decade anyway).

13

Collin Street 07.06.16 at 9:17 pm

Surely good government should look to the interest of the nation/economy/world at large instead of the wasteful interests of a subset of the population?

Well, sure. But your use of the word “wasteful” indicates pretty clearly that you’re not thinking about this clearly [“wasteful” makes it question-begging, see]; your questions are the wrong ones for clearing up your misunderstandings.

I’m not going to be putting a lot of effort into answering these questions; based on past experience, you’re going to explore an avenue that’s going to be pretty useless in terms of helping you see the misunderstandings you’re under.

[if you misunderstand the situation you also misunderstand the path to fixing your understanding, because as far as you’re concerned, obviously, your understanding is correct. When you’re in error your instincts are all wrong, see.]

14

Collin Street 07.06.16 at 9:26 pm

I mean, your premises for every conclusion are the sum of a lifetime’s experience and logic, and your actual conclusions are a few short deductive-reasoning steps. It’s far more likely that the errors that emerge in your conclusions are errors in your foundations, your premises, than in those few short steps.

Which means fixing the errors in your thinking about X doesn’t actually involve all that much thinking about X, it’s more about finding your erroneous premises.

15

cassander 07.06.16 at 9:30 pm

>(though, alas, we still do that in this country through local funding and property taxes).

This line is decades out of date. Schools are, in most states, no longer funded through local property taxes. They’re funded largely at the state level.

>First, lots of men and women—students and their families—will get this benefit, not in a far-off time, but soon.

The upper middle class will benefit at the expense of the bottom 2-3/5s who don’t go to college.

>Second, and more important for the long term, I’ve been saying forever that the biggest challenge facing contemporary liberalism is that, from the point of view of the average taxpayer, it has so little to offer.

This is a very good point, one I make often. But this will not be changed by Clinton’s policy. Instead of debt, the middle class will get higher taxes that will, on average, amount to more or less the same amount of money.

>Way beyond anything between Clinton v. Sanders, this plan by Clinton is something that can, potentially, change the way people think about their taxes and what the state can do for them. It’s a step toward a political and ideological realignment.

The credentialed middle class is already overwhelmingly democratic. Getting them isn’t a re-alignment, it’s the status quo. For a re-alignment, you need to appeal to the most republican demographic, whites with no college degree.

16

Bob Costas 07.06.16 at 9:37 pm

@merian

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an educated populace, but considering the lack of a (causal) connection between education and human capital, there’s something wrong with _spending tons of money_ on an educated populace. You could try to go for an “educated people vote better” argument, but educated people are just as rationally ignorant as anyone else. Education doesn’t solve public choice problems, incentives alignment does.

@Collin

I’m not sure what it is you think I’m misunderstanding. Please clarify. Perhaps you’re not acquainted with the literature on the economics of education? There’s scant evidence to support the human capital angle. Type in “sheepskin effect” on google scholar and you’ll find some good entry points.

17

someguy88 07.06.16 at 9:41 pm

Collin Street,

Pot kettle, goose gander, bowels of Christ, rubber glue, here is a mirror.

All your premises are wrong. Sorry no time to explain and you wouldn’t understand any way.

18

Rich Puchalsky 07.06.16 at 10:15 pm

Damned toddlers are wasting our free kindergarten money too. We don’t need to pay for kids to what, play with blocks? Learn how to read? Eat ice cream? That’s just paying me to eat ice cream.

I’ll be interested to see whether HRC can actually make this happen. Good for her if she does.

19

Alan White 07.06.16 at 10:18 pm

I agree this proposal has merit. But in implementing it, something had better be done about defining exactly what a public institution is, if only to assure excluding rapacious for-profits. E.g. I work for a public university that receives less than 20% of total funding from the public.

20

Jeff R. 07.06.16 at 10:19 pm

Unless there’s a plan for existing student loan debt being executed alongside, this looks like a perfect formula for making 22-30 year olds loathe and resent their immediate younger cohort.

21

jgtheok 07.06.16 at 10:21 pm

Bob@15
Actually, the very top article Google spat out for me was a survey of some research on that question. It claimed that current research gives strong evidence for both improved skills and a credential effect. Mostly skills for grade school, a more even split for college degrees, but most definitely not “scant evidence” of human capital.
See http://www.nas.org/articles/The_Sheepskin_Effect

Not sure what search bubble you’re currently living in, but it must be radically different from mine…

22

Rich Puchalsky 07.06.16 at 10:26 pm

cassander: “The upper middle class will benefit at the expense of the bottom 2-3/5s who don’t go to college. […]. Instead of debt, the middle class will get higher taxes that will, on average, amount to more or less the same amount of money.”

They will benefit at the expense of the bottom 2-3/5s, except that they won’t benefit.

Also note the easy slippage from Hirsch _Social Limits to Growth_ style “if a college degree becomes a job requirement for everyone, then everyone feels that it’s necessary to get one but they end up getting no positional benefits from doing so” to “it doesn’t benefit a community to have a university in it.” I recommend that communities where people predominantly think this way close down all of their wasteful universities and make their students attend universities in my state.

23

Priest 07.06.16 at 10:39 pm

Presuming the existence of a such a program, even if it had no effect on the number of people going to college, the elimination of student loan debt would be positive – post college income that would have gone to debt service can go towards consumption, boosting the economy more beneficially than if the same money was going towards boosting financial corporations’ profits. If the program induces more people to attend college, even if those extra people get no wage benefit from college compared to not attending, their partial or complete absence from the job market will improve the job prospects for those who don’t go to college.

24

Corey Robin 07.06.16 at 11:11 pm

Hi all. I’ve posted an update to the post. There are some additional caveats to my guarded enthusiasm.

25

Rich Puchalsky 07.06.16 at 11:48 pm

Well, after the update, I no longer think this is a good idea. I should have known better in the first place then to expect anything good from this candidate.

Let me guess: it would be implemented Bush-prescription-benefit style where the government doesn’t get to negotiate the price of the services it’s buying. Then universities jack up the tuition even more, no one who isn’t in the “free” program can afford to go, and we approach the ideal neoliberal limit of all labor being carceral labor.

26

gbh 07.06.16 at 11:48 pm

cassander

In texas they have the robin hood plan. Yet if you actually live there you see clearly how public schools in richer communities have better facilities. How is this?

27

awy 07.07.16 at 12:05 am

well this in-state lock-in combined with states opting out may produce two outcomes.

1. some states get left behind, dragging their students down.
2. mobilization of the youth of a state to be more politically active in pushing for opt in by the state government.

2. may make 1. a short termed thing.

28

bob mcmanus 07.07.16 at 12:37 am

Re:update. I was always going to wait for the fine print. Workfare worked out so well in the 90s. New Clinton same or worse than old Clinton.

29

Anderson 07.07.16 at 12:54 am

Such a classic CT thread.

30

engels 07.07.16 at 1:08 am

Yep, it’s hard to get quite so enthusiastic about ‘US re-introduces Corvée labour for poor students’ I think…

31

Layman 07.07.16 at 1:21 am

At some point, the chattering classes have to wake up to the fact that the problem of declining work force participation and declining wages is largely not the result of any skills or education gap. The notion of universal college education is a holdover from the 90’s, a prescription for what to do about job losses in manufacturing, etc. It was probably wrong then and definitely wrong now. By all means, let’s offer free college to everyone, but what people really need in the absence of jobs is free money.

32

john c. halasz 07.07.16 at 1:34 am

So what’s the point of providing free or low tuition to public universities for all, while at the same time ignoring the huge debt-loads that 20-or-30-or-older-something are still laboring under? Is that “fair”? (BTW the total outstanding debt for public uni. tuition stands at about $500 bn, just about the same as the deficit in public uni. financing since 40 years ago, assuming the rates of public financing had remained the same at the 40 years-ago level). Jill Stein has proposed reducing past student debt, much of which is actually held my the Federal gov. at profitable rates (sic!), presumably though a Fed purchasing program (‘people’s QE”, eh?). The principal returned to private holders of such debt could be contained by raising bank capital requirements, (which desperately needs doing anyway). So who ya gonna vote for?

33

cassander 07.07.16 at 2:56 am

@Rich Puchalsky

>They will benefit at the expense of the bottom 2-3/5s, except that they won’t benefit.

to the extent that they benefit, they will do so at the expense of the bottom 2/3-5ths. is that so hard to understand?

> I recommend that communities where people predominantly think this way close down all of their wasteful universities and make their students attend universities in my state.

Did diminishing returns stop being a thing?

@gbh

>In texas they have the robin hood plan. Yet if you actually live there you see clearly how public schools in richer communities have better facilities. How is this?

If all the schools get more or less the same money per pupil, and some are still worse, the only sensible conclusion is that money is not the most important factor. If you accept that that’s the case, then please stop complaining about lack of money and implying problems could all be solved with more.

34

RNB 07.07.16 at 3:44 am

35

Faustusnotes 07.07.16 at 5:18 am

It’s funny how capitalists all want to get rich, but when public services are in trouble they always argue that more money can’t fix problems.

36

Yankee 07.07.16 at 5:31 am

It’s the high schools, stupid.

PS, if you want to win the hearts of working-class America, fund their kids’ sports/band/drama whatnot.

37

Ben 07.07.16 at 5:43 am

It’s interesting the ACA is explicitly called out as a model by Clinton, because one of the huge recent effects of the ACA is that the funding it promised to insurers in order to “make up for” having to abide by its requirements isn’t materializing.

Insurers are thus making long-term decisions thinking that they can’t rely on that money.

This has made insurers 1) experiment with other pricing structures and 2) drastically expand a business model where they essentially act as bureaucratic processing facilities for companies who self-insure their own employees.

If the same funding snafu happened to the academic market – which it would – responses would probably line up in similar ways.

A 1)-type response might mean “fees” outside the sticker cost of tuition (maybe another way of getting to the scenario Rich Pulchasky outlines), different tiers of education for different students, etc. A 2)-type response might be putting the imprimatur of their institution on an Udacity-like course, which is clearly what the plan is angling toward anyway.

Say what you want about neoliberalism, but at least it’s really good at making public services shittier while providing captive markets for private businesses.

38

Peter Dorman 07.07.16 at 7:10 am

This comment thread really misses the point of the OP, in my opinion. Let’s put aside for now questions about the merits of higher ed and consider this in purely political terms. Even with the Clintonoid fine print, it’s a step forward. And, just as mass mobilization pushed Clinton in the direction of Sanders on this issue, more mobilization can possibly rewrite the fine print at some later point.

Everyone who cares about politics should read the Gilens and Page study from a couple of years ago. There are two main takeaways: (1) the opinions of most people have essentially no weight in the political process (2) except when they organize collectively. What’s important about the Sanders eruption this year is not the guy himself or the specifics of his program but the extent of bottom-up organizing. The only thing that matters is to understand the power of mobilization and to keep it going. I strongly agree with CR that people need to see benefits/victories from organized public pressure in order for it to be self-sustaining.

39

Ben 07.07.16 at 7:34 am

That’s all well and good, but even by that metric “Clinton proposes elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that has an exceedingly high likelihood of shitting up academia” isn’t much to celebrate (except in an Overton-window sense, which good luck making the argument that that’s a big deal in a political environment where her opponent runs his own scam university).

If you want to cheerlead something, cheerlead the Sanders people who are taking his data to congressional races and political fights outside the electoral process where your encouragement can do some good. (And I’m not saying that just because I’m a part of that effort. . .)

40

bob mcmanus 07.07.16 at 7:37 am

36: It’s interesting the ACA is explicitly called out as a model by Clinton

Yeah, without following the links, I guessed that students would not receive “free tuition” but a check from the gov’t, maybe a bureau or new division. The idea would be providing “choice” to students, competition between schools, but especially a new flow/stock of cash from tax revenue through finance.

37: The neoliberals aren’t dumb, and have the goal of embedding the new safety net in finance to an irrevocable and permanent degree, such that reforming or socializing or nationalizing them will require a total, revolutionary, and prohibitively expensive restructuring of the entire political economy. An example is the way retirements are now embedded, via 401ks etc, in the equity and bond markets.

more mobilization can possibly rewrite the fine print at some later point.

Tell it to the Greeks and French.

41

bob mcmanus 07.07.16 at 7:43 am

I forgot of course the goal of globalizing the financial stocks of national and domestic social programs, via free capital markets and the trade treaties, so that overseas investors have a statutory or effective veto over democratic reforms. In order to do that, first you need to financialize or securitize the funding.

42

Blech 07.07.16 at 8:45 am

I think your caveats imply that they have coopted another idea that involves blowing smoke in our eyes. If this is the ‘aspirational’ plan imagine with the compromise plan will look like.

This is how they avoid change–they create something intricate to wallpaper over the need, it becomes confusing and unpopular and a source of resentment eventually. A two-income middle class family slightly over the cap will be hopeful they qualify, then perplexed by the rules showing they don’t, a slightly less affluent family may see minimal gains…but most won’t get anything out of it. (Even struggling families in more expensive areas or with more children may not.) Thus, everyone will resent their tax bill more and their tuition bill more–because they imagine someone is getting what they aren’t. They’ll heap the resentment on the poorer students. I predict this will also open the door to attack public universities. Likely, they’ll also do some convoluted thing to the standard financial aid programs.

This result is exactly what Sanders’ proposals are designed to avoid. This result is exactly what most social spending policies of Democrats are designed to create.

When Republicans come along and say government doesn’t work and it costs you but benefits someone other than you–Democrats will have fertilized the field for them once again.

43

SamChevre 07.07.16 at 9:52 am

Can I note that the “10 hours of work a week” is not some innovation–it’s the way “need” for financial aid is calculated now.

I can’t see any plan for free college working unless there is some form of cost control–not user cost, but actual cost of provision.

44

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 10:09 am

Awy #1: ” just throwing money at the dorm building industry isn’t going to cut it”

Bob Costas #5: “it’s worse because the subsidy to tuition will incentivize even more people to pursue tertiary education.”

Bob Costas #8: “Surely good government should look to the interest of the nation/economy/world at large instead of the wasteful interests of a subset of the population?”

Someguy88 #10: “doing such a great job at controlling costs, cough, cough, cough (I almost choked to death writing that)”

Medrawt #11: “would not want it INSTEAD of (a whole bunch of stuff…)”

Cassander #14: “The upper middle class will benefit at the expense of the bottom 2-3/5s who don’t go to college.”

Bob Costas #15: “Education doesn’t solve public choice problems, incentives alignment does.”

—- Above we find all the evidence necessary to show that civilization is going down the tubes. These comments are equivalent to:

“The amount of money in the world is fixed, and fostering creativity and innovation can never grow the pie larger, and it can never pay-off the resulting debt SOONER than before (because we, the commenters, cannot do the simple math).”

“Money does NOT go in a cycle: so, if you spend it here, it CANNOT later be spent over there (because, we the commenters, do not understand how the economy works).”

“We already know what kids are going to do with their lives, so it does no good to educate them beyond that, and give them the space and time to find out for themselves (because we, the commenters, do not know how other human beings grow).”

“It is much better to socially-engineer the future according to our own expectations about how other people should already fit into the market system, by using incentives! (because we, the commenters, believe that if we put the The System ahead of individual human beings, golly it will somehow all work, someday).”

45

ترول 07.07.16 at 10:53 am

“fostering creativity and innovation can never grow the pie larger, and it can never pay-off the resulting debt SOONER than before (because we, the commenters, cannot do the simple math).”

Or, just maybe, the commenters don’t believe that the mere fact that something is labeled as a university education is a sufficient guarantee that it will increase pie-growing “creativity and innovation” among its students? If that were the argument for making higher education free to the students (and it really shouldn’t be – it surrenders the moral high ground to economics right at the start), then the way to achieve it would be to set up some nice neoliberal evaluation system to measure the impact of a given degree on the economy, and subsidize only sufficiently productive ones.

46

kidneystones 07.07.16 at 11:00 am

It has everything to do with ‘missing white woman’ and bright, shiny objects.

“Iraq, Tony Blair, Chilcot, Email, Extremely careless?” Hey, lookee, kids! Free money!

And so it goes, many of us asked how HRC proposed to magically transform herself into Sanders and here we have it. To ” If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” “Your premiums will go down, and “My first act will be to close Gitmo” we can add “Free university! (some conditions may apply) TM.

A promise is only a plan if the powers that be actually follow through on the substance. The only notable aspect of this press release from the Hillary campaign, timed to drive the news cycle away from a mountain of evidence detailing HRC’s blood lust and dishonesty, is that normally sensible people swallow this goop like mother’s milk.

Sanders certainly doesn’t believe a word coming out of her mouth. He hasn’t endorsed her, or quit. Evidently, Bernie feels that HRC will say anything to try to get off the hot seat and cynically try to convince Bernie supporters that she was for free university all along.

I mean that’s clearly the topic of all those 225k a pop speeches to Goldman Sachs, et al. That’s what she was pitching to the banksters – pony up for free education. The reason she never came clean about her speeches is now obvious.

Humility.

47

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 11:32 am

ترول “a sufficient guarantee that it will increase pie-growing ‘creativity and innovation’ among its students?”

Wait a minute.

First, If I write that it is false to say, “fostering creativity and innovation can never grow the pie larger,” this does NOT imply that “growing the pie larger” is the ONLY justification for creativity and innovation.

It does, however, mean that you should get yourself to a class in logic!

Second, You are correct, the premise that education should result in marketable goods and services, appears to be the underlying premise of the commenters I objected to.

And I agree with you there: it is a fairly idiotic premise. We don’t know whether education will be economically productive or not, and we should not care.

As to where creativity and innovation come from, marketable or not, we don’t really know, and there is no such guarantee, IN ANY CASE. But surely, giving free time and space to all people is the way to proceed.

48

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 11:59 am

If you talk about university education as a public good, then people will tediously say that it isn’t and that you should describe it as having positive externalities. But the presence of a university really is a public good for the community that it is in. It is non-excludable (it produces a benefit for the whole community) and nonrivalrous (some people benefiting don’t use up the benefit). People who think otherwise should, as I wrote above, feel free to make their areas even more backwards flyover hellholes than they already are.

So then there’s the question of how many universities / how many students are enough. Note that the people arguing this seem to think that the market magically decides the right amount of this public good.

I agree that some people go to university who have no real interest in going to university, but feel that they have to for their job prospects. The way to fix this is obviously to stop making it so that people need jobs in order to live. Once some people are able to drop out of the jobs system, employers will have to offer better terms to the people who remain, and one obvious way to do this is to stop needless credentialism — after all, it doesn’t cost the employer anything to drop the requirement for a credential that isn’t really needed for the job.

49

awy 07.07.16 at 2:47 pm

my comment was mainly about changing the way higher ed institutions spend, currently not yielding very good returns for students. this focus on making college more amenable to rich kids is not conducive to ‘making the pie bigger.’

50

awy 07.07.16 at 2:49 pm

#44

so sanders is correct to doubt hillary because there is no actual actionable plan behind the rhetoric, while we are supposed to take sanders rhetoric at face value because…?

51

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 3:08 pm

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 11:32 am @ 45 —
If producing something has costs, most people are going to think that they should be taken into consideration in judging the benefits of the product. They will probably care, then, whether education, whose costs have become considerable, produces things of value to them. Since much of the product of present higher education seems to be invidious credentialism, this is a rather paradoxical situation; the positional benefits of a credential appear to be a private, individual good, of no use to the community as a whole. (Actually, it might have negative value, since it could contribute to the formation of an incompetent mandarin class.) It might be worthwhile to pay some attention to the basic intuition that one should get something perceptible for one’s effort, time, attention, money. Indeed, it could be revolutionary.

52

NeonTrotsky 07.07.16 at 4:11 pm

Well on the bright side people would be paying exactly what online classes are worth

53

someguy88 07.07.16 at 4:18 pm

If the proposal was to say end farm subsidies and give every high school graduate 10K my reaction would be different.

Questioning the marginal value of shoveling 35 soon to be 70 billion a year into what even sympathizers term an elaborate Rube Goldberg contraption does not mean I hate children or higher education or the combination of the two.

54

ترول 07.07.16 at 4:21 pm

Anarcissie: Very nicely put. If the public at large are being asked to subsidize university education (as they already do anyway, through the underwriting of student loans), it is entirely natural that they should ask whether it produces things of value to them.

The broader issue is that this proposal is happening in the context of a couple of decades of pushing to make university into a prerequisite for any kind of decent job, including many that used not to demand it. Drawbacks of this trend include:
– it offloads employers’ training expenses onto employees and the government.
– it has let universities raise their fees much, much faster than inflation.
– it fills universities with uninterested people who only came to get some credentials…
– …and wastes several years of their lives on something they don’t care about and wouldn’t have needed.
– it makes life a lot harder for people without degrees…
– …and hence makes them likely to feel resentment and hostility towards universities.

I find it very reasonable to ask the public at large to subsidise people to seek greater understanding of humanity and the universe, and I think a fair proportion of the public agree. But I don’t see any reason why the public should pay to get someone a piece of paper that their employer is using as an arbitrary filter.

55

RNB 07.07.16 at 4:30 pm

It’s not Clinton’s plan that has really changed; it’s Sanders out of Democratic loyalty giving the plan his imprimatur and even calling it revolutionary and providing his supporters evidence their electoral efforts will have indeed played some role in pushing this reform up the agenda next year if they now help to get Clinton elected.

Sanders has provided this support at the crucial time that Americans have discovered that Hillary Clinton had written vaguely and impressionistically in her emails about a previously unknown drone program in Pakistan and disclosed a state secret that no one anywhere in the world had known about.

56

RNB 07.07.16 at 4:35 pm

Do note that the UC Berkeley program is more generous because it explicitly takes living costs into consideration and then does not allow total costs to exceed 15% of the family’s income if that income is below not $125 but $150K. Of course at Berkeley that was part of a compromise to raise tuition. My worry is that to compensate for the subsidy UC Berkeley will eventually have to raise tuition to the point where an increasing number of the richer families may think that their kids would be better off at an expensive private liberal arts college, and we could do damage to the public university system. There could be as always unintended consequences about this plan.

57

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 4:48 pm

Anarcissie “If producing something has costs, most people are going to think that they should be taken into consideration in judging the benefits of the product.”

ترول “If the public at large are being asked to subsidize university education (as they already do anyway, through the underwriting of student loans), it is entirely natural that they should ask whether it produces things of value to them.”

There is nothing “natural” about this at all. There is no way on earth that the benefits of education to society and economy can be predicted. You may as well try to predict the course of biological evolution. If you are going to be a citizen of any society, you are committed to take that gamble on other human beings. If you don’t like it, please get in a spaceship, and don’t come back. There is nothing “revolutionary” about your position; it is reactionary.

58

Ogden Wernstrom 07.07.16 at 5:12 pm

@10 someguy88 07.06.16 at 9:09 pm

Hey you guys and gals [of the Democratic Party] have been doing such a great job at controlling costs, cough, cough, cough (I almost choked to death writing that) here is a blank check from the federal government and here is another blank check from your state.

You are correct, sir. The last fiscal year that used a budget proposed by a Republican President, total government spending (federal+state+local) in the US was about 41% of GDP. Since Obama has been in office, that has steadily declined – down to about 34% for 2015.

On a different note, the state-level-opt-out ability should help keep costs down overall, plus it may keep the tax subsidy that “blue” states provide to “red” states from growing.

59

cassander 07.07.16 at 5:15 pm

@bob mcmanus

> The idea would be providing “choice” to students, competition between schools, but especially a new flow/stock of cash from tax revenue through finance.

Through the government, you mean. Free choice would be some sort of voucher, the opposite of what’s being proposed.

>37: The neoliberals aren’t dumb, and have the goal of embedding the new safety net in finance to an irrevocable and permanent degree, such that reforming or socializing or nationalizing them will require a total, revolutionary, and prohibitively expensive restructuring of the entire political economy. An example is the way retirements are now embedded, via 401ks etc, in the equity and bond markets.

One, this is laughably conspiratorial. Two, retirement has always been embedded in equities and bond markets. where do you think pension funds put their money, big Scrooge McDuck vaults? Three, what neoliberals actually want to do is not embed retirement in markets, because as we’ve said they already are, but to eliminate the obviously bad incentives that exist with the current systems to make them sustainable.

@Lee A. Arnold

>“The amount of money in the world is fixed, and fostering creativity and innovation can never grow the pie larger, and it can never pay-off the resulting debt SOONER than before (because we, the commenters, cannot do the simple math).”

Show me that spending more money on universities actually fosters innovation commensurate with the cost and I’ll happily sign on. Just because universities are supposed to do that doesn’t mean they do, nor does it mean that they’re the most cost effective way to do so.

>“Money does NOT go in a cycle: so, if you spend it here, it CANNOT later be spent over there (because, we the commenters, do not understand how the economy works).”

Money goes in a cycle OVER TIME. it does not do so instantly. If you, or the government, as a dollar, it can only spend that dollar on one thing. In the future it might get more dollars, but in the present resources are finite. And if you want to get pass all talk of dollars at all, people’s time is even more finite. You can spend so many hours going to school or you can spend them on something else. Before we decide to subsidize going to school even more than we already do, how about checking to make sure there’s not a better way people could be spending their time?

>“We already know what kids are going to do with their lives, so it does no good to educate them beyond that, and give them the space and time to find out for themselves (because we, the commenters, do not know how other human beings grow).”

Once again, you consider hypothetical benefits and ignore real costs.

>“It is much better to socially-engineer the future according to our own expectations about how other people should already fit into the market system, by using incentives! (because we, the commenters, believe that if we put the The System ahead of individual human beings, golly it will somehow all work, someday).”

That’s what you’re doing. I’m saying we should stop the massive social engineering experiment that spends trillions sending people to schools of dubious value. You’re the one who was, just a couple paragraphs ago, singing the praises of social engineering for purposes of GDP maximization, not us.

60

cassander 07.07.16 at 5:39 pm

@Rich Puchalsky

>But the presence of a university really is a public good for the community that it is in. It is non-excludable (it produces a benefit for the whole community) and nonrivalrous (some people benefiting don’t use up the benefit).

Who is the community here? The college town? The state? The nation? And what good is being produced and how do we quantify it?

> So then there’s the question of how many universities / how many students are enough. Note that the people arguing this seem to think that the market magically decides the right amount of this public good.

No, we’re arguing that whatever the public good universities produce, they unquestionably are (or at least, can be) a generator of private good and that the market will get closer to the mark than the clearly self interested political bargaining of the education complex.

>Once some people are able to drop out of the jobs system, employers will have to offer better terms to the people who remain,

wait, what? I thought we were getting rid of jobs.

>and one obvious way to do this is to stop needless credentialism — after all, it doesn’t cost the employer anything to drop the requirement for a credential that isn’t really needed for the job.

First, it most certainly does add costs. Educational institutions, even if you think they teach very little, do an awful lot of sorting. They’re an astoundingly expensive way of doing that, but those costs are born by society at large, not the individual employer. Replacing that system with one just as good would cost the employer money and might be of dubious legality.

Second, how on earth does ending needless credentialism help employees who have credentials? If anything, it hurts them by putting them on a more even plane with those that don’t have them.

@Ogden Wernstrom 07.07.16 at 5:12 pm

> You are correct, sir. The last fiscal year that used a budget proposed by a Republican President, total government spending (federal+state+local) in the US was about 41% of GDP.

This is mendacious in the extreme. First, the last republican president did not set state and local budgets. Second, the budget spent in 2009 was not the one proposed by the last republican president, but one amended by the incoming democratic president to include several hundred billion in stimulus spending. Third, federal spending as a share of GDP always increases in recessions as automatic spending increases and GDP shrinks or flatlines. Honest accounting would say that the 2008 federal budget was 20.2% of GDP, that it shot to 24.4%, and that the refusal of the republicans to authorize as much spending as the president has asked for has brought that number back down to 2o.7%

61

cassander 07.07.16 at 5:42 pm

@Lee A. Arnold

> There is nothing “natural” about this at all. There is no way on earth that the benefits of education to society and economy can be predicted.

You’ve consistently claimed that those benefits are both large and tangible. If they can’t be predicted, how on earth can you claim that they are large?

>If you are going to be a citizen of any society, you are committed to take that gamble on other human beings.

Why are we committed to this particular gamble, rather than a different gamble?

62

someguy88 07.07.16 at 5:42 pm

Ogden Wernstrom,

You are comparing apples to Ostriches based on extremely selective cherry picking. Are you a VP, CEO, or government worker?

63

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 5:48 pm

“Second, how on earth does ending needless credentialism help employees who have credentials?”

It doesn’t, obviously: it helps employees who don’t have credentials. In doing so it lowers the pressure for people to get needless credentials just because they have to work. I’m assuming that making it possible to live without a job won’t mean that everyone won’t have a job, just that there won’t be the current oversupply of labor caused by needing to get a job or else.

64

cassander 07.07.16 at 6:08 pm

@rich

>Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 5:48 pm

> It doesn’t, obviously: it helps employees who don’t have credentials. In doing so it lowers the pressure for people to get needless credentials just because they have to work.

Employers started using credentials because more people started getting higher educations, not the other way around. the root of the problem is the subsidization of credentialism, not employer demand for credentials.

65

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 6:36 pm

RNB @ 55: “Sanders has provided this support at the crucial time that Americans have discovered that Hillary Clinton had written vaguely and impressionistically in her emails about a previously unknown drone program in Pakistan and disclosed a state secret that no one anywhere in the world had known about.”

Only 2 weeks ago, anyone writing this would have been denounced by RNB as a racist, sexist apologist for Trump.

I wonder whether RNB lost a job working for David Brock now that the primary is over and had to get a new one for the Trump campaign? I have to admit that I would find that very amusing.

I haven’t heard about this new and improved drone strikes: the last I heard about this was a month ago. Is this another one that’s “previously unknown” to anyone except, of course, the Pakistanis?

66

AcademicLurker 07.07.16 at 6:55 pm

Does anyone know if Clinton’s new higher ed plan includes drone strikes against upper level administrators?

67

awy 07.07.16 at 6:59 pm

^maybe not drone strikes, but i could see some extrajudicial arrests.

68

Frowner 07.07.16 at 7:13 pm

I can’t help but wonder – where is ten hours of student work for thousands of students going to come from? I’m not, on the face of it, sure that this will cause the firing of university staff, because all those students will need to be trained and supervised and the work itself will have to be found – fairly low-stakes work that can be done by an inexperienced 18-year-old who may or may not be very responsible and who will inevitably have a shifting schedule due to classes and breaks, and who will only be there for ten hours a week. I work at a university and finding work for students is sometimes a bit tricky as it is.

Some jobs are great for low hours student work – unskilled cafeteria work, the simpler and less consistent kinds of cleaning, certain kinds of phone- and email- answering – and some more skilled jobs can be filled by students if they are able to work more hours (so that they can get more practice more quickly and so that they are available more consistently). But to incorporate thousands more student workers at every public institution, managing them all for ten hours a week each, changing their schedules and appointments – that is not a money-saver and in fact will probably be pretty staff-intensive.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more staff-intensive it’s likely to be – picture needing to train in a bunch of new students every semester, for one thing.

69

efcdons 07.07.16 at 7:33 pm

@55 RNB

Who are you? How do you type stuff like “It’s not Clinton’s plan that has really changed..” without your head exploding? Or are you just having the word “really” do a lot of work? You are allowed to admit Clinton re-assessed her policy proposals and took elements from the plans of other people in order to make a better proposal. Clinton isn’t tinkerbell. She won’t die if you stop clapping.

70

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 7:38 pm

Cassander, I suggest you go get educated, dude. That’s some laughable nonsense you wrote up there.

71

RNB 07.07.16 at 8:02 pm

@65 Not sure what you are angry about RP, but the idea that Clinton violated secrecy because somewhere in the chain of her emails sent over a private server there was recognition that US had conducted drone strikes in Pakistan verges on the ridiculous. This was not a secret or confidential. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_strikes_in_Pakistan
It’s about as ridiculous as the idea that Clinton’s emails would have been safer over the State Dept servers than her private servers.
@69 I thought it was Robin who noted in the addendum to his post that Clinton’s plan is not as radical as it seemed. As I noted in my post, I don’t think it’s the plan that Sanders has changed but the urgency that his supporters have given it. That is, he has forced Clinton to move it up on the agenda.

72

awy 07.07.16 at 8:09 pm

the ten hours is the initial stages of a vague plan to increase engagement between the private sector and education. it will be fleshed out once the new industrialism folks get done trolling twitter

73

Corey Robin 07.07.16 at 8:14 pm

RNB: It’s quite clear, if you read Clinton’s original plan or any of the pieces I link to in my post, that Clinton had, up until yesterday’s announcement, only committed herself to, at best, making sure that no one went into debt in order to fund their higher education. Unless it was community college, in which case tuition there — but only there — should be free. (In fact, I think it was you who on earlier threads championed that limited focus on free community college.) The innovation of Clinton’s new plan, announced yesterday, is that the central plank is no longer “debt-free education” but “free education.” That is a dramatic shift, notwithstanding the caveats I note in the update. Every single reporter on this beat has reported the story as I have just narrated it here. Your interpretation — that this was what Clinton was saying all along, that the only thing that’s changed is Sanders supporting it — is, to say the least, eccentric.

74

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 8:16 pm

RNB: “This was not a secret or confidential”

Oh, I see, the part about her disclosing a state secret was sarcasm and RNB doesn’t think that she actually disclosed anything important. What was confusing was the bit about Sanders providing the support of putting his imprimatur on the plan “at the crucial time that Americans have discovered” something that was reported a month ago. Unless that also was sarcasm.

“The plan didn’t change, Sanders just put his imprimatur on the existing plan in order to support HRC” (a paraphrase, not a quote) is, of course, pretty insulting to Sanders supporters. If it’s true, they’re supposed to be reassured that they had an effect because they are apparently too stupid to figure out that they really didn’t: if it’s false, then HRC can’t even acknowledge that they did have an effect and has to pretend that she was going to do this all along.

75

RNB 07.07.16 at 8:25 pm

You said the new Clinton plan was not free education as students would have to perform ten hours of labor gratis. Plus, you said yourself that it was not universal free education as it was in the Sanders original plan. Again what Sanders has won is the priority that educational reform will be given. At any rate, take a family with income of less than $80K; and then compare what college (including living expenses) would have cost under Clinton’s original plan, Sanders’ original plan, and Clinton’s new plan. It seems to me that all three plans would have made college more affordable for families with incomes in this range. What’s important is that something is actually done.

76

RNB 07.07.16 at 8:26 pm

@74 as usual Kevin Drum already hit it out of the park. We knew as early as January that the confidential emails were about the putatively secret drone strikes in Pakistan and we knew that none of the emails had actual military details in them. This was confirmed again http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/hillary-clinton-never-came-close-compromising-national-security

77

Ogden Wernstrom 07.07.16 at 8:28 pm

@60 cassander 07.07.16 at 5:39 pm

This is mendacious in the extreme. … the budget spent in 2009 was not the one proposed by the last republican president, but one amended by the incoming democratic president…

@62 someguy88 07.07.16 at 5:42 pm

You are comparing apples to Ostriches based on extremely selective cherry picking.

My claims are better-supported than those that were implied in the post to which I was responding, which made a broad claim, based upon cherry-picking…then running the cherries through a transmogrification processor.

OnTopic, but not informative: I’m happy that Bernie got Hilary to move on this topic, but that is largely offset by the business-as-usual details in Robin’s “Update (6:45 pm)”. Usually, something is better than nothing; but it’s difficult to know if this will be a net improvement.

78

RNB 07.07.16 at 8:30 pm

@74 I am not saying that Sanders’ supporters are dupes. They have won something, but it’s not universal free public college. What they have won is control over Clinton’s priorities. She has to ease the burden of college cost; she has to make her commitment credible to do something significant if not exactly Sanders’ original plan to win the support of his youthful backers.

79

awy 07.07.16 at 8:32 pm

is ‘free college’ a valuable slogan apart from the substantive cost effects and participation due to cost?

it is reasonable to argue that by making this slogan in public, there may be positive effects on the aspiration of students and families who thought college out of reach.

then again, if this rhetorical/branding effect is large, it should also mean that the clinton ‘free with 10 hours work’ plan should be more or less as well received as the sanders plan. this does not appear to be the case.

80

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 8:32 pm

No one in this thread had mentioned drone strikes at all. As far as I know, no one here even believes that HRC’s Emails revealed anything important. So why did the topic of how the Emails didn’t reveal anything important about drone strikes have to get introduced as if it had any connection with Sanders’ support of HRC’s education plan?

Was it that someone said “We’d better get more stuff about the Emails about drone strikes not being important out there for Google”?

81

RNB 07.07.16 at 8:36 pm

@80 I don’t think it’s accidental that Sanders gushed about the compromise Clinton had made on college education this week! Sanders is helping Clinton through this absurd scandal.

82

Matt 07.07.16 at 8:45 pm

Employers started using credentials because more people started getting higher educations, not the other way around. the root of the problem is the subsidization of credentialism, not employer demand for credentials.

There are lots of things that more people started doing in my lifetime, some subsidized, most of which employers don’t care one way or another about when it comes to hiring.

Identifying the root of credentialism as “educational credentials were subsidized,” therefore increasing employer demand, is like explaining a house fire with “the house was made of flammable wood.” A dozen nearby houses were also made of wood and didn’t burn. When the government started subsidizing corn ethanol employers didn’t start asking candidates to bring a jug of it to interviews. What’s a more proximate cause of employer credentialism?

83

awy 07.07.16 at 8:50 pm

the more proximate cause of credentialism is a weird question, as though credentialism did not exist before some point in time. it’s just moved from ‘did you go to college at all’ to ‘which college did you go to.’

84

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 9:02 pm

A quick Google doesn’t see any major media stories about Clinton Emails and drones since sometime around June 10. I’m writing this on July 7.

From a USA Today story from today:

““The goal of this whole effort – it’s not a game, it’s not silly business,” he said on CNN. “This is to create public policy.” [new paragraph] Sanders told USA TODAY his campaign staff and Clinton’s worked over the past few weeks on the education proposal. He said Clinton spoke strongly about higher education during the campaign and offered “good proposals,” though they were different from his.”

So I think that this whole supposed connection is more RNB confusionology. It’s too bad: I’d originally read his sarcastic statement about the Emails as not being sarcastic, and I’d been hoping that he’d done a full and blatant switch into Trumpism. That would have been a fitting use of his gifts: I would have respected that.

85

awy 07.07.16 at 9:08 pm

^the connection is just the consequence/lack thereof of the ‘secret’ classification. it’s pretty clear from reading your exchanges.

86

RNB 07.07.16 at 9:13 pm

@84 I couldn’t get myself to shill for Donald Trump or Charles Murray, but “Kidneystones” will wear the sheriff’s badge and continue shilling for Trump now that Sanders has conceded to Clinton.

87

kidneystones 07.07.16 at 9:21 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgcd1ghag5Y

I give you your next president!!??

Hoo-boy! That was soooome good regime-change!

Let’s talk about free education!

88

RNB 07.07.16 at 9:30 pm

Play your role, kidneystones. Criticize Hillary Clinton as your boy Donald would, not as Yanis Varoufakis would. Given your self-appointed task to maintain ideological diversity at CT, you have talk about the (graveyard) peace that Qaddafi would have maintained in Libya; and apologize for him as well as Assad and Putin. That’s what your boy The Donald does.
At any rate, consider this about Qaddafi. What would he have done to Libya had he remained in power as more and more territory slipped out of his hands? Here’s a hint
http://www.juancole.com/2012/05/my-last-phone-call-from-charles-taylor-or-how-qaddafi-plagued-africa-pirio.html

89

Collin Street 07.07.16 at 9:38 pm

Employers started using credentials because more people started getting higher educations, not the other way around. the root of the problem is the subsidization of credentialism, not employer demand for credentials.

The reason employers value higher education is that, inter alia, the successful completion of any higher education course gives the graduate the ability to recognise post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc as a fallacy. I mean, in theory.

Tell me about your education, cass.

90

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 9:56 pm

Getting back to the actual reason for this thread, it really makes no difference whether employers used credentials because the credentials were subsidized, whether the credentials started being used because employers wanted universities to screen employees for them, or whether the two things were coincidental. It still remains true that no matter how we got here, credentialism can be deflated by lowering the oversupply of labor, and (in my opinion) it’s not really up to universities to judge whether someone / some group of students is there to get an education or to get a credential.

91

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 10:01 pm

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 4:48 pm @ 57 —
So you’re saying that people should pay significant costs for something that may not be doing anybody any good? Why? And how would you sell that idea to the aforesaid people?

92

someguy88 07.07.16 at 10:06 pm

https://www.hillaryclinton.com/briefing/factsheets/2015/08/10/college-compact/

The whole thing is a hysterical monstrosity. Corey’s students will be required to spend 100s/1000s of hours at make work jobs. They will basically be paying for almost two years of tuition by doing completely un-needed make work instead of say working over the summer. On top of that line two indicates that families will still need to chip in. Let’s say for another year of tuition. Basically you will be getting a years free tuition and the federal government will get to police state Universities bringing their powers innovation to bear on Higher Education. Looks like they are going to make sure that everyone gets a degree.

Basically you get nothing and the government gets a crack at ruining higher education.

93

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 10:09 pm

Anarcissie #91 — You are saying that people who want an education are not doing anything good? How can you even sell this idea to yourself?

94

Faustusnotes 07.07.16 at 10:47 pm

I think this thread has almost everything that is wrong with modern crooked timber comments sections. It’s a depressing example of how far they have degenerated in the last 10 years.

95

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 10:52 pm

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 10:09 pm @ 93 —
It depends on what ‘an education’ means. If they’re just trying to obtain positional advantage in a class-ridden social order, it seems quite possible to me that they’re not doing anything good. In fact, they may well be doing harm. I think this problem has already been discussed above, but I’ll be glad to tediously expand on it if you really want me to.

96

JimV 07.07.16 at 11:25 pm

This discussion of credentials reminded me of something that Jack Welch was reported (via the GE management grapevine) to have said in the 1980’s: “Why are we spending so much time training engineers? Why don’t we out-source the training to universities and only hire engineers with Masters degrees?” (Of course the answer, which nobody probably told him, is that colleges only teach engineering techniques, not product knowledge.) So as usual, I blame Welch.

97

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 11:29 pm

Anarcissie #95: “If they’re just trying to obtain positional advantage in a class-ridden social order…”

So now you are going to make a judgment about what other people are going to do, before they even get there? I don’t understand how this works… Dick’s pre-crime? Orwell’s thought police?

98

bianca steele 07.07.16 at 11:33 pm

@96: So as usual, I blame Welch.

Oh, I think the current Interwebs tradition is to blame Fiorina. Nobody seems as interested in Welch’s mistakes.

Also part of the answer might be that universities can only train Masters candidates who don’t need more training (I don’t think you can get an MS on the strength of your bachelors degree and some years in the real world–sounds awfully odd) if corporations have effectively surrendered the IP to academia.

99

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 11:57 pm

Lee A. Arnold 07.07.16 at 11:29 pm @ 97:
‘So now you are going to make a judgment about what other people are going to do, before they even get there?’

I have a bad opinion of class-ridden social orders. The individuals don’t make a lot of difference — a class-based social order commands certain behaviors, the primary imperative of a dominant or privileged class must be to preserve and replicate itself and its powers, etc. etc. etc.

You know, you’re provoking me into assuming my dogmatic vulgar Marxist mode against my best intentions, which will then lead to further instances of the deterioration Faustusnotes notes in @94.

100

Lee A. Arnold 07.08.16 at 12:07 am

Anarcissie #99: “individuals don’t make a lot of difference”

101

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 12:53 am

RP: it’s not really up to universities to judge whether someone / some group of students is there to get an education or to get a credential.

A lot of people in academia think their job is rank-ordering the students as well as socializing the students — the credential is decidedly secondary to these sorting and socializing processes, but as far as “the class-ridden social order” is concerned, it’s a package deal, no?

102

T 07.08.16 at 3:06 am

103

Alan White 07.08.16 at 3:14 am

T @ 102

Do you seriously think the Rethugs spend less?

104

T 07.08.16 at 3:44 am

@103
Do you thinks he’s paid? RNB’s comments are in support of HRC no matter what she says, even if she is altering or contradicting her previous positions. That kind of sticks out from the typical CT commentator who stakes out positions on ideology or policy. RNB comments appear so out of the norm in this regard as to make me wonder if he’s paid.

105

awy 07.08.16 at 4:20 am

whats next after the shill hunt, tar and feathering?

106

faustusnotes 07.08.16 at 6:20 am

The policy announced is a policy to provide financial protection for people accessing a service. Yet our esteemed commentators seem to be commenting entirely on access issues (will it lead to increased use?); quality issues (why waste money on services that are already low quality); and labour force issues (the growth of credentialing).

Don’t you think it would be a more productive use of your time to discuss the topic of the OP (financial protection) and to go find other blog posts about HRC’s policy on enhancing access, improving quality, and reforming workforce credentialing, if you want to comment on them?

Unless your purpose is to simultaneously condescend to each other, and show how much you hate HRC. In which case carry on, I guess.

107

Lee A. Arnold 07.08.16 at 9:44 am

And condescend to the rest of the world and people they don’t even know, too.

108

T 07.08.16 at 10:26 am

109

someguy88 07.08.16 at 1:40 pm

faustusnotes,

JC. I was expecting a pithy yet multi layered blast of erudition that I could barely comprehend. Instead you gave me a clumsy failed attempt at carrying HRC’s half baked rat casserole.

She is despicable but I don’t hate her. I mean, I guess better her than the other power hungry clown, but half baked rat casserole is still half baked rat casserole ,even if comes from the less evil clown.

110

Anarcissie 07.08.16 at 1:57 pm

faustusnotes 07.08.16 at 6:20 am @ 106 — As I read the OP and commentaries thereon, the whole of the Sanders-Clinton plan seems to go well beyond financial protection, and has a free money appearance which touches on issues such as what sort of thing is actually being bought, what it is good for (individually and socially), what will be charged for it, who will put up the money, and so on. In medical care, subsidizing payments seems to have vastly increased amounts charged for services — tedious examples on request — which would be tempting self-interested behavior for the institutions involved.

111

Rich Puchalsky 07.08.16 at 2:14 pm

Read the OP again and see how much of it is about financial protection. If someone wants to say that the OP is bad, say that.

Having read more about HRC’s proposal, it really seems to me that she (or her advisers, or her campaign) don’t seem to have learned anything from the failure of Bill Clinton’s health care plan and the ongoing problems of the ACA. This plan tries to spread responsibility out into a kind of thin film that touches absolutely everyone involved: students, parents, school administrators, states, lenders, the Federal government, academic regulatory groups — I probably missed a few. The common description of this is something like “Rube Goldberg device”. But the problem isn’t complexity as such, it’s that it instantly throws everyone into competition to slack off on their part of the plan, to take advantage of differing supervision among different parts of the plan, and to spike the wheels for the plan itself or for other participants.

bob mcm points out this that embeds academia within finance, a typical neoliberal kind of thing. But it also embeds it firmly within what I call the neoliberal managerial class. There will have to be a huge number of people managing the different parts of this thing, whether that’s using the work of those ten-hour-a-week students, examining loans, putting courses out to the Internet, administrating administrators etc. I don’t think that this is going to become dropped on *academic* management per se, but it’s a characteristic employment operation for the managerial class as a whole.

112

Faustusnotes 07.08.16 at 2:48 pm

Anarcissie, the student loan system is already a free money rort, it just puts all the risk on the people least able to bear it and with the least ability to control the quality of education they get for the money. Even if nothing else changes, shifts that burden off of individuals is a potentially important change.

Also it seems that a few people here need to be reminded that we live in a free money system. There is no finite supply of money, and any analysis of a govt program that assumes there is is immediately wrong.

113

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 3:06 pm

“rort” ?

New word for me

114

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 3:23 pm

Also it seems that a few people here need to be reminded that we live in a free money system.

Free for some.

But, that free money is financing asset inflation and cost escalation: rents must rise.

115

RNB 07.08.16 at 3:35 pm

@108 It seems that the student featured in the NYT piece actually did get into one of the UC’s but decided not to go to the ones which accepted him. Perhaps he thought the campus to which he got admission was beneath him. But that’s just terrible judgment. All ten UC campuses have excellent faculty that can position a student to succeed in any walk of life. This student was not pushed out of the UC system for out-of-state/international students. The article should have made that clear.

It’s also just not true that the out-of-state/international students who get into the supposedly top UC’s are weaker students than the CA resident applicants who were rejected. http://universityofcalifornia.edu/sites/default/files/Straight-Talk-Report-3-29-16.pdf

116

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 3:38 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 111: this that embeds academia within finance, a typical neoliberal kind of thing. But it also embeds it firmly within what I call the neoliberal managerial class. There will have to be a huge number of people managing the different parts of this thing, . . . it’s a characteristic employment operation for the managerial class as a whole.

If the 21st century had a Marx, he would be explicating this development: the alliance between Capital and the executive class, which reaches down to cultivate the support of the managerial class.

There’d be an analysis of how financialization brings sclerosis to the organization of the economy. At the very moment, when technology could be enabling us to simplify everything, we are choosing to make things radically more complex and inflexible, mostly in order to funnel more and more money upward.

There’s be a new analysis of alienation: about de-skilling and, say, how airline pilots do not know how to fly planes, and doctors do not know how to do diagnosis. Credentials replace competence, because competence is actively not wanted.

117

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 4:14 pm

I regret that last comment of mine, mostly because, reading it, it seems just an old man’s rant. (I’m an old man! Sigh.)

There is a point there, though, underneath the rant, about the economics of money. It is isn’t a particularly obscure point about the essence of how money makes money: usury and rent-seeking. But, the rant is distracting: it makes it sound like the remedy is obvious idealistic do-gooderism.

There are some big problems with our contemporary do-gooderism. Number one is that neoliberalism did a hostile takeover of do-gooderism a couple of generations ago, and no one can think or speak clearly anymore about what the good might look like. This was an essential element of the politics of Clinton (and Blair — if anything Tony Blair was better at it than anyone). In international affairs, it is a bit more stark — the evil harder to overlook, because the consequences have become so devastating. But, we manage to overlook it, even in the wake of things like the Chilcot Report. We see the words on the page, but their full moral import does not come home.

In the wake of the GFC, there’s a similar inability to cut thru the fog. We kind of see it. The charge that Obama failed to prosecute banksters is hard to answer. But, again it does not seem to matter. The great bailout “worked” — all the TARP money was repaid, with a profit to the government, we are told; pay no attention to the massive increase in public debt, or rather do pay attention, but only to the implication that austerity is required.

What I got from the OP was a now familiar queasy feeling: first, hope that the conversation and trends might finally be turning in a better direction. And, then, the realization that this, in its details, is probably just another stage in the same old downward direction, the political equivalent of vitamin-fortified aspartame.

And, if one rants, it is just lost — more noise, no insight let alone moral conviction.

118

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 4:27 pm

on the impotence of do-gooderism, the difficulties in this thread of even coming with a vision of how and why college education is good for society or the student, are illustrative of some basic deficit in our shared thinking, aka our politics.

maybe, the problem is that the immediate task in our moment is demolition of obsolete structures and that’s scary and the politics of Clinton — long a form of preservationist pretend and extend — has always been about offering an alternative to demolition and its frights. an alternative offering financed by rent-seekers with a big financial stake in continuing the quiet subversion of the status quo.

119

Ogden Wernstrom 07.08.16 at 4:45 pm

On credentialism: I think the rise of Professional Human Resources has led to a rise in credentialism – not as the sole cause, but a major one. It’s much easier to screen candidates if one begins by seeing if all the boxes are ticked. I’ve seen HR people encourage those who write job descriptions to include specifics about number-of-years of specific-type-of-experience, etc. I have spent some time trying to convince people that my experience in field X has some similarities to field Y. (Including telling a hiring manager at a recent startup that my experience in a 90+-year-old, 400,000+-employee company was a lot like a startup.)

I recall seeing a job posting – in 1994 – which listed a required minimum of 5 years experience in creating business websites…. I suspect that the HR boilerplate has “5 years” pre-printed on it.

@90 Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 9:56 pm:

…(in my opinion) it’s not really up to universities to judge whether someone / some group of students is there to get an education or to get a credential

But this argument does not address what cass, someguy, et al. are arguing. They want to be the judge(s), and have already decided that some/many/most students would be there for less-than-satisfactory-ROI reasons; therefore, those students must somehow be denied, even if it means denial of subsidy for a broad spectrum of potential students. [As I proofread this, I find that Lee A. Arnold says something similar @97.]

Thus, to expand on that, I think it’s not really up to anyone to judge the worthiness-of-motive of each student in the context of financial protection/subsidy-of-education/subsidy-of-financiers. (Motive and motivation might/could be factors for admission – but I think those are already out-of-bounds for the state-system schools that Hillary’s plan targets. Therefore, we must doubt all motives equally.)

@80 Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 8:32 pm:

No one in this thread had mentioned drone strikes at all.

Tuition-free drone strikes? Let’s not give The Drumpf any more ideas….

@117 gives me a chance to agree with Ze K! Newly-minted BSEEs, given a handful of transistors, can’t make a gate. Or even use a breadboard. That’s my old-man rant.

120

Anarcissie 07.08.16 at 4:46 pm

Faustusnotes 07.08.16 at 2:48 pm @ 112,
bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 3:23 pm @ 114 —
It is true that the government can print all the money it likes, but in order for it to be worth anything, that is, in order for it to elicit labor, goods, services, it has to be kept away from poor people so that they can be made to work to provide those goods and services. For most people who are not at the upper end of the economic food chain, money is not free. And anyway, the generation of substantial amounts of funny money in the financial space of the not-rich could actually be greatly to their disadvantage, since it could lead to inflation which perhaps only a minority could take advantage of. Thus I think it makes a difference whether education is primarily for positional advantage and class indoctrination (not productive), or to acquire actually valuable skills, which may be exercised for individual and collective benefit. And I think this opinion might be widely held in the democratic expanse, at least among those who think beyond considering anything called ‘education’ as a truckload of vanilla ice cream.

121

AcademicLurker 07.08.16 at 4:53 pm

Tuition-free drone strikes?

Absolutely! No one should have to take on a load of unmanageable debt in order to be killed by a drone strike. Death by drone strike is an opportunity that should be available to all.

122

RNB 07.08.16 at 5:11 pm

@108 Note what the article says: “Jay Dee Michael Jr. said he might never feel the same again after his son was rejected from several U.C. campuses.” It does not say that Michael was rejected by all the UC campuses. So the family which is complaining of their son not getting into the UC system may well have had their son accepted into one of the ten UC’s, but did not like that campus because it was not prestigious enough or is too racially diverse or is not prestigious for some because it is racially diverse. The New York Times reporter did not pursue the hypothesis that the prejudice Trump has legitimated is motivating this family’s anger at the UC system. And prejudice here may like usual also do damage to the one who carries it. It may be that this family has rejected an offer from one of UC’s great campuses (just look at the social science faculty at UC Riverside–it is simply outstanding; I know world-class faculty at UC Merced) because they did not want their son at a campus they thought too diverse to be prestigious.

123

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 5:26 pm

anarissie: . . . it has to be kept away from poor people so that they can be made to work to provide those goods and services.

This formulation is not quite right. The imaginative intuition misses the insidious nature of how it works. Money is not scarce in the brave new world; money is credit and credit is abundant, more abundant that opportunities to be productive.

I think productivity has reached heights, where the labor of most poor and even middle-class people is not really needed or wanted by the upper classes, even in a reserve army of the unemployed sort of way. Resource limits imply the opposite: that the very rich would be better off, if masses of people could be weaned from consumption, as their production is no longer needed.

Middle-class patrimony can be harvested by exposing people to credit in ways that expose people to small risks of ruin and a steady diversion of income. This can be as simple as normalizing usury in networks of payday loan shops that have displaced thrift institutions and community banks. Or financing visits to the dentist or the vet. Obamacare is great that way: a small reduction in the real income of lower middle-class households obscured by a great deal of paperwork and propaganda, all without actually eliminating the tiny risk of complete financial ruin in an adverse medical event.

124

RNB 07.08.16 at 5:26 pm

@104 You do understand that you are dealing with me on false ad hominem grounds, not in terms of what I have actually argued. It seems that you have been reading, and have been infuriated by, my posts. I can honestly say that I don’t remember a single thing you yourself have argued.

125

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 5:31 pm

OW @ 120: I recall seeing a job posting – in 1994 – which listed a required minimum of 5 years experience in creating business websites….

And, there’s a Wikipedia article . . .

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_websites_founded_before_1995

126

someguy88 07.08.16 at 6:55 pm

Ogden Wernstrom,

I am saying the opposite of what you have me saying. If you want to eliminate the Dept of Education and give every one who graduates HS 15K or 20K I am in.

They can spend that money on whatever they want. If they want to work 20 hours a week and attend CC for two years and than not work at all and attend whatever public or private U they want to attend let them. Let them do what they want. Trade school no trade school whatever they want. Don’t create an unworkable Frankenstein monster that will serve as a slush fund for the Democratic party. Let’s not have the Washington micro managing higher education. (Well more so). Let’s not force kids to do make work. Let’s not treat them as idiotic infants.

127

cassander 07.08.16 at 7:49 pm

@ogden

> But this argument does not address what cass, someguy, et al. are arguing. They want to be the judge(s), and have already decided that some/many/most students would be there for less-than-satisfactory-ROI reasons therefore, those students must somehow be denied, even if it means denial of subsidy for a broad spectrum of potential students. [As I proofread this, I find that Lee A. Arnold says something similar @97.]

No, we aren’t. We aren’t trying to deny anyone. What we’re opposed is even more encouragement and subsidies for something of extremely dubious value. It’s the proponents of more subsidies that want to play judge, they’re just judging yes.

128

Anarcissie 07.08.16 at 7:58 pm

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 5:26 pm @ 124:
‘This formulation is not quite right. The imaginative intuition misses the insidious nature of how it works. Money is not scarce in the brave new world; money is credit and credit is abundant, more abundant that opportunities to be productive. …’

If money is not scarce generally, you have to explain why we do not see radical inflation in the prices of ordinary goods, paralleling those we observe in (some) real estate, equities, collectibles, and other things interesting to the rich.

My answer to this puzzle is that there are two monetary realms: the realm of the rich and the realm of the poor, separated by access to credit. In the latter, people usually have to work (or suffer) to obtain modest amounts of money. That work may go into providing material goods and services, so that money in the realm of the poor is actually worth something — I can go to the store with a couple of dollars and buy a can of beans which someone was paid to grow, can, ship, put on the shelf, and sell me — labor. I believe this is sometimes called ‘the real economy’. In the realm of the rich, money comes from low- or no-interest money provided by the government, banks, trust funds, and other financial manipulators. It is not worth much per unit and can disappear overnight (as witness the events of 2006-2008) but the rich have piles of it and can always get more, since they own and operate the government. (Some money may leak down into the lower realm, but it can easily be sucked up again through the economic food chain in the form of taxes, interest, fees, fines, appropriation of public property, graft, profits, and no doubt a lot of other methods I’m forgetting at the moment.)

I know this is very broad-brush and simple-minded, but I can’t see any other reasonable explanation of the phenomena. If my analysis is more or less correct, then money is not free; it’s based on suffering, on people giving up part of their lives, making all money seem valuable even though much of it is simply pulled out of the void.

129

awy 07.08.16 at 9:29 pm

the attribution of ‘low value education’ to posters is misplaced. we just recognize the inflation, describing it as credentialism/positional signaling. the actual judges are employers.

personally i do think humanities education is more important than accounting etc, but part of an educator’s duty is also to give students what they need to get a job etc. these multiple values should all find a place in the system

130

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 9:35 pm

awy: the actual judges are employers

??!?

131

awy 07.08.16 at 10:10 pm

the labor market.

132

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 10:16 pm

Anarcissie: . . . there are two monetary realms: the realm of the rich and the realm of the poor, separated by access to credit. In the latter, people usually have to work (or suffer) to obtain modest amounts of money. That work may go into providing material goods and services, so that money in the realm of the poor is actually worth something — I can go to the store with a couple of dollars and buy a can of beans which someone was paid to grow, can, ship, put on the shelf, and sell me — labor. I believe this is sometimes called ‘the real economy’. In the realm of the rich, money comes from low- or no-interest money provided by the government, banks, trust funds, and other financial manipulators.

I think our broad brushes give similar impressions of the way the system operates.

I wouldn’t say the rich and poor are “separated” by access to credit. The poor have abundant access to credit and that’s a problem, because the terms are onerous, in large part because the difference in credit terms is used to finance transfers from poor to rich. If you are really rich, your credit card pays you a rebate. If you are poor, the charges are usurious. If you are rich, the bank never charges you a dime. If you are poor, and you have a bank, the bank charges numerous fees.

People volunteer, more or less, for some of this abuse. Lots of people buy lottery tickets, but our marketing saturated society creates many hazards.

Do you think Donald Trump worries about his credit rating? People lose jobs because of bad credit reports. They go to jail because of bad debts.

My point about the real economy — where you can buy a can of beans — would be that global resource limits are looming like a great brick wall over secular stagnation. We haven’t needed many people to grow the beans in a long time and ditto now for the can and almost every other manufactured good. It is not supposed to be mentioned in polite society, but Ben Bernanke’s first attempt to foam the runways with liquidity in 2007 resulted in a global commodities crisis. The price of wheat doubled in a year, reaching a record level in February 2008. So, yes, I think we should think long and hard about exactly why we don’t see radical inflation in the prices of ordinary goods, paralleling those we observe in (some) real estate, equities, collectibles, and other things interesting to the rich, because sometimes . . . mistakes are made and they can be quite revealing.

133

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 10:19 pm

awy: the labor market

you do realize there is no such thing?

134

awy 07.08.16 at 10:40 pm

the extension of the term seems clear enough

135

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 11:22 pm

the extension of the term seems clear enough

It is a conventional way of speaking — that’s true enough. But, an actual labor market — where there were bids and offers on discrete and specific services — would be quite a different relationship from the typical employment relationship. We get bullied into talking the nonsense of a “labor market” by people, who do not want realistic assessment of the actual terms and conditions of labor employment. So, my point is that “labor market” is the opposite of “clear” and that’s by design.

So, we’re talking about education as a positional good and about credentialism, and it matters because the context is not a “labor market” where wage slaves are put up on a block and employers judge them and engage in competitive bidding for their services, but rather the working cultures of bureaucratic hierarchy, where power matters a lot and it may not be obvious how to judge performance — or even whether the culture will permit performance metrics.

We should use language that invokes some semblance of reality as we experience it.

136

Rich Puchalsky 07.09.16 at 12:35 am

BW: “It is not supposed to be mentioned in polite society, but Ben Bernanke’s first attempt to foam the runways with liquidity in 2007 resulted in a global commodities crisis. The price of wheat doubled in a year, reaching a record level in February 2008.”

I don’t understand what happened in this incident. Could you explain what you think happened?

137

J-D 07.09.16 at 1:59 am

bruce wilder 07.08.16 at 3:06 pm
“rort” ?

New word for me

An Australianism, meaning ‘gross abuse of process’, ‘sharp practice’, ‘flagrant exploitation of a loophole’, ‘fraud on the public’.

138

bruce wilder 07.09.16 at 2:07 am

I googled “rort” and got, “a wild party” alongside “scam or fraud”.

When referring to a fraud, does rort carry any connotation from “wild party”? It would be nice if it did.

139

ZM 07.09.16 at 2:12 am

It usually means taking a helicopter and charging it to taxpayers, buying magazines and charging them to taxpayers, having expensive dinners and charging them to taxpayers, and taking taxis and charging them to taxpayers.

So yes pretty much wild party plus charging taxpayers for it

140

bruce wilder 07.09.16 at 3:00 am

RP @ 137

For background, here’s a link to a short white paper from the Levy Institute:
http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/ppb_96.pdf He’s talking particularly about long-only commodities index funds as a market de-stabilizing development.

Wikipedia has articles on the commodities boom and related topics, if you need factual background on the magnitude of the phenomenon.

There’s a useless tug-of-war that goes on over whether monetary policy can fuel speculative fevers in commodities or whether commodity price spikes have to reflect “fundamentals”. Krugman, as I recall, was true to form, writing notes arguing that the run-up in 2007 had to be about fundamentals, it had to be “real” and not financial, like it couldn’t be both, because . . . inventories.

Of course, it can be both, which is what I would argue. The world has been close to its commodity / resource limits since 1973 and as happened in 1973, it can bump its head on the ceiling, causing a crisis.

And, when there’s enough money (aka effective demand) to push against those limits, inflation can come on hard and fast. In those circumstances, there are financial plays and arbitrage opportunities — essentially variations on carry trades — that can make money by accelerating and amplifying the runup in prices into a bubble, provided there’s some source of liquidity that can be manipulated to transfer the downside risk elsewhere.

The linked paper sketches some of the global financialization that set up the potential for a commodities bubble. Onto to this bonfire, Bernanke sprayed his liquidity firehose in 2007, triggering a destabilizing commodity inflation by unwittingly providing a source of liquidity. One reason one can be pretty sure it was driven by financial factors is that it was uniform across a broad range of commodities. That doesn’t mean it was not fundamentals also — the world really is near (or by some foresightful reckonings well past) its resource limits. The bubble had to (be) burst causing a couple of months of deflation and loss of liquidity — enough to trigger the global financial crisis; great job, Ben.

I think the policy of secular stagnation is largely a NOT-well-thought-thru response to getting burned by global resource limits, combined with the usual attractions of deflation for creditors. People sometimes talk as if a Keynesian stimulus program, financed by MMT free money could get everyone employed and prosperous and I think, without some hard preparation, it could be catastrophic as the world runs out of everything and marginal prices for key commodities rise precipitously. There’s no overarching plan, just a kind of blind craftsman responding to rough pain and looking for calm while hoping not to walk into a wall or off a cliff.

I don’t follow these things closely, but I think there are a lot of places in the world that are surprisingly close to famine. As the linked report hints, financialization has been linking global commodity markets, reducing the capacity of states to protect local populations. I think this was a major factor in the de-stabilizing of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

I hope that answers the question. I haven’t thought much about this stuff in the last five years, so I feel a bit creaky and don’t have good details at hand. Also, I don’t want to derail the thread, so I don’t plan to respond to the peanut gallery, but if you have some specific question, I’ll try to answer.

141

Howard Frant 07.09.16 at 3:47 am

I’m puzzled by everyone’s shocked and disillusioned reaction to the addendum.

1. Yes states have to agree to participate. Wasn’t this also a feature of Bernie’s plan? It’s pretty damned hard to imagine a plan to provide free tuition at state universities that doesn’t have such a requirement, since in the US, state universities are running by, you know, the states. The politics of turning this money down would be a lot different than turning down money for poor people, as with Medicaid expansion. I would think it would be political suicide.

2. As someone pointed out, make-work jobs of ten hours a week have been a regular feature of Federal work-study money. This would just democratize it. It’s probably intended to make it more politically acceptable– so students are not getting a complete handout. Or it could be the Neoliberal State insinuating its way into the groves of academe; who can say?

3. All the academics I know constantly bitch about how increasing tuition is not going to their salaries but to higher administrative costs. I guess readers on this thread are not concerned about that.

142

ZM 07.09.16 at 4:19 am

Do you have a organization in the USA to coordinate the State governments working with the Federal government?

In Australia we have the Council Of Australian Governments, or COAG, where they meet and discuss things to coordinate the States and the Federal governments.

http://www.coag.gov.au

Do you have a similar peak body in the USA?

143

RNB 07.09.16 at 4:35 pm

Re: mention of emails @46 and 55.
People are saying that Bill Clinton’s meeting with Loretta Lynch underlines how sleazy the Clinton’s are. But I have not yet seen anyone say the obvious. Hillary Clinton was better served by the former Republican FBI Director James Comey defending to a Republican Congress the FBI’s recommendation not to press criminal charges than Clinton personal friend Loretta Lynch defending her decision not to pursue criminal charges given what was in the report. As it turned out, the Republican Congress made itself look ridiculous by impugning the integrity of their own fellow Republican, and by their refusal to accept his recommendation they came across as politicizing the process. Bill Clinton forcing Loretta Lynch to de facto recuse herself worked out perfectly for Hillary Clinton. The question I have is whether this was Bill Clinton’s intention–to give Loretta Lynch a reason to leave this in the FBI’s hand. I am betting that it was! Bill Clinton probably plays a mean game of poker.

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J-D 07.10.16 at 7:08 am

ZM 07.09.16 at 4:19 am
Do you have a organization in the USA to coordinate the State governments working with the Federal government?

In Australia we have the Council Of Australian Governments, or COAG, where they meet and discuss things to coordinate the States and the Federal governments.

http://www.coag.gov.au

Do you have a similar peak body in the USA?

No, they don’t. There is a National Governors Association, but it does not include formal Federal representation; it’s for consultation between States, not for consultation between the State level and the Federal level.

The Council of Australian Governments grew out of the regular Premiers Conferences which (despite their name) did include formal Federal representation; a key factor in establishing this kind of regular Federal-State consultation is our system of horizontal fiscal equalisation, for which the US has no direct equivalent.

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ZM 07.10.16 at 7:45 am

Thanks J-D. That’s interesting the USA doesn’t have an equivalent to COAG. Even though their economy is not as integrated federally as Australia’s, I would have thought that having some sort of organisation to discuss and coordinate policy would have been just as helpful in the USA as in Australia.

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Ogden Wernstrom 07.11.16 at 4:29 pm

@127 someguy88 07.08.16 at 6:55 pm:

Ogden Wernstrom,

I am saying the opposite of what you have me saying. If you want to eliminate the Dept of Education and give every one who graduates HS 15K or 20K I am in.

Since I said that “[someguy, among others] want to be the judge(s), and have already decided that some/many/most students would be there for less-than-satisfactory-ROI reasons; therefore, those students must somehow be denied, even if it means denial of subsidy for a broad spectrum of potential students.”, I’m trying to figure out what the opposite would be. You don’t want to pass judgement on this issue? You have not decided that anyone would be there for less-than-satisfactory ROI reasons? You don’t believe that those students who would be subsidised by this program must somehow be denied? You actually have a much-more-elite-selective idea of who should be denied? The word “opposite” created goalposts I can’t see.

Then you go straight to “eliminate the Dept of Education” – which appears to be the result of some judgement you have already made, and would deny services to many.

If we eliminate the Department of Education, will that budget be able to cover increases in the budgets for transfer payments, law enforcement and corrections?

@128 cassander claims, “[w]e aren’t trying to deny anyone”, then opposes the program (in some fashion that does not deny anyone access to said program, it must be), and somehow redefines “judge” so the word is applicable only to “yes”.

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Ogden Wernstrom 07.11.16 at 4:31 pm

blockquote should have contained – if I can make this work this time:

I am saying the opposite of what you have me saying. If you want to eliminate the Dept of Education and give every one who graduates HS 15K or 20K I am in.

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someguy88 07.11.16 at 6:51 pm

Ogden Wernstrom,

Right we cannot just disagree about the effectiveness of the policy proposal. It must be that I hate children.

I mean I started with let’eliminate farm subsidies but when I mentioned eliminating the Department of Education it became clear that I really just hate it when poor kids learn.

No discussion of what be involved in eliminating the Department of Education. No acknowledgement that the Federal government provides less than 10% of US education spending, so, even if by eliminating the department of education, I meant not spending any of that money on education, it would mostly mean a reduction in spending not denying services to anyone. We actually have no idea what it would mean for the overall quality of service supplied and in any case we have no idea how much local and state spending would replace any reduction.

No, hey, I like that fact your proposal is so much more inclusive, but how could we pay for it besides eliminating the Dept of Education?

No. None of that. You know I hate children and want to deny them education and anything good. You know I love denying poor children stuff.

Not even a thought about how paying high school graduates 15 – 20K would impact the graduation rate. No need to wonder if that would result in less crime and poverty. No you know.

You know that anyone who questions the effectiveness of HRC Rube Goldberg Frankenstein contraption is hater who wants to deny children goodness.

Well played. Are in Higher and Ed and salivating at the thought of all that gravy? Trolling? Or really that thoughtless and narrow minded?

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Rich Puchalsky 07.11.16 at 8:10 pm

BW: “For background, here’s a link to a short white paper from the Levy Institute:
http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/ppb_96.pdf He’s talking particularly about long-only commodities index funds as a market de-stabilizing development.”

OK, I only skimmed this paper, but as the preface says “Wray determines that speculation, rather than fundamentals, dominates the boom in the commodity futures markets”. In other words, it’s pretty much against the resource limits theory as producing this commodities price runup, which is what I’d thought. Commodities price runups are bad, but I don’t think that there’s actually much evidence that we’re really hitting a resource limit.

It’s sort of important because usually people bifurcate this question into either “There are no such things as resource limits” or “We’re about to hit a resource limit.” If you say that there are such things as resource limits, but that we’re not about to hit one, people tend to interpret that as one or the other. But that’s not really helpful. People have been saying that we’re about to hit a resource limit since the 1970s, a minuscule time period by most measures but kind of a long time within a human lifetime, and it doesn’t help people take the topic seriously if either of the above is the default reaction.

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Ogden Wernstrom 07.11.16 at 11:59 pm

someguy88,

You are right that you offered no discussion of what be involved in eliminating the Dept of Ed., you just proposed it without stating any reason. It appears to be an agenda you had, and this issue became an opportunity to pull it out and wave it around. (They tell politicians to do something like this – rehearse statements about various issues, and when asked a question, answer the question for which there is a good canned answer.)

The statement, ” it would mostly mean a reduction in spending not denying services to anyone” tells me that you have already decided that the current spending does not provide services to anyone. But then, “[w]e actually have no idea what it would mean for the overall quality of service supplied” admits that the effects are unknown.

I don’t like to do random stuff to our country with no idea what the outcome will be. I’m more conservative than that.

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