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Free College or Another New War?

Noting that U.S. college costs have gone up 500% since 1985, the Washington Post recommends seven countries where U.S. students can go to college for free without bothering to learn the language of the natives or anything so primitive.

These are nations with less wealth than the United States has, but which make college free or nearly free, both for citizens and for dangerous illegals visiting their Homelands.

How do they do it?

Three of them have a higher top tax rate than the United States has, but four of them don’t.

What does the United States spend its money on that these other countries do not? What is the largest public program in the United States? What makes up over 50% of federal discretionary spending in the United States?

If you said “war,” it’s possible you were educated in a fine foreign country.

A comprehensive calculation of U.S. military spending puts it at over $1 trillion a year. The International Institute for Strategic Studies puts it at $645.7 billion in 2012. Using that smaller number, let’s compare the seven nations where Americans can find their human right to an education respected:

France $48.1 billion or 7.4% of U.S.
Germany $40.4 billion or 6.3% of U.S.
Brazil $35.3 billion or 5.5% of U.S.
Norway $6.9 billion or 1.1% of U.S.
Sweden $5.8 billion or 0.9% of U.S.
Finland $3.6 billion or 0.6% of U.S.
Slovenia $0.6 billion or 0.1% of U.S.

Oh, but those are smaller countries. Well, let’s compare military spending per capita:

United States $2,057
Norway $1,455 or 71% of U.S.
France $733 or 35% of U.S.
Finland $683 or 33% of U.S.
Sweden $636 or 31% of U.S.
Germany $496 or 24% of U.S.
Slovenia $284 or 14% of U.S.
Brazil $177 or 9% of U.S.

It’s worth noting that in wealth per capita, Norway is wealthier than the United States. It still spends significantly less per capita on war preparations. The others all spend between 9% and 35%.

Now, you may be a believer in militarism, and you may be shouting right about now: “The United States provides these other nations’ warmaking needs for them. When Germany or France has to destroy Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, who does the heavy lifting?”

Or you may be an opponent of militarism, and you may be thinking about its many additional costs. Not only does the United States pay the most in dollars, but it generates the most hatred, kills the most people, does the most damage to the natural environment, and loses the most freedoms in the process.

Either way, the point is that these other countries have chosen education, while the United States has chosen a project that perhaps a well-educated populace would support, but we don’t have any way to test that theory, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to any time soon.

We have a choice before us: free college or more war?

Talk Nation Radio: George Vradenburg on How Alzheimer's Is Killing Us

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-george

George Vradenburg is the Chairman and Co-Founder of http://USAgainstAlzheimers.org We discuss the new report finding Alzheimer's to be a leading cause of death in the U.S. We also ask Vradenburg whether perhaps a little money could move from the military to Alzheimer's research. Listen for the answer. Vradenburg is a member of the Private Sector Senior Advisory Committee, Homeland Security Advisory Council, Department of Homeland Security, and of the Council on Foreign Relations, and of the Economic Club of Washington.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
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Now Two States Pursue Truly Affordable Education

Maryland may soon join Oregon in exploring solutions to the crisis of student debt and unaffordable education.

Education is supposed to be a human right.  But the United States puts people into deep debt to pay for it.  Short of taxing billionaires or dismantling bombers (both of which we're all, I hope, working on), what's the solution?

The state of Oregon has passed a law creating a commission to study a plan called "Pay it forward. Pay it back."  See Katrina vanden Heuvel: An Oregon Trail to End Student Debt.

This is not a plan to make education truly free, and that would probably be ideal.  But this is not, I think, a step that would move us away from that goal -- in the way that strengthening but tweaking the private health insurance system arguably moves us away from a single-payer solution.

This is, however, a plan that makes college tuition at state universities initially free.  Students would pay nothing up-front and borrow nothing from loan sharks.  Then they would pay the state back 3% of their income for some number of years, possibly 20.  The graduate who brings in $100 million per year would hand over $3 million.  The graduate who brings in $10,000 would pay $300.  While the purpose of an education for many students may not be related to money, in terms of money one is paying for what one gets.  If you buy an unmarketable skill, you pay nothing for it.  Some have responded by calling this perfect capitalism, while others have noted its correspondence with the ideal of "from each according to his/her means."  This system also seems fair to those not interested in college: they pay nothing.

There are shortcomings, of course.  Wealthy users of private universities contribute nothing to public universities under this scheme.  Pursuers of high-paying careers might drift in greater numbers toward private universities, if they can afford to.  A big investment is need to start this up, and then long-term trust in the public system is needed to keep it going in the face of inevitable pretenses that it's collapsing like Social Security (which -- breaking news! -- is not collapsing).  Most importantly, perhaps, the Oregon model covers only tuition. Room and board and books should be included as well, or the problem of student debt won't be solved.

But this is a creative possible step forward that could someday spread to every state and to private institutions as well, which might discover it is needed for them to compete. 

RootsAction.org members in every state and Washington, D.C., recently emailed their state legislators by the thousands asking them to set up commissions similar to Oregon's and to seriously pursue solutions to unaffordable education.  You can do the same.

Here's the email that's being sent (you can edit it): 

"As a constituent, I urge you to consider:

"The state of Oregon has passed a law creating a commission to study a plan called "Pay it forward. Pay it back."  Under this plan, tuition at state universities will not be paid upfront or borrowed from loan sharks.  Graduates will pay the state back by handing over 3% of their income for some number of years.

"The Oregon model could be improved.  As proposed it covers only tuition.  Room and board and books should be included as well, or the problem of student debt won't be solved.

"Getting such a program started will take serious investment and political will.

"For our children and our grandchildren, please exercise the sort of leadership needed and move our state toward treating education as a right, not a privilege."
 

Almost immediately, RootsAction heard from Maryland State Delegate Kirill Reznik who said he had been considering this idea and wanted to move on it now.  He sent out this announcement:

"DELEGATE KIRILL REZNIK TO INTRODUCE “PAY IT FORWARD, PAY IT BACK” INITIATIVE IN 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

"(ANNAPOLIS, MD) August 2, 2013 Following the recent passage of the 'Pay It Forward, Pay It Back' bill that overwhelmingly passed the Oregon State Legislature in July, Delegate Kirill Reznik (D- Germantown) plans to introduce a similar bill in Maryland. If passed, Maryland would become the second state to explore alternative options to the mounting student loan debt epidemic.

"'Pay It Forward, Pay It Back,' is an idea that originated out of a Capstone Seminar on student debt out of Portland State University, generating an innovative solution to student loan debt. Whereby students would go to college tuition free and then give back a small percentage of their gross annual income over the next 20-25 years until their tuition was paid in full. Ironically, Oregon passed the “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” bill on the same day that Congress voted to double student loan rates.

"Delegate Reznik will be introducing legislation to authorize a study to determine whether or not such an idea will work and how best to roll it out.

"'Receiving a higher education is the most effective way to promote economic mobility. Unfortunately, the cost of education shuts out those opportunities for too many Marylanders. As the State with the best public education system in the country, we should also be on the forefront of expanding higher education. The economic opportunities that will come along with this innovative approach will make Maryland a top destination for business and industry,' said Delegate Reznik.

###

"Delegate Kirill Reznik is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing the 39th District in Montgomery County. His district includes the areas of Gaithersburg, Germantown, Montgomery Village, Washington Grove, North Potomac and segments of Darnestown, and Derwood. He began serving in the House of Delegates in October 2007, and sits on the Health Government Operations committee. He was currently appointed to serve as the Chair of the County Affairs Committee within the Montgomery County House Delegation."

Now, the question arises: What about your state?!

Sequester Optionally Applied Only to Good Things

Spending cuts have been applied by Congress to both military and non-military spending. 

In my view, the military cuts are much too small and the non-military cuts should not exist at all.  In the view of most liberal organizations, the military cuts -- like the military spending and the military itself -- are to be ignored, while the non-military cuts are to be opposed by opposing all cuts in general. 

But, guess what? 

The spending limits on the military are being blatantly violated.  Both houses of Congress have now passed military budgets larger than last year and larger than is allowed under the sequester. 

Meanwhile the sequester is being used to cut away at all that is good and decent in public policy.

Talk Nation Radio: Highway Boondoggles Bypass Budget Crunch

Randy "Salz" Salzman is a transportation writer and researcher and the author of Fatal Attraction: Curbing Our Love Affair With the Automobile Before it Kills Us.  He discusses how highway construction boondoggles that are bad for health, heritage, the environment, and even the flow of traffic, have survived in these times of cramped public budgets.  In particular, Salzman looks at the example of a proposed highway in Charlottesville, Va., opposed by the public but rolling ahead toward unsafe, destructive, and ridiculously expensive construction.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Talk Nation Radio: Pentagon Professor Says the U.S. Military Overpowers Civilian Rule and Should Be Demilitarized


Gregory D. Foster is Professor of Political Science at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, D.C., where he previously has served as George C. Marshall Professor and J. Carlton Ward Distinguished Professor and Director of Research. Foster says the United States no longer has civilian control of the military, and that the military should be "demilitarized."

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Talk Nation Radio: Robert Pollin: There Is No Fiscal Crisis


There is no fiscal crisis. There is an unemployment crisis. And there is a solution: tax the banks. The support for this argument is explained by Robert Pollin, the co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.  His latest book and papers discussed during the program are here: http://backtofullemployment.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio