Naked Greed

The blunt fact is that the SAT has never been a good predictor of academic achievement in college. High school grades adjusted to account for the curriculum and academic programs in the high school from which a student graduates are. The essential mechanism of the SAT, the multiple choice test question, is a bizarre relic of long outdated twentieth century social scientific assumptions and strategies. As every adult recognizes, knowing something or how to do something in real life is never defined by being able to choose a “right” answer from a set of possible answers (some of them intentionally misleading) put forward by faceless test designers who are rarely eminent experts. No scientist, engineer, writer, psychologist, artist, or physician—and certainly no scholar, and therefore no serious university faculty member—pursues his or her vocation by getting right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity.

College President: SAT Is Part Hoax, Part Fraud,” Leon Botstein

Someone just pointed out that the emperor is naked.

Student Debt

Student loans have soared in popularity over the past decade, with the aggregate student loan balance, as measured in the FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel, reaching $966 billion at the end of 2012. Student debt now exceeds aggregate auto loan, credit card, and home-equity debt balances—making student loans the second largest debt of U.S. households, following mortgages. Student loans provide critical access to schooling, given the challenge presented by increasing costs of higher education and rising returns to a degree. Nevertheless, some have questioned how taking on extensive debt early in life has affected young workers’ post-schooling economic activity.

As a result of tighter underwriting standards, higher delinquency rates, and lower credit scores, consumers with educational debt may have more limited access to housing and auto debt and, as a result, more limited options in the housing and vehicle markets, despite their comparatively high earning potential.

Young Student Loan Borrowers Retreat from Housing and Auto Markets,” Meta Brown and Sydnee Caldwell, Liberty Street Economics

Along with the minimum wage increase, national health care, and the expansion of social security, student debt forgiveness has to be high on any Democratic Socialist or progressive agenda. It’s stayed below the radar so far but I suspect that may be changing. The quote, above, isn’t from a left-wing economics journal, it’s from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I first went into debt in this way in the 1980’s, after my Dad died and I had to find a way to pay for the rest of my undergraduate degree and an M.A.

IF I had lived in somewhere other than Texas, or now, the debt might have been at least partly forgiven when I served in the Peace Corps. The real problem came later, in the 1990’s, when I went for my Ph.D. at U.T. Austin, which had no tuition waiver, and paid so poorly for teaching that unless you had parents with money you had to go into debt. I’ve been paying that debt steadily for nearly 15 years and the last time I checked it won’t be paid off until I am around 85 years old. It’s nothing but welfare for the banks.

Run Bernie, Run!


John Nichols: You have always been identified as a democratic socialist. Polling suggests that Americans are not so bothered by the term, but it seems to me that our media has a really hard time with it. Is that a factor in your thinking about a presidential race?

Bernie Sanders: No, that’s not a factor at all. In Vermont, people understand exactly what I mean by the word. They don’t believe that democratic socialism is akin to North Korea communism. They understand that when I talk about democratic socialism, what I’m saying is that I do not want to see the United States significantly dominated by a handful of billionaire families controlling the economic and political life of the country. That I do believe that in a democratic, civilized society, all people are entitled to health care as a right, all people are entitled to quality education as a right, all people are entitled to decent jobs and a decent income, and that we need a government which represents ordinary Americans and not just the wealthy and the powerful.

So much of what [media-coverage of] politics is about today is personality politics. It’s gossip: Chris Christie’s weight or Hillary’s latest hairdo. But the real issue is how do you bring tens of millions of working-class and middle-class people together around an agenda that works for them? How do we make politics relevant to their lives? That’s going to involve some very, very radical thinking. At the end of the day, it’s not just going to be decisions from Washington. It really means empowering, in a variety of ways, ordinary people in the political process. To me, when you talk about the need for a political revolution, it is not just single-payer health care, it’s not just aggressive action on climate change, it’s not just creating the millions of jobs that we need, it is literally empowering people to take control over their lives. That’s clearly a lot harder to do than it is to talk about, but that’s what the political revolution is about.

Bernie Sanders: ‘I Am Prepared to Run for President of the United States’

This interview is well worth reading. Senator Sanders asks an important question: if he ran, or any Democratic Socialist (a better term than the more general “progressive”) runs, should he do it inside the Democratic Party or try to create a new party. I think he should run and in the process transform the Democratic Party. It’s too soon to start a campaign, but it is not too soon to start finding answers.