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Mind of a Progressive: The Republican War on Education

by Gary Thompson

The first installment of this series discussed the Republican party’s war on college education.  It told how so many Republicans find scientific truths to be so very inconvenient because they contradict their religious beliefs or financial basis.  

The second part of this series looked at why Republicans don’t want you to get a college education.  It showed how emotional arguments are used to manipulate the people who lack good critical thinking skills by making emotional arguments instead of intellectual ones.  Remember, although critical thinking skills are learned in many manners and settings, they are specifically taught as a part of your college education.

In this, the third and final installment of this series, we look at how the Republican Party is trying to make it difficult for you to even obtain that college education.  The tactic taken is to incrementally raise the price of your education to the point that you can no longer afford to go to college. This is done most obviously by raising tuition; but there are other more subtle mechanisms at work, also.  

One of these is to reduce Pell Grants, subsidies provided by the federal government to help students in need to pay for college. Other ways are to reduce tax deductions for college related expenses and to force very high budget deficits with the intent of cutting social programs (including those that support lower income college students and their families) in the name of deficit reduction. These can be quite insidious and very difficult to identify directly. The bottom line is that college education becomes financially out of reach for middle and working class individuals, thereby reserving the benefits of that education to the financially elite, often referred to as “the one per cent.”

Let’s take a look at some of these. According to the Charleston Gazette Mail, “the average tuition at West Virginia’s public colleges and universities increased by about $4,200 a year, or roughly 147 percent, in the past 15 years…” That is an increase of nearly two and a half times.  That article goes on to report:

In his first State of the State address, Governor Jim Justice proposed cutting state funding to West Virginia University and Marshall University by 4.4 percent each, which would be roughly $5.9 million and $2.8 million respectively.

On Saturday, the House Finance Committee got a glimpse of what could be the House’s budget for next year. It kept the cuts Justice proposed while also cutting $1.28 million from community and technical colleges and about $5 million more from other four-year colleges.

“The colleges can use tuition increase to make up for those cuts, and that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing,” Sean O’Leary (West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy) said. “I think we’re starting to get to the point now where tuition increases have really made colleges a lot less affordable than it use[d] to be.”

On July 12, 2017, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported:  “The state Legislature just cut $16 million from higher education, starting this month. Meanwhile, WVU announced a 5 percent tuition increase.”  

West Virginia state government is controlled by a Republican trifecta: a Republican Governor, Republican control of the House of Delegates and Republican control of the State Senate.

Okay, tuition is going up, but how about Pell Grants? Well, in March 2017, USA Today reported that the 2017 Trump budget “…keeps the Pell Grant program, but reduces funds for it by $3.9 billion.”  

That article goes on to say,  “The program has been around since 1972, and the Trump administration says slashing its funding ‘safeguards’ its survival for the next decade.”   

To me, this sounds eerily like, “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” This quote refers to the Vietnam village of Ben Tre, destroyed in 1968 by American bombs, rockets and napalm.

The final GOP tax bill did not include many of the most egregious attacks on college students, including taxing tuition wavers for graduate students, taxing tuition wavers for family members of college faculty and staff as well as removing the tax deduction for interest on College Education loans.  However, it does raise the minimum standard income tax deduction, thereby reducing the incentive for middle class to wealthy taxpayers to contribute to charities such as college scholarships.

And worse, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the GOP tax cuts will increase the National Debt by $1.8 trillion (that’s trillion with a “T”) over the next ten years.  And that’s just about the time when any tax cuts that the middle class may have received will disappear, because, yes, those are temporary, while the big cuts for corporations and the wealthiest individuals in our society, are permanent.

Oh, yes. Be sure to remember how much Republicans hate that big new National Debt, even though they relentlessly drove through this corporate tax cut. How will they reconcile that? By cutting social programs, of course. Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin), Speaker of the House, the most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, third in line to the Presidency, has stated publicly that  “… the GOP is going to slash entitlements to fund [the] tax bill”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

My question to you as a student is, “How much harder will it be to attend college here at WVU-P if you lose your Medicaid provided health care, or if elderly members of your family lose their ability to stay in a nursing home or lose portions of their Medicare or Social Security and must be cared for at home?”

Watch out. Republicans don’t want you to get the education that helps you make good, informed decisions because they don’t want you to make good informed decisions.  

This is borne out by videos taken of three individuals, the CEO, the Managing Director and the Chief Data Officer of Cambridge Analytica. This is the consulting firm that Donald Trump hired to help with the social media and Facebook portion of his campaign.

Remember, these are the guys accused of stealing over 50 million user profiles from Facebook and then weaponizing them to attack Hillary Clinton and help Trump in the last election.  Well, they were caught on tape describing exactly the kind of things they will do for their candidates; things like extortion, blackmail, setting “honeytraps” and worse.  

Most interestingly, if you consider my last article on the topic concerning the Republican propensity to try to use emotional arguments rather than intellectual arguments, one of the videos clearly shows the Cambridge Analytica Managing Director Mark Turnbull seemingly admit that the company is in the business of preying on people’s fears.

“Our job is to get, is to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else, to understand what are those really deep-seated underlying fears, concerns,” he says in the video. “It’s no good fighting an election campaign on the facts because actually it’s all about emotion, it’s all about emotion.”

My point exactly, don’t let them manipulate you!

*The views expressed by the author of this article are not the opinions held by the Chronicle.

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