• August 30, 2015

Delivering an Influx of Federal Dollars, Obama Administration Wants Results

In Return for Federal Dollars, Obama Demands Results From Colleges 1

Brendan Smialowski for The Chronicle

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close In Return for Federal Dollars, Obama Demands Results From Colleges 1

Brendan Smialowski for The Chronicle

President Obama campaigned on a promise to provide billions more dollars to students and colleges, and he has delivered.

Since he took office, almost two years ago, spending on student aid has grown by nearly 50 percent, to $145-billion, while aid to colleges has exploded. Much of the new money has come with no strings attached, including $36-billion for Pell Grants in a student-loan bill he signed in March.

But the president has also sought to use federal funds as leverage, offering carrots to colleges and states that embrace his goals, and sticks to those that hinder them. More than any of his predecessors, he has demanded results in exchange for federal dollars, requiring grant applicants to set benchmarks for improvement and threatening to withhold aid from programs that fail to prepare students for jobs.

That approach has rankled some higher-education leaders, who accuse the administration of meddling in academic affairs, but it has won praise from advocates of greater accountability and assessment for colleges.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says the administration sees itself as a "partner" in a nationwide effort to improve schools and colleges. In a speech he gave a year ago, Mr. Duncan sought to reassure state education leaders that he was not seeking to seize control of the education agenda.

"Education reform starts locally, ... and my job is to help you succeed," he said. "I want to be a partner in your success, not the boss of it."

Still, he continued, "I'm not willing to be a silent partner who puts a stamp of approval on the status quo."

"I plan to be an active partner."

It's too soon to say whether the president's accountability agenda will succeed. Though Congress has embraced his ideas, his proposals have run into budget constraints. So far lawmakers have provided only a fraction of the money the president has sought for new incentive grants to states and community colleges.

He has also faced significant pushback on his plan to tie federal aid to graduates' debt levels and employment. While the administration is unlikely to abandon the proposal, it is under intense pressure from for-profit colleges to soften the so-called gainful-employment rule, and it recently postponed putting out the regulation until after the midterm elections.

An Ambitious Agenda

The president set ambitious goals for the nation's colleges early in his presidency, calling for the United States to lead the world in college-completion rates by 2020 and asking every American to obtain a "year or more" of higher education.

To make college more affordable for the millions of Americans without degrees, he proposed ending subsidies to student lenders and using the savings to significantly expand federal support to students, states, and colleges.

The president put community colleges at the center of his plan, asking Congress to give the institutions $12-billion over 10 years to educate five million more students. Much of the money would have come with conditions: To qualify for federal support, community colleges would have had to set goals tied to program completion, work-force preparation, and job placement. Grantees would have chosen their own benchmarks, but those would have had to be approved by the U.S. education secretary.

The proposal represented a significant shift in the way federal aid has been awarded to community colleges, requiring them to negotiate individual goals for the first time. It also broke from the tradition of distributing aid based on enrollments, instead tying awards to students' graduation.

The administration also sought to enlist governors in its goals, proposing a $2.5-billion College Access and Completion Fund to support states' efforts to improve college attendance and completion rates. The money, which was to be competitively awarded, would have rewarded states that embraced the administration's vision of reform, much like the new Race to the Top grants for elementary and secondary schools.

Both the community-college and state-grant proposals sought to change the incentive structure for higher education, encouraging colleges to focus on graduating students, not just enrolling them. As Mr. Arne Duncan explained to reporters in a 2009 briefing on the president's budget, "there have been very few incentives on the graduation side."

"There's been a lot of push to get students in the door, but not to graduate," he said. "We really have to change the status quo."

An 'Activist' President

Not surprisingly, the plans met with skepticism from colleges. Some community-college leaders worried that benchmarking could shift the balance of power from state and local governing boards to Washington, setting the stage for federal meddling in curricula. Private colleges, meanwhile, objected to the plan to funnel the Access and Completion grants through the states, arguing that it would be inefficient and could compromise their cherished independence. While public colleges must answer to state higher-education offices, private colleges are independently governed.

"We couldn't have states setting benchmarks for private colleges," said Sarah A. Flanagan, vice president for government relations and policy at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Colleges were also ambivalent about the president's plan to expand the Perkins Loan program and award a portion of the new aid to colleges that held down their tuition and did a good job graduating Pell Grant recipients. While college officials welcomed the money, they warned that the plan would penalize public colleges in states whose legislatures set tuition, often raising it to offset budget cuts.

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said Mr. Obama has taken a more "activist" and "expansive" approach to higher education than his predecessors, "both in terms of investing in education and moving the industry in ways it wants it to go."

"The good news is that they think higher education is important," Mr. Hartle said. "The bad news is that they would like more say over it than any other administration has had."

So far, though, Mr. Obama has had limited success in advancing his accountability agenda. Though Democrats included the president's proposals in legislation that ended the bank-based student-loan system, they were forced to scale back many of the programs when the bill yielded less savings than expected.

In the end, the measure provided only $750-million of the $2.5-billion Mr. Obama had sought for grants to states that advance his agenda on college completion. It included just $2-billion of the $12-billion the president was seeking for community colleges, and nothing for the program that would have required recipients to set benchmarks for improvement.

A 'Free Pass' for Colleges?

The president got another opportunity to shape education policy with the passage of the economic-stimulus bill, a multibillion-dollar bailout for cash-strapped states. The bill, which doubled the size of the Department of Education's budget, gave Mr. Duncan more money than any previous education secretary and the power to distribute it as he saw fit.

Though much of the bill's education aid, some $48.6-billion, was distributed by formula, governors had to provide four "assurances" to receive awards, including having "national college and career-ready standards" and tracking students from pre-kindergarten through college and careers.

The goal, said MaryEllen McGuire, who served until recently as Mr. Obama's senior adviser for education, was to leverage federal dollars for reform and build state capacity in the process.

"We weren't just giving money away," she said. "We had assurances in place."

But it was the bill's Race to the Top fund that gave the administration the most influence over education policy. Though only $4.35-billion in size, the fund has driven significant change at the state level, prompting governors and state legislatures to adopt common standards in elementary and secondary education, lift caps on charter schools, and begin to evaluate teachers based on their students' performance. Secretary Duncan recently credited the program with driving a "quiet revolution" of education reform.

Critics of the Race to the Top program see it as an example of federal micromanagement of education.

"This is the federal government telling states that if you want this money, you have to make your priorities Washington's priorities," said Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom, at the Cato Institute.

But supporters of the program say it's a model that should be extended to higher education. Kevin Carey, policy director of Education Sector, and a frequent contributor to The Chronicle, says colleges got a "free pass" in the stimulus bill, receiving millions of dollars with virtually no strings attached.

He argues that colleges would be better off if they accepted more federal oversight in exchange for more federal aid.

"There should be a Race to the Top for colleges," Mr. Carey said. He suggests, among other things, that the money go only to states that are open about their colleges' graduation rates, provide evidence of student learning, and publicly report their job-placement rates.

Regulatory Changes

Meanwhile, the president has pursued an aggressive regulatory agenda, proposing a slew of rules aimed at safeguarding the federal student-aid program from fraud and abuse. The most controversial of these is the "gainful-employment rule," which would cut off federal student aid to programs whose graduates have high debt-to-income ratios and low loan-repayment rates.

While the rule is aimed at for-profit colleges, some nonprofit colleges fear it could set a precedent for evaluating all colleges based on their graduates' earnings. That could hurt programs in regions with high unemployment and discourage colleges from offering degrees in low-paying fields, lobbyists say. "They're fairly well crossing the Rubicon," said David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges. "You're not that many steps away from forgetting about debt and just looking at earnings."

Other rules the Obama administration has proposed would apply to all institutions, including a plan to establish a federal definition of credit-hour and expand state-authorization requirements for colleges. Colleges say the proposals invite federal intrusion into academic and state affairs and would limit innovation in higher education.

With the first round of rules due out at the start of November, the Education Department is under intense pressure from colleges to soften its proposals.

But it's clear that President Obama hasn't given up on using federal dollars to push for change in higher education. In his budget for the 2010 fiscal year, the president proposed putting schools of education in direct competition with alternative-certification programs like Teach for America when seeking federal grants. And he's also expected to use $2-billion in grants to community colleges to reward programs that emphasize reform and innovation.

Mr. Carey, of Education Sector, sees signs that the days of free money to colleges are over.

"In the future, if colleges expect to get additional investments, they're going to have to make the case for what that money will buy," he said.


1. jc100 - October 11, 2010 at 10:01 am

As usual Barry has missed the point, but is willing to throw a ton of money in the general direction of a problem. Political and related economic pressure to accept unqualified college applicants - and even more absurdly to virtually require that they graduate regardless of performance - has significantly dumbed down American Higher Ed in general. If college entrance requirements included college level knowledge and intelligence, most of the Higher Ed accountability issues would go away. Catering to the sub par output and grade escalation of public schools is clearly not the answer.

2. akaprofessor - October 11, 2010 at 11:38 am

I'm a far left progressive, but I've come to start agreeing with the right-wingers about something: let's get the federal government out of education. They do have a role to play in things like issuing Pell Grants or even cracking down on the abuse of for-profit online degree mills that don't really educate their students. But they don't need to "incentivize" higher ed (or lower ed, for that matter), based on their unsubstantiated education reform theories. "Race to the Top" (to the Bottom?) isn't any significant improvement over NCLB. If you want to see the effect of this sort of nonsense at its very worst, just look at the D.C. public school system under Michelle Rhee.

The most disturbing thing about the Obama/Duncan approach is that they don't even seem to understand the purpose of higher ed. If their view is correct, we may as well close down all colleges and universities and just invest in "corporate training centers".

3. 11272784 - October 11, 2010 at 11:57 am

How can you base anything on graduation rates? I realize the temptation exists, but with more and more nontraditional students, personal conflicts, financial challenges and other factors, students persist, drop their studies, or stop out for many different reasons...few of which are within the control of an institution. This isn't high school where students are supposed to persist - it's completely up to them. Basing funding on graduation rates is fraught with problems.

4. dwilliams5 - October 12, 2010 at 08:47 am

Jc100...when you say that college entry requirements should include college level knowledge and intelligence, you seem to be suggesting that students matriculating into college should already know the stuff of college. If that's true, then you are right, the problems will go away. There will be few in college and those there will be biding their time academic time, going to sporting events and making connections in the various and sundry secret socieities to which they belong. It will be like the days before the GI Bill.

If we do that then we might as well fix the secondary Ed system, too. Only those students with high school level knowledge and skills should be admitted to high school. Eureka, most of the academic problems of high school go away. Require all children to get basic literacy by grade 8 and then send them to work in the fields....

Oh, wait, farms have been so mechanized by all those engineering advances emerging in the post-WW II period that less than 2% of the US pop is required to produce more food and fiber than we can consume.

Times have changed, and not all for the better. It's time we in higher Ed adapted to the realities of the (post) modern world. It's time we quit cloistering ourselves, rolled up our sleeves and took a leadership role in figuring how to deliver higher Ed to the masses.

It is worth noting that the funding target is associates degree programs...job skills rather than liberal arts higher Ed.

5. doctorbill - October 12, 2010 at 11:52 pm

As I watched the Community College Summit, I cringed as I heard the President say that we will "match the work of the classroom with the needs of the boardroom." Which "needs?" Lower wages for workers and larger incomes for executives? Which boardrooms? As I we didn't know already, the last few years have taught us a lot about the culture and values of the "boardroom." The President and his administration have a chance to develop educational policy (in reality what passes in the US for industrial policy) on the basis of equal participation of all relevant segments of society: teachers, students, workers organizations, business owners, and - oh yes -corporate executives and politicians. But having lived (and worked) through four decades of attempts to productively link education to the economy, I will not hold my breath.

6. triumphus - October 13, 2010 at 05:53 am

A shift of local control and power to Washington? Who would believe that?

So much to measure and so little time.

7. feudi - October 13, 2010 at 07:45 am

Mssr. Obama and Duncan have a point. When more than 50% of students leave college without achieving their goal, there's a serious problem folks...especially when most of the funding for higher education comes from taxpayers. Why is the idea of accountability so troublesome to the academe? The Adminstration, though, has not addressed the real problem, which is that so many of these students should never have gone to college in the first place.

8. marnall - October 13, 2010 at 07:58 am

Yes, let's eliminate the federal government from education, as no scheme of accountability is likely to please us. We should preserve the past, when we all accommodated the student whose goal was the gentleman's "C" and his parents, who gave generously to the university as a bastion of privilege. As intellectuals, this may be the best we can do to assure a revolutionary future!

9. vceross - October 13, 2010 at 09:11 am

This is the president all the starry-eyed academics voted for, without doing a whit of analysis or deliberation. In fact, during the whole campaign stretch, when I repeatedly pointed to one bit of evidence after another that this man seemed much more conservative and deeply bedded with big money, I was attacked. When I cut and pasted his own words into Chronicle comments, I was attacked. When I pointed out that he had no experience qualifying him to be president, I was attacked. Please note that I have historically been leftist, and if pressed would put myself there, though I no longer know what that means in this country. Here's what I did conclude, and highly relevant to this article and its comments: those who are teaching others are unequipped to engage in civil discourse and deliberation, much less the basic kinds of research, fundamental to intelligent voting. If college professors are insufficiently educated, lazy, and readily carried away by their emotions--ready to silence even loyal opposition--we are doomed. And so we are. For us, however, Rome isn't burning: there is no Rome.

10. atana09 - October 13, 2010 at 09:31 am

The concern about non traditional students is justified, as they do tend to have a harder time getting through college due to the pressures they bear. However those conditions do make education=financial stability even more critical for them as a useless degree or non-payable debt is a unsustainable burden for them.
In that regard, Obama's impetus to have some matching of accountability related to student funding and debt rates is quite appropriate. The issue is of course, how does one track such success or failure? And how much resistance from academe (of all types) would there be to even have such a policy wafting through their heretofore sacred halls?
Obama may be taking a slightly wrong tack, but he does have some sense of what academe may need to do in order to maintain social and institutional credibility. The unfortunate reality is that we have become too reliant on platitudes like 'lifelong learner' and loosely interpreted stats which attempt to justify soft albeit expensive results for our students. That condition cannot last, because ironically it may be the non-traditional students who will become the harbinger of a new expectation for higher ed. Simply because if it does not work for their oft pragmatic ends, the non traditional students do not have the luxury of a legacy or inheritance to make the soft landing from a failed education.
The mere presence of Obama's and Duncan's proposals might be enough to drive academe to reassess its mission and self reform rather than have such badly needed changes come down via the heavier hand of government.

11. hms3683 - October 13, 2010 at 09:36 am

Like Doctorbill, I too cringed to hear of the output of the classroom being matched to the needs of the boardrooms. Since the GI bill, we have seen noble experiments in such matching that led to an engineering glut in the late 60s, a teacher glut in the early 70s. And, following the advice of economists, colleges adjusted their goals so that the gluts turned to shortages. But shortages could be handled by outsourcing in such a way that, for lack of top-notch engineering over a long time, General Motors became the welfare recipient of the nation. The boardroom is too fickle and shortsighted in its needs to dteremine what the outpus of colleges need to be. Historically, the result of boardroom influence has been gluts of corporately trained college graduates accepting positions of underemployment in the general economy when the promised employment dries up as they get ready to seize the promised job.
Of course, correcting the fickleness of the boardroom implies planning the long-term economy. Unfortunately, long-term economic planning is linked in the minds of America's political right wing with socialism. Which means that the political left, rather than admit that good socialist ideas actually exist, will run for cover when the accusation of socialism arises. And the result will be watered down educational reform that responds to the needs of the boardroom. Increased influence in the boardroom is what led to the bank collapse. Can we learn that it is NOT an answer?

12. 7738373863 - October 13, 2010 at 09:58 am

While I understand the urgency of graduating students who can find and hold jobs in the current economic climate, I bridle at the hypocrisy and classism embedded in the proposition that colleges--even two-year colleges--exist solely for the purpose of jog training. Did Obama and Duncan go to college to get a job? Duncan has the family resources to have made the need to earn a living less pressing than said need was for Obama, who does not come from wealth, but would Columbia University look at itself proudly as the cradle of future community organizers? Does Harvard Law have a One-P (How to Be President) to complement One-L?

If the average person changes careers three times in the course of her/his working years, wouldn't it be more constructive and cost effective to give that person a solid educational foundation on which to reinvent him/herself as a professional rather than three courses of vo-tech training, all of it expensive and much of it redundant?

13. mikpap - October 13, 2010 at 09:58 am

I am very disappointed in this administration, especially with respect to education policy and the President's choice for Secretary of Education. The gainful employment concept neglects the idea that people go to college for an education, not a job. Art majors, social work majors, teachers, etc. all know that they are likely to make lower salaries. Yet, these careers still have value to our society. This value to our society is the reason the government (i.e., we, the people) pay for educating our young folks, including grants for college students. As for you feudi (#7), your comment that some students should not have "gone to college in the first place" is one of the most offensive, elitist, fascist statements I've ever read. Fortunately, you do not rule the world.

14. photogog - October 13, 2010 at 10:49 am

I'm a bit distraught by the comments section. Academics are actually criticizing Obama's push to make colleges more accountable for their programs and to ensure that those who are getting more financial aid are also more accounted for and get the actual help they need. Its cracking down on useless over priced programs ...that don't give people skills. We are also working on the assumption that pushing skills means sacrificing intellectualism. This push for anti-intellectualism is more of a cultural problem rather then a logistical one.

Here's the big elephant in the room: Education shouldn't only be for people who can afford to go to school for four years and NOT get job skills. Everyone in this comments section is essentially saying that intellectualism should only be reserved for the rich. You call yourselves academics but you're all a bunch of entitled elitist individuals. Having practical skills doesn't come at the expense of critical skills. I went to the ivies. These kids were so blissfully unaware and totally uncritical because of their privilege.

It seems as if the academics who are most against it are the ones more interested in creating an intellectual elite rather then creating intellectual debate at all levels.

15. unusedusername - October 13, 2010 at 10:56 am

Still, he continued, "I'm not willing to be a silent partner who puts a stamp of approval on the status quo."
"I plan to be an active partner."

We are so screwed.

16. betterschools - October 13, 2010 at 11:31 am

We tried to tell the publics that they were next when they were so gleeful that the for-profits were getting hammered.

Did anyone notice what happened last year when the feds (Obama in particular) labeled the private student loan industry "greedy" and exploited the larger financial crisis as an opportunity to take it away from the private sector without due process. Now that the feds have a command business, they are loaning money to students on exactly the same terms that they decried as "greedy" 12 months ago.

With this in mind, I ask, "Which of the following will describe the feds actions now that they control both major purse strings of higher education? (a) Nothing, they are a benign force, (b) They will ask you how to be of help and follow your lead, (c) They will decide what "help" means and enforce it unilaterally through poorly thought out and even more poorly managed rules and regulations."

Perhaps now, you will join the for-profits in opposing additional federal control beyond insisting on much greater transparency to support intelligent consumer choice.

17. hms3683 - October 13, 2010 at 11:40 am

Sorry Photogog,

I do not picture my own comments above, or those of many other commenters, as elitist. The record on targeting curricula to the pronounced needs of industry (the boardrooms) is abysmal. Under the circumstances, targeting curricular decisions to the student's ultimate need to land on his or her feet is more productive to the student's intellectual and long-term economic health.

18. rac49 - October 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I am a community college teacher. I just walked out of a class with an enrollment of 20 students. 11 showed up for class. 4, did not have either a lab book or textbook with them. At least 2 of them spent the class on there cell phones texting. I lectured on the topic for 33 mins and could only get 1 student to answer the questions over the material that I had just covered. When I asked a student where they stood on their grade, they could not tell me. (It is posted on their course page). I get hit all the time that we have to retain our students but what do I do to motivate unmotivted students. I have videos, games, learning tools, I record all my lectures, offer off hours support, spend hours in the labs, hours online, hours supporting student who what me to do their work for them. I am at a lost as how to motivate a student who does not want to be motivaded, why are they are here is it just to get financial aid?

19. pigpen892 - October 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Too bad the comments section doesn't allow for sharing of evidence that we can successfully target curricula for the needs fo business and industry, which is not equivalent to the needs of "the boardrooms" (For that curricula we should probably look to college/university boards of trustees who *seem* to have equivalent views on labor and executive pay.).

As Photogog stated, targeting skills needed does not mean eliminating intellectualism. Instead it contextualizes intellectualism so that students have a reasonable chance of becoming a critical thinker with skills that may, just may, offer them the opportunity to begin their desired career without insurmountable debt.

I, for one, do not fear accountability, and see President Obama's education initiatives as an opportunity to improve.

20. anonscribe - October 13, 2010 at 01:03 pm

I agree that accountability is the problem. But, it's not a problem for college presidents or professors: they're accountable to people all the time. Presidents, professors*, and provosts can all be fired. Superintendents of CC districts can be voted out. *60% of courses are taught by professors who don't have tenure.

You know whom we don't hold accountable? Students. If we want to fix graduation rates, we're not going to do it with fancy new outreach programs or 24/7 counseling for ADULT students. The military does a fine job of educating 18 year-olds from diverse backgrounds. They do this with discipline and indifference to their recruits' whining, accompanied by the enticements of a job, health care for life, and the GI Bill. They certainly don't do it with a "consumer-driven" approach to recruit training.

Here's a suggestion: actually fail students who don't perform. Only allow student surveys for departments as a whole. Otherwise, grade inflation will continue, and with grade inflation comes student apathy.

Here's another: if a public university or college student flunks out, make him/her responsible for the ENTIRE cost of their failed college education. Instead of them walking away with, say, a year of tuition & books at a community college (maybe 1K ), transfer the entire cost (10K per pupil spending + 1K tuition) to them as a debt obligation that will be forgiven upon completion. Then, their incentive is to wiggle out of 10K of debt, AND the college in question has them on the hook for what they wasted.

Regardless, forcing "accountability" for graduation rates at individual colleges will do one thing and one thing only: increase grade inflation. The easiest way to graduate someone is to let them slide by without doing much work. As recent studies of student study time and future earnings indicate, it's more effort we need from students, not higher "completion" rates - if those are gained by further lowering standards.

21. maverik15j - October 13, 2010 at 01:45 pm

For those of you saying "get the federal government out of higher education", you obviously haven't read much about the history of HED. Arguably the two greatest expansions of HED (Morrill Act & GI Bill) were accompanied with massive federal subsidies. Without federal subsidy, access to HED in America would decline dramatically and this regressive policy would have a far reaching detrimental impact on American productivity, consumption and our place in the global economic market.

22. jaysanderson - October 13, 2010 at 01:56 pm

That's funny...I was just thinking that in return for my vote for Obama, I WANT RESULTS.

23. betterschools - October 13, 2010 at 02:14 pm


I understand this line of reasoning but I'm not certain it is correct or at least completely so. It is true that access would be severely curtailed were there no such federal support for the current costs of higher education (which increase at 2-5 times that rate of change in the CPI or GDP; this year, the public's doubled their own baseline). But economists make a good case that it was the same subsidies you refer to that caused these indefensible increases in tuition and fees. I'll grant that the answer lies behind a deep dive into the facts. If anyone can illuminate the question by pointing to a existing analyses, I would like to read them. The problem is that we are comparing to a hypothetical. No one knows how the society and the markets would have responded in the absence of specific government support. One might speculate that some forms of government support have been more helpful and less destructive than others. We do need to acknowledges that schools tend to soak up federal incentives quickly in the form of tuition increases, leaving the targeted disadvantaged students even more vulnerable than they were before.

24. butteredtoastcat - October 13, 2010 at 02:34 pm

In order to understand what Obama is really doing, you need to watch the K-12 debacle with NCLB and "Race to the Top." Both of these "reform" measures actually found inventive ways to label schools as "failing" and ushered in the Corporate Charter School takeover of public education, happening now. Can the privatization of state universities be far behind? UCLA's business school has just announced that they will not be taking state funding and will be relying on private sources.


How soon before this becomes a requirement, and not the exception? And who has that kind of money?

Watch K-12.

Watch Green Dot, Image, Edison, etc. corporatize the schools, and watch hedge funds take their "profit" of tax money off the top before they buy a single marker or piece of chalk:


Watch the LA Times vilify and shame LA public school teachers, causing one of them to commit suicide:


Watch states like California exempt corporate charter schools from many state laws regarding students and education:


Watch states like Florida vote to NOT pay K-12 teachers for advanced degrees, deprofessionalizing teaching as a profession:


Ask yourself how soon it will be before community college instructors and college professors have their teaching ratings published in the local newspaper, their students' test scores (yes, a college level exit test is coming) used to judge them as educators and human beings.


The real goal is not reform: it's privatization.

25. carisem - October 13, 2010 at 02:39 pm

this is such an interesting debate. as americans, we pride ourselves that anyone can go to college. other countries do not have our dropout rates -- because they all take comprehensive exams in high school that irrevocably tracks them into college or vo-tech, and because young people are pressured into choosing a path very early in life.

If we want to be inclusive and allow college to be a place where people find and renivent themselves we will inevitably have lower graduation rates and some students who accumulate debt without gaining much in the way of education. it's rarely a reflection of the education as much as it is a reflection of the committment of the student. there is just no way to say "everyone can go to college" and also have everyone succeed. it is a national investment and investors know that if you invest in thousands of enterprises some will fail no matter what you do. you invest because many will succeed beyond your wildest expectations and accept that there will be some losses.

The Education Dept would do well to quit meddling in higher ed and focus on making K-12 matter. If they could fix that many of the problems in higher ed would go away on their own.

26. wilkenslibrary - October 13, 2010 at 04:13 pm

Measuring success by graduation rates, at least at community colleges, illustrates a deep lack of comprehension of the goals of many of our students. Some want to transfer to a four-year school; some want to get a certificate; others want to sharpen skills or retrain, which may involve only a course or two; still others are curious about a subject matter--anything from astronomy to cinema to women poets to zoology--and just sign up for a class. And many, though I don't have any stats on this, register to qualify for health insurance. The "community" part of community colleges mandates that we serve the needs and interests of our local population, and that precludes a one-size-fits-all definition of success.

27. betterschools - October 13, 2010 at 06:22 pm


I think you are being a tad disingenuous or naive. Students do attend community colleges for all the reasons you mention but only when they declare matriculation toward the AA (or other) degree are they counted in graduation rates. If your school is getting the evening retirees in travel planning or the pilot stopping by for an affordable weather class mixed up with a student who seeks his AA in business so he can transfer to BigStateU, you need to work on your database.

28. laurelin - October 13, 2010 at 06:24 pm

Very interesting discussion.

I agree with anonscribe and rac49. Why should faculty (and colleges/universities) be held accountable without also holding students accountable. As a colleage of mine says, if we set out a wonderful salad bar, whose fault is it the student goes away hungry? Yes, maybe some of us could do better, but there needs to be accountability for the student, too.

I see a lot of students at my small public teaching university who drive a bigger, newer car (more of a gas guzzler and with much more expensive tires) than I have, have the latest model smart phone, and have a newer, better computer than I do. But these same students work so many hours that they can't get the homework or reading done and I have trouble finding courses for them to take when pre-registering them for the next semester. Or they take 18 hours online and then drop 9 or 12 hours. Yes, they are working somewhat to pay for higher tuition and book costs than I faced in my undergraduate years, but some of the work goes to expenses that are far from necessary.

I like the earlier commenter's notion that perhaps students should bear a higher portion of the cost if they fail or that some of the debt be forgiven if they complete within a certain period of time. The latter would be really tough to pay for, though.

And a lot of these same students did not have high-school level skills and knowledge with respect to reading, writing, and math. But we are still supposed to get them through college in 4 years.

I predict either a whole lot of grade inflation or a lot of faculty/admin conflict ahead.


29. trendisnotdestiny - October 14, 2010 at 09:15 am

Agreed that this discussion is interesting.... But it seems that many here (understandably so) get tripped up issues of student inclusion or exclusion as well as accountability in grade inflation. In my mind, these topics obfuscate the narratives a bit while triggering a resonating validity in real life experience for many academics. But this not need be the case.

I have an immense respect for anonscribe here as well as others. And this is not to say that my perspective does not have holes (it does), but we have to account for the pervasive notion that "students are being asked to be the CEO's of their own education" (Saunders, 2010 JCEPS). As rational economic actors, the extrinsic requirements (future salary, employment, prestige) of college supercede all of the previous intrinsic elements that many of us embraced in becoming educators. The issue about who is admitted to college or who does not has changed as is the case with who is most likely to hold students' accountable (the marketplace).

Two issues that have been brought up on this thread: access to higher education and responsibility for outcomes (while completely appropriate and needed) fundamentally miss the context of our present milieu. We must remind ourselves that the reason the professorate is experiencing "a de-skilling or change in our roles" is that the neoliberal marketplace will make both of these decisions for us. The idea of neoliberalism (financialization of everything) is that the economic and socio-cultural are bound together so as to be indistinguishable. Remember, markets (universities) need to be fed (students)and that the consequences (indentured servitude with a side of potential penury) are born by the individual as measure of personal responsibility. These narratives, both, have been crafted over decades to use during a period of re-configuration of the economy, supporting institutions etc.

While many contend (maybe not so errantly) that most in the system of higher education could use a little more accountability, what this looks like to academics and to corporatists is different. So, my two cents here is that we need to look at the intersectionality between state-corporate power grabs (because those of you barking at the government takeover of our institutions miss how these elected officials are complicit in doing the bidding of industry (while the corporatists sort out their own colossal errors in high finance, healthcare coverage, mine and oil disasters and fraudulent paper pushing with foreclosures).... Your instincts about government have been and are correct, but the alliance between our elected members and their funders (coporations) means that we either become co-opted by them (faux left-right divide) or that we figure out what our collective interests are beyond flunking the driftwood we see in class and pushing for more diversity/inclusion in our club. Its is more complext than that!

Oh! one last thing, be careful here professorate with your retirement funds here because pensions are next (along with a potentially long period of stagflation where commodity prices rise and incomes dwindle)..... Be careful; oh thinking ones.

30. sages - October 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

@ 13. mikpap

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction "Some students should not have gone to college? What a fascist idea!" one just needs to look around and think about the students that are currently in college. Consider for instance 18. rac49. Should these students be in college? What purpose does it serve that they are? We should have a discussion, not a shout down...

31. betterschools - October 14, 2010 at 01:37 pm

"We should have a discussion, not a shout down..." I agree. While all of us can probably argue most sides of this topic, I would like to hear what others think about the idea that some college is better than no college, even if it does not culminate (then or possibly never) in a degree. While I understand the related issues, such as resource allocation, I subscribe to this idea. Over the years, I have been in positions to work with many individuals who earned a year, two or even three years of college but had not graduated. While some of these folks suffered a little in their self-esteem with respect to not having completed, all were clearly the better for their college experience. I think this would include those who might not have "what it takes" to finish some aspect of a typical college degree. As one example, some otherwise bright folks lack the ability to manage the quantitative requirements. Some of these individuals find a way to sidestep the requirements (I know at least one Ph.D. who could not pass the quant section of the GED but manipulated the system like a sociopath; I'm certain there are many more out there) while others are more honest in their approach to the system. It doesn't occur to them to manipulate it. They just quit. The same observations might hold for foreign language requirements, etc. Why do so many of our colleagues object to the idea of everyone trying to get as much college education as they can and, for many, focusing on subject matter rather than degrees?

32. anonscribe - October 14, 2010 at 02:58 pm

I think people are making a lot of good points in this discussion. In an ideal world - or perhaps in something other than a neoliberal world - it might be entirely justified to tax citizens in order to provide universities and colleges that are open to all as institutions of citizenship and democratic inquiry. I'm certainly not opposed to this idea, but the current political and economic situation - including the very structure of political and economic institutions - is completely antithetical to thinking of universities as institutions of democratic inclusion and inquiry.

I think @trendisnotdestiny's perspective is fairly accurate, and I think it holds completely true for Obama, who is neoliberal to his core. The very notion that universities and colleges exist PRIMARILY for the creation of workers and the stimulation of the economy is perverse. As a previous commenter put it: if this is the case, then Berkeley is just a trade school and ought to drop its pretensions to being something else(and to do justice to trade schools: in their formative years had extensive lending libraries and lectures on everything from history to personal finance).

The problem, unfortunately, is that to prevent the neoliberalization of higher education would require a profound change in tax structures, financial regulation, and popular attitudes. Many parents view their college-aged 'child' as "an investment," and many legislatures view their public university systems as having value only insofar as they drive the state's economy. It's not that these are bad goals or pursuits; it's that public colleges and universities ought to be PRIMARILY concerned with the promotion of democratic practices and wide education of the citizenry in those subjects that matter to democracy. They should be only secondarily concerned with providing ROI on tax funds in quantifiable forms.

The inverse problem is that if one argues the primary purpose of a public college should be democratic in nature and not economic in nature usually sounds to the public like elitist or aristocratic hogwash. Democracy is a dream of the elite, many believe. The "hard reality" of jobs and checking accounts is what "really" matters to the people. That this is widely believed means that proponents of democratic institutions and forms of participation have no refuge: the wealthy could care less (believing that "voting with one's dollars" is preferable to voting with one's vote) and much of the middle-class thinks
"democracy" is completely understandable in terms of jobs and taxes.

All this is to say that in the absence of likely change, the only left to do is prevent the professoriate from becoming - even more - the middle-managers in an elaborate work-training bureaucracy instead of those who are given the mandate to defend and promote democratic modes of knowledge and inquiry. Hence, why putting more emphasis on student's duties and obligations (not as CEO's of their own education, but as citizens with the responsibility of safeguarding their own minds for social reasons) is preferable to allowing all the blame to fall on the heads of professors who, by and large, are already doing all that one ought to ask of them.

33. betterschools - October 14, 2010 at 03:50 pm


Can you explain your basis for saying that President Obama is "neoliberal to his core" when, in higher education, one of the few areas I know deeply, he has moved in a direction that could be considered the opposite? Last year, he federalized the entire student loan process, taking the business permanently away from the private sector, calling them "greedy" and is now loaning money on exactly the same terms from the federal budget with the considerable profit therefrom going back to the federal budget. This year, he is in the process of creating rules and legislation that will severely handicap private sector higher education while, at the same time, he is creating incentives for public sector institutions designed to take that same business away from the private sector. I would be interested in your insight as focused on his behavior with respect to higher education. Do you see this as an exception to your generalization or do you have an explanation for his behavior that makes him a neoliberal in this area as well?

34. bstevens - October 14, 2010 at 03:58 pm

The high powered federal meddling in "quality" in higher education began with Bush. Just please don't forget that!

35. trendisnotdestiny - October 14, 2010 at 04:26 pm

@ betterschools,

Obama is a neoliberal by his participation in the business round table, hiring Geithner & Summers, support emanating from the financial services industry plus the fact the no one becomes president in this country without well financed neoliberals who expect policy quid pro quo (ex. healthcare and financial reform)

Rahm's famous quote about getting and maintaining power for Obama (the first phase is about money, money, & money; the second phase is about money, media and money) and the last phase is about money, media and votes).... Left and right mean nothing when its about getting money and promising policy to neoliberals... He is in bed with them (no doubt and despite his campaign rhetoric)

36. trendisnotdestiny - October 14, 2010 at 04:28 pm

@ anonscribe,

I do not think I could have constructed a better narrative or a more thoughtful reply. I wish there were more comments like yours that get to the heart of things....

37. anonscribe - October 14, 2010 at 04:59 pm

@betterschools - In the interest of fairness, I was exaggerating a bit. I suppose it's fairer to say that within Obama, the angel of neoliberalism is at war with the angel of progressivism. But, even in higher education, his vision is entirely neoliberal. We just have to ask: why do inclusion, loan efficiency, and accountability based on graduation rates matter? In order to produce more skilled workers at a cheaper cost. He's not beholden to the ideology of privatization, but that doesn't prevent him from promoting neoliberal policies. Arne Duncan is the poster-child for neoliberal educational policy.

The only important thing to point out is that neoliberalism has been incorporated into a certain form of Clinton-era progressivism. Hence, what matters to neoliberal progressives is curing social ills, not promoting democratic modes/institutions. Economics is their tincture for nearly every ill: create mini-markets for everything and watch our problems evaporate. This has been the model for cap & trade, health care reform, and now higher education reform.

This isn't a necessarily insane way to govern or create policy, but it does pose a problem: it reduces every citizen to nothing more than an economic actor in an elaborate incentivizing bureaucracy. Hence, one can't even have the debate anymore that, for instance, maybe universal health care on the UK model is preferable even if it is a little less efficient than some strange non-profit market hybrid system because it fosters social equality and democratic solidarity. Efficiency and budget-savings are all that matter. I.e., the individual is only conceived of in economic, cost-benefit terms. Slowly, the individual begins to think of herself solely in this way (hence, the crazy helicopter parents who view their own college children as investments instead of, I don't know, citizens learning the work of democracy, or individuals undergoing a process of self-discovery).

But, I digress.

38. betterschools - October 14, 2010 at 05:22 pm


Thanks. This seems to be a topic of great passion for many and I found your unpacking helpful. As an amateur to this particular topic, I understand your assertion regarding reducing citizens to economic actors. What I don't understand is how this particular kind of subsumption is morally inferior to that of reducing them to the other kinds of actors entailed by different political ideologies. So far as I am aware, there is no nor has there ever been a society that functioned at a deontological level. I'm not certain that it could. That said, some U.S. law breaks away from strict rule- and to a lesser extent act-utilitarianism. In 1900 you could legally shoot a man who stole your horse (assuming you could prove he did) because it was linked to economic livelihood. In 2010, we subsume property to life in law and the shooter will go to jail. More than one competent moral philosopher has argued that, on balance, managed capitalism, offers the greatest potential for maximizing individual liberties in a way that at least trends toward a deontological ethic.

Can you conceive of a political ideology that does not subsume citizens to one utilitarian role or another? If so, what ideology is that and how would it work in the large numbers that define the modern world?

39. trendisnotdestiny - October 14, 2010 at 06:45 pm

@ Bob,

"More than one competent moral philosopher has argued that, on balance, managed capitalism, offers the greatest potential for maximizing individual liberties in a way that at least trends toward a deontological ethic."

This is precisely the point (and part and parcel to much of my venomous comments towards you historically). Managed capitalism is much different that hyper-capitalism. In other words, the last time we had a major stagflationary event (1974), this period was used to move from a balanced approach (individual and collective needs) to a "neoliberal" centered economy that was left to the marketplace to manage as people assume more risk under the belief that we are all economic actors (unfettered of all constraints like government regulation, cross border trade agreements, the use of debt (vehicles) as a global financial weapon and access to cheap capital).

Bob, I suspect we would be in more agreement on issues, if more scholars and lay people alike better understood the difference between managed capitalism and global neoliberalism. But these narratives are highly complex, require people to follow their country's historical, economic and social policies and are not profitably coherent for big multinational businesses designed to extract wealth in a process of consolidation (concentration of capital).

It is not that we believe in Marxism or Socialism as a viable solutiuon (many Americans reject these ideas from the bottom of their core). But their criticisms are useful to point out how far we have drifted (as Anonscribe) points out from the gap between rhetorical intentions meeting actions. The ideology need not be that capitalism is evil, but that it requires a balanced approach which is in labors' absence has led to the last 30-40 year period of neoliberalism (which was sold by Reagan, Thatcher & Deng as TINA: there is no alternative).... We know there is an alternative, but often it gets purposely and ignorantly subsumed in those discussions devoid of the connections between the economic and the social.

Most of the criticisms that come from progressives emanates from the improper marketing of Roosevelt's New Deal being a socialist or communist giveaway. And if the 40 year period following the New Deal legislation was not evidence enough, called the Golden Period of Economics, that capitalism can and will flourish when the needs of labor and capital find a greater balance. 1974 is remarkable for so many reasons, but this was the year that Golden Era ended and neoliberalism began to take route (Chilean experiment under Pinochet). It about improving our current ideology rather borrowing a whole new one that does not fit the time and context.

40. betterschools - October 15, 2010 at 02:24 pm


I'll try one more time to engage on the issues. I welcome your intellectual passions but personal attacks are not only unkind, they are unwarranted. Whether in Congress, talk-radio, Tea Party rallies, or these blogs, incivility and extreme polarization have become standard practice. There may be little hope for Congress but I expect more from intellectuals.

The above article addresses federal expectations in relation to its support for higher education. In that regard, at least, I think the evidence is pretty strong that President Obama has executed on an agenda to increase federal oversight and control, including a sub-agenda to exploit federal power to transfer business from the private sector to public institutions. Whether this is the right and good action is a much different discussion which, to be rational, would require considerable groundwork on definitions and assumptions. On these limited grounds, he does not appear to be conforming to the definition of a neoliberal.

With respect to the larger issues, I'm not a sociologist but my observations are that the average citizen is of the opinion that the causes of the recession et al. are failures in the management of capitalism. They may not word it this way but they refer to lack of oversight, ineffective regulations, failures to enforce, crony-ism sidestepping of regulations, etc. I think we, the public, are also largely of the opinion that our remedies have been flaccid to date, likely due to some of the reasons you offer; they make sense. Health care reform addresses a few important issues but sidesteps the most important cost control issues (apparently we can't understand what it means to have 18% of GDP going to health care, and rising; now, the insurance companies are lobbying to define mailing letters to members as part of their 85% that has to go to direct health care costs; it won't end there). The same kinds of things can be said for "reform" in investment banking . . . and we haven't even got around to Freddie and Fannie.

I've never met a capitalist who wasn't strongly committed to the idea of managed markets. I'm certain there are believing hyper-capitalists to be found (quite a few people believe we haven't been to the moon) but they can't be rational if they are alive and observant today. Why do we care abut irrational people?

Setting the terminology aside, it seems that two issues are on this table. The first issue is, "How do we facilitate the maximum power of the market consistent with preventing market successes from extracting more resources than are consistent with their success (I think most people would agree that the banking industry extracted resources far in excess of its contribution to the ongoing infrastructure). The second issue is, "Which services should be exclusively public? Which should be exclusively private? And which service markets should be shared and, if shared, how can fairness be achieved, given the public sector's funding, risk, and market advantages?"

I take the time to spell these two issues out because I see persistent confusion and at times conflation of them as I look through the last six month's of posts made by impassioned opponents of neoliberalism. Axiologically speaking, the larger of the two issues has to be the first one because it subsumes the "where to place the service" question in all relevant moral dimensions. It would be difficult to argue otherwise. That being the case, it is illogical to argue against a privatization based on inequities (alleged or proven) arising from failures in the management of capitalism. That argument is about the failures of regulations or something similar. Conversely, we cannot use incremental failures of a public or private service as evidence that the neoliberal agenda (qua under-managed capitalism) has run us into the ground. Yet, these (and more) are exactly the kinds of confused arguments I can see in dozens of posts over the past six months. Part of the problem is the excessive reliance on "examples" where one bad outcome or another was observed under the command of a specific leader (Regan If-and-Only-If Pinochet when NOT Roosevelt . . .). It reminds me of an Old Star Trek episode in which Captain Picard found himself stranded on a planet with an alien who could only speak in allusion. Picard, of course, lacked the historical knowledge to make sense of the allusions and the alien could not understand simple factual assertions. Both aliens struggled to understand each other to little avail. In my areas of expertise, I find that if I cannot speak directly and without reference to my own insider knowledge, it generally means that I haven't thought about it enough to be clear in my own mind. Allusions have the power to convince in excess of good reason.

With all this said, it seems that the solution in the health care industry is more real competition (on the front and back ends) managed to ensure that the competition doesn't get rolled up. In banking, the solution is to force bankers to gamble with their own money and to be rigorously transparent to investors. Better managed capitalism in both cases. What solution(s) do you propose for the rising costs, declining graduation rates, and increased needs for an educated citizenry in higher education? Would you have private sector providers disappear if you had the power? Or would you require that all providers be completely transparent (orders of magnitude more than any are at present) as I have urged upon Secretary Duncan in the form of a dozen transparency metrics that would fully inform student choice? If you would allow public and private sector higher education, how would you address and equalize the significant financial, market, and risk advantages enjoyed by the public sector providers? What other dimensions would you manage. If you value surgical precision, leverage, and effective minimalism, as I do when it comes to regulation, where would you insert or exert those precise controls? We can all rage against injustices. I find them everywhere I turn. What are the concrete solutions to those that we have at least a plausible chance of affecting?

41. trendisnotdestiny - October 15, 2010 at 04:23 pm

@ Bob,

Wow! That is a lot to comprehend, take in and then sort through. Most of previous comment originates from Anonscribe's description in #37 and your reply to #38. What I took from that exchange is that you were able to acknowledge a less than expert status with respect to neoliberalism and posed some questions upon reflection. This is what I see as a very interesting dialogue and one that I would not sully with personalized or conflictual rhetoric. I, too, will attempt 1 more time to make the invisible more clear with you since this is a topic I know something about (and you are correct that is a passionate topic for most who understand it).

In response to your post in #38, the most clear way to characterize neoliberalism is to discuss its roots which emanated from the stagflationary environment in the mid-seventies. Since the "old" Keynesian models were sold an insufficient or outdated models of managed capitalism or liberalism. Neoliberalism (Milton Friedmanesque)was a response to managed capitalism where capital goes through 6 six stages (Chomsky, 1999) in creating new markets:

1) Open Up: selling the notion of free markets, competition and shared governance... The whole idea is to get resource rich countries to open up their markets to us (and our financial companies). This undergirds much of the Cold War mentality that capitalism is good and communisim is bad, but what does not get discussed is who owns the resources (see Iran 1954, Kuwait 1990, Saudi Arabia decades upon decades and Venezuela, 2010). This has been heightened ever since the fall of USSR and inclusion of China in the global marketplace.

2) Assess Profitability: identify resources, profit centers and barriers to doing business (regulations, social and cultural mores, and governing statutes). Some might call this due diligence, but in the neoliberal word this information is acquired through private data mining companies, hedge funds, and communication entities that use informational asymmetries to exploit profit (John Perkins discusses this in his 2004 book in countries that we have no interest in other than acquiring resources).

3) De-Regulate: one crucial part of the neoliberal world involves the gutting of rules that permit capital to flow freely. In our country, this involves two major components. First, industry pressures government to push through legislation that allows industry to govern itself (Marquette Decision --- repeal age old usury laws or the repeal of Glass Steagall during the Citigroup merger with Travelers in the 90's Gramm-Leach Bliley). Secondly, industry (public-private partnership PPP) puts pressure on state budgets through a starve the beast process (see state local deficit information here) as well as hires a limited few people to serve as regulators whom they pay off to keep the status quo (see Mary Shapiro at the SEC, The several heads of the OCC during the last two decades as well as the CFTC). Basically, the PPP either legislates its way to de-regulated markets or they co-opt it through agency spending cuts or buying off regulators (or they also can be hired as known incompetents too).... De-regulation is a three front war for those who would call on regulating industry, but the current narrative is that it stifles innovation

4) Privatization: once the entity (country, municipality or foreign company)opens up and receives the adnavces of the neoliberal agenda, then massive loans are sold to and undertaken by the receiving entity to build out infrastructure, advance technological modernity and a marketing of this resource for which there is already secured private contractors waiting to win contracts... There is a belief here that the best possible way to own something is to do it privately (because someone is responsible for that piece of land, business, house etc)... Hence the Ownership Society. But what people miss in this move towards private wealth accumulation for individuals is the systemic bubble making that the underlying economics promotes.

5) Cut Social Supports: this where managed capitalism conflicts with neoliberalism most visably. Programs that supported middle class growth (in many countries across the world) become labelled as entitlements (social security, medicare, welfare, education funding etc). This is not to say that abuses do not exist in the realms because they do, but we have to admit that when these supports are taken away (or threatened), that risk shifts away from those supporting institutions onto individual economic actors and their individual contexts. It would be one thing if our PPP prepared US citizens for this shift taking place honestly, but this movement has been politically about saying one thing about cutting supports and doing another (see healthcare and financial reform)... Notice that I did not begin with cutting social supports because in a neoliberal world, that is the last major thread to cut by those who want to financialize all aspects of behavior to form its market because there is the most resistance. The best example I can point to is the Ashley Madison website where they market adultery for profit. This definitely cuts into our societal fabric, but since it is a new potentially profitable market then there are supports for it where the single mother on foodstamps is accused of being lazy and using the system. Without structural supports that "de-financialize" some aspects of society that do not relate to profit directly: health, education, retirement, divorce; then all of us assume more risk as the threads of society begin to break.

6) Protect Profits: it is important to acknowledge that the idea of competition or opening up is no longer valid. Once marketshare and positionality are in place it is all about protecting revenue streams for neoliberals. This is where their ideology breaks down and becomes inconsistent with how a hyper-capitalist started their journey. This means passing through executive bonuses to those high up on the food chain, asking for bailouts or corporate welfare and firing american workers in the globalized mechanism of outsourcing cease to become about competition or global marketshare (its about protecting what they have amassed). See the head of the Chamber of Commerce's Tom Donoghue's comments about outsourcing here.

Bob, all of this is being sold as if TINA (There is no Alternative); What is significant is that all of this occurred over the last forty years where cheap access to credit flooded consumers and world markets, wealth and asset appreciation sky-rocketed out of control and the wages of labor stagnated while productivity & executive compensation went through the roof. A Neoliberalistic approach to the economy uses debt as an instrument of war to gain access to new markets, exploit short-term profits, foster private ownership, accumulate power to evade regulation all in the name of a non-capitalistic protectionistic mode of retaining resources. Many of us do want a managed system of capitalism, but that involves balancing the wants and needs of individuals with that of our collective identity. In a global marketplace, these tensions are being torn since the borders between states are less and less important with technology, communication and free trade agreements...

This is the best explanation I can give you about neoliberalism on a friday afternoon, but there many authors who address this topic much better than I. Bob, I have yet to read in entirety your latest post as I suspect it will take me some to get at what it is you wish to dialogue about. However, I will give it my best effort this weekend.

Lisbeth Salander

42. trendisnotdestiny - October 16, 2010 at 12:53 am

@ Bob,

"The above article addresses federal expectations in relation to its support for higher education. In that regard, at least, I think the evidence is pretty strong that President Obama has executed on an agenda to increase federal oversight and control, including a sub-agenda to exploit federal power to transfer business from the private sector to public institutions. Whether this is the right and good action is a much different discussion which, to be rational, would require considerable groundwork on definitions and assumptions. On these limited grounds, he does not appear to be conforming to the definition of a neoliberal."

I see this as less of federal power takeover and more as a partnership where government takes the lead initially for industry to clear the way for a privatized educational system. This partnership is currently being run by Arne Duncan (who has a privatizing track record in Chicago). You can tell that Anonscribe is spot on here about Obama's neoliberal agenda in education as they are looking to: 1) a call for massive increases in higher education attendance by 2020, 2) The New Orleans charter school model being tested in Detroit public schools (creating a competitive and performance based curriculum), 3) rising tuitions, multiple market options for students (public/private/online/face-to-face/adult learning etc) and the continued policy of non-dischargeable debt during an economic depression and lastly 4) a whole new generation of students who see the extrinsic value of college (utilitarian) as the primary reason to attend. All these issues point to some collusion with the neoliberal agenda since we are asking students to:

1) Open Up: consider getting education at one of our institutions; it may be difficult, but if you work hard enough then you'll succeed. Degrees translate into better paying jobs and those who don't will be at a permanent disadvantage.

2) Assess Profitability: Obama & Duncan's race to the top is a classic example of a market led goal based on assessment of profitability (who experiences the majority of the expense: individual students)

3) De-regulate: change the rules for those who resist it the most (the professorate); A lot of Obama's rhetoric (probably in the movie Looking for Superman too), there is a lot of the we need to get rid of unproductive teachers. No mention of neoliberalism here, just accountability rhetoric (which is designed to fuel the student as the consumer/customer notion). New teachers who rise in the system will be the ones who most align with the neoliberal world view. This is how rules will be changed (mostly involving the professorate, but I am sure there are other examples).

4) Privatize: content/curriculum, research, branding of prestige
The economic realities for students means that as costs rise and non-dischargeable debts increase then the university becomes a job-training launchpad where the interests of the economy are served and secured first through competition/social belief in the process of education and later on through student loan debt. Either way, labor matriculating in the workforce is much more willing to serve industry's needs (malleability)

5) Cut Social Supports: Use incentives versus direct financial awards; this where the neoliberal ingenuity is headed in the next few years....

43. betterschools - October 16, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Thanks. Give me time to think this over. I'm on the road.

44. jc100 - October 18, 2010 at 10:58 am

@dwilliams5: Point taken, as my point was ill-written. It should have read: "If college entrance requirements included non-grade escalated High School "C" or better content knowledge and intelligence (3 R's), most of the Higher Ed accountability issues would go away. Catering to the sub par output and grade escalation of public schools is clearly not the answer." I stand by that amended sentence as entirely accurate.

45. betterschools - October 18, 2010 at 09:00 pm


When I examine your points separately, #3 (deregulate) for example, it is easy for me to identify specific instances that concern me. In that sense, I agree with you. When I look various at aggregations of these issues, say #3 & #5, I also see strands of reasoning prevalent in the culture that move unhealthily in this direction. In that sense as well, I share your concern. As I aggregate more of these issues in my mind, it becomes more difficult for me to identify individuals who subscribe to all of them. I'm certain they are there, I just don't know them. Here is what may be a point of difference. Are you suggesting that this collection of "principles," desiderata or goal statements that we might agree are generally negative in their implications (I'll refer to them as goals) represent a specific agenda of specific individuals who have outsize influence or controlling power in our society? If so, whom? I agree that every one of the goal statements can be found instantiated in political life and elsewhere. However, and this is the point, they are to be found alongside dozens or hundreds of other goals (inferred from behavior or made explicit) that may or may not be aligned with these particular goals. Many of the other goals will be logically incompatible with these six. To be rational, they must be accounted for as well. One of the human minds greatest capabilities -- mostly useful, occasionally not -- is the expostfacto attribution of relations, even causal relations, to independent actions and events. It is the grist for irrational conspiratorial thinking as well as the food for good detective work. For a theoretical proposition to be scientific, it must generate propositions that are falsifiable in principle. If it explains all possible outcomes, it is a belief system and not a scientific model. I believe that Ronald Regan's thinking about privatization, for example, was not nearly so complex as your attributions might suggest. I think he simply believed (rightly or wrongly) that many things government does can be better done in the private sector. With respect to President Obama's behavior, it seems clear to me that some of his actions can be subsumed under a "neoliberal" agenda and some cannot. Aligning behaviors do not define him (or anyone) as necessarily subscribing to that particular theoretical construct any more than choosing to turn the other cheek makes one a Christian. More is required to infer principles from actions. My solution for Obama is simple: ask him (or one of his academic colleagues). Obama is a theory junkie. I assume he is also an honest man. I'm certain he can tell you where he stands with respect to the construct of neoliberalism -- where he is aligned and where he differs. In another life, and long ago, I sparred with Chomsky when I was deeply involved in John Searle's work. Noam is indeed a grand thinker.

46. trendisnotdestiny - October 19, 2010 at 07:02 pm

@ Bob

I am not selling you the notion that you have to subscribe to them all in aggregrate. As a former stockbroker (torchbearer's for the neoliberal state and financializing you and your loved ones), I am uniquely susceptible to these stages because we were trained to think like this. How could I expect you to "buy into" an experience that does not resonate. However, that doesn't necessarily make it conspiracy laden or untrue, but untested.

Also, not all individuals subscribe to each role. Remember, these stages involve building relations, businesses and markets. Some individuals are better at interpersonal relations while others are better at protecting their investments (other are better at evading regulations --- see the foreclosure mill industry and some are better at making the case to cut support).

But you notice, there is little evidence in the media for how we go into a country (blackmail, buyoff, assassinate or influence elections) based on the same very principles: open up, assess profits, de-regulate, privatize, cut supports and protect profits.
My point being is that not each link need know every other part of the chain.

"Are you suggesting that this collection of "principles," desiderata or goal statements that we might agree are generally negative in their implications (I'll refer to them as goals) represent a specific agenda of specific individuals who have outsize influence or controlling power in our society? If so, whom?"

This is a specific agenda for wealthy groups, businesses and entrepreneurs because the economic implications of these policies create: bubbles, large income disparities and stratified/identifiable trends from which to cross-sell product. The Whom is a very interesting question since most people do not self-identify as neoliberal even when they espouse the underlying beliefs. However, there are neoliberals everywhere: government, industry, education, public institutions and overseas. Some of the more powerful groups and thinktanks that emerge from this brand of a hyper-capitalist state are: US Chamber of Commerce, American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, University of Chicago Economics Department, George Mason University Foreign Relations, Ivy League-Wall Street Bankers and many more. Their work serves the agenda and they behave in ways that put "profits before people" (Chomsky, 1999). Another way to look at this is to identify those groups who have prospered while other groups have not during the same period. Massive systemic debt, fraudulent financial markets and corrupt politicians are all good indicators of the neoliberal state and how it works to sort out the winners and losers (homo oeconomicus)

In terms of Reagan, (Pinochet, Deng or Thatcher for that matter) they like Obama are spokespersons or salespeople of the neoliberal agenda. They realize that they do not hold the real power in this society (paying them $400K; they are the marketing mouthpieces for those who put them in positions of power). It is no mistake that Obama picked Emannuel, Geithner and Summers; before that we have seen Bob Rubin, John Snow, Hank Paulson and other esteemed banksters run this neoliberal economy based on consumption (70% of our economy used to be based on consumption). This is no accident; this was constructed over time using those same principle I learned as a stockbroker:

1) Get people to open up about themselves (use relation skills to build alliances and friendships). Get them to trust! Get them to feel important! Get them to rely upon you! Get them to open up their wants, needs and vulnerabilities......

2) During this process of relationship building, begin assessing how important they are to you; put into heirarchies of importance where they become numbers (client annuitized revenue streams -- CARS). You are simultaneously demonstrating how important, bright and indispensable you are to them (fostering a success narrative)

3) After a while, you have to ask for their business using techniques (assumed consent, differing forms of relational pressure based on their psychology which you have already considered in your first few interactions, and using a heightened sense of urgency). This is know as de-regulation in an individual sense where all the rules that prospective client once had about business shifts with your help into new rules (ones that you influence directly). This takes skill and usually involves triangulation where the old rules are shown to not apply to the given context.

4) Once the rules are changed; they are your client now (Privatized). You service and condition these clients to be viewed as yours (gift baskets, vacation trips, golfing) etc.
If they have problem outcomes (you delay making decisions or push blame onto a third party), if you have a problem then you make a change in their portfolio to compensate you for your time. Another person like me comes in the picture (its war)!

5) Cut social supports; all those informational avenues that the client was relying before are systematically dismissed by you, your institution and your industry. This is where you begin to acculturate your client into how business will conducted under your direction. Notice this is not how the relationship begins, but quickly the power has shifted in this relationship.

6) Protect profits at all costs; do not open up, quit assessing profit.... maximize efficiency, paint pretty pictures of how they are doing using grand quasi-economic theory and investment jargon 101.... Validate their sense of feeling uninformed because their perpetual belief in having outsiders do their financial investing means that you will protect your revenue stream (them). Most cease becoming relationships and become numbers to service...

This is how a neoliberal works in the world.... As you can see, I really do not want a neoliberal doing my healthcare, teaching, childcare and critical thinking about socio-cultural issues.

So, Bob your experiences may not mirror mine, but the one thing I can say about neoliberalism is that it is impossible to recognize unless you have been an agent of it or harmed by it since those benefit from it tend to think that they are special individuals rather specialists in embedded neoliberal behaviors.


47. betterschools - October 20, 2010 at 06:59 pm


A couple of strands here. To the extent that you are saying the investment banking firm you worked for had these steps as an explicit agenda, plan, etc. that is deplorable. I don't doubt you, though, I know some of these folks and they seem to think they belong to an anointed class because of their unique contributions to (in their view) the world good. I wish you would abandon the idea that they are my friends or have my ear. Every day I do my best to meet my own sense of equity in my relations without regard to financial benefit. I am a bit unique however only in that I can count as good friends two billionaires and at least a half-dozen of the poorest folks you might meet in normal life. I have high regard for and am stimulated by all of them, that is why they are my friends. Second strand. Perhaps it is my choice of friends but neither of my uber wealthy friends comes close to subscribing to the neoliberal principles (more like manipulative guidelines) you have outlined. In fact, I think they would find them as deplorable as you and I do. This is not to say you are not correct. Since Napoleon's time to my knowledge, and I'm certain before that, a small contingent of the super wealthy have formed alliances of various kinds in an attempt to manipulate the market to their advantage. Creating fear through wars, threats of wars, and terrorism has been one method. Manufacturing financial disasters has been another. Today, we have legalized a portion of this process in hedge funds and shorts. Empiricist that I am, however, I have to ask the question: Has anyone studied these behaviors comprehensively to see to what extent, if any, these wealthy manipulators actually beat "the market" net? It would not surprise me that it is a long term wash.

I would recommend to you another view of business, one I grew up seeing in the countless small businesses that treat employees respectfully and fairly, create jobs for members of the community, and tirelessly give back to the community in which they are born, raised, and die. These are not Hollywood's fictions of "business." I know these people personally. Hundreds of them. The create most of the jobs and most of the used wealth in the nation. They are the folks that President Obama says he understands are the key to job creation but, in fact, has done very little for, and only then or late.

48. trendisnotdestiny - October 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm

@ Bob

Strand One: I hear you maintain not being directly aligned with this view! My point is that we all identify with a customer in this example, but when we are the soliciter (we adapt our thinking to fit the context). In other words, we all have a huge capacity to lie to ourselves and obscure connections given our own self-interest. As a result, the people who benefit are playing the game to win and the people who do not benefit fail to realize a game is being played. Hence, my resistance in earlier threads once I had read about intered..... anywho, this flows into my second point strand response is that for most people, neoliberalism is hard to identify.

Strand Two: The wealthy are some of the least understood and under-researched as a group. They fund research projects, determine research interests/focuses and can shape media. The best place I have found to really understand these people is on a website called zero-hedge. Also, if you are interested in many of these behaviors it does not hurt to read Chomsky, Barb Ehrenreich, Naomi Klein, Simon Johnson, Nouriel Roubini, William K Black and Matt Taibbi. Each has inside access to a particular demographic or stage. In terms of a comprehensive study, this is my life's work (stay tuned)....

I came from rural Indiana, so I now about the alternative view of business (farming, small banks and community led industrial partnerships). However, one of the major fundamental aspects of neoliberalism is the indisputable trend of the concentration of wealth and disparities between big and small businesses.

Bob, it is not a matter of me adjusting to a different view that I already acknowledge exists in business, but more an acknowledgment that many have not adjusted to this difference in and between the groups who have resources and those who have few....


49. betterschools - October 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm


Yes, self-deception is a facet of advanced intelligence. It rests on our abilities to construct alternate realities. While the ordinary-language usage has a pejorative valance, it is an adaptive function. A life committed to developing a disciplined mind is the antidote to the narrower form of self-deception of which you speak. My view is that you still have surprises to learn with respect to how deep character often runs. You seem, on balance, suspicious about human nature, especially with respect to those who have achieved some measure of material standing. I find that the most tightly reasoned analysis of self-deception, should it be a part of your larger work, is Hebert Fingarette's book. I had the privilege of discussing it with him shortly after he released in the first edition.

Agreed on the actions of the super rich but having been in the room with many of them on many occasions over the years I can tell you that the ones with whom I have interacted don't agree on any particular philosophical perspective, politic party, economic theory, child-reading practice, sports team or anything else, any more than you and I might agree. Sperling spent millions fighting the insane war on drugs in an effort to break the back of the foreign drug cartels (no he never owned stock in complementary interests; he never owned stocks). Gates has done more to confer material benefits to women's equality in the marketplace than all of the action groups combined. Now, of course, his agenda is global and I hope some academic hasn't spun his goals into a clandestine neoliberal agenda. If I think about it, I can provide a few pages of similar examples. The wealthy are an easy target for stereotyping because, as you say, they are relatively rare and not well understood. In my life, I have found the stereotyping greatest among second rate academics.

I read Chomsky. I'll read the others your referenced while I wait for your integrative piece. How long will I be waiting?

50. trendisnotdestiny - October 21, 2010 at 05:06 pm

@ Bob

Getting to know the wealthy has many layers. As someone who has spent the better part of 20 years observing, mimicking, catering to and cultivating relationships among, I feel pretty comfortable in my own ability to isolate ideological, relational and behavioral differences. This is not to say that equifinal and multifinal outcomes do not exist, but that there are trends. Thes trends follow patterns: economic, historic, social and mathematical. What we see is mostly how these categories are unique from one another, but very rarely the intersections between how power acts to shape families, economies/markets, and cultural phenomena like home buying. Policy intrudes at each level and the intersections between when articulate point to agendas. A good example is the flash trading scandal where algorythms are used to "front-run" small trading discrepancies with large sums of money (almost impossible to detect, but once operational hard to turn to down as a form of bottom line profit). These need not be conspiracies or collections of well organized wealthy individuals but maybe more of a system gutted of financial regulation steered in favor of the largest players in the market who are able to use information asymmetries to exploit market differences. This is where Chomsky comes in with linguistics, power and the industries who run things: I have an e-mail that I received after writing Noam. His major comments are these and he answered some of my questions:

Lisbeth, I'd suggest that you look carefully into some of the assumptions, e.g., on espousing free market ideology. True, it's often spouted, but if you look more closely you'll find that the most passionate rhetoric often comes from those who favor high protectionism (for themselves) and a powerful nanny state (for themselves).

> 1) How is this a strategy (free market capitalism) for profit longterm? (What information do they have; that I do not to connect these dots)

It isn't. But our state capitalist institutions drive participants to pursuit of short-term game, or they are out of the system. It's lethal, but it's an institutional property.

> 2) Why have all of the USA's major institutions become so indebted atthe precise time in world history that we face
> all of these challenges?

For pursuit of short-term gain, and for families, in reaction to huge propaganda efforts to increase consumption and borrow heavily.

> 3) What burdens are we shifting onto potentially hostile creditors and global populations?

Creditors are always hostile. They want to be paid back. Government debt, contrary to propaganda, is far from an insuperable problem. The trade deficit is far more severe, but that's been a policy decision.

> 4) What importance do you place in the idea of the US as a
> nation-state as these major problems unfold

The US has extraordinary advantages, so despite the highly destructive policies of the corporations and the state that they largely control, it is likely to remain a world-dominant power for some time to come.

> 5) Is there a larger strategy that I am missing or are we witnessing a decline of empire (failed state)?

Not sure what you mean? The strategy of the business world is to maximize short-term profit, market share, etc. The strategy of the state is to sustain global dominance in the interests of domestic power centers. There haven't been many changes. It's more complex than any single sentence description, but that's the gist of it.

> 6) What happens at the end of failed neo-liberalism?

Failed for whom? Take a look at the distribution of wealth. For those few at the top of the ladder the policies they've designed have been highly successful. Not for the majority of the population, but things won't change until they act to make the country far more democratic than it is.

Of couse, I wish I had selected more wisely questions that hit at the underlying issues that we tend to get stuck in....


51. trendisnotdestiny - October 21, 2010 at 05:12 pm

@ Bob,

I am certain that my integrations will take some time but I am probably more open to your questions rather than selling you on what I know... We have already been there and done that.

52. betterschools - October 21, 2010 at 06:09 pm


==>[Noam] I'd suggest that you look carefully into some of the assumptions, e.g., on espousing free market ideology. True, it's often spouted, but if you look more closely you'll find that the most passionate rhetoric often comes from those who favor high protectionism (for themselves) and a powerful nanny state (for themselves).

++> Boy have I ever found this true, once a corporation gets large. They ride the ladder of a managed market to the top, then they do what they can to kick away the ladder, and slam and bolt the door with anti-competitive regulations. Having said this, it is a trivial fact known by almost everyone with even cursory knowledge of the social fabric of corporations or human nature in general.

==> 1) How is this a strategy (free market capitalism) for profit longterm? (What information do they have; that I do not to connect these dots) ==>[Noam] It isn't. But our state capitalist institutions drive participants to pursuit of short-term game, or they are out of the system. It's lethal, but it's an institutional property.

++> Again, I agree with qualifications but the line of thinking is based on a simplistic Hollywood view of "big business" (the kind that makes sense only to academics and the kids who run Hollywood). There are no such necessary drivers in privately held corporations, especially when they are small. Many small corporations eschew short-term thinking in favor of long term vision and plans. I know this to be true.

Here is a real problem that neither you nor Noam address: the large corporations are significantly overrepresented not only in the consciousness of the simplistic thinkers but in the social decision processes (policy, legislation, unstructured favors, etc.) that affect us all. Meanwhile, small corporations (remember: jobs, innovation, future looking, cooperative) are effectively shut out of effective representation. Fix this and you will do much to curtail the various incentives that you have rolled up into an construct that you see as an a priori neoliberal agenda. It matters not which of us is correct as to sourcing, a solution will stop these actions in their tracks.

I can go on here (and intended to) but as I work through Noam's points, I come to believe that there is clearer thinking and insight in your collective writing (most of it beating up on me) than I see in Noam's grand formulations. More than ever, he seems to me: (a) a closeted academic who doesn't know what he doesn't know and what others do know, (b) someone who has a longstanding habit of viewing the world in overly simplistic terms that are the result of (besides not getting out much) attempts to shoehorn social particulars into his Procrustean theoretical bed, and (c) is getting so sloppy that his political bias and rigidity are showing through. E.g., "The strategy of the business world is to maximize short-term profit, market share, etc. The strategy of the state is to sustain global dominance in the interests of domestic power centers." There is nothing about this assertion that is universally, generally, or even statistically true, beginning with the fact that he has used a completely inappropriate term for what I think he must mean (i.e., the only thing he could mean and make sense). He is not speaking of strategies at all. If he had substituted "aim" or "goal" he would have been partially right/wrong on empirical counts. As is, he is wrong on fundamental conceptual grounds. This kind of sloppiness is inexcusable for someone operating as a philosopher. I realize that he retains enough juice from his years of verbal sparring that he can probably respond to this but keep your eye on the conceptual ball. Corporations may (or may not) have the goal he stated but strategies are something entirely different and are an indefinitely large (unspecified) set of adaptive actions set forth in relation to the specific goal.

53. betterschools - October 21, 2010 at 06:16 pm

Write your book and footnote what I think is the real problem in the private sector. It is, by the way, true with the small for-profit colleges as well. Most are Mom & Pop operations, Have been there 40 years. The kids have taken over. They turn out a few dozen rock-solid Dental Hygienist a year and on one has every complained about the quality or the value. The feds have the moat of 10 uber for-profits in their eye and are wildly swinging a club that is going to kill the 950 small and mid-size guys who are doing a great to fairly great job. Stupid!

54. trendisnotdestiny - October 21, 2010 at 09:44 pm

@ Bob

"Here is a real problem that neither you nor Noam address: the large corporations are significantly overrepresented not only in the consciousness of the simplistic thinkers but in the social decision processes (policy, legislation, unstructured favors, etc.) that affect us all. Meanwhile, small corporations (remember: jobs, innovation, future looking, cooperative) are effectively shut out of effective representation. Fix this and you will do much to curtail the various incentives that you have rolled up into an construct that you see as an a priori neoliberal agenda. It matters not which of us is correct as to sourcing, a solution will stop these actions in their tracks."

It involves unwinding the interests of large multi-national corporations from those that tend to be smaller more regional/local. There is such a dearth of discussion about protectionism (at the heart of the neoliberal ideology) that the free market myth narrative creates a faux-left-right divide politically. Change emantes from a nuanced understanding in the difference between large and small business (but it is the same dichtomy as neoliberalism - the haves and the have nots). Only when the interests of labor and small capital unite will there be a more democratic counterbalance to large multi-nationals...

In terms of the criticism of Chomsky, I recognize that five questions of an amateur like myself require more time and concerted effort (he could not possibly respond to all of the e-mails he receives from strangers who write him). While I hear your what you are saying Bob, I am much more admiring of his genius (not only in establishing a whole field study - linguistics but also his ability to make connections that other do not see and then meticulously write them out in politics, economic and social phenomena. Regardless of political leanings, his academic work ranks in the top echelons of anyone during this same period. The fact that he is also resistant to so many of the abuses of US armed power and aggression, well that makes him all the more heroic.

It should be noted that most scholars criticisms of Chomsky have mostly revolved around his point by point attention to esoteric detail versus his sloppiness. The sloppiness is more of a result of the question asker than answerer I am sure. Nonetheless, I feel that he is speaking an educated truth (5 year old e-mail). It still rings true even while our financial markets waver. He has been accused of political bias, but since I do not believe that people are neutral (or without bias or an agenda), it does not bother as much since his points are so salient and informed.

I would argue with about the comment you referenced,but I truly believe that if you do not see after Chomsky said, then my efforts will most likely fail to convince. I would make one comment though about where he is right (our military policies have often included veiled threats as well demonstrable action in the name of defense--- this is a major form of state power (the ability to make war and get away with it). Chomsky's juice is his body of work. You would have to name what you have read of his and what you have retained to make me a believer than you fully understand his well informed political writings. He ranks up there with Howard Zinn, Chalmers Johnson and John Ralston Saul as some of the most renowned progressive thinkers of the century. You might watch the Canadian documentary called the Corporation by Mark Achbar (this would definitely fuel a dialogue and points of disagreement.

55. trendisnotdestiny - October 21, 2010 at 10:00 pm

@ Bob

In response to #53

Who are the kids you refer to Bob?

Also, it is those last 40 years that have seen massive consolidations of wealth/power in leading industries like pharma, financial services, farming & commodities and now healthcare. So it makes wonder if your narrative of small Mom and Pop business is more myth than reality (especially in the post-2007 era when small businesses are struggling to maintain access to credit, marketshare and breaks associated with employee healthcare expenses). I wonder if the narrative that used to be true is still true in a neoliberal world where debt is used as a weapon?

You seem to be honing in on higher education as the main emphasis of your concern about government intrusion. My best guess is this test run while the PPP (public-private partnership) perfect plans an overhaul of education that resembles the marketplace. I would have thought you would be pleased with many of the in-roads that have been made thus far. In reading many of your posts and also following higher education, your side seems to be winning, but probably not as quickly as you would like....

I still think you buy into the large multi-national rhetoric of government involvement/intrusion too much. Everything that I know indicates that the state and industry collude to maintain and reinforce hierarchy, but I could be wrong and am certainly not universally valid...

56. betterschools - October 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm

This I believe. You are working on a world view that needs to be expressed. I hope you will be able to express it soon. I will be among the early readers. I am less convinced that you understand my position, in part because I think you have a disposition to try to locate me someplace on a spectrum of your making (I'm not suggesting the continuum or intervals it describes are unworthy) and the fit is not good. Others have tried to do that and as the dialog progressed, inevitable retracted that view. It matters not, however. It is what it is.

In this forum, higher education is my main concern and, in this specific instance, irrational government regulation, not intrusion in principle, is my main concern. I can see very clearly and with great certainty that: it is the wrong path qua path, it will not achieve its desired aims, and there are less intrusive ways, that invoke better principles, that will achieve the desired aims. Just as you impute insidious intent to some investment bankers, I can tell you that insidious intent exists on the part of controling players who wish to exact specific damage on the for-profits. I would argue no less were it the publics being subjected to a comparable form of inappropriate, ineffective, unprincipled control. I argued such with the feds stole (that is the right word) student loans from the private sector which, on balance was doing a good job (perhaps better than good), claiming that the agents were greedy. Now that they own it, they are loaning money from the Treasury to students on exactly the same terms. Take a look at this (http://www.todayscampus.com/minute/load.aspx?art=2231) it is not a deep forum because my comments were truncated into a few hundred words, but you will see the direction. I am all but virtually certain that this is not a test run as you suggest might be the case and, will in fact harm many millions of students. For the fed solution to be even partially effective, they would have to be able to execute on their plans with something approaching eclat -- ED has never been able to do that in the past. A full explanation is a deep dive but I have been to the bottom of that ocean.

As to the larger issue. Is it not correct that since 2007, big business has turned in a net loss in jobs and small business as accounted for all net growth. Its hard to get clear figures but that is what appears to be the case. I have no expertise there.

57. trendisnotdestiny - October 22, 2010 at 06:08 pm

I thought this might resonate (but really George W is just a spokesperson for the really wealthy)....



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