Is Obama Attempting to Buy Votes from College Students?

January 30, 2012

It is an amazing thing how politicians believe that all you have to do is throw money at a problem and it will go away.  Or perhaps I give the scoundrels too much credit as their ultimate goal is to buy votes from an unsuspecting, naïve electorate.  Whatever the case, Barack Obama is at it again, this time proposing to spend more money to stave off the negative effects of high college tuition on America’s higher education students.

Late last week, the President unveiled a plan to give relief to Americans affected by high college costs while at the same time providing incentives to colleges and universities to contain tuition costs.  Key provisions of the plan include boosting federal spending on Perkin’s loans from $1 billion to $8 billion, keeping interest rates low for current student loan recipients, and doubling over the next five years the number of work-study jobs available to college students.  Further, the President’s plan would force institutions of higher learning to contain tuition costs or risk losing federal funding.

Now, this isn’t the first time since becoming president that Obama has upped the ante when it comes to spending on higher education.  His administration lost the support of online colleges, but championed the young electorate, when he attempted to crack down on for profit colleges.  In fact, he has more than doubled Pell Grant funding and spent billions more on college subsidies in his so-called “stimulus” act and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Given the fact that college tuitions continue to rise, you’d think that Mr. Obama would have learned that more money thrown at higher education doesn’t help college students.  The direct opposite happens.  Yes, college students take the money and go to school, but the end result is that many of them have debts they will never be able to get out from under.  In fact, student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt in America.  Additionally, since many high paying jobs have gone overseas, college graduates are finding it harder and harder to acquire positions that will give them any chance to pay down their debts.  Only about half of the jobs obtained by recent college graduates even require a college degree.

But more importantly, it is precisely because the government is spending billions every year to subsidize higher education that costs have gone through the roof.  Since 1980, congressional funding of college Pell grants has increased by 475 percent, after adjusting for inflation.  At the same time, the cost of tuition has skyrocketed by over 430 percent.  Economist Richard Vedder has pointed out that the same dynamic that causes health care costs to soar is also at work in higher education – third-party payments.  When someone else is footing the bill consumers are more willing to purchase the good or service provided.  The inhibition of cost is removed, demand increases, and tuition like medicine and medical care gets more costly.

What has been created by Washington’s policies is a financial bubble in higher education.  Like various bubbles in the stock market, industry, and housing before it, the federal government has pumped tons of cash into higher education, bidding up the price of the service.  We are at a point where the benefits of a college degree do not offset the high costs thereof.  At some point, when enough Americans realize it and stop being lured into the government’s financial trap, the demand for higher education will drop and with it the cost.  Of course, Uncle Sam will continue pumping even more money into the system to feverishly re-inflate the bubble.  That has been the track record of our government in the current financial bubble, there is no reason to believe it won’t do the same thing in higher education.

To solve the problem of high college costs, government must end its subsidization of the industry.  In the absence of the market determining interest rates, government should be raising rates for students not lowering them.  Government sponsored grants should be abolished altogether.  These two acts would decrease the demand for higher education causing its artificially high price to tumble back to reality.  Since there are few jobs requiring a college degree right now anyway, this seems like a good time to burst the bubble.

With thirty years of proof that government subsidization of higher education causes high tuition rates you’d think the last thing President Obama would propose is more spending on college education.  Or perhaps his ultimate goal is to buy votes from an unsuspecting, naïve electorate?

Article first published as Is Obama Attempting to Buy Votes from College Students?on Blogcritics.


The Internet as Savior

January 19, 2012

It is no secret that online piracy is a very serious problem in our Technology Age.  The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a measure before Congress meant to confront the sale and distribution of pirated movies, drugs, music and other consumer goods by rogue overseas sites.  Supporters of the legislation include big media, pharmaceutical companies, and the fashion industry.  They have overwhelmingly outspent the Internet industry supporting the measure.  For its part, Internet companies have stuck to their belief that the measure goes too far and could disrupt creativity, violate the First Amendment, and could give the U.S. government free reign in shutting down sites it deems illegitimate.  As is true of most legislation before Congress, this one is put forward with the best of intentions, but ultimately if passed could spell the ruination of the Information Super Highway.  Thank goodness, the Internet was around to protect itself yesterday.

The DailyPaul, Wikipedia, Reddit, and over 7,000 other high-traffic websites blacked themselves out or supported the protest of SOPA yesterday online.  The blackouts not only were a form of protest, but were meant to show Internet users how things could be if SOPA becomes law.

Apparently the tactic worked.  After being deluged with emails and phone calls many senators including co-sponsors of the measure, Marco Rubio of Florida, John Cornyn of Texas, and Orrin Hatch of Utah withdrew their support.  Rubio used the same medium used to protest the bill when he announced to his followers on facebook:

“Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet.  Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.”

At this point in time SOPA has been essentially tabled and had its most controversial parts removed.

A potentially disastrous bill that seemed to have a relatively easy path to passage in Congress was suddenly halted and potentially killed.  And we owe it all to Internet activism.  Like the invention of the printing press during the Renaissance, the Internet is the great equalizer between moneyed interests and common folks.  The printing press spread the message of the Protestant reformers breaking the stranglehold of the Catholic Church over Europe.  It proliferated Enlightenment ideas dealing with the relationship between people and their government which eventually ushered in a new era of liberalism, representative democracy, and free market capitalism.

The Internet of course has similar potential to transform our world today.  Young folks are in tune with what is happening in their world through it.  My 8th graders in Qatar, who are usually a little behind the curve when it comes to current events, were keenly aware of the SOPA controversy because some of their popular sites were participating in the protest.  It was amazing to me how well read many of them were on the potential harm SOPA could do to the medium they rely on to function.

And there is no question that the Web has been an effective tool used by Ron Paul and his supporters to win over young voters.  It is a place where anti-establishment types can organize and spread information without interference from the corporate/state controlled mainstream media.  And that is the point here.  Any time real Americans can circumvent the bias of the Establishment media to deliver an important message they now can.  So, the Internet didn’t just protect itself yesterday, it protected all of us.

Ron Paul is Nibbling at Romney’s Heels

January 14, 2012

To listen to Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s speech after placing a strong second in the New Hampshire Primary you would have thought that he had just won the contest.  Filled with his usual attacks on the Federal Reserve, Military/Industrial Complex, the bloated federal government, and an ever expanding police state, Dr. Paul’s speech was also an inspiring rallying cry for his ever growing base of fervent supporters.  In many ways he did win the New Hampshire Primary.  He tripled his vote total from four years ago.  He finished a strong, undisputed second behind a candidate with home field advantage and tons of Wall Street cash.  He also proved the naysayers wrong who have been preaching for months that he is unelectable.  Most importantly, the New Hampshire Primary results have made the race for the GOP nomination for president a two man contest between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Look at the facts so far in this race.  Ron Paul is the only other candidate besides Mitt Romney to do well with two totally different bodies of voters.  In Iowa, both men garnered support from evangelical and socially conservative voters while in New Hampshire more socially moderate and fiscally conservative voters.  For his part, Paul got the most support of disaffected Democrats and Independents of any of the other Republicans running.  This trend bodes well for him since as many as 13 states hold open primaries and caucuses where his support outside of his own party will be a distinct advantage for him in those states.  Overall, in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire Dr. Paul has collected 25,000 more votes than his nearest competitor Rick Santorum.

Besides broad support, financial backing also differentiates candidates from one another.  The Paul Campaign reported that it raised $13 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.  The only other Republican candidate to raise more was Mitt Romney.  The sum Paul has collected in donations has allowed him to not only purchase air time in South Carolina, but to jump ahead and spend money on direct mail in Louisiana, Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Washington, and North Dakota.  Additionally, a pro-Paul Super PAC Revolution PAC plans to spend millions more on the congressman’s quest for the presidency.  And recently the Santa Rita Super PAC which was just created on January 4 bought over $300,000 worth of ad time in South Carolina promoting Paul’s candidacy.

Then there are the recent poll results.  A CBS News poll released a day before the New Hampshire Primary found Romney and Paul to be the strongest Republican contenders against President Obama.  Romney leads the President 47 to 45 percent while Paul trails Obama by 45 to 46 percent.  But even more important to the moment, an American Research Group poll conducted over the last two days indicates that Congressman Paul is getting a massive bump from his strong showing in New Hampshire.  The good folks of the Palmetto State are now paying attention to the race because their turn to vote is coming up quickly.  In less than one week Paul’s support in SC has risen from 9 to 20 percent placing him third in that race.

To be sure, the campaign for the presidency is a long drawn out affair.  Staying power is essential.  After South Carolina, lower tier Republican candidates will begin to drop out or become irrelevant.  Two things will happen.  Their supporters’ votes and money will need a new candidate and all media attention will focus on Romney and Paul.  Given Paul’s appeal to a broad base of voters and conservatives’ mistrust of Mitt Romney, I like the Texas Congressman’s chances.  In fact, it is highly probable that he will deliver

many more inspiring, rallying cries for his ever growing base of fervent supporters.

Article first published as Ron Paul is Nibbling at Romney’s Heels on Blogcritics.

It’s a Two Man Race for the Republican Nomination for President

January 7, 2012

Last month it was announced that only two candidates for president in the Republican Party had qualified for the Virginia Presidential Primary on March 6 – Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.  At the time there was a lot of grumbling by the other candidates and they eventually filed a lawsuit against Virginia’s ballot access laws.  Regardless of how that suit turns out, the incident foretold the eventual contest for the Republican nomination for president.  After roughly 6 months of campaigning and the Iowa Caucuses, the race is clearly a battle between two men – the Establishment candidate Mitt Romney and Constitutional Populist Ron Paul.

Of course, this opinion won’t be heard anywhere on the Establishment-run media.  Instead the talking heads and so-called journalists which grace our TV screens continue to babble on about how Ron Paul is a kook, crank, nut job, etc… incapable of winning the nomination.  Their portrayals of the Good Doctor are more a result of their fears about him actually winning and ending their cushy establishment lifestyles than it is about reality.  But, I digress.  To back up the claim that the race has come down to Paul and Romney here are the facts:  both lead the field in money and organization.  Additionally, Paul has picked up steam in recent polls since Iowa and has demographics on his side.

Money – The Ron Paul Campaign is reporting that they raised $13 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.  The only other Republican candidate to raise more was Mitt Romney.  The sum Paul has collected in donations has allowed him to not only purchase air time in New Hampshire and South Carolina, but to jump ahead and spent money on direct mail in Louisiana, Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Washington, and North Dakota.  The Congressman’s base of financial support is unshakeable and as he rises in the polls it will become much broader.

Organization – As the Establishment candidate and someone who has been running for president for the last six years, Mitt Romney has a solid campaign organization.  But what the media and pundits alike have ignored is the ability of the Paul campaign to organize a first rate political operation as well.  The fact that only Romney and Paul were able to abide by Virginia’s strict ballot access laws and get on the primary ballot in that state is a testament to the quality of their organizations and the mediocrity of the other campaigns’.

The Paul campaign has gone to great lengths in building a strong presence on the Republican State Central Committees across the country.  In Iowa alone his supporters comprise one-third of the members of that state’s Republican State Central Committee.  It is from this committee that actual delegate selection for the National Convention will be done.  Besides Iowa Paul has supporters in the next ten caucus states that are virtually unopposed for delegate seats.

But besides ample war chests and strong campaign organizations, recent polling and demographics indicate that the Republican field has been winnowed down to two contenders.  The next contest on the docket is the New Hampshire Primary.  Two polls last week indicated that the race in the Granite State is between Romney and Paul.  The New Suffolk University Poll had Paul gaining 6 points on Romney in one day.  While Paul stood at 18 percent support, no other candidate garnered more than 8 percent.  At about the same time, a new Washington Times/John Zogby Analytics Poll had Romney at 38 percent, Paul at 24 percent, and no other candidate had more than 11 percent.  It is true that national polls do indicate that Romney leads the race while Paul lags behind other candidates, but two points need to be made.  The Republican nominee will be chosen from more than 50 contests not one national ballot.  And most voters in states with contests in the future have not paid enough attention to the race to make an informed choice.  Thus, given the results in Iowa and current polling in New Hampshire Romney and Paul are the two front-runners going into New Hampshire voting this week.

Lastly, demographics will play a huge role in winning the Republican nomination.  In light of his past poll numbers Romney’s support in relation to other Republican candidates has been steady.  As one after the other anti-Romney candidates rose and fell from front-runner status only one other candidate has seen steady upward poll numbers – Ron Paul.  Santorum in Iowa was just the final shooting star of the lot.  Fortunately for him his star rose at exactly the right moment.  Had there been more time to dissect his record he too would have fallen back to the pack of also-rans.

But Paul’s support has been a slow steady trajectory upward because it is solid, unwavering support.  Besides Evangelical and conservative Republicans the Congressman garners the most support from disaffected Democrats and Independents of any of the other Republicans running.  Since as many as 13 states hold open primaries and caucuses his support outside of his own party will be a distinct advantage in those states.

At the end of the day, the Establishment media and talking heads will babble on about the comeback of Newt Gingrich or the surging Rick Santorum.  They will resort to any distraction to cover the truth.  The truth is that we have a two man race for the Republican nomination.  Because of money, organization, demographics, and recent polling numbers that race is between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina