Tag Archives: Rep. Paul Ryan

The Crisis That Isn’t: The Romney/Ryan Campaign in Whopperville

Whopperville, U.S.A.At rally in Lima, Ohio, GOP VP Candidate Paul Ryan says Pres Obama not doing anything about the debt crisis & is making it worse.” via Mark Knoller.

Not doing anything? First, it’s hard to understand why a sitting member of Congress could miss the information that federal government spending has flat-lined during the Obama Administration.  Marketwatch explains:

“Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.  Even hapless Herbert Hoover managed to increase spending more than Obama has.”

For the arithmetically challenged, Marketwatch provides a chart:

How does Marketwatch substantiate the contention that spending increases during the Obama Administration are slower than even the Hoover Administration?

If spending increases are at the slowest rate in decades, AND federal spending has flat-lined during the Obama Administration — then how does one conclude the Obama Administration isn’t doing anything about the budget deficit and is actually “making it worse?”

One doesn’t … unless you are a resident of Whopperville in a Brave New World:

“One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years, thought Bernard Marx, who was a specialist on hypnopaedia. Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth.”  – Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, Federal budget, Politics

Republican YOYO Home Economics: Medicaid Slashed, Other Support Burned

Former President Clinton advised the delegates to the 2012 Democratic Convention to listen carefully to what the Republicans were offering in regard to Medicaid, and those of us in Nevada should be “listening with both ears.”  Here’s the description of the Medicaid program as stated by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, the program:

“Provides health care coverage for many people including low income families with children whose family income is at or below 133% percent of poverty, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, certain Medicare beneficiaries, and recipients of adoption assistance, foster care and some children aging out of foster care. The DHCFP also operates five Home or Community-Based Services waivers offered to certain persons throughout the state. The Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DWSS) determines eligibility for the Medicaid program.”

Listing those categories focuses on the aims of the program — it is to serve (1) low income families with children; (2) elderly Nevadans; (3) low income Nevadans over 65 years of age; (4) families receiving assistance for adopted children; (5) children in foster care.  Who was enrolled in Nevada’s Medicaid program as of fiscal year 2009:

What services were provided to those enrolled in Nevada’s Medicaid program?

During fiscal year 2010, 68.1% of the spending from the Medicaid program went for acute care, 25.6% was allocated for long term care, and 6.3% was used for “disproportionate care – hospital payments.”

The spending for long term care breaks down as illustrated in the following chart:

11.1% of the long term care funding was allocated to facilities for the intellectually disabled, 2.9% went to services for the mentally ill — and notice — 86% was used to provide home health & personal care, and nursing facility care.  In other words, 86% of Nevada’s Medicaid expenses for long term care went toward serving those least able to care for themselves.  The other 14% was used to provide intermediate and long term care for those unable to care for themselves because of intellectual limits or mental illness.

Here is exactly why President Clinton told his audience to “listen up:”

My view is get the federal government out of Medicaid, get it out of health care. Return it to the states.” – Romney, South Carolina GOP Primary Debate, Jan. 20, 2012.

In case anyone is remotely confused about what that statement from the former Massachusetts Governor means, he’s speaking about transforming the Medicaid program into Block Grants.

More specifically, the former Governor is adopting the block grant proposal for Medicaid set forth in his running mate’s “Path to Prosperity” budget plan:

“The plan also would repeal health system reform law provisions that will expand Medicaid coverage starting in 2014. Instead, states would receive block grants, which would free states “to tailor their Medicaid programs to the unique needs of their own populations,” the budget says.”  [AMA]

The tailoring is to be done with less cloth:

The Ryan budget would cut $2.4 trillion from Medicaid and other health programs. Reduced spending would increase the number of uninsured dramatically, Park* said. “Those who retain coverage will have benefits scaled back and have higher cost-sharing.” [AMA] (emphasis added)

We can drill down further into what Governor Romney and Representative Ryan have in mind for the Medicaid program by looking at the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Ryan position:  Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—from 2 percent of GDP in 2011 to 1¼ percent in 2030 and 1 percent in 2050.

Now is the moment to recall that 58% of those who receive Medicaid assistance for their health care needs in Nevada are children, and the AAP isn’t thrilled at cuts to that constituency:

“American Academy of Pediatrics President Robert W. Block, MD, said the proposal would undo investments in health programs for children. More than half of Medicaid recipients are children, but their care accounts for up to only one-quarter of the program’s costs.

“Whether considering fiscal year 2013 federal spending bills or reviewing long-term budget proposals, Congress must seize this opportunity to invest in the future of our country by protecting children’s health,” Dr. Block said.” [AMA]

Dr. Block has reason to be concerned, if we return to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis we can see why.  In two paragraphs from their analysis of the Ryan “Path” the non-partisan office explains why the proposal would make deep cuts, and place greater burdens on the states:

“The specified path (Ryan Plan) would cause federal spending on Medicaid and CHIP to decline relative to GDP in coming decades, rather than to rise sharply as in the other policy scenarios that CBO has analyzed, and would include no exchange subsidies (see Figure 3). As a result, by 2050, such spending would be 76 percent below what would occur for Medicaid, CHIP, and exchange subsidies under the baseline scenario and 78 percent below what would occur under the alternative fiscal scenario. Because spending on CHIP and exchange subsidies represents a relatively small share of the amounts in the baseline and alternative fiscal scenarios, most of the reduction would have to come from the Medicaid program.” [CBO] (emphasis added)

The Republicans do, indeed seem serious about eliminating Medicaid as a federal program and shifting the expenses for health care access to low income elderly, the disabled, the intellectually disabled, elders in nursing facilities, and children in poverty to the states.  The CBO explains the nature of this shift:

The responses of the states would be of particular importance. If states were given additional flexibility to allocate federal funds for Medicaid and CHIP according to their own priorities, they might be able to improve the efficiency of those programs in delivering health care to low-income populations. Nevertheless, even with significant efficiency gains, the magnitude of the reduction in spending relative to such spending in the other scenarios means that states would need to increase their spending on these programs, make considerable cutbacks in them, or both. Cutbacks might involve reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost-sharing by beneficiaries—all of which would reduce access to care. (emphasis added)

Translation: Even if the states were able to achieve all the vaunted efficiencies a “flexible” plan might provide — the cuts proposed are so deep and so drastic that citizens in the United States who are lower income elderly or the disabled in nursing homes, and those who are low income and living in foster care, or families in poverty — would have reduced access to care. Period.

These aren’t generic numbers and pie in the sky statistics we’re talking about, we’re speaking of 25,841 elderly Nevadans, 40,898 disabled Nevadans, 55,626 adult Nevadans – mostly women, and 168,070 Nevada children.

So, here’s a question for Governor Romney and Representative Ryan — If no matter how much efficiency the state of Nevada squeezes from your block grants for Medicaid, Nevada and the other states will still have to either appropriate significantly more revenue, or drastically reduce services — how is your plan anything other than a proposal to shift the burden of health care costs, for the least able among us, from the federal treasury to the state treasuries and the pockets of low income Americans?

Where, Governor Romney and Representative Ryan, does the Nevada Legislature start cutting? From the acute care services for adopted or foster children? From the acute care for pregnant women? From acute care for children in poverty who have asthma, autism, broken arms, or sprained ligaments?  From the long term care for the elderly who need home health care services and personal care to avoid institutional living?  From the long term care for the indigent mentally ill?  From elderly residents of nursing facilities?  From disabled children who need home health care? Where?

Perhaps cuts aren’t the only option. Must the Nevada government raise the eligibility standards such that only those living at “25%” of the official federal poverty level can receive assistance?  Here are the 2012 guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services —

How much more should a family of four living on $1,920.83 per month  have to pay for basic health care?  How much more should a young man and his pregnant wife living on $1,260.83 per month have to pay for pre-natal care, and expenses associated with the birth of their first child?  For a political party which lauds its “Pro-Life” stance — asking low income families to dig deeper to pay for health care to make up for federal and state budget issues (while proposing more tax cuts for the top 1% of American income earners), makes it sound as though the GOP is the Pro-Birth, not Pro-Life party.

How much more should a young family have to pay for health care before the cost of health care begins to impinge on the capacity to put a roof over their heads?

Or their ability to put food on the table?  It’s likely going to cost our young family with two children under the ages of 19 approximately $366.40 to $578.40 per month to keep everyone fed. [USDA] Our hypothetical family might be lucky to have $764.43 per month remaining after housing and food for utilities, clothing, transportation costs (auto payments or bus fare) — that $764.43 translates to about $25.48 per day to cover ALL the basic family needs listed previously… including Health Care.  But wait, the Romney/Ryan budget cuts nutrition assistance too, drawing fire from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong.” [The Hill]

And what other program do the Republicans fantasize about turning into a Block Grant Program and then cutting?  Housing subsidies. [TO.org]  There was some discussion of the Ryan proposal on this topic at the March 21, 2012 House Budget Committee hearing:

“Rep. David Price (D-NC) asked Donovan what the implication of the Ryan budget cuts would be on HUD programs such as public housing, Choice Neighborhoods, HOME and others.  Donovan responded that, under the proposed Ryan budget, approximately one million households could lose their housing.  Of the one million households at risk under the Ryan budget, Donovan estimated that 585 thousand would come from the Housing Choice Voucher Program, 425 thousand from the Project-Based Voucher Program, and 110-180 thousand from homeless assistance programs.  He also mentioned that an estimated 17 thousand jobs would be lost from CDBG, and cuts to the HOME program would mean tens of thousands of new affordable housing units would not be built.”  [CLPHA] (emphasis added)

So, no help for financially fragile families for health care, or housing, or food — or anything, but tax payers in the top 1% of all our income brackets will get more, yet more generous, tax breaks.  Little wonder the Bishops were annoyed.  Less wonder Sister Simone Campbell from Nuns on the Bus received a standing ovation at the Democratic National Convention.

A person doesn’t have to be Roman Catholic to find the Republican proposals supported by Governor Romney and created by Representative Ryan astonishing in their parsimony and appalling in their avarice.

Perhaps one has to be incited by the fact that a family in Las Vegas might have an air-conditioner, or a DVD player, or a functional motor vehicle — “Look,” cry the miserly, “They have nice stuff, and they got it by doing nothing.” Not. So. Fast.   As of 2010 not that many Nevadans were receiving public  assistance. [Census] In fact, about 3% of Nevadans were receiving public assistance. [Census pdf]

Thus much for the Miserly Myth that “They’re all sitting around collecting welfare, and learning to be dependent on Guv’mint.”  Perhaps we should add the usual follow up, “and they’re doing it on my hard earned tax dollars.”  The latter portion is correct, we do pay taxes which support assistance programs for fragile families.  However, the Grinches among us appear to believe they are the only ones chipping in.

S’cuse me Mr. Grinch, but I really don’t mind paying a fractional portion of my income to insure NO child goes to bed hungry, NO elderly person with dementia is left alone, NO foster child is left with an untreated case of pneumonia, NO pregnant woman is without pre-natal care, NO family is homeless, NO mentally ill person is abandoned, NO disabled child is without care.

This is what Democrats mean when we say, “Just Say No.”

References and Resources:  * Edwin Park, CBPP.  Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s Specified Paths, March 2012. (pdf) “House Republican Budget Seeks to Slow Medicare, Slash Medicaid,” American Medical Association, April 2, 2012.   Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts, Database.  “Public Assistance Relief,” Census, Department of Commerce, pdf.  “HUD Secretary Defends FY13 Budget Before House Appropriators,” CLHPA.   “Four Ways Romney and Ryan Would Roll Back the 20th Century ,” Jake Blumgart, AlterNet, September 5, 2012.  “What Paul Ryan’s Budget Actually Cuts,” Brad Plumer, Washington Post, August 12, 2012.  USDA, Cost of Food Plans, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, May 2011 (pdf).  ASPE, Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Poverty Guidelines 2012. Congressional Budget Office, “The Long-Term Budgetary Impact of Paths for Federal Revenues and Spending Specified by Chairman Ryan,” March 2012, pdf.   Kaiser Family Foundation, link to interactive database for state health care statistics.

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, family issues, Health Care, health insurance, Medicaid, Nevada budget, Nevada child welfare, nevada health, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Republicans, Romney

H.R. 212: The Ectopic Pregnancy Death Sentence Act for Women

There is nothing subtle about H.R. 212, the “Sanctity of Life Act,” sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) and co-sponsored by 64 other Republicans in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).   The CRS summary of the bill is short and to the point:

“Sanctity of Human Life Act – Declares that: (1) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human and is the person’s paramount and most fundamental right; (2) each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and (3) Congress, each state, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories have the authority to protect all human lives.”

Got that? Personhood begins with fertilization. Period.   Someone didn’t read the next chapter in the science book.

The Ectopic Pregnancy

Any family that’s endured the trauma of a detected ectopic pregnancy (or worse still an undetected instance) has a “dog in this fight.”  This is not an insignificant number. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports: “Ectopic pregnancy occurs at a rate of 19.7 cases per 1,000 pregnancies in North America and is a leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester.”  (2000)  The National Institutes of Health report ectopic pregnancies in a range of 1 in every 40 to 100 pregnancies. [NIH]

And, there is something else the author and the co-sponsors of the bill should be aware of:

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb (uterus).  It is a life-threatening condition to the mother. The baby (fetus) cannot survive.”  [NCBI]

An ectopic pregnancy most often occurs in the fallopian tube, hence the expression “tubal pregnancy,” and about 1% of fertilized eggs — or “persons” as the sponsors of H.R. 212 would have it — implant outside the uterine cavity and become extrauterine pregnancies which can occur anywhere along the reproductive tract.

It is a medical FACT that an ectopic pregnancy is perilous to the life of the mother. It is not inconvenient, uncomfortable, unpleasant, or unsatisfying — it can be deadly. Death is most often caused by a rupture leading to internal bleeding and shock.  The treatment is also crystal clear: “Ectopic pregnancies is a life-threatening condition. The pregnancy cannot continue to birth (term). The developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.”  [NCBI]

What’s confusing about “the developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life?”  The confusion is created when Congressional Republicans define a “fertilized egg” as a “person,” and thereby make it illegal for a physician to “remove the developing cells.”   Under H.R. 212 the “person” will continue to develop in the fallopian tube until there is a rupture, internal bleeding, shock, and death — of both the fetus and the mother.

Perhaps one of the 65 members of the House of Representatives who sponsored this legislation, now assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, would like to explain how it is “Pro-Life” to make the removal of the developing cells (which will never become a child) illegal thereby creating a situation in which the mother faces one of the leading causes of death in pregnant women during the first trimester?

Thankfully, about 68% to 77% of ectopic pregnancies resolve without medical intervention, however there are no clear indicators to define which women with small (less than 3.5 cm) ectopic pregnancies can safely survive the problem.  The APA estimates there are approximately 64,000 ectopic pregnancies in the U.S. annually, if the optimistic estimation that 77% of these will resolve naturally holds, then some  14,720 women will be in danger of dying from the lack of appropriate medical treatment.  Nevertheless, Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate, is perfectly willing to allow this deadly game of Pregnancy Roulette to continue.

When speaking to the legislation on the incorrectly labelled  “partial birth abortion ban,”  Rep. Ryan said of exceptions to abortion bans based on the health needs of the mother:

“This is not a political issue, this is a human issue. And let me just say this — to all of my colleagues who are about to vote on this issue, on the motion to recommit — the health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a mack truck through it. The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless. […] [H]undreds of OB/GYNs have told us that this is not medically necessary.”  [TP]  (emphasis in orginal)

Terminating an ectopic pregnancy, especially the 23% to 32% which do not resolve naturally, isn’t a political issue either.  It is a medical issue profoundly affecting the health of the mother and the viability of the family.

The failure to acknowledge the medical necessity of removing those “developing cells” isn’t a political issue either. It is a clear and uncomplicated statement of how little regard many current members of the Republican Party have for women.  All women of child bearing age.   Is it really “pro-life” to advocate for the possible death of a mother from internal bleeding and shock in order to save a fertilized egg which will never become a child?

I don’t understand this mentality, and I don’t want to.


Recommended ReadingPubMed Health, “Ectopic Pregnancy,” NCBI, National Library of Medicine. AFFP, “Ectopic Pregnancy,” Feb. 2000.  WebMD, “Ectopic Pregnancy.”  Mayo Clinic Online, “Ectopic Pregnancy.”  The American Pregnancy Association estimates that there are approximately 64,000 ectopic pregnancies in the U.S. per year.  Centers for Disease Control, “Ectopic Pregnancy Surveillance.”   ACOBG, “Suspected Ectopic Pregnancy,” February 2006 (pdf).


Filed under abortion, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Catching Up: A Roundup of Good Reading

** Click on “expand” to see the Worker’s Voice advertisement which reminds Nevadans that Senator By Appointment Only™ Dean Heller (R-NV) voted not once, but twice, to end Medicare as we know it and to replace it with a coupon (voucher) plan primarily benefiting health insurance corporations.   Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV1), Heller’s opponent in the 2012 Senate race has a cogent op-ed concerning what Heller’s position would cost senior citizens in Nevada.

** About that GOP claim that President Obama “cut” some $716 Billion from Medicare — BOGUS — what the Affordable Care Act really did was save $716 Billion by reducing taxpayer subsidies to health care corporations for profitable Medicare Advantage plans, and cut waste, fraud, and abuse from the system.  NOTHING IN THE ACA CUTS MEDICARE PROGRAMS FOR THE ELDERLY.  By the way, the Ryan Budget plan cuts about the same amount from Medicare, but uses the money to protect tax cuts for the top 1%.

**  Oops?  David Stockman, former Reagan budget guru has a few words for the Romney/Ryan Budget, compliments of Charlie Pierce at Esquire Magazine:

“The Ryan Plan boils down to a fetish for cutting the top marginal income-tax rate for “job creators” — i.e. the superwealthy — to 25 percent and paying for it with an as-yet-undisclosed plan to broaden the tax base. Of the $1 trillion in so-called tax expenditures that the plan would attack, the vast majority would come from slashing popular tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance, mortgage interest, 401(k) accounts, state and local taxes, charitable giving and the like, not to mention low rates on capital gains and dividends. The crony capitalists of K Street already own more than enough Republican votes to stop that train before it leaves the station.” [NYT]

But wait, Mr. Stockman hasn’t gotten to his closing:

“In short, Mr. Ryan’s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices. And it couldn’t pass even if Republicans were to take the presidency and both houses of Congress. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have no plan to take on Wall Street, the Fed, the military-industrial complex, social insurance or the nation’s fiscal calamity and no plan to revive capitalist prosperity — just empty sermons.”  [NYT]

Many of Mr. Stockman’s proposals will be unpalatable to Democrats, however he’s right on target about the credibility void and “empty sermons” in what is supposed to pass for “big ideas” in the Romney/Ryan fiscal policy.

Rep. Ryan, staunch defender of the Mega-Mogul, and lieutenant of the Blazing Pants Brigade, will be in Las Vegas to meet with our resident Republican Money Pot, Sheldon Adelson, and to hold a “rally” of the all-white faithful chorus of The Church of the Empty Sermon.  More at The Examiner.

** Not convinced that the GOP’s offering for the 2012 election is all about protecting the Merger & Acquisition Kings of Wall Street?  Then read the Atlantic’s analysis which posits that under Ryan’s plan Mitt Romney would pay 0.82% in federal taxes.

**  Flashback to March 2012:  “A budget plan introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would add more to the deficit over 10 years than if Congress kept the status quo, undermining claims of its fiscal impact.  Ryan’s blueprint, “The Path to Prosperity,” would add $3.127 trillion to the deficit during the decade spanning 2013 to 2022, according to a table on page 88 of the plan.”  [The Hill]

There’s more from TDB:

“Everyone knows by now that Ryan’s budget would replace Medicare with a voucher whose value declines over time. His cuts to Medicare and other health care programs would total $2.4 trillion over the next ten years. But despite that, and despite all the domestic spending cuts in his plan, Ryan still doesn’t get anywhere close to balancing his own budget. That is because even by his own estimate, he reduces revenue by $2 trillion over the same period. His budget relies on optimistic economic assumptions about the stimulative effects of tax cuts, and many of his rate reductions are similarly supposedly offset by unspecified loophole closings, so the real revenue loss would be much greater.”  (emphasis added)

**  MUST READ: “Frank Luntz Messaging Ordered By NRCC” in Crooks & Liars.   A Taste: “Do not say: ‘entitlement reform,’ ‘privatization,’ ‘every option is on the table,’” the National Republican Congressional Committee said in an email memo. “Do say: ‘strengthen,’ ‘secure,’ ‘save,’ ‘preserve, ‘protect.’”   This makes it very clear, because if the GOP says “don’t say” we can reasonably assume that they mean “privatization.”

There’s more over at the Booman Tribune worth reading as well.   Perrspectives sums it up, “Now, Mitt Romney and his Republican allies are counting on Americans having short memories and bad math skills. For today’s Party of Lincoln, the message for 2012 is clear: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that’s our target market.”

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Filed under 2012 election, Adelson, Berkley, Heller, Medicaid, Medicare

Educating Those Whippersnappers: GOP’s Shop Til We Drop Policy

When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked last month about how students and parents might address issues about the cost of a college education these days, Mr. Romney responded:

“ROMNEY: The legislature in my state came together and said, ‘You know what, anyone that’s willing to serve in the National Guard, we’ll provide for tuition and fees for four years of college to make sure you get that start.’ So if you’re willing to serve, then we can be of more help. But my best advice is find a great institution of higher learning, find one that has the right price, and shop around. In America, this idea of competition, it works! […] I want to make sure that every kid in this country that wants to go to college gets the chance to go to college. If you can’t afford it, scholarships are available, shop around for loans, make sure you go to a place that’s reasonably priced, and if you can, think about serving the country ’cause that’s a way to get all that education for free.” [ThinkProgress](emphasis added)

Go shopping?  Why does this sound vaguely reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s response to the disruption created by the attacks on September 11th 2001?  Could we have a pattern here, a pattern in which all major decisions are to be predicated on the monetary value of citizen participation?

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with making some well grounded financial decisions about containing costs associated with higher education based on the prices — yes, a community college English 101 course is likely to be much cheaper than a university’s version of the same class.  However, it’s to be hoped that the “price” isn’t the only consideration.   Such cost driven thinking reminds me of those whom Oscar Wilde described as cynics, those who “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Suppose a youngster seeks a career in journalism?  There are three acknowledged “great institutions of higher learning” in this category: Columbia, University of California-Berkeley, University of Missouri-Columbia.  We should also consider Northwestern, Syracuse, and Ohio University.  There are others, listed here, to which a serious journalism student might give consideration. What about a career in engineering?  Our hypothetical young person might consider these schools among the top ten in that field: California Institute of Technology, MIT, Purdue, and Stanford.  The point is that what parents and students should be considering is the best match of student interests to the institution’s capacity to deliver a curriculum which will prepare the young person for success in his or her chosen field.  All too often this isn’t the first question.

All too often the first question is: What can we afford?  Just as often parents are invited to take out loans, and students are told to collect scholarships, take out more loans, and graduate into an economy in which the repayment of loans becomes ever more difficult.

In the Financialist World of candidate Romney, the manic Mr. Market is supposed to take care of these issues via “competition.”  Everything is a Contest!  Price determines value.  Then a cheap education becomes the best education?  If the “value” of the education is predicated upon the economic success of the graduate, then we’re not placing very much “value” on several essential fields.

The Department of Labor estimates that we will need approximately 161,200 social workers between 2010 and 2020. The growth rate in this field is calculated at 25%, well above average.   However, the 2010 median pay for social workers is figured at $42,480 per year.  That would be median pay, not starting pay.   Starting pay comes in around $25,525 annually.  [Payscale] How, pray tell, do we train the number of social workers we’re going to need if they can’t start paying off the student loans accrued during their training?

The outlook for bio-medical engineers is even more optimistic, the growth rate in that sector is a hefty 62%, and it looks like we will need about 9,700 more of these engineers by 2010. [DoL] There are a couple of routes to the $85,000 median earnings.  One, a person can get an undergraduate degree in bio-medical engineering from an accredited program, or secondly get an undergraduate degree with graduate training in the field.  This isn’t going to be cheap.  That median salary makes it look as though paying off the student loans would be a snap, but as with our example of the social worker, the entry level jobs can be expected to yield far less — about $41,100. [Payscale]

How did we get into this bind, a bind in which we need college educated individuals to fill positions in fields as far ranging as bio-medical engineering and social work, but we find such training increasingly unaffordable?

William Moseley, Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota offers this explanation:

“But just when the US needs it most, public support for higher education in the US is being rolled back at unprecedented rates. In my own state of Minnesota (long known for its well-educated workforce), our college and university system now only receives 18 per cent of its revenue from the state, down from over 50 per cent in the 1970s. Other universities, such as the University of Michigan and Penn State, receive only 6 per cent and 4 per cent respectively of their budgets from state legislatures. On average, state funding for higher education has fallen by 40 per cent since 1980 (with declines accelerating in the past five years).”  (emphasis added)

The problem isn’t confined to Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, because Iowa is facing the same issue:

“In 2001, state funding was about 64 percent of the education budgets at the UI, ISU and UNI, while tuition was 31 percent. Those numbers have basically swapped in the past decade, with tuition at 58.3 percent of the funding and state appropriations at 35.7 percent in the current fiscal year. Iowa also had the largest five-year decline on average when compared with neighboring Midwest states. Iowa’s public institutions received $4,481 per full-time student in fiscal 2011, a 25.3 percent decline since 2006, according to the report.”

Nor is this problem of shifting the costs of education from the states to the students and parents unique to the American middle west, it’s a national issue:

“According to research conducted by the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), educational appropriations per full-time student reached a high of $7,961 in FY 2001, followed by four years of decline from FY 2002 to FY 2005 (after the 2001 recession). Per student funding then increased in fiscal years 2006, 2007 and 2008, recovering to $7,220. In FY 2009, appropriations per student fell by 4 percent due to the onset of the latest recession and declined to $6,928 per student as states struggled with massive revenue shortfalls. Appropriations per student remained lower in FY 2009 (in constant dollars) than in most years since FY 1980.”  [NCSL pdf]

Worse still, the Ryan Budget, endorsed by candidate Romney as “marvelous,” would make the shift from governmental to parental assumption of education expenses ever more stark.  The Ryan Budget assumes the reduction of Pell Grants by $170 billion over the next ten years, exacerbating an already dire situation:

“The plan proposed by Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Budget Committee, would chop away at Pell grant eligibility, thereby reducing total Pell grants by about $170 billion over the next decade; allow the interest rate for federally subsidized Stafford loans to double; end student loan interest subsidies for those still in school; and make Pell spending discretionary — instead of mandatory — allowing further cuts down the line. Pell grants, the largest source of federal financial aid, currently help more than 9 million students to afford college. Following last year’s budget standoffs, next year’s maximum Pell grant of $5,645 will cover just one-third of the average cost of college — the smallest share ever.” [HuffPo]

And Pell Grants aren’t the only problem with the Ryan/Romney Plan.  Note that the Ryan Budget assumes that student loan interest rates will double, and students loan interest subsidies for those still in school will end.

The de-funding of American higher education is what happens when (1) we have strapped state legislatures still trying to dig out from the $10.2 Trillion debacle created by the players in the Wall Street Casino during the Housing Bubble, (2) we adopt the Manic Mr. Market valuation of education as a commodity and not as a source of community improvement, and (3) we adopt the patently self-destructive argument that higher education is a luxury, and those who want luxuries should pay for them by themselves.

This de-funding is also a function of an economic vision in which it is considered more important to protect the subsidies paid to highly profitable energy corporations, to protect the earnings of those who speculated in the stock market more than the earnings of brick layers and construction contractors, and to protect the income of millionaires and billionaires, than it is to invest in our most precious recourse in the nation — our kids.

If we want to grow the U.S. economy, then we need to note that the unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma now stands at 8.0, while the unemployment rate for those holding a college diploma is at 4.2%. [DoL] In terms of annual earnings the differentiation is obvious, young people with a high school diploma can expect $25,000 annual wages, while their college educated cohorts can expect $40,100.  [NCES]

Policy which undermines the capacity of our citizens to secure a college education either for themselves or for their children is a clear path to economic stagnation or decline.  It’s a path that cannot be improved by  “going shopping.”

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Filed under 2012 election, education, Federal budget, Republicans, Romney