Friday, October 1, 2010

Where No One Profits

As a rule, I don’t watch many Senate Committee hearings, but I felt compelled to take a peek at yesterday’s “The Federal Investment in For-Profit Education: Are Students Succeeding?” hearing.  I needed to see what someone looked like talking with his head so firmly lodged in a dark, dark place.  Oddly, Senator Tom Harkin looked normal—in his element, almost—as he decried the federal investment in for-profit colleges.  I could only withstand eleven of the 160 minutes.
In that eleven minutes, however, I managed to catch some of his interesting ass-talking:
“As we have seen in recent months, this is very wealthy and powerful industry. It has spent a small fortune on full-page ads in major newspapers, drawing attention to its schools.”
“[P]owerful industry,” seems reason enough to hold three major Senate hearings and threaten new regulations based on unquantifiable student outcome.
“The for-profit colleges have made the federal government their free-money spigot.”
“[C]olleges . . . made . . . government,” transparent reversal of the responsibility for misappropriated federal funds and an unwitting acknowledgment of how government funding is manipulated by special interest groups.
And, my personal favorite, when the Senator almost manages a look of shock and incredulity upon hearing that two basketball players in his home state have taken out student loans totaling $40,000 and $50,000:
“Think about these kids.  Even if they are lucky enough to graduate, what kind of jobs are they going to get to payback that kind of debt?”
In what world does this man live?
Does he know that right now the federal debt in this country is over $42,000, per person (and much, much more by some calculations)?  Unlike which course of education one chooses to pursue, no one had a choice regarding government debt and our political leaders have done an excellent job in making the National Debt sound like the boogey-man of budget hawks rather than an actual, ever-increasing liability held by each citizen of this country.  
Actual instances of fraud must be prosecuted; there is literally no need to make a federal case out of it. Unless, of course, there is something else to be gained.
These sanctimonious power-lusting bastards, Democrat and Republican alike, are a result of our country’s obscenely apologetic attitude toward economic power and perverse reliance on the political power of enforced economic egalitarianism. More than happy to sustain that latter power through their “misleading, deceptive, overly-aggressive, and fraudulent practices,” our political leaders manage to maintain an institutional hatred of profit as near to a religious condemnation as possible and an unquestioned appearance of being the good guys.

Like the frog who sits calmly in the pot of water while it is slowly heated to a boil, have we been too complacent in our cozy pots to recognize our own impending destruction by a government determined to turn the heat to high? This tremendous social institution, founded by men steeped in the principles of the Enlightenment, designed to protect our individual rights, has slowly become the overlord that blunts the development of, and restricts the use of, man's mind.

If you wish to follow the condemnation of for-profit colleges, Inside Higher Ed does a good job of reporting on the movements within the effort.

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