Tom Harkin Dissembles on Higher Education

Bumped up from TCR:Iowa.  – Ed.

Our esteemed Senator Harkin has been holding some hearings on for-profit colleges back in D.C., and now he has penned an editorial for the Des Moines Register. In full disclosure, I dislike Tom Harkin. Intensely. Then again, back in 2008, Charles Grassley voted for the TARP bailout, and now I don’t like him either.

But, back to the junior Senator from Iowa; Senator Harkin penned an opinion-editorial decrying the high tuition, poor student outcome, and massive debt of the students of for-profit colleges. If somebody would be so kind as to pass this on to the right honorable gentleman, would Senator Harkin please explain why his criticisms of the for-profit colleges are not extended to all colleges? Why does the servant of the people limit his criticism to the obvious failures of the for-profit schools, and not touch upon the failures, just as obvious, of the Ivy League, non-profit schools, endowment liberal arts colleges, and even state schools?

I have three reasons which instantly spring to mind. First of all, Mrs. Harkin sits on Iowa’s Board of Regents. I don’t think Senator Harkin mentioned that; being a bachelor myself I’m only assuming that it would be appropriate to disclose that information.

Second, college professors and administrators appear to have privileged status in modern American society, and being part of the Nomenklatura (Russian for “Book of Names,” these were people who had earned favors from the members of the Communist Politburo), colleges can’t possibly be permitted to suffer the effects of a recession. After all, if your waitress doesn’t have a degree in sociology, how can we possibly have justice and compassion in our society?

Thirdly, and I think probably the most important, higher education is critical for the current political climate. We are in a deep economic depression and college is a useful way to keep young people busy. It gets them out of their parents’ houses, gives older voters the illusion that the young will be able to support themselves and fund the welfare state, and gives elected officials a ready-made line for why they need to be returned to office and why the public needs to turn over their wealth to the state -because children are the future, and we need to invest in our young people.

Political careerists have used that stupid old trope for decades now. We must, they tell us, rack up enormous debts – as a nation and as individuals – for the sake of the children, who will then grow up as serfs and endure an intense curtailment of their liberty and prosperity to settle the debts that we racked up for the sake of the children. It’s a bit like selling your car for gas money.

So, hurry up and enroll your kids in a state school, and make sure to cosign the Federal Stafford Loan promissory notes. Of course, you need to make sure you reelect your local deputies of the Supreme Soviet to make sure your kids can still get the chance to sign those promissory notes. Our economy, after all, is built on an Education-Employment model, where young people go to college so they can become more attractive to employers – employers who no longer have access to the capital they need to expand their businesses; considering that is where new jobs come from, that might be a bit of a problem – so unless your kids borrow money from the government to get an advanced degree, they might not get that job that doesn’t exist.

More than fifty percent of recent college graduates cannot find full time employment. All of them could get funding for a master’s degree if they really wanted it, though. It doesn’t mean anybody will have the capital to invest in employing them two or three years from now, but it will keep them busy and not officially part of the “unemployed.”

So, there you have it; as long as federal money is being funneled to state schools to cover exorbitant tuition for degrees not worth the paper on which they are printed, our dear Senator doesn’t seem to mind. I actually agree with Senator Harkin when he condemns the for-profit colleges; but he attacks them for being for-profit, not for being useless. I attack them for being useless – the same sin committed by most every college and university in the country, regardless of who runs them.

No career politician has the courage to take on the real problems facing the American economy, so perhaps Senator Harkin doesn’t warrant extra criticism for his cherry picking and selective righteousness – he certainly doesn’t deserve any credit, either.

About the Author

Mr. Waechter is an attorney and a recent graduate of Drake University.

 

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