Weekly Audit: Hostile Takeover Threat Spurs Concessions from Michigan Unions

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Michigan’s new Emergency Manager Law is already forcing major concessions from unions. The law gives the governor the power to declare a city insolvent and appoint an emergency manager with virtually unlimited power to reorganize every aspect of city business, including dissolving the city entirely. The emergency manager even has the power to terminate collective bargaining agreements.

As a result of these expanded new powers, public employees unions in some Michigan municipalities are already making large preemptive concessions to keep their cities from tripping any of the “triggers” in the new law that might give the governor an opening to send in a union-bustingemergency manager, Eartha Jane Melzer reports in the Michigan Messenger.

In Flint, the firefighters’ union agreed to increase contributions to health insurance and give up holiday pay and night shift differentials. Flint Firefighters Union President Raul Garcia told the Wall Street Journal that these concessions were driven by fear of a state takeover of Flint. “I would rather give concessions that I would like than have an [emergency financial manager] or something of that magnitude come in and say this is what you are going to do,” Garcia said.

The new law also gives the Emergency Manager the power to privatize prisons, Melzer notes.

Detroit grows green

The citizens of Detroit aren’t waiting around for an emergency manager to take over. The city’s industrial economy is dying, but its grassroots economy is stirring to life, Jenny Lee and Paul Abowd report in In These Times. Detroit residents have been growing their own food in town for decades, but recently activists and the city have joined forces to link many small producers into a network that will provide food security for the city.

Wal-Mart and wage discrimination

Next week, the Supreme Court will take up the case of 100 women who are suing Wal-Mart for wage discrimination. As Scott Lemieux explains in The American Prospect, the Court will decide whether these women can band together to sue the nation’s largest retailer, or whether each must sue the firm individually.

Lemieux argues that, for the sake of women’s rights at work, it is very important that these Wal-Mart employees be allowed to sue together instead of one at a time:

Given the compelling stories these individual women can tell, does it matter whether they can file suit collectively? Absolutely, for at least two reasons. First of all, only a class-action suit can properly create a record of the systematic gender discrimination at Wal-Mart. Any individual case can be dismissed as an anomaly or a misunderstanding, but the volume of complaints makes clear that gender discrimination was embedded deeply within the culture of the corporation, a very relevant fact for a discrimination suit.

Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, for the individuals and for the court system. Forcing victims of discrimination to sue one by one makes it less likely that they will seek justice, especially if they’re suing because they were underpaid in the first place. Wal-Mart claims that the class is too large to be allowed to proceed, and that the women couldn’t possibly have similar enough claims. But as Lemieux points out, the class is huge because Wal-Mart is huge.

War and the deficit

Jamelle Bouie writes at TAPPED, in response to the United States’ new military commitments in Libya:

I just wish we could at least acknowledge the obvious truth: conservatives don’t care about deficits but will use them to cut spending on poor people. When it comes to things they like — wars, for instance — they’re willing to pay any price.

The U.S. fired 110 Tomahawk Missiles at Libya on Saturday, at an estimated total cost of $81 million, or 33 times the annual federal funding for National Public Radio.

Sally Kohn of TAPPED notes that the United States scraped together $2.3 million worth of “blood money” to pay off the families of the victims of Raymond Davis, a rogue CIA operative who shot and killed two men who tried to rob him in Pakistan. Laura Flanders of GRITtv calculates that $2.3 million ransom for a single killer would have paid the salaries of 45 Wisconsin public school teachers for a year.

Public pensions 101

We often hear that public pensions are unfunded. On the Breakdown, Chris Hayes of The Nation asks economist Dean Baker what this actually means. Baker explains that s0-called “defined benefit” pensions have become rare in the private sector, but remain relatively common in the public sector. A defined benefit pension guarantees the pensioner a certain income. Most private sector pensions are so-called “defined contribution” plans, which means that employer puts aside a certain amount of money each month for the employee, but there’s no guarantee how much return the pensioner will eventually get on that investment.

A state pension fund is considered unfunded if the assets the fund has today aren’t sufficient to cover the defined benefits that are due to workers over the next 30 years. Baker notes that many funds are a lot healthier than they look because their values were calculated at the nadir of the stock market in 2009. The market has since made up a large percentage of that ground. A handful of states were mismanaging their pension funds, but most states have been responsible.

Ethical outlaws

Bea is a manager of a big-box chain store in Maine. The company pays her staff between $6 and $8 an hour and many are struggling. Even as she tries to keep a professional atmosphere in the store, Bea has been known to bend the rules to help an employee in need, as Lisa Dodson describes in YES! Magazine:

When one of her employees couldn’t afford to buy her daughter a prom dress, Bea couldn’t shake the feeling that she was implicated by the injustice. “Let’s just say … we made some mistakes with our prom dress orders last year,” she told me. “Too many were ordered, some went back. It got pretty confusing.” And Edy? “She knocked them dead” at the prom.

Andrew, a manager in the Midwest is quietly padding his employees’ paychecks because he knows their wages aren’t enough to live on. Andrew knows he might be accused of stealing, but he does it anyway because the alternative is unthinkable.

Dodson interviewed hundreds of low- and middle-income people about the economy between 2001 and 2008. Along the way, she stumbled on what she calls “the moral underground,” a world where managers bend the rules at corporate expense to enable their low-wage staff to get by. It is legal to pay people less than a living wage, but increasing numbers of people like Bea and Arthur have decided that the situation is morally unacceptable, and quietly acted accordingly.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The MulchThe Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Audit: Hostile Takeover Threat Spurs Concessions from Michigan Unions

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Michigan’s new Emergency Manager Law is already forcing major concessions from unions. The law gives the governor the power to declare a city insolvent and appoint an emergency manager with virtually unlimited power to reorganize every aspect of city business, including dissolving the city entirely. The emergency manager even has the power to terminate collective bargaining agreements.

As a result of these expanded new powers, public employees unions in some Michigan municipalities are already making large preemptive concessions to keep their cities from tripping any of the “triggers” in the new law that might give the governor an opening to send in a union-bustingemergency manager, Eartha Jane Melzer reports in the Michigan Messenger.

In Flint, the firefighters’ union agreed to increase contributions to health insurance and give up holiday pay and night shift differentials. Flint Firefighters Union President Raul Garcia told the Wall Street Journal that these concessions were driven by fear of a state takeover of Flint. “I would rather give concessions that I would like than have an [emergency financial manager] or something of that magnitude come in and say this is what you are going to do,” Garcia said.

The new law also gives the Emergency Manager the power to privatize prisons, Melzer notes.

Detroit grows green

The citizens of Detroit aren’t waiting around for an emergency manager to take over. The city’s industrial economy is dying, but its grassroots economy is stirring to life, Jenny Lee and Paul Abowd report in In These Times. Detroit residents have been growing their own food in town for decades, but recently activists and the city have joined forces to link many small producers into a network that will provide food security for the city.

Wal-Mart and wage discrimination

Next week, the Supreme Court will take up the case of 100 women who are suing Wal-Mart for wage discrimination. As Scott Lemieux explains in The American Prospect, the Court will decide whether these women can band together to sue the nation’s largest retailer, or whether each must sue the firm individually.

Lemieux argues that, for the sake of women’s rights at work, it is very important that these Wal-Mart employees be allowed to sue together instead of one at a time:

Given the compelling stories these individual women can tell, does it matter whether they can file suit collectively? Absolutely, for at least two reasons. First of all, only a class-action suit can properly create a record of the systematic gender discrimination at Wal-Mart. Any individual case can be dismissed as an anomaly or a misunderstanding, but the volume of complaints makes clear that gender discrimination was embedded deeply within the culture of the corporation, a very relevant fact for a discrimination suit.

Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, for the individuals and for the court system. Forcing victims of discrimination to sue one by one makes it less likely that they will seek justice, especially if they’re suing because they were underpaid in the first place. Wal-Mart claims that the class is too large to be allowed to proceed, and that the women couldn’t possibly have similar enough claims. But as Lemieux points out, the class is huge because Wal-Mart is huge.

War and the deficit

Jamelle Bouie writes at TAPPED, in response to the United States’ new military commitments in Libya:

I just wish we could at least acknowledge the obvious truth: conservatives don’t care about deficits but will use them to cut spending on poor people. When it comes to things they like — wars, for instance — they’re willing to pay any price.

The U.S. fired 110 Tomahawk Missiles at Libya on Saturday, at an estimated total cost of $81 million, or 33 times the annual federal funding for National Public Radio.

Sally Kohn of TAPPED notes that the United States scraped together $2.3 million worth of “blood money” to pay off the families of the victims of Raymond Davis, a rogue CIA operative who shot and killed two men who tried to rob him in Pakistan. Laura Flanders of GRITtv calculates that $2.3 million ransom for a single killer would have paid the salaries of 45 Wisconsin public school teachers for a year.

Public pensions 101

We often hear that public pensions are unfunded. On the Breakdown, Chris Hayes of The Nation asks economist Dean Baker what this actually means. Baker explains that s0-called “defined benefit” pensions have become rare in the private sector, but remain relatively common in the public sector. A defined benefit pension guarantees the pensioner a certain income. Most private sector pensions are so-called “defined contribution” plans, which means that employer puts aside a certain amount of money each month for the employee, but there’s no guarantee how much return the pensioner will eventually get on that investment.

A state pension fund is considered unfunded if the assets the fund has today aren’t sufficient to cover the defined benefits that are due to workers over the next 30 years. Baker notes that many funds are a lot healthier than they look because their values were calculated at the nadir of the stock market in 2009. The market has since made up a large percentage of that ground. A handful of states were mismanaging their pension funds, but most states have been responsible.

Ethical outlaws

Bea is a manager of a big-box chain store in Maine. The company pays her staff between $6 and $8 an hour and many are struggling. Even as she tries to keep a professional atmosphere in the store, Bea has been known to bend the rules to help an employee in need, as Lisa Dodson describes in YES! Magazine:

When one of her employees couldn’t afford to buy her daughter a prom dress, Bea couldn’t shake the feeling that she was implicated by the injustice. “Let’s just say … we made some mistakes with our prom dress orders last year,” she told me. “Too many were ordered, some went back. It got pretty confusing.” And Edy? “She knocked them dead” at the prom.

Andrew, a manager in the Midwest is quietly padding his employees’ paychecks because he knows their wages aren’t enough to live on. Andrew knows he might be accused of stealing, but he does it anyway because the alternative is unthinkable.

Dodson interviewed hundreds of low- and middle-income people about the economy between 2001 and 2008. Along the way, she stumbled on what she calls “the moral underground,” a world where managers bend the rules at corporate expense to enable their low-wage staff to get by. It is legal to pay people less than a living wage, but increasing numbers of people like Bea and Arthur have decided that the situation is morally unacceptable, and quietly acted accordingly.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The MulchThe Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Audit: Hostile Takeover Threat Spurs Concessions from Michigan Unions

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Michigan’s new Emergency Manager Law is already forcing major concessions from unions. The law gives the governor the power to declare a city insolvent and appoint an emergency manager with virtually unlimited power to reorganize every aspect of city business, including dissolving the city entirely. The emergency manager even has the power to terminate collective bargaining agreements.

As a result of these expanded new powers, public employees unions in some Michigan municipalities are already making large preemptive concessions to keep their cities from tripping any of the “triggers” in the new law that might give the governor an opening to send in a union-bustingemergency manager, Eartha Jane Melzer reports in the Michigan Messenger.

In Flint, the firefighters’ union agreed to increase contributions to health insurance and give up holiday pay and night shift differentials. Flint Firefighters Union President Raul Garcia told the Wall Street Journal that these concessions were driven by fear of a state takeover of Flint. “I would rather give concessions that I would like than have an [emergency financial manager] or something of that magnitude come in and say this is what you are going to do,” Garcia said.

The new law also gives the Emergency Manager the power to privatize prisons, Melzer notes.

Detroit grows green

The citizens of Detroit aren’t waiting around for an emergency manager to take over. The city’s industrial economy is dying, but its grassroots economy is stirring to life, Jenny Lee and Paul Abowd report in In These Times. Detroit residents have been growing their own food in town for decades, but recently activists and the city have joined forces to link many small producers into a network that will provide food security for the city.

Wal-Mart and wage discrimination

Next week, the Supreme Court will take up the case of 100 women who are suing Wal-Mart for wage discrimination. As Scott Lemieux explains in The American Prospect, the Court will decide whether these women can band together to sue the nation’s largest retailer, or whether each must sue the firm individually.

Lemieux argues that, for the sake of women’s rights at work, it is very important that these Wal-Mart employees be allowed to sue together instead of one at a time:

Given the compelling stories these individual women can tell, does it matter whether they can file suit collectively? Absolutely, for at least two reasons. First of all, only a class-action suit can properly create a record of the systematic gender discrimination at Wal-Mart. Any individual case can be dismissed as an anomaly or a misunderstanding, but the volume of complaints makes clear that gender discrimination was embedded deeply within the culture of the corporation, a very relevant fact for a discrimination suit.

Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, for the individuals and for the court system. Forcing victims of discrimination to sue one by one makes it less likely that they will seek justice, especially if they’re suing because they were underpaid in the first place. Wal-Mart claims that the class is too large to be allowed to proceed, and that the women couldn’t possibly have similar enough claims. But as Lemieux points out, the class is huge because Wal-Mart is huge.

War and the deficit

Jamelle Bouie writes at TAPPED, in response to the United States’ new military commitments in Libya:

I just wish we could at least acknowledge the obvious truth: conservatives don’t care about deficits but will use them to cut spending on poor people. When it comes to things they like — wars, for instance — they’re willing to pay any price.

The U.S. fired 110 Tomahawk Missiles at Libya on Saturday, at an estimated total cost of $81 million, or 33 times the annual federal funding for National Public Radio.

Sally Kohn of TAPPED notes that the United States scraped together $2.3 million worth of “blood money” to pay off the families of the victims of Raymond Davis, a rogue CIA operative who shot and killed two men who tried to rob him in Pakistan. Laura Flanders of GRITtv calculates that $2.3 million ransom for a single killer would have paid the salaries of 45 Wisconsin public school teachers for a year.

Public pensions 101

We often hear that public pensions are unfunded. On the Breakdown, Chris Hayes of The Nation asks economist Dean Baker what this actually means. Baker explains that s0-called “defined benefit” pensions have become rare in the private sector, but remain relatively common in the public sector. A defined benefit pension guarantees the pensioner a certain income. Most private sector pensions are so-called “defined contribution” plans, which means that employer puts aside a certain amount of money each month for the employee, but there’s no guarantee how much return the pensioner will eventually get on that investment.

A state pension fund is considered unfunded if the assets the fund has today aren’t sufficient to cover the defined benefits that are due to workers over the next 30 years. Baker notes that many funds are a lot healthier than they look because their values were calculated at the nadir of the stock market in 2009. The market has since made up a large percentage of that ground. A handful of states were mismanaging their pension funds, but most states have been responsible.

Ethical outlaws

Bea is a manager of a big-box chain store in Maine. The company pays her staff between $6 and $8 an hour and many are struggling. Even as she tries to keep a professional atmosphere in the store, Bea has been known to bend the rules to help an employee in need, as Lisa Dodson describes in YES! Magazine:

When one of her employees couldn’t afford to buy her daughter a prom dress, Bea couldn’t shake the feeling that she was implicated by the injustice. “Let’s just say … we made some mistakes with our prom dress orders last year,” she told me. “Too many were ordered, some went back. It got pretty confusing.” And Edy? “She knocked them dead” at the prom.

Andrew, a manager in the Midwest is quietly padding his employees’ paychecks because he knows their wages aren’t enough to live on. Andrew knows he might be accused of stealing, but he does it anyway because the alternative is unthinkable.

Dodson interviewed hundreds of low- and middle-income people about the economy between 2001 and 2008. Along the way, she stumbled on what she calls “the moral underground,” a world where managers bend the rules at corporate expense to enable their low-wage staff to get by. It is legal to pay people less than a living wage, but increasing numbers of people like Bea and Arthur have decided that the situation is morally unacceptable, and quietly acted accordingly.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The MulchThe Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Gov. Tom Corbett: Pennsylvania’s Savior

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett may be the most adept politician in America.

            With the nation focused upon the union-busting Tea Party-backed Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Corbett has snuck in a plan to mine the state's resources, increase employment, reduce educational problems, and whack unions upside the head at the same time. Miraculously, the public sector unions, so happy they wouldn't lose collective bargaining, have even said they don't mind being whacked.

            In his first budget address, Corbett said he wants to freeze wages for all state employees, almost every one of them part of the middle class. Although the average wage is about $35,000 a year, according to AFSCME, the state’s primary union for public sector workers, families of four should easily be able to still afford the same luxuries as the governor who is paid $165,000 a year and has a mansion, expense account, and house staff.

            As a bonus, Corbett plans to freeze wages of all public school teachers. Those are the people whom Laura Bush numerous times while in Washington said were grossly underpaid. But, since she was a teacher and not a Wall Street banker—you know, the kind who make money the old-fashioned way, by stealing from the poor—it's obvious she was a tax-sucking Big Government, Commie-loving, knee-jerk liberal who worked only a six-hour day for only a half a year, and gorged herself at the public trough. Thus, her views should be dismissed as nothing less than self-aggrandizement at the public's expense.

            Cutting an additional $1 billion from public education is bringing Corbett cheers from the tax-burdened masses who have yet to figure out that the cuts will force local school boards to raise taxes to cover essential educational expenses. But, the brilliance of Tom Corbett is that by freezing teacher salaries, he also spares local school boards the sweat of trying to explain why they have to raise taxes, drop programs, and close schools.

            Now, let's look at the State System of Higher Education (SSHE). Corbett plans to reduce the $465 million appropriation to a lean $232 million, roughly what it was in 1983 when the state system was created. That's the true spirit of conservatism in America—bringing back the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president.

            The 14 state-owned universities enroll about 120,000 students. Some classes have only 40 students. That's highly inefficient. By cutting funding, Corbett helps assure fewer high-paid professors who inflame students with the ideas of left-wing radicals like Socrates, St. Augustine, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. There's hardly any difference between 40 and 200 students in a class. The prof still has to prepare only one syllabus, one lesson plan, and talks into only one microphone. Besides, testing is more efficient when it's computer-scored multiple choice questions. If students want to chat with their prof, all they have to do is take a number and wait their turn for their allocated five minutes face time each semester.

            Cutting resources also helps the socialization of the students. On at least one campus, all two-student dorm rooms now have three students in them. This is a 50 percent increase in student interaction, allowing for more academic discussions about a wide range of topics, such as ceramics (the proper way to smoke pot), nutrition (light vs. dark brews), and psychology (improving the effect of hazing techniques on freshmen.)

            And speaking of psychology, why do all the colleges have to have psych programs? Times are tough, and the luxury of a psych major at all the colleges doesn't fit into Corbett’s education plan. It would be more cost efficient for only six or seven colleges to teach psych courses, thus cutting excess faculty and resources, while filtering students into the more efficient large sections at fewer colleges.

            We also don't need geography courses at any of the colleges. How many Americans knew where Korea or Viet Nam were before we went to war? Grenada, Iraq, and Afghanistan? All we have to do is keep bombing countries, and Americans learn about them. No wasteful expenses like full-color maps, globes, or professors. End of that problem.

            The state can save money by dumping all foreign language programs. This is America, after all, and students should be speaking English.

            Music, art, and theatre programs can also be eliminated since anyone in the creative arts is a liberal hippie who doesn’t earn enough to contribute to Republican political campaigns but can cause trouble, nevertheless. For the same reason, social work programs should be cut. That would result in fewer social workers to record poverty, homelessness, and disabilities, making it seem that the Commonwealth is just chock full of rich people with no problems.

            Corbett has also brilliantly solved unemployment. The state appropriation, which will be only about 16 percent of the cost to run the colleges, will force higher tuition. This will yield one of two possibilities. First, it will separate the scum—the students who come from lower- and middle-class households—from the "true" scholars, the “preppies” who will be able to contribute to Republicans’ political campaigns. Second, if the masses wish to receive a college education, they will have to increase their work hours; their parents will have to work four jobs instead of three to afford tuition and the already extraordinarily outrageous fees. But there is light at the end of this tunnel of despair. Box stores and fast food restaurants always have openings. Not only will students not waste time by doing menial chores like studying, they and their families will help reduce the unemployment rate. And, remember, the family that works together for minimum wage suffers together, a true family value.

            Students not fortunate enough to afford college would be able to look forward to expelling a lot of gas. By pushing for even more drilling and by not taxing the gas extractors, Corbett, the industry’s mascot, creates even more jobs. Like the coal, steel, and timber industries, all of which once were unionized, the non-unionized natural gas industry will have to hire thousands. Since we know that the owners believe in social justice and the rights of their workers, they may even build company towns, complete with match-stick houses, stores selling overpriced merchandise, and company-paid doctors who may or may not treat green-mulch lung disease, depending upon the company’s cost-to-benefits ratio. If the owners become rich enough in the Commonwealth of No Tax Gassy Pennsylvania, they may even hire a recent lit grad to be the industry’s hazardous materials inspector.

            After 20 or 30 years, when the gas is mined out, and the companies move to other states to strip their resources and exploit their workers, Pennsylvanians will be able to proudly say they once worked for a fracking company—all thanks to the vision of Gov. Tom Corbett.

 

            [Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist, and the author of 16 books. You may contact him at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

Gov. Tom Corbett: Pennsylvania’s Savior

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett may be the most adept politician in America.

            With the nation focused upon the union-busting Tea Party-backed Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Corbett has snuck in a plan to mine the state's resources, increase employment, reduce educational problems, and whack unions upside the head at the same time. Miraculously, the public sector unions, so happy they wouldn't lose collective bargaining, have even said they don't mind being whacked.

            In his first budget address, Corbett said he wants to freeze wages for all state employees, almost every one of them part of the middle class. Although the average wage is about $35,000 a year, according to AFSCME, the state’s primary union for public sector workers, families of four should easily be able to still afford the same luxuries as the governor who is paid $165,000 a year and has a mansion, expense account, and house staff.

            As a bonus, Corbett plans to freeze wages of all public school teachers. Those are the people whom Laura Bush numerous times while in Washington said were grossly underpaid. But, since she was a teacher and not a Wall Street banker—you know, the kind who make money the old-fashioned way, by stealing from the poor—it's obvious she was a tax-sucking Big Government, Commie-loving, knee-jerk liberal who worked only a six-hour day for only a half a year, and gorged herself at the public trough. Thus, her views should be dismissed as nothing less than self-aggrandizement at the public's expense.

            Cutting an additional $1 billion from public education is bringing Corbett cheers from the tax-burdened masses who have yet to figure out that the cuts will force local school boards to raise taxes to cover essential educational expenses. But, the brilliance of Tom Corbett is that by freezing teacher salaries, he also spares local school boards the sweat of trying to explain why they have to raise taxes, drop programs, and close schools.

            Now, let's look at the State System of Higher Education (SSHE). Corbett plans to reduce the $465 million appropriation to a lean $232 million, roughly what it was in 1983 when the state system was created. That's the true spirit of conservatism in America—bringing back the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president.

            The 14 state-owned universities enroll about 120,000 students. Some classes have only 40 students. That's highly inefficient. By cutting funding, Corbett helps assure fewer high-paid professors who inflame students with the ideas of left-wing radicals like Socrates, St. Augustine, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. There's hardly any difference between 40 and 200 students in a class. The prof still has to prepare only one syllabus, one lesson plan, and talks into only one microphone. Besides, testing is more efficient when it's computer-scored multiple choice questions. If students want to chat with their prof, all they have to do is take a number and wait their turn for their allocated five minutes face time each semester.

            Cutting resources also helps the socialization of the students. On at least one campus, all two-student dorm rooms now have three students in them. This is a 50 percent increase in student interaction, allowing for more academic discussions about a wide range of topics, such as ceramics (the proper way to smoke pot), nutrition (light vs. dark brews), and psychology (improving the effect of hazing techniques on freshmen.)

            And speaking of psychology, why do all the colleges have to have psych programs? Times are tough, and the luxury of a psych major at all the colleges doesn't fit into Corbett’s education plan. It would be more cost efficient for only six or seven colleges to teach psych courses, thus cutting excess faculty and resources, while filtering students into the more efficient large sections at fewer colleges.

            We also don't need geography courses at any of the colleges. How many Americans knew where Korea or Viet Nam were before we went to war? Grenada, Iraq, and Afghanistan? All we have to do is keep bombing countries, and Americans learn about them. No wasteful expenses like full-color maps, globes, or professors. End of that problem.

            The state can save money by dumping all foreign language programs. This is America, after all, and students should be speaking English.

            Music, art, and theatre programs can also be eliminated since anyone in the creative arts is a liberal hippie who doesn’t earn enough to contribute to Republican political campaigns but can cause trouble, nevertheless. For the same reason, social work programs should be cut. That would result in fewer social workers to record poverty, homelessness, and disabilities, making it seem that the Commonwealth is just chock full of rich people with no problems.

            Corbett has also brilliantly solved unemployment. The state appropriation, which will be only about 16 percent of the cost to run the colleges, will force higher tuition. This will yield one of two possibilities. First, it will separate the scum—the students who come from lower- and middle-class households—from the "true" scholars, the “preppies” who will be able to contribute to Republicans’ political campaigns. Second, if the masses wish to receive a college education, they will have to increase their work hours; their parents will have to work four jobs instead of three to afford tuition and the already extraordinarily outrageous fees. But there is light at the end of this tunnel of despair. Box stores and fast food restaurants always have openings. Not only will students not waste time by doing menial chores like studying, they and their families will help reduce the unemployment rate. And, remember, the family that works together for minimum wage suffers together, a true family value.

            Students not fortunate enough to afford college would be able to look forward to expelling a lot of gas. By pushing for even more drilling and by not taxing the gas extractors, Corbett, the industry’s mascot, creates even more jobs. Like the coal, steel, and timber industries, all of which once were unionized, the non-unionized natural gas industry will have to hire thousands. Since we know that the owners believe in social justice and the rights of their workers, they may even build company towns, complete with match-stick houses, stores selling overpriced merchandise, and company-paid doctors who may or may not treat green-mulch lung disease, depending upon the company’s cost-to-benefits ratio. If the owners become rich enough in the Commonwealth of No Tax Gassy Pennsylvania, they may even hire a recent lit grad to be the industry’s hazardous materials inspector.

            After 20 or 30 years, when the gas is mined out, and the companies move to other states to strip their resources and exploit their workers, Pennsylvanians will be able to proudly say they once worked for a fracking company—all thanks to the vision of Gov. Tom Corbett.

 

            [Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist, and the author of 16 books. You may contact him at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

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