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Jared Kushner–the Rookie

March 27, 2017

Yesterday’s report in the Washington Post by  Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker that President Trump has chosen his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to head up a new White House Office of American Innovation sounds awfully similar to an initiative undertaken by Charles Z. Wick, head of Ronald Reagan’s public diplomacy agency, USICA.

In Summer 1981, Wick came up with the idea that there should be an outreach to the private sector. Guided by JFK’s phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” Wick decided to ask top level private sector leaders to volunteer services and material.

Wick meant by this “volunteerism” that he would “take” from the private sector what was needed to reduce his agency’s operating costs!

In other words, Wick intended to set up private sector committees to which the “best and brightest” in America would be asked to make a contribution.  USICA had libraries, let’s have the best and brightest publishers tell us how to improve our library holdings. USICA has cultural centers, let’s have a private sector committee devoted to “Culture.”

At the time, as Acting Associate Director for Cultural and Education Affairs, I was very cautious about this idea since most people who make a living in books and culture were the enemies of Ronald Reagan. And Wick should have been concerned that these committees would be perceived as opportunities to get something from government by those who volunteered their services.

Since USICA was in the “advertising business,” Wick thought, he called a meeting at which all the best and brightest advertising men showed up as well as Jack Valenti, former LBJ special assistant, and Sonny Werblin, head of Madison Square Gardens.

Wick’s desire was to set up a broad range of committees to which prominent Americans contributed their knowledge and expertise.

Kushner  said “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens” and is reported to be proud that “most members of his team have little-to-no political experience, hailing instead from the world of business.”  Kushner’s “Office” will be staffed by former business executives.

Here are three reasons why this is a disaster in the making:

1) The Trump Administration has yet to appoint most positions in government agencies requiring Senate confirmation. Until that is done, these agencies are “ghost departments” with ghostlike “advisors” making key decisions that cannot be traced.

2) Government cannot be run like a business and the skills of businessmen are not tailored to the tasks of government administration. Only persons who never served in top positions of government claim otherwise.

3) A government must reflect the political values and policies of the President and his political base. Successful businessmen tend to avoid partisan politics, often know little about how government operates, or are more likely to be Liberal Democrats.

If you thought the failure to repeal Obamacare was a disaster, wait for what happens when this new White House Office of American Innovation begins to dictate policy.

 

Trouble in Pennsylvania

March 27, 2017

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education was developed from colleges founded as “normal schools” in 1857. They became “teachers colleges” and were formally made constituent parts of a  statewide system in 1982.

InsideHigherEd.com reports that system wide these colleges have experienced a 12% drop in enrollments since 2010 and a shortfall in funding of $78 million next year.

Full-time in-state tuition at these institutions is a uniform $7,238 or $28,952 over four years.

That tuition compares favorably with last year’s tuition at private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania:

 

Tuition                       Room &  Board    Four Years

Bucknell $46,902 $62,368 $249,472
Haverford $46,790 $61,784 $247,136
Franklin & Marshal $48,414 $60,638 $242,552
Dickinson College $47,692 $59,664 $238,656
Swarthmore College $44,368 $57,870 $231,480
Gettysburg $47,480 $58,820 $235,280
Lehigh-undergraduate $44,520 $56,770 $227,080
Allegheny $40,260 $52,449 $209,796
Swarthmore College $44,368 $57,870 $231,480
Elizabethtown $39,920 $49,740 $198,960
Juniata $37,870 $49,340 $197,360
Moravian $35,991 $42,239 $168,956
Lycoming $34,016 $44,392 $177,568
St. Vincent $29,540 $40,517 $162,068
Geneva College $25,220 $34,680 $138,720
La Roche College $24,749 $36,573 $146,292
York College $17,630 $27,500 $110,000
Grove City $16,154 $24,956 $99,824

To date, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania, is experiencing a shortfall in tax revenue of $450 million and, InsideHigherEd.com reports, $3 billion by summer 2017. That estimate could be “off” by $1 billion.

What is the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to do? If they were run like business enterprises, these colleges would examine how to lower costs.  Here are the ways to do that:

1) Move most of the first two years of college courses online and offer them to all qualified high school students in Pennsylvania;

2) After five years, convert most of these colleges into Senior Colleges and admit only Junior/Senior level students for residence;

3) Merge some universities in the same region. A good many are located north of Philadelphia in the Allentown/Bethlehem area of Pennsylvania that is a favorite location, due to lower housing costs, for Pennsylvanians employed in New York City.

4) Close the weakest colleges located in rural areas.

5) When regulations change that permit Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)  to be offered for academic credit, offer them at per course tuition of $200 each or $4,000 for two years of college work.

The important thing to notice about this situation is this:  the median family income in Pennsylvania for 2015 was $55,702. Discretionary income for a family earning $55,702 is under $3,000.  Each of your children will require not less than $29,000 in savings to pay for four years of college at any of these state universities.

Those declining enrollments are going to continue simply because tuition is already priced above levels that most Pennsylvanians can afford. That is why I titled my new book The Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education.

Santa Claus ain’t Coming

March 26, 2017

Failure of Obamacare repeal revealed substantial problems that led to this legislative impasse and future ones that will surely dog the Trump Administration for years.

Let’s begin with criticism of President Trump that he did not master the details of his healthcare legislation and that, according to Newt Gingrich, “he has to have a much more hands-on approach to drafting these things…”

The President is an “ear learner” because he reads with difficulty and is incapable of absorbing the details of proposed legislation. What we saw is what we’ll get.

Second, Speaker Paul Ryan cannot be a traditional free market, limited government, conservative, if he proposed a reform that kept expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare and is proposing a “border adjustment tax” to assess duties on imports. Ryan must be replaced.

And, third, as pointed out last week, Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin’s tax plan with its focus on middle class tax relief ignores the history of how tax reductions can and cannot work their magic.

More efforts must be placed on how to make palatable the politically unpalatable tax relief for the wealthy, and it must be understood that these tax cuts may take four years or more to work their way into the economy.  The country needs tax relief and simultaneous reductions in federal spending.

Mnuchin’s background as a very traditional Wall Street investment banker limits his knowledge of finance to the system established in 1935 when the Securities and Exchange Commission was created.

Nothing less than total rethinking of the regulatory agencies that govern trade and securities transactions is required to save the American economy from collapse. With reform of the Federal Trade Commission and the SEC, we can begin to recover from limitations that have stood in the way of economic growth for decades.

That idea is just too radical a thought for the many alumni of Goldman Sachs that now make key decisions in the Trump administration.

And, fourth, there is President Donald Trump himself who makes the term “big spender” sound weak in comparison to his infrastructure spending plans, his plan to leave Entitlements untouched, and other measures that work against reductions in government spending.

Policies that may increase the federal deficit in return for long term economic growth cannot be made by big spenders and former investment bankers. That case was never made, nor proposed, by Republican leaders who “lost” their Party to a celebrity nominee who won because he promised what an uninformed electorate wanted–Santa Claus.

Speaking Truth to Power

March 25, 2017

As yesterday’s failed effort to repeal Obamacare reveals, divisions in the United States were not resolved by the election of Donald Trump. We are a nation in crisis, seemingly absent of leadership, and administered by a government too big for its britches.

Many scholars who accept the title “conservative,” recognize this and have engaged in a variety of attempts to voice their concerns. Many hearken back to two scholars of mid-Century America, Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin.

Students of Strauss are probably the most influential and successfully navigated Academe to make careers as political philosophers, Constitutional scholars and influential journalists. Voegelinians are scattered hither and yon, but meet annually in meetings of the Voegelin Society and are represented in the online forum called Voegelin view.

We are now 67 years past mid-twentieth century when Voegelin and Strauss were most influential, but the intellectual substance of Strauss and Voegelin continue to be formulated in discussions about America’s place in history and the crisis that we Americans face.

A principal voice of the Straussian School is the Claremont Institute that publishes The Claremont Review..

And here’s a statement of principle published by the editors of American Greatness, also students of the Straussian school:

We hold that America—much like movement conservatism—has lost her way. The nation has succumbed to  division and faction, infected by the insidious and  foreign virus of identity politics which has robbed Americans of our true identity as one people. We’re undermined further by an ever-growing centralized administrative state, which robs us daily of the opportunity to participate in governing our own lives as free and equal citizens under the rule of law.

Government has grown remote, unresponsive, and increasingly unaccountable. While many movement conservatives acknowledge these problems, they have failed to persuade a majority of American voters. What’s more, movement conservatives remain stubbornly unpersuaded by voters’ plain rejection of their solutions.  To their credit, the American people have, through common sense and hard experience, rejected the lie that their opinions about their interests and the laws that govern their lives are irrelevant. Likewise, most rank and file conservatives are unimpressed by the half-measures offered by a conservative movement that is more about conserving itself than conserving the people’s sovereignty.

The Voegelinians have a voice online at Voegelin View.

VoegelinView is an interdisciplinary and international website dedicated to the thought of Eric Voegelin as well as to political philosophy as public commentary that includes all aspects of culture, including philosophy, religion, politics, society, science, education, and literature. It is also a resource for those who wish to learn more about Eric Voegelin’s own political thought. 

Whether these two schools of thought can guide America through the present crisis is, if the history of ancient Greece is an example, not likely. But their ideas will have value over the long term of the life of the nation–if, somehow, America can get through the present crisis.

 

 

Just Say “No” or Govern

March 24, 2017

The division within the GOP that killed the repeal of Obamacare is characterized as between those who want to say “No” and those who want to govern.

The members of the GOP who want to govern were in control of both houses of Congress in 2012 and did nothing to establish the groundwork for governing. To many, it appears, governing means being re-elected.

Those who are saying “No” are taking the longer view and argue that we do not want an expansion of Entitlements because the ones we have cannot be sustained. There will be hell to pay later, so why not tackle the problem now?

One of the reasons for continuing health care benefits established under Obamacare is the fact that President Donald Trump is a New Deal Democrat who pledged not to touch Entitlements. For the balance of the Trump Administration–and beyond–we travel a course toward a future collapse of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Who’s to blame?

Everyone since 1935 who contributed to the growth of the administrative state and the government programs that require that we sacrifice younger generations to benefit older Americans.

Playing Politics with Higher Education

March 23, 2017

The announcement that President Trump will give the Commencement Address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on May 13 is another sign that the Trump White House is playing politics with American higher education while betraying education consumers.

The decision of the President not to nominate executives requiring Senate confirmation to head key Departments of the U.S. Department of Education leaves the Department vulnerable to charges of self-dealing by “advisors” who report to the White House who have not been publicly vetted.

Several advisors at the U.S. Department of Education have ties to education companies, or their lobby, who will benefit from a roll back of Obama Administration regulations directed against for-profit education. But, because they are not appointed to serve after Senate confirmation, what they do or recommend is unknown to the public.

And, Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., has been chosen to lead a higher education Task Force for the Administration. That decision was made months ago but announcement only recently and there is no information about the composition of Falwell’s Task Force, or what it plans to do.

Because regional accreditation of institutions like Liberty University and access to Title IV subsidized loans and grant programs are the principal reason for the high cost of college tuition, it is unlikely that Falwell will follow my recommendation that President Trump should reduce Title IV funding by distributing 50% of annual Title IV funding to the States in Block grants.

Liberty’s regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and its authorization to offer programs for degree credit by the State Higher Education Council for Virginia (SCHEV) protect Liberty from low cost providers who can compete successfully with Liberty’s successful online programs simply by offering degree programs at low cost.

For example, tuition for three credits of online instruction at Liberty University  are priced at $870. The use of new technologies can reduce the cost of online courses for two years of college (20 courses) to $1,000, if appropriate changes in regulations are made.

In other words, President Trump is colluding with the education Establishment to protect its material interests and appealing to Evangelical Christians for support while stiffing long suffering education consumers who are compelled to go into debt to pay high tuition costs.

Radical style or radical

March 22, 2017

George Soros supported the Velvet Revolution led by Czech novelist Vaclav Havel. It would be easy to assume that this was motivated by anti-communism that was sweeping East and Central Europe in 1989.  But, those Americans who responded to Soros were not anti–communist, they were simply revolutionaries.

The desire to reject reality, to replace it with a second reality, or just to engage in revolution appealed to Western intellectuals since 1848. Marx crafted an idea structure that Lenin made into a movement, and that Idea appealed to communists and what Lenin called in 1920 the  “infantile disorder” of Left-wing socialism.

Today that infantile disorder is visible in a radical style visible in what activists wear, the manner of their speech, and the sensationalism with which they present their ideas. Andrew Breitbart is a prototype of what Lenin would have called an “infantile disorder,” but in the context of a dominant Left-wing media and a Left University, the adoption of a radical style can be justified because “it works.”

That seems to explain the political style of Andrew Breitbart and later the Faggot Tour of Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos,  who uses outrageous language for political effect.

The idea expressed by Stephen K. Bannon, now counselor to President Trump, that we must destroy the administrative state has been present within the Libertarian movement from its inception and was epitomized by Frank Chodorov’s founding of an organization to counter the Intercollegiate Socialist Society that he called the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI).

That individualism, which Chodorov associated with Albert Jay Nock and classical Liberalism , espoused free market economics and limited government was wiped out by the Great Depression and the successful promotion of an unlimited state by the New Deal. World War I effectively destroyed what was left of Libertarian anti-war ideas and the America First movement–until now.

Bannon’s individualism has revived that anti-war position, hostility to the state and antagonism to free trade.  His lifestyle, like that of Breitbart, is reminiscent of revolutionaries of the 18th century who advocated rejection of traditional order. Though Bannon’s “alt right” seems new,  that concept was used to describe the “Old Right” of Frank Chodorov.

Albert Jay Nock, Chodorow–and later Breitbart and Bannon–are not “conservative” nor are they Republicans.  They are radical individualists. That their ideas are similar to their opponents on the Left is little appreciated and should cause us to ask, “Radical style or just radical?”