Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Reagan In You: What the Steven Slaita case tells us about Reaganomics

University of Michigan professor Juan Cole in an article about the Steven Salaita case gets to exactly what's wrong with Reaganomics, the economic model of lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy, decreased levels of social spending and government ownership, more privatization and attacks on the ability of unions to organize and negotiate wages, initiated in the US by Ronald Reagan and since then adopted by both US political parties.

Steven Salaita - Press TV

Salaita, a professor born in West Virginia to immigrant Palestinian and Lebanese parents, is a Native American studies specialist who has done comparative studies of the plights of American Indians and Palestinians and sometimes writes and comments about Palestine. He had been at Virginia Tech but was recently hired by the University of Illinois at Champain Urbana (the main UI campus, the "Fighting Illini"). When Israel began slaughtering Palestinians with its massive air and land bombardment of Gaza last summer Salaita posted some things on Twitter very critical of Israel and it's Prime Minister.

One or more wealthy UI donors got wind of the posts and strong-armed the university's board into firing Salaita, which the board ordered the president to do. Salaita sued and a federal judge in a ruling this week that let the case proceed condemned the university's handling of the case in harsh terms. There appears no way the uiniversity can win and they'll probably have to settle in a way amenable to Salaita. The president is also suing the university and resigned this week, releasing a statement saying she was tired of "carrying water" for the board.

Cole points out that, because of changes in our tax policies -- he means Reaganomics --  universities are so starved of funding that they've had to do two things. One is to sock students with very high tuition. We've all heard about how so many students now leave college and start their lives out very deeply in debt -- at least $25,000-$35,000 for most and commonly $50,000 and up.

The other thing is that universities now rely for much of their budgets on donations from wealthy alumni, and this is where the University of Illinois got in trouble in the Salaita case.

Cole talks about how the situation has affected free speech -- that's Salaita's main defense, plus the fact that he'd signed a contract with the university -- but Reaganomics has affected America in more ways than that. Think about infrastructure. Childhood care and development programs. Think about our public schools.

And the economy. Wages inflation adjusted have remained flat since Reagan came into office. Governments, no longer having the revenue formerly paid in by corporations and the wealthy,  have drastically reduced the amount of wealth they put back into the economy. Consequently the days of robust growth are over, which isn't my opinion but the consensus of economists. There's really no prospect for most working people to get ahead any more.

Since tax rates on profits are so low now, the wealthy no longer pump money back into their businesses in order to get tax deductions. They can now just keep all the profits, and they've been doing it for some time now.

A major tax deduction is for salaries and benefits paid out. Often it was "a wash" to pay those things -- i.e., it lowered your tax bill the same amount you paid out, depending on your situation, or at least close to it. It made it cheaper to pay more in salaries and benefits. Now it's to the benefit of wealthy major stockholders for corporations to keep salaries and benefits as low as possible.

Something Cole didn't mention is that universities have also increased their partnerships with corporate America. Corporations are funding professorships, construction projects on campus, and research, giving them more say over what collegges and universities teach.

We have it here in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico. Research done in these corporate partnerships can be patented. No other academics can see it or get the benefit of it. They can't learn from it, build on it, or teach it to their students. One of the primary ways knowledge has been built up over  the centuries is being cut off, as will be the benefits that knowledge brought to humankind.

The responsibility for the situation we're in lies with Democrats and those who support them. Elected Democrats fall into two groups: those who actually believe in Reaganomics despite the absence of any evidence showing that it ever worked for anybody except the rich, and those who know it doesn't work or who just think it's bad for Americans but are afraid to say so, for fear of losing their fancy titles, their big salaries and their status.

Ultimately the blame lies with us. We're either too ignorant to know what's going on or if we do, too lazy, and too selfish, to do anything about it.


  1. Thanks for this, Bubba - very enlightening...and depressing.

    1. Thank you and you're welcome, and thanks for the comment.