Tag: Education

Why We Must Raise Taxes On Corporations And The Wealthy, Not Lower Them

When Barack Obama was president, congressional Republicans were deficit hawks. They opposed almost everything Obama wanted to do by arguing it would increase the federal budget deficit.

But now that Republicans are planning giant tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, they’ve stopped worrying about deficits.

Senate Republicans have agreed to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, which means giant budget deficits.

Unless Republicans want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and defense, that is.  Even if Republicans eliminated everything else in the federal budget – from education to Meals on Wheels – they wouldn’t have nearly enough to pay for tax cuts of the magnitude Republicans are now touting.

But Republicans won’t cut Social Security or Medicare because the programs are overwhelmingly popular. And rather than cut defense, Senate Republicans want to increase defense spending by a whopping $80 billion (enough to fund free public higher education that Bernie Sanders proposed in last year’s Democratic primary, which deficit hawks in both parties mocked as being ridiculously expensive).

There’s also the cleanup from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, estimated to be least $190 billion. And Trump’s “wall” – which the Department of Homeland Security estimates will cost about $22 billion.

Oh, and don’t forget infrastructure. It’s just about the only major spending bill that could be passed by bipartisan majorities in both houses. Given the state of the nation’s highways, byways, public transit, water treatment facilities, and sewers, it’s desperately needed. Trump campaigned on spending $1 trillion on it.

So how do Republicans propose to pay for any of this, and a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy – without exploding the federal deficit?

Easy. Just pretend the tax cuts will cause the economy to grow so fast – 3 percent a year on average – that they’ll pay for themselves, and the benefits will trickle down to everyone else.

If you believe this, I have several past Republican budgets to sell you, extending all the way back to Ronald Reagan’s magic asterisks.

The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation don’t believe it. They realistically assume that the economy won’t grow over 2 percent a year on average over the next decade.

The Federal Reserve estimates the fastest sustainable rate of economic growth will be 1.8 percent, given how slowly America’s working-age population is growing as well as the slow rate of productivity gains.

But Trump has already made a fetish out of discrediting anyone that comes up with facts he doesn’t like, and other Republicans seem ready to join him.

Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who sits on the budget committee, says he doesn’t want to rely on estimates coming from economists at the CBO and the Joint Tax Committee. He’d rather rely on supply-side economists outside government. “I do think it is time for us to have a real debate and to have real economists weighing in and we should take other things into account other than Joint Tax and C.B.O,” Corker said last week.

Unfortunately for the Republican tax cutters who used to be deficit hawks, we already have real-world historical evidence of what happens after massive tax cuts. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both cut taxes on the wealthy and ended up with huge budget deficits.

Besides, there’s no reason to cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. If anything, their taxes should be raised.

Trump says we’re “the highest taxed nation in the world.” Rubbish. The most meaningful measure is taxes paid as a percentage of GDP. On this score, the United States has the 4th lowest taxes of any major economy. (Only South Korea, Chile, and Mexico ranking lower.)

American corporations aren’t overtaxed. After taking deductions and tax credits, the typical U.S. corporation today pays an effective tax rate of 24 percent. That’s only a tad higher than the average of 21 percent among advanced nations.

The rich aren’t overtaxed. The wealthiest 1 percent in the U.S. pay the lowest taxes as a percent of their income and total wealth of the top 1 percent in any major country – and far lower than they paid in the U.S. during the first three decades after World War II, when the American economy grew faster than it’s been growing since the Reagan tax cuts.

But we do have a deficit in public investment – especially in education and infrastructure. And we do have a national debt that topped $20 trillion this year and is expected to grow by an additional $10 trillion over the next decade.

What’s the answer? Raise taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. That’s what rational politicians would do if they weren’t in the pockets of big corporations and the wealthy.

2017 Climate March

Below is a compilation of science-based signs that the Sanders Institute team put together for the Climate March. We also sought out signs from other marchers with scientific facts.

We have included links along with each image to the science behind each of the facts or more information about the topic of the non-Sanders Institute signs.

Facts:

  • According to NASA, 2017 saw the lowest winter sea ice coverage on record.
  • The EPA estimates that the average car emits 4.7  metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year.
  • According to NASA, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have been since 2001.

 

 

Facts:

  • To read more on the impact of eating vegetarian, see this article from IOP science.
  • Solar Nation helpfully gives facts and quotes for switching to solar power.
  • To read more about recycling in the United States see this EPA fact sheet.
  • According to NASA, the three hottest years on record have been the past three years.

 

 

Facts:

 

 

Facts:

  • According to NASA: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

 

 

Facts:

  • To read more about climate predictions that have come true or underestimated the rate and severity of climate change, see these articles from Scientific American.

 

 

Facts:

 

And finally…

 

Persistence Puts Nina Turner On Path To Education And Politics

After graduating from John F. Kennedy High School in Cleveland, Ohio, Nina Turner took a number of minimum-wage jobs, as did many young people in her neighborhood. The oldest of seven children, Turner was more interested in helping her single mother pay the bills than in advancing her education.

But, it was one nudge from her mother that changed everything: “You’re so smart. You need to go to college,” she recalls her mother’s words in a recent interview with Diverse.

Turner enrolled in Cuyahoga Community College, although she initially felt overwhelmed and dropped out. Later, remembering her mother’s encouragement, Turner re-enrolled with guidance from one of the school’s counselors.

From that point on, she soared, making the dean’s list, editing the school paper, getting involved in student issues, and, within a few years, Turner had earned her associate degree plus bachelor’s and master’s degrees from nearby Cleveland State University.

The challenges that Turner faced along the way would have halted a less-determined person. Her mother died unexpectedly at age 42, leaving Turner, who was then a 22-year-old sophomore at Cuyahoga Community College, and her police officer husband Jeffery, the task of caring for her six siblings and their own child, Jeffery Jr.

“It was really tough, a huge obstacle for my family,” she recalls, “because my mother wasn’t sick; she died of an aneurism without a life insurance policy and with no money in the bank.”

She credits Tri-C — as Cuyahoga is known — as well as her husband’s strength and support with keeping her on track. “If it were not for that community college, I would not have a degree,” Turner says. “There were so many professors there [who] took me under their wing. That’s the real mission of community colleges.”

She singles out Dr. Dorothy Salem as a key figure in her life and the lives of numerous Tri-C students. “I remember walking into her classroom and stopping to look at my schedule. Then I looked at her and kept looking down at my schedule,” Turner remarks, noting that her African-American history professor was White.

As it turned out, Salem would have a significant impact on her career. “She actually changed my life and the lives of other students by teaching us how valuable the contributions of African-Americans were to the making of this country,” says Turner, whose personal hero is the late Black New York congresswoman and presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, whose famous motto, Unbought and Unbossed, was the title of her autobiography.

So, too, Turner has stood up to party bosses and critics within the Democratic establishment for her unwavering dedication to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders after initially supporting Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

“What I have continued to admire about Nina is that she does what her conscience dictates,” Salem tells Diverse. “I didn’t know she would become a national figure, but I saw someone who had a great deal of potential and someone who would follow through on opportunities that were available.”

Turner says those opportunities — internships and fellowships made available through the college — combined with academics, led to her career in public service. Today Turner, a tenured assistant professor of history at Tri-C, became widely known as a fiery representative for Sanders’ presidential campaign and a board member of his progressive movement, Our Revolution. She is a frequent pundit on political news shows and a highly sought-after speaker at high schools and colleges throughout the nation.

Turner honed her political acumen with mentors from the top echelons of state and local government. Before serving as a state senator and minority whip, Turner worked as an aide to former Cleveland Mayor Michael White, and later as a member of his cabinet. She was later elected to the Cleveland City Council, undeterred after an unsuccessful first bid for the seat. Most recently, she ran as the Democratic candidate for Ohio Secretary of State in 2014.

As she rose to positions of influence in government, Turner was drawn to academia as a way to relate directly to young people, many of whom came from backgrounds similar to hers. Again, it was Salem who gave her a push. “It was in the late ’90s when I was working in the mayor’s office, and I received a phone call from her. She said, ‘You were born to teach and I cannot retire until you come here and teach.’”

Her courses at Cuyahoga include African-American history, African-American women’s history, American history, and urban studies. She now shares the history of freedom fighters such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks and so many others, with students who may be having some of the same struggles she experienced as a young adult.

“When she went into politics, Nina promised me (she) would never forget where she came from, and she never has,” Salem recalls. “I’m very proud of her.”

After her grueling schedule of appearances in the 2016 presidential campaign, Turner says teaching and speaking to high school and college students is equally satisfying. However, media outlets in her state have her high on a list of future candidates. In December, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Sanders supporters had launched a group called “Turn Ohio Around” to draft Turner as a candidate for governor in 2018.

School Choice 101

School Choice is the term given to a set of government programs that provide families with alternative school options other than those that are publicly provided, to which students are generally assigned by their family’s location of residence. 

These programs are available in only a handful of states and include the voucher program, charter schools, tax credit scholarships, individual tax credits, and education savings accounts. The goal of implementing school choice programs is to raise productivity in public schools by encouraging competition and innovation in the education ‘market.’ The hypothesis about choice and productivity is quite straightforward: when students can leave and money follows students (even if imperfectly or indirectly), less productive schools will lose students to more productive schools.

What is the voucher program?

There are several different types of school choice programs, the best known of these is the voucher program. The voucher program was first introduced in 1955 by Nobel laureate and economist Milton Friedman. Because “a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens,” Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.

Vouchers are used for tuition at private schools of choice but are funded  through public money, typically through income and state tax. Whereas charter and magnet schools are public schools of choice and often do not require vouchers, this program gives parents an alternative to oftentimes poorly performing public schools.

Today, there are 25 operating voucher programs in 14 states—Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana (2), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (2), North Carolina (2), Ohio (5), Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin (4)—and Washington, D.C.

How does the voucher program work?

Vouchers are funded through taxpayer dollars, typically from income and state tax. The state gives the family a tuition voucher, and the family then spends the money at a private school of their choice.

What are the other school choice programs?

There are several other types of voucher-like programs and can vary from state to state. The most commonly known programs are:

  • Tax Credit Scholarships:

In this program, the state gives a tax credit to an individual or a business who donates money to an approved scholarship program. That approved scholarship program then gives the money to a family to spend on tuition at a private school.

  • Education Savings Accounts:

Here, the state takes money or a portion of the money they would have put into the school district for a particular child and puts it into a special account. The parent is then allowed to take money out of that account and spend it on approved education expenses. These expenses could include a private tutor, educational therapy, or tuition at a private school.

Why is school choice controversial?

The primary source of contention among those who are opposed to school choice is the claim that the programs siphon money away from the public school systems, thus reinforcing the notion that public schools are ineffective and essentially setting them up for failure.

Proponents of school choice offer a different perspective, saying that “When students leave a public school using vouchers, the public school is relieved of the duty/costs of educating those students.” However, the problem becomes evident when too many students (and their funding) are drained from the public school system entirely.

There are also those who believe the voucher program threatens the separation of church and state, since many of the families who use vouchers opt to send their children to a religious private school. The National Education Association has stated that, “privatization [choice] strategies are about subsidizing tuition for students in private schools, not expanding opportunities for low-income children.”

What have been the results of school choice programs so far? 

When we talk about whether school choice programs ‘work,’ we’re not only talking about the overall academic success of an individual student, but also the overall improvement of the public school system in America.

Formally, the success of a school is measured as achievement per dollar spent. When public funds are siphoned away from public schools in large quantites, it can have a measurable negative impact on the overall performance of that public school.

In a study released by The Institute of Education Sciences, the overall performance of 36 charter middle schools across 15 states was shown to be, on average, “neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.”

Sources

Institute of Educational Studies

Swedish Economic Policy Review

Education Week

Private School Review

Anti-Defamation League

The New York Times – “Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools”

The New York Times – “Dismal Results from Vouchers Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins”

Ed Data

[1] “Charter School Financial Impact Model Final Report,” MGT of America, September 11, 2014, http://nashvillepublicmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/MNPS-Charter-Schools-Financial-Impact-Review.pdf

[2] “Review: Fiscal Impact of Charter Schools on LAUSD,” MGT of America, May2016, stofcharterschools.org/ccs/eir/

[3] “Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: Michigan’s Story,” David Arsen, Thomas A. DeLuca, Yongmei Ni, and Michael Bates, Michigan State University, November 2015, http://www.education.msu.edu/epc/library/papers/documents/WP51-Which-Districts-Get-Into-Financial-Trouble-Arsen.pdf

[4] Fiscal Impacts of Charter Schools: Lessons from New York, Robert Bifulco and Randall Reback, Columbia University, New York, NY, http://www.columbia.edu/~rr2165/pdfs/nycharterfiscal.pdf

How The U.S. Government Could End The Student Debt Crisis Today

Last month, Lower Saxony became the final state in Germany to abolish tuition for all students at public universities. Meanwhile, in the United States, student loan debt has passed the $1 trillion mark. The burden is now becoming increasingly heavy for middle-class and wealthy students, but especially for those from lower-income backgrounds. This injustice has spurred many organizations, like the Occupy Wall Street offshoot Strike Debt, to do what they can to pay off student debton their own.

Borrowers could use the support of their government, but U.S. policymakers don’t seem to see student debt through the same moral lens as officials in many other countries do. Can you imagine Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, for example, arguing that “Tuition fees are socially unjust,” as German member of Parliament Dorothee Stapelfeldt told The Times of London? Or even, as she went on to say, that, “[fees] particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies”?

Instead, higher education is peddled as the ticket to economic security by the federal government, commercial lenders, and universities—no matter the cost. Policies that would reduce the fear of unemployment, like the Job Guarantee programs supported by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and demanded by Martin Luther King Jr., might make it more feasible for young people to opt out of college. Yet policymakers in the United States seem unwilling to consider such options.

Thus, as sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom has argued, many young Americans, especially people of color, are desperate for higher education. Yet day by day, the student-debt status quo taxes borrowers while doing less and less to subsidize social mobility.

But the worst part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. To put it bluntly, there is no fiscal reason why the U.S. student debt crisis should exist.

At a basic level, the U.S. federal government doesn’t need to scrimp and save to fully fund higher education. It can just spend money rather than lend it, without incurring any significant negative economic consequences. Although I’d love to reduce spending on, say, prisons, the federal government doesn’t even need to take money out of other programs in order to alleviate student debt.

You may find this argument hard to believe. The way most politicians and journalists talk about the national debt and deficit spending makes free higher education sound impossible. But there’s another way of looking at the problem, a vision advocated by a growing movement of economists, lawyers, students, and financial practitioners who deal with the institutional nuts and bolts of the economy on a day-to-day basis.

Uncle Sam can’t go broke

When progressives advocate for more federal spending on education, the rejoinder is often something like: “OK, but how are you going to pay for it?” Progressives then either fall silent or perform fiscal gymnastics.

But we shouldn’t bow to those discussion terms.

First things first: Uncle Sam isn’t broke. In fact, the U.S. federal government can’t go broke. Up until August 1971, the amount of dollars in the world was pegged to the amount of gold in federal vaults. But it hasn’t been that way since we left the gold standard four decades ago. When Congress spends, the Treasury simply asks the Federal Reserve to add or remove money from bank accounts with keystrokes. The dollars don’t come from anywhere else. Unlike a business or a household, the federal government spends money into existence.

From this perspective, the U.S. ceased to be capable of “going broke.” Many economists known as “deficit owls” have argued for decades that the U.S. federal government doesn’t need tax revenues or bond payments in order to spend money on education or anything else. Rather, the true limits to federal spending are the availability of real resources and the stability of prices. Noted hippies like Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and economists at the St. Louis Federal Reserve have all publicly stated as much.

The fiscal framework of the U.S. government is thus different from that of, say, Detroit—which cannot print its own dollars—or Greece, which now uses euros and can no longer print drachmas. As Warren Buffet stated in 2011, “We’ve got the right to print our own money. That’s the key.”

So why do politicians and others keep insisting that the U.S. government can’t afford to spend money on education? The notion reflects a confused picture of how our economy actually works.

When people think of federal spending, they often imagine that the government collects money from taxpayers and foreign investors (i.e., China), and then redistributes it for various purposes.

But this picture doesn’t reflect how things are really done. The federal government instead spends money into the real economy and drains it via taxes and bonds.

Imagine the economy as a sink full of dishes, with the federal government in control of a tap. In order for us to do the dishes, we need enough water but not so much that our sink overflows. To keep the sink from overflowing, we can open a drain, which removes water from the sink. This is the main macroeconomic function of federal taxes: to drain money from the economy and thus prevent inflation.

Education spending, lending, and inflation

Despite what politicians often say, pumping more money into the economy by running a deficit does not necessarily cause inflation—that is, a general, continuous rise in prices across the economy.

Rather, enduring effects on prices depend upon many factors, including where money goes and what kind of demand it stimulates. Notably, in modern U.S. history, inflation has typically arisen from actions taken by parties other than the U.S. government. For example, inflation during the 1970s can be chiefly attributed to OPEC spiking oil prices, which exacerbated commodity speculation and caused wages and prices to spiral in other sectors. Federal spending was not the culprit.

Inflation can occasionally result from “too much money chasing too few goods.” But as any credible economic forecaster will tell you, this is not a salient concern for the U.S. economy right now.

In any case, worries about inflation aren’t particularly relevant to a change in funding for higher education. It’s important to remember that the government is already pumping new money into the higher education sector; it just does it in the form of loans instead of spending.

Just as importantly, private banks are also creating new “money” every day via student loans, with few people ringing the inflation alarm. As the Bank of England recently detailed, private banks in the modern era do not lend pre-existing funds, but instead create credit “out of thin air” as they lend. When you receive a loan, the bank places funds in your account, simultaneously expanding both the asset and liability sides of its own balance sheet. Again, the dollars don’t come from anywhere—they’re new.

The point is, if you’re not worried about lending causing inflation right now, you shouldn’t be worried about robust government spending causing inflation either.

So if there’s no economic harm from public funding for higher education, why do young people like 24-year-old Nathan Hornes have college degrees, tens of thousands of dollars in debt, but no full-time job?

As Stephanie Kelton, chair of the economics department at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, recently argued in a seminar on student debt, the problem is “austerity memes” and related myths about inflation. Instead of funding education like a public good, the government is going in the wrong direction, spending almost 10 percent less on total federal aid now than it did in 2010.

Who should owe whom?

If money should be owed for higher education at all, perhaps the federal government should owe us. After all, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution entrusts the federal government with a monopoly to create, spend, and regulate money for the “general welfare of the United States.” And in the era of modern money, there’s no good economic reason for students’ pockets to be so shallow when the government’s are so deep.

When the federal government lists a deficit, that indicates a surplus for American citizens, as well as foreign businesses that sell us goods. In other words, the government’s red ink is the public’s black ink. Despite what organizations with wholesome and appealing names like Fix the Debt, The Can Kicks Back, and Up To Us, might claim, the “national debt” is not a burden for young people. Indeed, advocating for smaller federal deficits hurts student debtors. Even in the future, it offers them no tangible benefits.

As the Nobel-winning economist Paul Samuelson once acknowledged, the “superstition” that the budget must be balanced at all times is part of an “old fashioned religion,” meant to hush people who might otherwise demand the government create more money. Young people should beware of anyone who tells them that their chief worry for the future is the government’s debt, rather than their own.

The Evaluation Of Charter School Impacts

Adding to the growing debate and evidence base on the effects of charter schools, this evaluation was conducted in 36 charter middle schools in 15 states. It compares the outcomes of 2,330 students who applied to these schools and were randomly assigned by lotteries to be admitted (lottery winners) or not admitted (lottery losers) to the schools.

Both sets of students were tracked over two years and data on student achievement, academic progress, behavior, and attitudes were collected. The study is the first large-scale randomized trial of the effectiveness of charter schools in varied types of communities and states.

Key findings include:

  • On average, charter middle schools that held lotteries were neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving math or reading test scores, attendance, grade promotion, or student conduct within or outside of school. Being admitted to a study charter school did significantly improve both students’ and parents’ satisfaction with school.
  • Charter middle schools’ impact on student achievement varied significantly across schools.
  • Charter middle schools in urban areas—as well as those serving higher proportions of low-income and low achieving students—were more effective (relative to their nearby traditional public schools) than were other charter schools in improving math test scores. Some operational features of charter middle schools were associated with less negative impacts on achievement. These features include smaller enrollments and the use of ability grouping in math or English classes. There was no significant relationship between achievement impacts and the charter schools’ policy environment.

Because the study could only include charter middle schools that held lotteries, the results do not necessarily apply to the full set of charter middle schools in the U.S.

The full report can be found here.