Monday, June 04, 2007

"Trickle-up" Economics

I finally decided on a study path when I was 24. I tried to pay for college through various restaurant jobs as I was attending school, but it was impossible. So, I began taking out student loans. The debt that I have accumulated over four years of undergraduate and three years of graduate school exceeded $100,000. Amazingly, all that money invested in education has landed me a job making $32,000/year as a fourth-year teacher in Montana. You can do the math.

Despite self-deluding myths, this country does not have the most competitive college graduates, nor offer the best education to the vast majority of Americans. What's more, there are countries that offer comparable if not outright superior educations and countries where a teacher's education is free or mostly free. I am not advocating for there to be a compromise that teachers continue to be underpaid in lieu of a free education, but quite the opposite! Teachers salaries should be increased without compromise immediately. Furthermore, to attract the very best and brightest young students into the venerable profession of teaching, the U.S. must move immediately in the direction of making a teacher's education FREE! In the U.K., this has happened and succeeded in encouraging an entire generation of new young educators from among the most talented and competitive pool of U.K. youth.

It is time for the U.S. to wake from its own delusional myth-making and realize that many of the most important jobs millions of Americans take are grossly underpaid before one even considers paying back student loans. The loan "forgiveness" program for teachers is laughable. Teach five years in some of the hardest areas in this country and we'll forgive $5000 of your Stafford loans. That amounts to $1000 per year. Yet if I stay put in a less harsh area where teacher pay is already higher, I can earn more than that $1000 per year after covering higher living costs! It is no incentive at all! This is thinly veiled cynicism.

In fact, they have created a system designed to fail. Not only is there no incentive, student loans demands are much less likely to be met being involved in one of these "incentive" programs. Basic math will reveal this cynical reality. So in the end, the places most in need of energetic and talented teachers who might even care to perform kind acts of civil service are unable to afford it. Screwing the Native Americans of Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota yet creating programs that allow for plausible deniability. "We care about the Native Americans...look we've even made an incentive program designed to attract teachers to help. We can't help it if people just don't want to live and work there!"

What's more, Montana is basically a Title 1 state yet we teachers are some the poorest paid in the nation. Add student loans to our teacher pay and we are unable to raise a family, buy a home, on and on. The American dream is completely bogus. A teacher should be able to buy a nice home, raise a normal size family and have money left over for satisfying basic consumer desires and retirement. Yet we know that the American family has been ripped apart by private tyrannies (corporations) that have led us to a point that there is no longer the possibility of a parent staying home to raise children and create a safe and healthy home. NO! Now our families are torn apart by an unaffordable life--driven primarily by the costs of health care, insurance, housing, fuel, food and higher education. With each passing generation we get further and further away from the basic economic rights our parents enjoyed. We have to go to our parents--even as double-income families--to ask for down-payments that our parents cannot afford on fixed incomes.

No legislator or president can claim to stand for family values through vacuous rhetoric. "Trickle-up" economics are on the way! The theory is anger and discontent with American "democracy" will result in a continued "trickling-up" of our frustration, anger and outrage until we replace this intentionally ineffectual system dominated by private corporations with one that respects an American's rights beyond the political realm to include economic rights!