Swickard column: Sutton’s Law goes to college

Willie Sutton inspired a law
© 2016 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  “Why do you rob banks?” asked Mitch Ohnstad. “Because that’s where the money is,” said Willie Sutton.
            A noted bank robber from the Twentieth Century is used by medical students as a way of making a quicker diagnosis. Rather than think of all that might be wrong with a patient, they go directly to the most likely diagnosis which has been dubbed, “Sutton’s Law.”
            We are seeing Sutton’s Law in our New Mexico institutions of higher learning when it comes to budget problems. Money is tight. That normally should trigger soul-searching and budget searching to see what could be cut. Being short on money is the time to look at priorities and adjust programs accordingly.
            Instead, using Sutton’s Law, colleges only raise tuition “because that is where the money is.”
            In the 1990s I did a Ph.D. at New Mexico State University. The tuition and fees when I started were under $600 a semester. Currently they are $4,000 a semester and there are calls by the NMSU administration to raise tuition because of budget woes.
            As to inflation, $600 in 1994 would be $960 today. But NMSU’s tuition is $4,000 meaning tuition has risen more than four times the rate of inflation. Ignoring economics, NMSU again and again increased tuition and then had a surprised look on their faces when enrollment dropped.
            I have written about this repeatedly over the last twenty years as the cost of a college education in New Mexico increased rather than NMSU cutting programs and becoming leaner. It’s Sutton Law, increasing tuition is where the money is.
            I enjoyed my time at college and went to college willingly, in fact eagerly. The education I received was very good for what I wanted and I am satisfied that my time was well spent. But it was spent at $600 a semester and I am tightly wound so I didn’t stay long.
            The other day I was speaking to a very bright young person. We were discussing educational options. I confessed to this potential college student that am not sure I would go to NMSU at $4,000 a semester and then buy books and all the other costs. Might not.
            The question is: could I self-educate in some fields instead of sitting for years in classes? Are there other things I could do productively to earn an income that would satisfy me?
            Now in degree-requiring fields you have to go college to get a job. The question is: which colleges can give you the required credentials most economically? Colleges and universities are up against several trends which might spell the end of higher education as we have known it.
            There are three issues that our higher education administration apparently does not want to address: first, most college students assume a job will follow. Programs that do not have a vibrant job market are not being phased out to the detriment of students.
            Secondly, college students are charged the same for high value classes as for low value classes. In some programs the professors are paid less than $30,000 a year while some professors in Engineering make six figure salaries. There is no adjustment in the cost of classes.
            Finally, the sunk cost of bricks and mortar in the physical plants cause our institutions of higher learning to lean toward using those physical plants since they have to pay for them regardless of if they are useful for the future of students.
It asks the question: does the administration of NMSU have a fiduciary relationship with the students or their employees? It can only be one. If it was financially appropriate to fire a quarter of all NMSU employees, could the administration do so or would the students be asked to cover the costs to no gain for them?
Those are tough questions in this changing world. It is like NMSU football which I touched on recently. I still intend to buy tickets to the football games whether they are D1 or not. I will be at their games cheering.
            Are they going to continue selling losses because “that’s where the money is?” If they do, they will eventually lose the entire football program and probably look surprised.


Share/Bookmark

Truman and Kennedy must be spinning in their graves

© 2016 Jim Spence  It looks like our choices are Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. How the hell did we get here? The answer is simple. We got here one step at a time.
Consider the long and curious philosophical journey of the Democratic Party since the end of World War II. Not only did mid 20th Century Democrats learn what Marxism was all about in their dealings with Stalin, Mao, Kim, and Castro, they also understood why evil totalitarianism was necessary for Marxists to prevail within those country borders.
Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy were so aware of how destructive totalitarian socialism was to basic freedoms, they were willing to commit U.S. troops in Korea, Viet Nam, and Cuba to put a stop to it. And of course in the 1960’s and even into the 1970’s, the Democrat-leaning public education system in America insisted on explaining the difference between living life under totalitarian oppression, and living life in America where we enjoyed widespread freedoms. In short they defended the ideals of Truman and JFK to the next generation of Americans.
No doubt while Lyndon Johnson was tilling his American brand of socialism at home, he was also botching the efforts to contain the spread of totalitarian socialism abroad. By the 1970’s America began to cultivate a taste for LBJ’s socialism like an eventual junkie develops a taste for the “high” when he first experiments with the use of opiates.
The Democratic Party began to re-invent itself in the wake of its failures in Viet Nam. The anti-Marxist anti-totalitarian wars of Truman, JFK, and LBJ were blame shifted away from the Democratic Party. The “military industrial complex” became the scapegoat of the Democratic Party. Recall 2004 when then presidential candidate John Kerry was lamenting the hardships he suffered under Richard Nixon, despite the fact LBJ was in the White House during the time period Kerry spoke of. Re-writing history has no statute of limitations.
More important than the Democratic Party ignoring the legacy of Truman and JFK and the oppression inherent in totalitarianism, was the ways in which it tapped into public education and Hollywood to do so. Gradually basic freedom themes were discarded from curriculum. Equal outcome themes were embraced and free enterprise drew scorn. This happened in social studies classes and on popular television shows and in motion pictures.
Gradually the noble efforts of engaging in for-profit enterprise, efforts that were once the cornerstones of the Truman and Kennedy worldviews, were increasingly the targets of suspicion and contempt in popular culture. By the time Mr. Obama arrived on the scene, two generations of Americans had undergone serious indoctrination by the public school system and Hollywood. These efforts had all but eviscerated the Democratic Party’s fear of totalitarianism as well as its legacy of disdain for Marxist socialism. How else can one explain that an avowed socialist could win Democratic primaries in states once intensely loyal to the anti-socialism legacies of Truman and Kennedy?

The Republicans have also had a hand in the transformation of America from a beacon for personal freedoms to the edge of the abyss. First and foremost the GOP leaders (minus Reagan) have never quite grasped the importance of fighting ardently for an objective public education system. Second, they never recognized the importance of countering the curious influence of those working in the television and film industries, where a conflicted culture uses free enterprise to attack free enterprise. Finally, Republicans gradually discovered that the path of least resistance was to make dastardly compromises. It was easier to hold power by spending other people’s money and surrendering other people’s freedoms than it was to conserve resources and preserve freedoms.
Once the philosophical pillars regarding freedoms that both Truman and Kennedy thought were worth fighting for were abandoned by both Democrats and Republicans, America was left with two choices.
The increasing influence of socialism was a given. Our choices were the advance of socialism with or without totalitarianism. With the election of Obama, America has gotten a big dose of totalitarianism with more socialism. Obama has set precedents in terms of subverting the U.S. Constitution in ways that America may well never recover from.
Not surprisingly in 2016, the American public is splintered. Both Democrats are calling for more big government socialism. Democrats seem to slightly prefer Hillary Clinton, who uses crony capitalists to fund her campaign, rather than Bernie Sanders who would prefer to finish the utter destruction of free enterprise that has gained such incredible momentum under Obama.
Republicans have Ted Cruz, a free enterprise-favoring and constitution-protecting candidate, who has been so adamant about the GOP’s hand in the demise of the Truman / Kennedy value system. So adamant about this, Cruz has made enemies of Mitch McConnell and other entrenched Republican power brokers. Alternatively, Republicans can choose the slick-talking inheritance-endowed blowhard Donald Trump. Trump has a knack for illuminating the failures of McConnell and his ilk in ways that create more passion in a segment of the GOP base than Cruz’s intellectual appeal to the constitution. We can all thank the education's systemic failures and Hollywood for that.  
It is ironic that some GOP regulars have become so alarmed with the rise of Trump that they are finally seeing some virtue in a free enterprise constitution protector like Cruz. What a revelation.
It is even more ironic that there is only one man left with any chance of being president who is still fighting for the value systems of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. It is Republican Ted Cruz.
Email Jim  -  jspence0556@gmail.com

Share/Bookmark