There was a letter in the letters page in the free paper we get on public transport over here that I’ve been thinking about on and off all day and I think it needs discussion.
First, a history lesson for all you non-UK residents out there. Once upon a time, if you were a UK citizen or permanent resident, you got university for free, basically. No tuition fees. At all. And the government gave a grant to students. It wasn’t quite enough to live on, but it took the pressure off. It meant you didn’t have to work as hard at an ‘after-school job’ to afford books and off-campus housing (if you couldn’t get into the dorm; spaces were, of course, limited) and food and stuff. Didn’t matter who you were or how much your parents made; you wanted to go to uni? The UK was happy to have educated people joining the workforce.
Then, in about 1997 or so, it all changed. Tony Blair came to power, freeing us from what we thought of then as a pretty shitty Tory regime. He said that his three priorities in terms of his upcoming manifesto were, “education, education and education”.
Then he instituted tuition fees for uni and scrapped the grant programme. All at once.
Needless to say, people were pissed. There were demonstrations and marches and rage at this sudden attack of “fuck you, got mine” from the government. But tuition fees never went away. In fact, they went up. They hadn’t been hugely high by US standards, and probably still aren’t, but for people who had never saved up for their university education, or that of their children, because there was never any need…
That was twenty years ago. And now, Corbyn is standing on a platform of going back to the days where we had our uni tuition paid. There’s some debate about whether he actually promised to forgive all student loan debt, but either way, it would be a pretty big deal, if it could ever actually happen.
Now, the letter in the letters page of the Metro had some guy saying something about, “The government should only pay tuition fees for people entering the necessary arenas - medicine, engineering, things like that. Things like gaming theory and media studies are just hobbies”.
I personally find it ironic that he had this printed in a fucking newspaper. This letter, about potential political policy that he only found out about because he heard or read it on the news.
It just goes to show, I feel, how undervalued the arts really are. I mean, people seem to be intent on people only having the bare necessities. But … if you only have doctors and lawyers and engineers making all this money … what are they going to spend their money on, if there aren’t people who studied gaming theory or media studies or art? What happens if we strip society to the bare bones and refuse to subsidise the arts?
In Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams as Mr Keating said, “…Medicine, law,
business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain
life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive
for.“ That has always resonated with me, and always will. People seem to identify ‘growing up’ as ‘putting away childish things’, and ‘childish things’ as ‘anything fun, moving or beautiful that isn’t Established Art’.
But … these people watch TV. They play video games. They read newspapers and magazines. They go to movies. Hell, they look at adverts all the time. Media studies, gaming theory, creative writing, art … all of those are necessary to create the things that we consume every day. This is our art. We need it. If life was just work / food / sleep … what would our lives be? Would they be worth living?
I tend to think not.
Please. For the love of the gods. All due respect to the ‘hobby degrees’. Every book you ever loved, every movie you ever cheered at or cried over, every game you ever spent weeks of your life playing, every shred of beauty or joy or angst or just anything that took you outside yourself for awhile … that’s because of them. Sure, you can make art without the degree, but it’s harder to make a living at it. More, artists just deserve the respect. They devoted years of their lives to build the toolbox by which they could make worlds for us, or at least make this world more accessible. Don’t call that a ‘hobby degree’. It’s only because of their efforts that you, you letter-scrawling fuckbiscuit, have hobbies at all.
2.) Federal Jobs Guarentee: bring back the 1974 Humphrey-Hawkins Full-Employement Act
3.) Federal Protections FOR ALL LGBTQ PEOPLES
4.) A REAL path for citizenship for ALL Dreamers and illegal immigrants who work and pay taxes.
5.) Expand Social Security: there are currently multiple bills in Congress to expand and strengthen Social Security for future generations, while guaranteeing the wealthy pay their fair share into the program like all the rest of us!
6.) Eliminate ALL subsidies for Big Oil & Gas industries and begin FULLY subsidizing and supporting Renewable Energy sources for a FULL conversion to a Carbon-free Economy
7.) Make ALL PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES TUITION FREE and FORGIVE ALL CURRENT OUTSTANDING STUDENT LOAN DEBT!!!!
8.) Pass a new Voting Rights Act for the 21st Century that GUARENTEES the right to vote for ALL citizens regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, class or social status! NO MORE VOTER ID LAWS!!!
9.) Federally Guaranteed Public Transportation & Job Training: in a world where the economy and jobs can shift rapidly in various fields to various locations, a Federal Guarantee to modern Public Transportation and Job Training isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. Give the workforce the tools they need to find new work and sources of income for their families so another “Great Recession” can never again destroy the livelihoods of so many families for so long a time
10.) TRUELY PROGRESSIVE TAX REFORM: since the 1980’s when Reagan and his “Supply-Siders” cut taxes on the wealthy while cutting back Federal Aid to the states, taxes have become more and more regressive. High Property taxes in the states made up for the Federal Aid that used to be paid for by high end marginal tax rates on the wealthy, but this means the Working & Middle Classes bear the brunt of the tax load while virtually guaranteeing an unequal education system dependant on wealthier tax payers who sequester themselves into small patches of neighborhoods throughout the country while Working & Middle Class neighborhood’s schools get gutted.
We can change this system be raising Marginal Tax-Rates on the wealthy back to their Post WWII highs of 70-95%, using the money to support local Public Schools and Libraries with money that no longer has to be dredged from the lowest income homeowners. This will also have the added benefit of greatly reducing Inequality over time through better educations for Working and Middle Class students while re-establishing an effective cap on incomes earned by the top 1% of earners.
ALL OF THESE IDEAS ARE DOABLE AND MANY WERE IDEAS PREVIOUSLY IMPLEMENTED IN THE POST WWII YEARS RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA. THESE PROGRESSIVE POLICIES HELPED CONTRIBUTE TO THE MASSIVE BOOM IN THE ECONOMY SEEN THROUGHOUT THE POST WAR YEARS FROM THE 1940’s-1970’s AND ONLY WHEN SUCH POLICIES WERE ABANDONED DOD INEQUALITY GROW OUT OF CONTROL.
IT’S TIME AMERICAN CITIZENS ORGANIZED AND STAND UP IN SOLIDARITY TO CHALLENGE THE POLTICAL ELITE IN BOTH PARTIES AND THE CORPORATE MASTERS THEY SO HAPPILY OBLIGE. IT’S TIME TO STAND UP TO THE WEALTHIEST CLASS OF MODERN SLAVE DRIVERS WHO WOULD HAPPILY SEE US ALL IN CHAINS LABORING TO INCREASE THEIR WEALTH.
STAND UP! ORGANIZE! TIME TO SAY ‘ENOUGH’S ENOUGH’ AND TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK FOR THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS, NOT JUST THE TOP 1%!!!!
Student debt cancellation would mean forgone revenue in the near term, but in the long term it could be an economic stimulus worth much more than the immediate cost. Money not spent paying off loans would be spent elsewhere. In that situation, lenders, debt collectors, servicers, guaranty agencies, asset-backed security investors and others who profit from student loans would suffer the most from debt forgiveness.
Student debt cancellation would mean forgone revenue in the near term, but in the long term it could be an economic stimulus worth much more than the immediate cost. Money not spent paying off loans would be spent elsewhere. In that situation, lenders, debt collectors, servicers, guaranty agencies, asset-backed security investors and others who profit from student loans would suffer the most from debt forgiveness
* Under a Stein presidency, the military economy would transition to a green economy, with decreased dependence on fossil fuels, and an end to subsidies for military contractors. The U.S. makes more money from weapons sales than any other nation on the planet. This, of course, stimulates the economy, but a green alternative would also create jobs, and do so without causing the deaths of countless millions around the world. Additionally, the justified hatred that much of the world feels towards the U.S. would fade, as the U.S. becomes a more responsible player on the world stage.
* The minimum wage would immediately be raised to $15.00 an hour. As Dr. Stein pointed out, more money in the hands of workers will enable them to put more of that money back into the economy, by purchasing items that are currently out of their financial reach. So an increased minimum wage would not be a ‘job killer’, as the corporate-owned members of Congress continually claim.
* Today, tens of millions of U.S. citizens are burdened by crushing student loan debt. Dr. Stein would forgive that debt, again freeing those citizens to put more of their money back into the economy. It would have the additional benefit of showing the citizenry that the U.S. does, indeed, value education, and that the government sees higher education as something more than just another cash cow.