austerity

austerity

It is easy to point at the very rich, the 1%, as recipients of unnecessary charity.  Robert Benmosche, the CEO of AIG, offended many when he compared taxpayer complaints about bonuses paid while his company was receiving a federal bailout to “pitchforks and their hangman nooses.”  Today, Yves Smith writes that Jaimie Dimon had a private audience with US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to discuss various prosecution activities about JPMorgan and Jaimie Dimon’s role.  By contrast, consider this item about preparing for jail following a peaceful protest.  The posting has special warnings that it may be nearly impossible to obtain critical medications like insulin once in jail.

Privilege for the rich also occurs at lower income levels.  ABCNew publishes that colleges are using funds from children of poor parents to lower costs for more children of more affluent parents through a “shift from need-based aid to merit-based.”  I doubt that there are many merit-based scholarships for hard-working, deserving students from inner-city Detroit or rural South Dakota.  A recent episode of PBS’s “Frontline” called “Football High” about injuries and pressure to perform told about the son of a very successful businessman.  The family could easily afford to send the son to any college or university.  Yet, the son was deeply eager for a football scholarship.

Leaders in the community for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are concerned about future careers in this area.  Some leaders are wringing their hands or here about scores from the latest SAT college entrances test.  The mathematics and statistics leaders are promoting careers by press release, yet a similar argument based on increasing enrollments asks “Why Haven’t Humanities Ph.D. Programs Collapsed?

US Senator Tammy Baldwin recently held a Google Hangout about “The Next Generation Research Act…to improve opportunities for the next generation of researchers.”  The idea is to help young researchers have a better chance of obtaining funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at this difficult time.  Sounds good, doesn’t it!  Maybe it is.  The NIH already instituted programs years ago to enhance research funding opportunities for first-time grant applicants.  First, chances of funding are extremely difficult now from any federal agency even with excellent publication records, so is it fair to lure young researchers into what may be a dead end?  Also, is this funding for “the best and the brightest” going to benefit only the areas of science most likely to benefit corporations?  The STEM and university community is very good at advertising research 1) with expensive equipment 2) that studies processes likely to result in drugs or other patentable products.  I don’t see this glossy advertising for preventive health work in nutrition, social work, or nursing.  Here’s one good example and another of public benefit research.

US Senator Tammy Baldwin is on the senate budget committee and is a strong supporter of austerity for science (with loopholes for certain expensive types of research) and H-1B visas.  US Senators Amy Klobuchar and Patty Murray share her positions on these issues.  Why encourage “The Best and The Brightest” into an austere future career where any rich person can use the “skills gap” argument to undercut salaries?  Even economist Milton Friedman admitted that H-1B visas were an unnecessary subsidy to US corporations (Hedrick Smith, 2012, Who Stole The American Dream?).

Photo from 401(k) 2012 licensed under Creative Commons