Richard Vedder, our fellow traveler over at the College Affordability Clubhouse, stirred up hornet’s nest when he asked, not in the least bit rhetorically, why rich Princeton gets so many taxbreaks while poor schools get so little. So the NY Times discovered after they started asking folks to consider the proposition that, perhaps, all of the preferential tax treatment wasn’t exactly fair. Why should a college paying huge salaries pay no taxes while the other business do?
Alas, while the professoriate is quite happy to rail against unfairness, injustice and poverty when it can point its finger at the banking industrial complex, it feels that there’s something good and noble about the tax breaks given to the college industrial complex.
Anthony Carnevale at Georgetown says that the schools provide a “public good”. Does he mean a public good like the supermarkets that destroy food deserts? Or like the ambulance and police car makers in Detroit? Or the non-fiction publishers who bring us knowledge? Uh, no. Those are different, but don’t ask me why.
I love his claim, “College educations have become crucial to the social contract in democratic capitalism. They provide our citizens with the best shot at middle-class earnings, and the breadth of traditional college curriculums allow individuals to live more fully in their time.”
Oh really? If we excuse the rich uneducated programmers in Silicon Valley as outliers, we’re still confronted by the fact that many of the liberal arts majors don’t produce very little employable talent. And now that the legal education is falling prey to the laws of supply and demand, it’s clear that working as a plumber is the way to wealth.
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