Meanwhile in Michigan

By John McKenna FCRH ’14

In the Midwest, there is a state, long dominated by Democrats and unions. This is a state that has seen public unions receive lavish benefits and pensions, while the state’s coffers have become barren. In 2010, a Republican governor and a new Republican legislature came in and promised to challenge Big Labor’s grip, and turn a multi-billion dollar deficit into a surplus, while helping cities regain control over their finances. This would include altering union contracts and demanding more input from public employees, which the unions despise, and naturally would revolt against.

Welcome to Michigan.

What’s that? You thought I was taking about Wisconsin? Well, Wisconsin has definitely been grabbing national headlines, but there is another battle in its neighbor to the east that could be just as nasty. Here in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder has taken a tough stance in his bid to erase his state’s $2 billion deficit, and Big Labor and their Democrat allies don’t like it. Like Governor Walker in Wisconsin, Snyder went right after the public labor unions who wrung Michigan dry over the past decade, while the state succumbed to record unemployment, corruption, and hopelessness. His big legislative achievement was Public Act 4, which enables him to appoint emergency financial managers to take over local budgets that are in crisis, and restore them to sound fiscal footing. Similar to Act 10 in Wisconsin, this would give more power to cities and towns, so budgets can be better managed, and labor contracts can be negotiated with the fiscal restraints in mind. So far, 45 emergency managers have been prepared, and are in cities like Flint, Pontiac, Ecorce, and Benton Harbor, as well as the Detroit Public School system, which are now on the mend thanks to these emergency managers. Many of these emergency managers are private businessmen, who have experience making tough, money-saving decisions.

However, this is Michigan, a state that has long been dominated by Big Labor, and Big Labor is not going to back down without a fight. Just like in Wisconsin, the reaction has been swift and brutal, with unions and Democrats pulling together a petition to terminate Act 4 by ballot, which got 203,000 signatures but was blocked due to a filing error, which will be challenged in court. If this makes the November ballot, Act 4 would be immediately suspended, similar to SB5 in Ohio, a collective bargaining bill that was defeated at the ballot box last November before it could be implemented. This would be seen as a victory for Big Labor if they can successfully get the bill on the ballot and have it tossed. This would be a hollow victory, though, considering how massive layoffs became the norm for Ohio’s public workers after the bill failed.

While unions try to claim that this is just another scheme by Republicans across the nation to destroy labor needlessly, civil rights “activists”, if you can call them that anymore, like Jesse Jackson, are even going so far as to say that Act 4 is racist, considering how many of the cities under emergency management are almost half-African American. One minister even went so far as to say Rick Snyder is trying to put blacks “back on the plantation”. It’s just another page in the long list of attacks and smears that some on the left use to denigrate conservative reformers looking out for the citizens of the nation, especially when it brings in a mythical race war where it isn’t even relevant.

While Act 4 is an extreme piece of legislation, and one that is politically gutsy, Michigan is an extreme case. Ever since the 1970’s, Michigan has been in slow decline, mostly due to the decline of the auto industry. When GM went belly-up in 2009, Michigan’s unemployment rate climbed to 14.2%, the highest in the country. Governor Snyder also inherited a $2 billion deficit from his predecessor, progressive darling Jennifer Granholm, and cities like Detroit losing population, business, and money. Detroit has not gone under emergency management, instead choosing a path of self-managed fiscal austerity overseen by Lansing, which in exchange gave Detroit a $137 million bailout to keep it from going bankrupt. This doesn’t help the fact that Detroit has the highest taxes in the state, and is hobbled by $12 billion in debts and unpaid for obligations, mostly to labor (that’s 33 times the net worth of the city’s assets). This is the scenario facing many Michigan cities who have given Lansing control of their funds, but Detroit’s decline from a vibrant city to a near ghost town is the starkest, and the clearest example of how corrupt governments and massive debt can bring a civilization to its knees.

Act 4 isn’t even that extreme of a bill. It is a stronger version of Act 72, which was passed by a Democratic governor in 1990, allowing for the emergency management system to be formed. So it makes it even stranger that Democrats would go after it with such vigor, when it was a Democrat idea to begin with. It’s actually a good piece of legislation because it empowers localities to manage their funds independent of state help in the future, and helps them with contract negotiations that they wouldn’t have the strength to fight, given the advantages Big Labor has in Michigan. It’s another example of Midwestern politicians realizing that the decades of labor power have resulted in deficits and hard times for the taxpayers, as well as more evidence of courageous Republican governors risking their political capital to try and save their beloved states, especially in the declining Midwest.

So let us hope, for the sake of Michigan, for the sake of Wisconsin, for the sake of America, that these governors win their battles against the bullying and intimidation of Big Labor. The fate of millions of Americans lies in their success.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On the Protest Against John Brennan as the 2012 Commencement Speaker

The Fordham University College Republicans strongly support an intellectually rigorous, lively, and passionate debate among all members of the Fordham community on the intelligence gathering practices employed by the Bush administration in the post 9/11 era. With these methods now being brought to the forefront by those opposed to Fordham’s selection of John O. Brennan as its commencement speaker, we have found the ensuing discussion on their merits, or lack thereof, to be fruitful and thought-provoking.

That is why we are so disappointed and saddened by the direction that this discussion has taken. While we strongly encourage passionate debate on these practices, which include enhanced interrogation methods, we also feel compelled to question the indecent and hateful rhetoric that seeks to denigrate the United States and its citizens. We feel that the assertions being made by a number of those engaged in this debate, especially those seeking to justify the tragic September 11th attacks and the motives behind them, to have no place at an esteemed university such as Fordham. By simply visiting the “Action Against Brennan on Graduation,” one can find comments such as that 9/11 was “retaliation to a greater, initial wrong.” “rather it was an attempt to counter a greater injustice done by the folks over here at America,” “just because America was attacked on its own soil doesn’t make this event any more tragic than the 9/11s and atrocities that American and Israel commit against innocents,” as well as comments that seek to demagogue and vilify Fordham ROTC students.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

We feel sufficiently compelled by these comments to ask for Michael Pappas and Sogand Ahmadi Afkari, the administrators of the Facebook event for the protest against John O. Brennan at commencement, to come out and formally condemn the indecent and hateful rhetoric on their page.  Furthermore, we also feel compelled, as politically engaged voices on Fordham’s campus, that the dialogue on torture and water boarding be a respectful one that refrains from hateful and indecent rhetoric. Most importantly, though, we ask the protestors to not stomp on what the most important goal of Saturday’s commencement ceremonies are: to show our appreciation and thanks for the many accomplishments of the Class of 2012.

Regards,

Theodore Conrad- President

Emily Harman- Vice President

Joseph Campagna- Treasurer

John Mantia- Secretary

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Degrees of Debt

By John Mantia, GSB ’13

What am I paying for?

This is a question I ask myself constantly, be it at the gym, a concert, speech or restaurant. Lately, I find myself asking this question as I sit in classes at college. I recall my days in high school; tuition at St. Louis University High, a private, Jesuit, Catholic school in St. Louis was about $11,000, near the average for what public schools pay per student, and within the mid range for private schools in the Midwest. My school week consisted of over 30 hours of class with 5 or 6 different courses on topics ranging from Theology and Calculus to Mandarin Chinese.  Paired with this was 2 to 3 hours of homework a night. For well over 8 months out of the year, school, along with whatever extracurricular I had, filled my life. Yet somehow I still had time to be social and get decent grades.

At Fordham University, my current university, an average school week is 16 hours. Many times my peers have days off. Yet, even though we spend far less time in the classroom than in high school, the tuition here is well over $40,000 and approaching $50,000.  Here again, I have to ask what am I paying for?

Before we go any further, it’s worthwhile to analyze some of the costs of college. For a private college, the median annual tuition is roughly $40,000. If students on average take 16 credit hours of class per semester, that’s 32 credit hours per year, which comes out to a cost per credit hour of $1250. If the average course is 4 credits, then the cost per course is $5000. If, going further, the average course meets twice a week, and an average semester has about 17 weeks, that’s 34 class periods per semester per course. So $5000 over 34 sessions comes out to a cost per session of about $147. An average class lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes, so about $117 per hour spent in a class period.

The goal of any University is to educate students and prepare them for the “real world” by providing them the skills and tools to be effective workers and aware citizens. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, colleges must cultivate in their students the essential critical thinking tools, which solve problems, question the status quo, and move the world forward. But as I sat through my classes, particularly in freshmen and sophomore year, I found myself bored. The topics were often dull, and I found that I learned far more by watching videos on YouTube for free or reading a book than I did sitting in a class I paid $147 for. Why spend two years taking 4 language classes to fill a language requirement, spending over $20,000, when I could purchase Rosetta Stone, and learn nearly any language in 6 months for just $1,000?

The Internet has knocked down nearly all the barriers to higher learning that exist, and colleges have failed to realize that their business model is fundamentally changing.  Students are not buying the education, but rather the degree, the piece of paper that says they are certified in a certain field from a certain institution. But are these pieces of paper really worth upwards of $200,000? Especially for degrees in fields like social services or visual design, which, while important, seldom generate the incomes which make such a price worth the investment. A copy of Adobe Digital Editor and a well structured online tutorial would be far more valuable to a design student than a year spent going over basic computer functionality.  The Internet and computers has blown the lid off many traditional methods of education, yet the universities and employers still use the degree system to sort the best job candidates.

The worrying part about these costs is how rapidly they have and are getting worse.

The cost of college has gone up faster than nearly anything in the economy, more than food prices, energy, technology and even healthcare. Since 1982, tuition has increased roughly 9% per year.  There are few investments in the world with that kind of long-term high rate of return. Yet is the quality of a college education improving at the same 9% a year? Has a basic calculus course really changed that much in 30 years?

The key driver, more so than demand, comes from the relationship that higher education institutions and lobbyists have with the government. Year after year, Congress, the President, and university administrators, claim to have our best interests in mind as they lobby and pass legislation for more grants, guaranteed subsidized loans, and student aid programs. Yet the same universities, which lobby the government to intervene and “help students” by making more money available, simultaneously raise tuition, negating the effect any increases in grants or aid would have. However, while zeroing out the effects of the programs, the absolute effect on the cost of education is punishing. As colleges raise their tuition further and further, students must take on more and more debt. As students decry the cost of college, their administrators claim to help them, by sending throngs to lobby Washington D.C to finance more programs. Congress bows to the political pressure, increases the grants, and the same administrators at colleges who were suppose sympathetic to the plight of students then raise tuition. Students then have to take on more debt, and the process repeats. The fact that the government guarantees students loans and continually raises their grant allocations provides an irresistible incentive to colleges to raise their prices.

It has even gotten to the point where student loan debt is outpacing credit card debt.

The average student at a private college graduates with over $18,000 in debt, many with levels much higher.

Student loans also have a unique feature of non-severability. This is the key reason why the student loan bubble is different than the housing or tech bubbles of the past. With most other kinds of debt, if the debtor declares bankruptcy, the creditor loses out on a good chunk of their investment. The debtor pays back a fraction of the debt previously owed, and has their credit score severely impacted for a certain length of time. Bankruptcy is an important part of how the American economy works and allows people to recover from mistakes. However, student loan debt is different. Even if the student declares bankruptcy, the debt still follows them, regardless of how miserable their income level may be.

But what is to be done? The president has called for extending the low rates of interest for student loans, which will compel more students to go to college and only prolong the problem. The political problem on this issue is immense, for what politician could be against “helping students”? Few things go up forever, and programs on unsustainable paths either are reformed externally, internally or collapse all together. The student loan bubble is on that unsustainable path. The likely outcome will be the emergence of online schools/curriculum focused on specific tasks. Peter Thiel the founder of PayPal, offers entrepreneurial students $100,000 to not go to college and pursue business paths. Large corporations like GE, Exxon or Bank Of America, seeing the opportunity to influence young minds, might open up training programs and schools of their own. 1 or 2 year intensive programs on specific areas of study to prepare students for the real world issues and problem they will face while giving them valuable hands on experience. As these new forms of competition emerge, the top heavy, bureaucratic universities will become flatter organizations. With this will come the elimination of waste and superfluous departments, returning the focus to the student-professor centric relationship which is the essential instrument of higher learning.

The present generation will be a generation defined by debt. Debt from student loans, of course, but also the growing entitlement costs of our federal state and local governments. Rather than create a culture of dependency, I think this will create a culture of strong independence and dedication to fiscal responsibility. The vast, technological knowledge and intuitiveness which our generation possesses will allow us to use the tools we have now in ways as yet unimagined.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

USG Journal: Meeting of May 3rd 2012

USG Journal #002: Thursday, May 3rd 2012

Faculty Lounge, McGinley Center 7:00-8:30

**DISCLAIMER: We were hoping to bring you actual video footage of the meeting, which was approved by a voice vote from the USG, but OSL&CD ordered us to stop filming, even though USG consented, and it is a meeting that is open to the viewing public**

Special Orders:

The new Secretary/Treasurer, Katie Peachman, of FCRH ’15 was appointed by a 16-1 vote with 3 abstaining.

The new VP of Athletics, Doug Hanley, and Election Commissioner, Luke Pontier, were appointed by a unanimous decision.

Business Matters:

The group, Banking on Vacancy, introduced by Principia Duggan FCRH ’14, was presented for USG approval. This group located vacant buildings in New York City’s five boroughs, and learned that there was enough vacant spots to house 200,000 people. A bill of support should be expected soon.

VP Brendan Francolini, GSB ’14, and Senator Muhammad Sarwar, GSB ’14, presented progress on Activating Consciousness Together (ACT), a group sponsored by USG that hopes to fight racism and bigotry on campus. Its past record has included committees on diversity training, racial sensitivity, as well as hosting a “big name speaker” over the course of the year. The first meeting will be September 12th.

Executive President Stephen Erdman, FCRH ’13, presented USG’s letter voicing approval of the Queer Task Force’s quest to liberate the word “queer” for academic and social purposes. The letter of approval was passed unanimously.

10 establishments in the Bronx have contracted to be “Fordham Friendly” places over the next year, though 20 places remain in limbo. The “Fordham Friendly” businesses will offer discounts to Fordham students when they present their ID’s at the establishment.

VP of Gabelli, John Mantia, GSB ’13, stated that the GSB incubator will be set up this July on Fordham Plaza. This will give entrepeneurial students the chance to establish a storefront for their business ideas to test how they do in the real world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

USG Journal: Meeting of April 26th, 2012

USG Journal #001: Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Faculty Lounge, McGinley Center: 6:00-8:00

 

This was the first meeting of the newly elected United Student Government, headed by Steve Erdman and Aileen Reynolds. Therefore, the meeting started with the reminder that USG conducts itself following Robert’s Rules of Order regarding motions, voting procedure, and speaking time.

Item 1: Appointment of VP of  IT. The VP of IT appointee was Bridget Fox, who was questioned on her knowledge of computer language and background experience. She knows most Microsoft Office language sets, and has private sector technology experience. Vote was 17-0 in favor of her confirmation.

Item 2: Appointment of VP of Athletics was delayed due to appointee not being present at the meeting. It was agreed that the vetting process would be carried out via email to the candidate. Voting will take place next week.

Item 3: A proposal for the World Youth Alliance to be recognized as an official club was put forward. This club that is made up of “young people promoting the dignity of the person and building solidarity among developed and developing nations” that works closely with the United Nations. They have been attempting to build a Fordham chapter for two years, and was finally recognized by a 19-0 vote as a club. It will begin its inaugural year in the Fall of 2012.

Item 4: Fordham’s Queer Task Force made a plea regarding the usage of “queer” on Fordham’s campus, and their attempts to deregulate the usage of the word so it can be used for social as well as academic reasons. Their hope is to “reclaim” the word from its perjorative underpinnings for widespread usage. This is an organization hoping to bring acceptance to members of the LGBT community that don’t neatly fit into one of the groups. USG passed a motion to begin writing a letter of approval of the organization’s mission, and will be submitting the letter of appoval for a vote at the next meeting.

Item 5: The new myFordham portal was announced by Charles Sanson, the manager of myFordham. The new portal will be mobile accessible, adjusting with available screen size. Google Docs may become compatible in the near future. Blackboard 9.2 will be available starting May 25th, and any additions can be submitted by students through a new submission form. This new portal should be ready in full by next fall.

Item 6: VP of Gabelli John Mantia proposes meal swipe reform, which would include using swipes at Millenium Grille and Queen’s Deli for meals, and having price reforms for the meal plans for price equality. Currently, students using Ram 7 pay more per swipe than Ram 14 users once costs are factored in. This will hopefully be brought up the next meeting.

Iterm 7: USG Senator and Gazette contributor William Marcley proposes class schedule reforms to allow ROTC students to register early for classes, so they can pick classes around their duties as cadets in the Ram Batallion. Currently, varsity athletes and FUEMS have this advantage due to their out-of-class obligations, yet a proposal for ROTC students to have this benefit was defeated by USG two years ago. Concerns from USG include having to extend it to club sports athletes as well for the same reasons. A vote is expected at a future meeting, pending a meeting with the faculty in charge of class registration.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

USG Meeting #1 (PREVIEW)

By Vikram Bhatia, FCRH ’14

After some intensely contested elections, tomorrow is the first USG meeting with the fresh faces that were chosen by the students to represent the Rose Hill student body. I have personally never paid much attention to USG’s activities, except for a short stint in early 2011 when I covered the weekly meetings for The Ram.

Normally, I do not expect much from USG. However, there is reason for excitement this year. I happen to know many of the representatives that were elected for the first time and believe that they are well-intentioned and passionate enough to take action and make Fordham a better place to go to school.  

The agenda for tomorrow has some interesting items on it. A new Vice President for Athletics and a new Vice President for Information Technology will be appointed. Later in the meeting, Gabelli School of Business Vice President John Mantia will present on his idea for “equivalency swipes,” whereby students would be able to use a regular meal swipe at all a la carte spots on campus (such as the Queen’s Court Deli and the Millenium Grille). Also, Will Marcley (President of GSB 2013) will present a plan that would allow contracted ROTC members to register for classes early with the athletic teams.

I hope that tomorrow is a successful meeting and that students voice their concerns at the meeting, if they have any. I also hope that the student body in general begins to take a greater interest in some of the issues talked about in student government because that will only help the representatives make better decisions.

We plan to have USG coverage here at the Fordham Gazette all year long so keep checking the blog for updates on USG. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Former WH Press Secretary Ari Fleischer Visits Fordham

On April 19th, Fordham’s College Republicans hosted Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in Keating 1st Auditorium. Mr. Fleischer’s speech included why he became a Republican, his time as press secretary, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, and his take on the 2012 presidential race.

It was followed by a question and answer session.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized