Easy To Destroy, How Long To Repair?

A friend who lives in Wisconsin occasionally sends me items from newspapers in that state that he thinks will interest me. Most have obvious implications for other states–and since Scott Walker became Governor, those implications have tended to range from worrisome to terrifying.

The most recent news from what I’ve come to call “the frontier of shooting yourself in the foot” was a report about the University of Wisconsin’s loss of thousands of engineering students.

The story began by explaining why engineering is “more than classrooms and theory: It’s a hands-on discipline for turning ideas into prototypes and products that help people.” The university should have a number of advantages when it comes to attracting engineering students–most recently, it has used private grant funds to create an innovative “maker space” appealing to both in-state and out-of-state applicants.

Accommodating those applicants is a different issue.

There are roughly 4,500 undergraduate students in UW-Madison’s engineering sequence today. About 6,600 applied last year, including many qualified applicants from outside Wisconsin who could add to the state’s talent base.

The main barrier to taking more is a lack of faculty to educate more students without diminishing the quality of the experience for all. Private gifts help, but the core funding for faculty hires comes from state government support and student tuition.

As the article delicately puts it, those funding sources “haven’t grown.” That’s a rather massive understatement: the Walker Administration’s cuts to funding for the university can only be characterized as savage. In the wake of those cuts, and other measures inimical to higher education, the once-storied University of Wisconsin has seen faculty depart and rankings slip.

Walker not only engineered (no pun intended) an enormous $250 million cut to the University of Wisconsin’s budget, just when other state universities were finally emerging from the recession. He also proposed to get rid of academic tenure.

As one observer wrote at the time,

With his draconian budget cuts and his assault on the tenure system, Walker is sending a message that professors at Wisconsin should sit down and shut up. Some of them–those most able to move, which likely includes some of their best talent–might now be looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

An article in Slate a year later considered the consequences of these changes in funding and tenure protections. Several highly-regarded professors had left; others at risk of being “poached” were retained (at least temporarily) at a cost of some $9 million dollars in pay raises and research support. As the Slate article explained:

Academics, whether they have it or not, want some form of tenure to exist to protect the integrity of the knowledge that is produced, preserved, and disseminated.

Wisconsin professors simply do not want research limited by the whims of 18 people appointed by a governor with an openly stated anti-education agenda. And you shouldn’t, either. Think university research doesn’t affect you? You’re wrong. Hundreds of technological and social advances that you depend upon have been made thanks to the research of some brainiac at some university somewhere: what kind of cities to plan; how (and where) to alleviate poverty and hunger; what kind of diseases to treat; what kind of drugs to invent (or make obsolete); what kind of bridges and roads to build (and where). If professors are not protected from disagreeing with the agenda of their “bosses”—whether that be Dow Chemical, Gov. Walker, or President Trump—the consequences will go far beyond one person’s paycheck.

What is happening in Wisconsin is tragic: Scott’s vendetta against intellectual “elitists” is affecting everything from the quality of the state’s workforce  to its reputation and its ability to attract new employers. Last year, the state ranked 33d in job creation–not dead last (Kansas has that distinction) but nothing to brag about.

What is happening in Wisconsin is also where Donald Trump and today’s rabidly anti-intellectual GOP want to take the rest of us. And that is truly terrifying. It’s relatively easy to destroy an asset; rebuilding it, and restoring a sullied reputation is a far dicier proposition.


  1. The Wisconsin voters chose their course. Plenty of “anti-intellectuals” in that bunch. Like the Trump voters, they and the voters in Kansas convinced themselves that they would benefit even though there would not be the revenues for maintaining, not to mention, advancing society. That first year of Scott Walker’s reign was the canary in the coal mine. Now, this thinking has gained control of the federal government and we are all moving into the darkness.

  2. Education is as important a part of infrastructure as roads, or anything else, for that matter. A colleague yesterday said he supports free education. I said that is not what anyone actually has proposed. The phrase gives attacks by those who oppose education more appeal. “Free education” brings to mind freeloaders. Education costs—and lack of education costs more. I have suggested for several years that we wipe out student loan debt. Big banks hold a big chunk of that debt and have generated a lot of profits from it. The result would be households that now pay $500 or a couple of grand a month, to repay money borrowed for something advanced nations consider a public expense, would have that money available for better houses, cars, maybe even a vacation—yeah, people should be able to pursue happiness—and the economy would benefit. Shareholders of banks invest money, in a lot of cases, overseas. Folks unburdened by student debt would spend money here.

  3. Same issue,trucking industry, we have had near 100% turnover in the last decade(,this is by the truckload carriers conference. )a major resource of the economy and jobs market in transportation,. fact,im living proof,theres been NO wage growth in trucking since 1986. period…the cents per mile has only changed about a dime per mile,and trucking rates have only grown about 10 percent since 1986.(spending capitol,same since 1986) If you wonder why we have some many degenrate minds operating trucks,what would one expect from a industry that hires bottom of the barrel people.sociopaths,mental issues,cant do anything else,vets with a goverment payout to to trucking companies for training,then scamming them to pay it all back when they decide trucking sucks.getting a weekly paycheck for 400 bucks and getting to live in a sleeper as free rent,etc,etc,… roads with 30 years behind usefullness,$200.000 or more worth of todays machinery being driven by someone who doesnt care,and gets cutoff continually all day,just minding his job. the new hours of service actully increase driving hours under some disguise as safety. most of these big companies,werner,england,swift and the like are investor owned,and agree with a 1% lose ratio as a way to do buisness,(thats drivers killed,mainly due to company training and issues)the independants are trying to live with new regs driving thier lives into the gutter, fuel kickback scams that only cut thier throats,parts for repairs that are 3 times the cost,etc. this electronic recording device,now mandated to start 12/18/2017 is nothing more than another attempt to crush us,,while driving the cost of operation up,and killing the small manufaturer,and buyer more to ship,and retain someone who cares about products needing more than a,A to B trucker.like scott walker, the big companies are stiffleing wage and rate growth,and costing you more,and driving this industry to be controlled by a few. even the price of diesel is dictated by a few truckstops,like flying j/pilot/ta which now control 40% of the diesel market.catering to big trucking companies with fuel kickback sceems to the big trucking companies,not to independants. while we all dont see this mess,you get to feel it behind a truck. the OOIDA has many a study,and story. if your interested, me, im driving local now,you lost 38’safe over the road years,6 million accident free,never a dui,driver because of this issue. best of luck on our unsafe roads…

  4. Theresa; shouldn’t Indiana be included in your comments 🙂

    Someone on the blog commented long ago that I use many personal connections to the issues discussed here; with 5 children, their mates, 13 grandchildren, some with mates, and 9 great-grandchildren, I have many personal sources. Here is mine for today.

    My grandson Tyler graduated from Ball State University in May of this year; he received two honorariums, “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Development” and “Habitat For Humanity”. He also graduated with a signed contract with a major organization for a job beginning 2 weeks after graduation; good salary, benefits and moving expenses. Due to his varied work experiences through his teens and internships at BSU; he is now a Chief Engineer for an area of construction of a $20 MILLION apartment project in Mishawaka, (sp?) IN, which includes a dog park for residents. With Trump virtually ending the EPA; how long will his job and that of thousands of others in all engineering fields, many of long standing, be safe?

    His student loan payments begin 6 months after his graduation – works out to this month – Happy Holidays, Tyler and all other graduates everywhere who were fortunate enough to land a job. No idea if he and others can deduct their student loan interest when they file with IRS as the Republican Congress is still playing games with the tax bill and Trumpcare vs. Obamacare as part of the federal tax budget…or the tax budget part of the still undecided health care bill. To steal a Dolly Parton line from “Steel Magnolias”; “they don’t know whether to scratch their watch or wind their butt.”

    How long must we remain in purgatory (the term”limbo” does not fit here) as our Fascist leader Tweets his personal views and governmental decisions, which vacillate hourly, as we near the end of the “Year of the Zombie”?

  5. Republicans do not value education for everybody. They see education, just like inheritance, as something that should be a privilege for the wealthy. No, not a privilege, a right, as part of the wealthy’s “duty” to take on the mantle of natural leadership, while all others quiver and obey. Their vision is not one of America at its finest, but of Victorian England, with a privileged few leading, and everybody else stepping aside, tipping their hat, and politely thanking them for the honor of cleaning their boots.

  6. JoAnn, Of course, Indiana belongs on the list of states that have drunk the cool aide. Our idiot Governor just OK’d the destruction of the Yellow Wood Forest. And the Republicans have plans to turn OUR highways, already paid for a thousand times over, into toll roads. These measures and more as the public school system is turned into a cash cow for their donors.

  7. Why wouldn’t they do this? Given our electoral system, what they need is to intellectually impoverish enough states to make them permanently backward so they forever elect Fascist presidents. Then the liberal agenda is dead.

    But, you say, they can override a presidential veto! The people can still vote them out. Probably not considering those dumb states still elect 2 statewide senators. And they can gerrymander the congressional districts beyond recognition. And if push comes to shove, well, they’ll have them a little constitutional convention. Then they can fix it for good.

  8. I think the fundamental issue in re education is that voters have been persuaded by scheming politicians that it is an expense rather than an investment. Big difference. Spending does not insist on a return on investment (see tax giveaways to Big Money currently pending that will be lost to us via stock buybacks, executive bonuses via stock options, Swiss bank numbers etc.); while the nature of investment assumes that a decent return proportionate to the amount invested will be returned to us public investors.

    Does public investment in education work? Study after study proves that investments in education make for returns to the public till via taxes far in excess of the amounts invested and, if college educated, far in excess of what those with high school diplomas contribute. Thus it is indisputable that we public investors are profiting from such investments in education. Additionally, of course, such increased wherewithal in the hands of the better educated also contributes to aggregate demand and thus has a stimulating and positive effect on local and general economies.

    Finally, and aside from economics and politics, there is a human component to this, i.e., why should we have policies that relegate bright people to second shift at the 7-11 when they might have found a cure for cancer or built a better mousetrap for the benefit of all of us? Why would we want to stifle innovation and the dreams of bright children who might (with the opportunity) be the next Salk or Edison? Is it more important that we allocate our scarce resources to the enrichment of the already rich with no return to us as opposed to investment in the education of the many – which costs us nothing and even gives us a return on investment while allowing bright children to live out their dreams? Swiss bank accounts and stock buybacks versus cost-free investments in our people and their futures? It’s an easy and obvious choice for me.

  9. Over it; they CAN override the president’s veto but that will never happen in this administrtation. They are enslaved financially and politically to Massa Donnie and fear he will “sell them south” if they disobey an order. They haven’t even limited the number of his Plantation homes our tax dollars protect and pay for him to use and continue to support the family comings and goings and maintaining their safe passage. I have yet to see any publication of the amount of our tax dollars squandered on Trump and his extended family’s lifestyle other than going beyond the full year budget a few months ago for their protection and thousands of dollars to rent Trump owned golf carts for the entire entourage to follow and protect his ever-widening butt on his privately owned golf courses. The amount of each city or state public safety budget wasted during his unsolicited visits; we here in Indianapolis did see the ridiculous amount to pay our local police to protect Pence during his pre-planned walk-out at the Colts’ game recently.

    “Easy To Destroy, How Long To Repair?” This question should include all local budgets as well as the federal. Those budgets depend on middle-America’s ability to put money into the economy and maintain our required tax budget levels.

    Voters who have not been purged are outnumbered; the gerrymanders congressional districts are based on a required minimum of voters per Representative. Yet each state has only two Senators to protect the entire state; compare the population of California or Texas with that of Indiana or Rhode Island…what is wrong with this picture and how can it be changed?

  10. Many people misinterpreted Trump’s “make America great again” as applying to all of them. That simply isn’t true. His goal is to make America great for the Trumps and he can’t do that without floating all yachts.

    The rest of us will have to settle for America without much world influence, less global trade, uncompetitive workers and generally little respect.

    Of course rebuilding things necessary to make Trumps great again takes time. Rome didn’t decline in a year. So we may (or may not) have a year or two of Obama economic carryover before the recession but Trump’s successor in 2020 will have a tough row to hoe.

    I’m sure that the Trump extended family will brag about getting out just in time.

  11. If memory serves the Walker cuts at U of WM went to billionaire owner of Milwaukee Bucks NBA team for part of a new arena to keep them in Wisconsin.

    Walker and the koch bros have basically stated they want higher education geared to provide workers like vocational schools do. They want to do away with many liberal arts programs.

  12. Pete >> I ’m sure that the Trump extended family will brag about getting out just in time. < But the tax plan gives American corporations a $2 trillion tax break, at a time when they’re enjoying record profits and stashing unprecedented amounts of cash in offshore tax shelters. And it gives America’s wealthiest citizens trillions more, when the richest 1 percent now hold a record 38.6 percent of the nation’s total wealth, up from 33.7 percent a decade ago.

    The reason Republicans give for enacting the plan is “supply-side” trickle-down nonsense. The real reason is payback to the GOP’s mega-donors. http://inthesetimes.com/article/20697/robert-reich-gop-tax-bill-republicans-house

    I read recently an article about the two parts of the modern Republican Party. The first part is the Oligarchs and big multi-national corporations. The second part is the cultural warriors cult. This cult embodies the Pence Wing evangelicals, who will vote for Roy Moore no matter what. Moore will give this group enough bread crumbs of bible thumping to over ride any personal objections to his behavior. For this group it is more than freedom of religion – their religion must be imposed on others in various ways.

    Trump is the ideal President for these two groups. He is an Oligarch and he will provide enough bread crumbs to the Pence Wing to keep them on board. I visualize the Pence Wing voters putting their oars in the water in their leaky row boats and trying to pull the Oligarchs yachts. The yachts will have some signs like – Pull your oars for Jesus. Economically, these Pence Wingers will be ground up in the prop wash once the Oligarchs start their engines.

  13. The need for high quality research in the national interest can be neither disputed nor overemphasized. In most research organizations (civilian and military research institutes, corporations, citizen-scientists) the research is done without a lot of fanfare by people who enjoy what they do. This is not so in universities. Although most university researchers enjoy what they do, the incentives to do it are increasingly perverse. To be assured of tenure, young professors must contribute to the prestige rankings of the university relative to others, which is measured by faculty grant dollars, papers published, and numbers of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. This addiction to research prestige impedes the other traditional missions of universities: undergraduate learning, service, and civic engagement. It has become an end in itself. While there may be political reasons for the decline in state support for universities, I think a more objective reason is that research universities come off as elitist snobs. They do a lot of bait and switch on the public. For a simple demonstration, ask someone from Purdue West Lafayette or Indiana University Bloomington what they think of the quality of other state universities such as Indiana State or IUPUI. If they are honest, they will say second rate. Why? Because the research dollars (except in the Medical School) at these universities are not as high, though their research is just as good, and they do pay attention to their other missions. What I am saying is that the flagship universities themselves bear much of the blame for all public universities being perceived as elitists. Please understand that “elitist” (which I use as a noun) is not the same thing as “elite” (which I use as an adjective). Elite implies high accomplishment ; elitist implies someone who looks down on others, though it doesn’t deny high accomplishment. One can be elite without being an elitist. Most people don’t like elitists. So, while I lament the political destructiveness leveled at our research universities, it is aided and abetted by our addiction to prestige rankings.

  14. These backward-thinking, fascist ideologues have been at it for some time. It began in earnest with Reagan, and has taken hold wherever fearful, backward-thinking, self-serving voters have embraced these draconian attacks on our infrastructure. Brownback, Walker, Scott (FL), Perry/Abbott, et. al., have all jumped in to make America a much, much poorer nation.

    The “starve the beast” method of social destruction embraced by the Libertarian billionaires is beyond reason and, quite simply, traitorous. Their ideology gives comfort to our enemies irrespective of the bleating of the right-wing sheep who keep trotting our “competitiveness” in business and the obvious elitism in everything else.

    It’s just sickening and will take decades to fix once these mindless fools are finally voted out of office…

  15. Here is a perfect example of how making America poor again is working:

    EPI News—Our most important stories this week

    EPI maps the campaign to suppress worker rights in the states
    EPI released an interactive map that paints a disturbing picture of the rise of anti-worker preemption laws across the country. The map shows which states have blocked cities and counties from improving workers’ wages and working conditions. Workers in St. Louis, for example, got a boost when the city increased its minimum wage to $10—but the Missouri state legislature knocked it back down to $7.70 and 31,000 workers lost a raise. The map plots preemption activity in five key areas of labor and employment: minimum wage, paid leave, fair work schedules, prevailing wage, and project labor agreements. View the map »
    Share this map:
    26 states have preemption laws targeting local efforts to raise workers’ living standards. How does your state stack up?
    States must step in to restore overtime protections to workers

    In 2016, the U.S. Labor Department proposed an overtime pay rule that would have raised from $23,660 to $47,476 the salary threshold below which workers must be paid overtime. The increase is a much-needed update of a threshold that has been severely eroded by inflation. But the rule has been held up in the courts and Trump administration officials have said that a threshold in the low $30,000s would be “appropriate.” EPI and the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) have released a briefing paper and detailed policy and legislative guidance describing how state policymakers can intervene to protect their workers where federal policy has failed them.
    From the EPI blog

    Millions fewer would get overtime protections if the overtime threshold were only $31,000
    By Heidi Shierholz
    Supreme Court will decide if women can join together to fight sexual harassment at work
    By Celine McNicholas, Sharon Block
    New paper on pay-productivity link does not overturn EPI findings
    By Josh Bivens, Lawrence Mishel
    Veterans fought for the right to collectively bargain—Congress should defend it
    By Elise Gould, Celine McNicholas
    Real world data continues to show no link between corporate cuts and wage increases
    By Josh Bivens
    What to Watch on Jobs Day: Signs of tightening across the economy
    By Elise Gould
    EPI in the news

    In a Vox video, EPI’s Heidi Shierholz counters the dystopian vision of a future world where human workers have been replaced by robots. Technological change has always displaced some jobs and created others; this point in history is no different, and the economic data back that up. As an economist, Shierholz says, “I worry a lot about things. I am not worried about this.” | The Big Debate about the Future of Work, Explained »

    In an op-ed for The Hill, EPI’s Josh Bivens—in response to a recent paper by Larry Summers and Anna Stansbury—writes that productivity growth has failed to push up wages for typical workers because of political decisions that have caused wage suppression.| Attacks on worker wages have kept benefits from middle class »

    NPR cited EPI research to explain how mandatory arbitration agreements silence victims of sexual harassment in the workplace—and how an upcoming Supreme Court ruling could make the situation worse. | Supreme Court Ruling Could Limit Workplace Harassment Claims, Advocates Say »

    Next City referenced an EPI study on how parental incarceration impacts children, noting that children with incarcerated parents are 48 percent more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than children with non-incarcerated parents. | Inside a Philadelphia Prison, a Parenting Movement Grows »

    The Economist cited EPI research showing that wages for the top 1 percent have been falling while wages for the bottom 90 percent have been rising. | Blue-Collar Wages Are Surging. Can It Last? »
    Share this newsletter:
    EPI News—Tracking anti-worker laws in the United States

  16. I am an EPI-lover and have been since it came into being, but I disagree with Heidi’s assessment in Vern’s recitation of her view that it’s business as usual when looking to the future of automation’s effects on human labor. I am no Luddite and am aware that innovation removes some jobs while creating others, however, I think we are starting from a different position on the spectrum and that we have never before had such an accelerated pace of automation as we have today. I have always held that history is linear and instructive but that we are not captive to it. Things change, and even the nature of change itself is changing.

    I therefore think, contrary to Heidi’s view, that automation will supplant human labor in more and more sophisticated applications to a point where we will have massive human unemployment and severe socio-economic-political problems in how to share the wealth and income of our automated economy. I hope I am wrong and that Heidi is right, but based on the rapidly developing evidence, I fear I am right. (See, for instance, Harper’s Magazine, September 2017 edition, where in its Index we find the following: “Amount that Carrier promised to invest in an Indiana plant in a deal with Donald Trump to save domestic jobs: $” “Percentage of that money that will be used for automation: 100.” I realize that Aristotle would never approve generalizing from the particular, but I think this particular is being replicated all over the place and will soon become fair game for generalization. Progress? For whom?

  17. (1st preferred meaning from Dictionary.com):
    ELITIST: adjective (of a person or class of persons) considered superior by others or by themselves, as in intellect, talent, power, WEALTH, or position in society…

    The use of this word elitist puzzles me. For instance, having achieved wealth, power, position in society, or mere presumptive status, when Donald Trump and other elites down-qualify people by calling them “elites”, are they— Donald and friends— not derogating themselves, their wives and their children?

    Do not the wealthy elites, the powerful elites, the upper class elites want their children to become highly educated and admired for their mental brilliance? If I were one of their children and had listened to my parents belittle brilliant people for several years wouldn’t I then (in reasonable conclusion) aspire to be ignorant?

    When, with a proud sneer, elites of one kind or another intend to derogate intellectual elites, why do they not (from pride alone and an effort to exclude themselves from class belittlement) use the precise term “intellectual elites”.

    And why would those individual elites, who stoop to derogate the entire class of elites—rich, powerful, high-class or presumptive—particularly the intellectually elite, aspire to send their children to “elite” private schools, then on to Harvard or Yale or MIT or Stanford or Cambridge or the Sorbonne?

    Lastly, speaking of confusion and considering how Trump is so awkward of speech that often no one knows what he means, how can the deplorable swarm characterize him with terms of dumb endearment, like: “He says what he means” or “He tells it like it is”?

    A rich Archie Bunker and Reginald Van Gleason spin-off might make a great (extremely funny) television show.

  18. Dave Stocum: you speak the objective truth about universities and community colleges and the tenure/publish/perish processes of both.

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