When I went first started going to college in 1964, it was very affordable. I went to East LA College (ELAC) when it was called East LA Junior College that is a 2 year college. I guess they didn’t like the word “Junior” so they dropped it. Anyway, 2 year colleges are now called community colleges that offer the first 2 years of a 4 year college degree at a cheaper cost. When I started ELAC it was $6.25 a semester to go full time which was carrying 12 units or more and each class was 3 units so you could take 4 classes or more for $1.56 each per semester.
Then when I transferred to Cal State LA to finish my BA in Sociology it cost $50.00 a quarter (10 weeks rather than a 15 week semester) full time which was also 12 units or more so if you were taking 4 classes, each class cost $12.50 per semester.
When my kids began going to college in the 1990’s, I think the cost of community college was something like $200 a semester full time and Cal State Chico was something like $300 a semester. This past summer my daughter took one class at Cal State Sacramento and it cost $3000.00 for one class! Hell, my entire 4 year college career might have cost less than that and that included food and housing!
Now it’s common for kids graduating college with a 4 year degree to be in debt $50,000.00 or more! And many of them are not able to find a job. Hell, right out of college I was offered 3 jobs as a social worker. Granted they didn’t pay much but I could afford to pay my bills including rent, food and car payments. People graduating college today don’t only have student loan debts, they also have credit card debts that are also many thousands of dollars.
What happened? Back when I was in college, the tax rate for corporations was higher than it is today. Thanks to President Reagan and President Bush, the tax rate for corporations is now lower. Meanwhile due to inflation, the cost of everything from birth to death has gone up substantially and somebody has to pay the difference and since it’s not going to be who has the most money today, the corporations, it’s going to be the people with much less money, the middle class and the working poor who would like their children to be better off than they were so they send them to college.
So in essence, our kids and their parents are now paying a whole lot more for a college education since corporations are no longer helping pay for it. And with billionaires like the Koch Brothers making hundreds of millions of dollars a year as “campaign contributions”, thanks to President Bush’s stacked conservative US Supreme Court, corporations are now considered “people” that have the same rights (actually more) as individuals do, so they can influence Congress to make even more changes that benefit corporations and have the middle class and working poor pay for it while the corporations (now considered “People”) benefit.
And corporations and the Koch Brothers have convinced millions of Americans that government is the problem and many of those people now hate the government and now vote against government spending on programs that help people and want deregulation of corporations thinking they’re helping themselves but they are actually playing right into corporations hands. And if that keeps up, not only will the cost of college keep going up but so will the cost of everything else and that is contributing what is fast becoming the “United Corporations of America.”
So people who think the Tea Party is their friend and that government regulations and environmental safeguards and affordable education and affordable health care is the problem are actually being sold a bill of goods by Big Money and corporations that want to get bigger while everyone else pays for it and they wonder what’s happening. They’re actually voting against their own best interests.
I guess the Tea Party is working on the premise that if you tell people enough times that President Obama and Obamacare and government is the problem, that people will believe it, whether they can afford a college education and have health care or not.
Last month, Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world.
“The top countries generally rank higher in all six of the key factors identified in the World Happiness Report,” wrote University of British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, one of the report’s contributing authors. “Together, these six factors explain three quarters of differences in life evaluations across hundreds of countries and over the years.”
The six factors for a happy nation split evenly between concerns on a government- and on a human-scale. The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control over: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.
“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” economist Jeffrey Sachs said in a statement at the time of the report’s release.
But why Denmark over any of the other wealthy, democratic countries with small, educated populations? And can the qualities that make this Nordic country the happiest around apply to other cultures across the globe? Here are a few things Danes do well that any of us can lobby for:
Denmark supports parents
While American women scrape by with an average maternal leave of 10.3 weeks, Danish families receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave. Mothers are able to take 18 weeks and fathers receive their own dedicated 2 weeks at up to 100 percent salary. The rest of the paid time off is up to the family to use as they see fit.
But the support doesn’t stop at the end of this time. Danish children have access tofree or low-cost child care. And early childhood education is associated with health and well-being throughout life for its recipients – as well as for mothers. What’s more, this frees up young mothers to return to the work force if they’d like to. The result? In Denmark, 79 percent of mothers return to their previous level of employment, compared to 59 percent of American women. These resources mean that women contribute 34 to 38 percent of income in Danish households with children, compared to American women, who contribute 28 percent of income.
Health care is a civil right — and a source of social support
Danish citizens expect and receive health care as a basic right. But what’s more, they know how to effectively use their health systems. Danish people are in touch with their primary care physician an average of nearly seven times per year, according to a 2012 survey of family medicine in the country. And that means they have a single advocate who helps them navigate more complicated care.
“This gatekeeping system essentially is designed to support the principle that treatment ought to take place at the lowest effective care level along with the idea of continuity of care provided by a family doctor,” wrote the authors of the family medicine survey.
By contrast, Americans seek medical care an average of fewer than four times per year and they don’t just visit their general practitioner — this figure includes emergency room visits, where many uninsured Americans must access doctors. This diversity of resources means that many Americans don’t have continuity of care — not a single medical professional advocating for them and putting together a comprehensive medical history.
Gender equality is prioritized
It isn’t just parents who can expect balanced gender norms. Denmark regularly ranksamong the top 10 countries in a World Economic Forum’s yearly report that measures gender equality. While no country in the world has yet achieved gender parity, Denmark and other Nordic countries are coming close. That is in no small part because of the strong presence of women in leadership positions. Reported the World Economic Forum:
The Nordic countries were also early starters in providing women with the right to vote (Sweden in 1919, Norway in 1913, Iceland and Denmark in 1915, Finland in 1906). In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, political parties introduced voluntary gender quotas in the 1970s, resulting in high numbers of female political representatives over the years. In Denmark, in fact, this quota has since been abandoned as no further stimulus is required.
Indeed, the country currently has its first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (although she has been leader of the Social Democrat party since 2005). Its blockbuster hit television show, Borgen, features a female prime minister (pictured above) as well — a complicated, strong female character that stands in contrast to America’s enduring obsession with male anti-heroes.
But government leadership merely exemplifies greater gender balance throughout the culture. As Katie J.M. Baker puts it in her exploration of gender politics in the Scandinavian country: “Unlike in America, where bestsellers goad already overworked and underpaid women to Lean In even further, the assumption in Denmark is that feminism is a collective goal, not an individual pursuit.”
Biking is the norm
In Denmark’s most populated and largest city, Copenhagen, bikes account for 50 percent of its residents’ trips to school or work. Half. Half of commuting happens on a bike in Copenhagen and that doesn’t just improve fitness levels and reduce carbon emissions, it also contributes to the wealth of the city, reported Forbes:
Researchers found that for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car, taxpayers saved 7.8 cents (DKK 0.45) in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure. Cyclists in Copenhagen cover an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day — saving the city a little over $34 million each year.
What’s more, just 30 minutes of daily biking adds an average of one to two years to the life expectancy of Copenhagen’s cyclists.
Danes feel a responsibility to one another
Danes don’t prioritize social security and safety simply so they can receive benefits; there’s a real sense of collective responsibility and belonging. And this civic duty — combined with the economic security and work-life balance to support it — results in a high rate of volunteerism. According to a government exploration of Danish “responsibility”:
Denmark is a society where citizens participate and contribute to making society work. More than 40 percent of all Danes do voluntary work in cultural and sports associations, NGOs, social organisations, political organisations, etc. There is a wealth of associations: in 2006, there were 101,000 Danish organisations — worth noting in a population of just 5.5 million.The economic value of this unpaid work is DKK 35.3 billion. Combined with the value growth from the non-profit sector, public subsidies and membership fees, the total economic impact of the sector represents 9.6 percent of the Danish GDP.
But that sense of stewardship isn’t just extra-governmental: Danes also take pride in their involvement with the democratic process. During the last election in September 2011, for example, 87.7 percent of the country voted. It’s not surprising, given these statistics, that the University of Zurich and the Social Science Research Center Berlin have given Denmark the very highest rating for democracy among 30 established democracies.
The difference between the above factors and The Tea Party? All the above factors and programs are supported and encouraged by the Danish government. Just the opposite of the Tea Party wants. They want to get rid of such ideas altogether and let the rich and powerful control everything. They must really believe that corporations are more trustworthy than the government is because they want tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas that causes unemployment here. But how is unemployment insurance paid for? By taxes that the Tea Party wants go get rid of.
The irony? The great majority of Tea Party members are not rich. Far from it. They can hardly keep up with their bills and who do they blame? Not corporations. No. They blame women’s rights, liberals, gays and lesbians, The Sierra Club, immigrants and the government. Oh, yeah, and President Obama.
The Republican party fought Social Security, it fought Medicare, it fought seat belts and air bags, it fought affordable college education and just about every other government program that most of them depend on every day just like they’re fighting affordable health care that most of them will need soon enough.
It reminds me of rebellious kids fighting their parents rules who only want what’s the best for their kids but the Tea Party rebels are being taken by rich corporations who they should be rebelling against.