Friday, November 04, 2005

Long Term Investments ...

In principle, we believe something must be done to curtail what is becoming a runaway $314 billion budget deficit and, certainly, cuts in spending should ensure a positive fiscal outlook. The question is: what to cut?

However, this latest move by the Senate leaves us extremely concerned with the prioritization of those cuts. Beyond the indictments, closed session tirades and partisan barbs, this is the real story getting little headline. Congress seems eager to cut student loans, thereby widening the disparity between rich students who can go to college and the increasing number of poor to middle class students who can't afford it - yet, if you ask that same Congress to cut spending and initiate a withdrawl from an unpopular and directionless Iraq War, you hear crickets. 8.6 percent of the nation's poorest young adults earned bachelor's degrees by age 24 in 2003, barely up from 7.1 percent in 1975, according to Postsecondary Education Opportunity.

There is a perverted logic on Capitol Hill that finds greater value in the short term and questionable progress of a scandalous war than promoting a long term investment in the nation's intellectual development. Ironically, Senate cuts on student loans occur at a time when half of the nation's military recruits come from lower-middle-class to poor households - how convenient (for those in Congress who aren't sending their sons or daughters to war) to continue reducing access to college funding for strapped high school graduates, yet provide a sweetening array of financial incentives if they sign up for extended tours in sunny Iraq.

The lack of public outcry is even more telling. That trend could potentially reverse itself once Americans realize they can make, on average, $20,000 more with a Bachelor's degree than without.