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Jim Hightower - Join the N.H. Rebellion

If you are one of those cynics who think that none of today's presidential candidates for the White House care about people like you and me, check out Republican wannabe Scott Walker.

The Wisconsin governor, who is presently a full-time campaigner for the GOP presidential nod, not only cares, he wants to sit down with you, get your ideas and stay in close touch. No matter who you are, Scottie wants you to join his team, so his presidency can be your presidency! Not a Republican? No problemo, amigo. Walker doesn't check your papers. Well... except for that million-dollar check you have to write to his super PAC.

That's the ticket price for entering Walker's inner circle, where you can discuss all of your policy concerns and seek personal favors — straight from your lips to the candidate's ear! Even if you're a common working stiff, just give a million dollars, and you're in, baby! Is this a great country, or what?

Maybe you're wondering what, specifically, your million dollars buy. Well, Scott's super PAC even prints out a handy purchasing slip showing that you'll get to be an "Executive Board Member" of the Walkerites' campaign. Thus, you'll have two private dinners with The Man, a Walker staffer dedicated to your needs, special briefings, weekly e-mails, bimonthly conference calls, bi-annual retreats, and — best of all — an "Exclusive Executive Board Pin."

Golly, I haven't been this excited or felt so included since the 1950s, when I became a member of "The Mickey Mouse Club" and got my own set of mouse ears.

When the Supreme Court descended into the "Alice in Wonderland"-like fantasy that corporations are people and money is speech, it was inevitable that American politics would devolve into a frivolous game that shuts out the workaday majority and enthrones a Koch-brothers plutocracy sustained by secret-money super PACs and whorish candidates such as Walker.

I think we can all agree that news stories like this that highlight the ever-rising flood of big money in politics do not tend to have a lot of laughs in them. But a recent item from The New York Times unintentionally got a good guffaw from me. It was a seriously serious piece about how Karl Rove's super PAC of corporate political cash has been surpassed both in cash and clout by the billion-dollar electioneering network of the Koch brothers. The reporter stated that the Kochs have "leapfrogged" Rove. There is nothing factually funny in that, but the image of the multibillionaire brothers, Charles and David, laughing and leaping over a bent-over, frog-like Karl Rove is the delightfully ridiculous stuff of slapstick.

In fact, today's whole political game, run by an absurdist's nightmare of moneyed elites, is ridiculous — a game in which corporations are people and money is magically empowered to speak; candidates trek to the corporate suites and secret retreats of the rich, shamelessly selling their political souls; super-wealthy interests clandestinely pump unlimited sums of money into disgustingly negative campaign ads that turn off most voters; candidates "win" with only a small minority of the electorate choosing them; winners then claim to have a democratic mandate to enact the plutocratic agenda.

This could be hilarious in a slapstick routine, but it is tragic in a country with democratic aspirations. But don't despair, for a backlash is building all across the country among voters who are fed up with the money-rigged game that excludes them.

One group called the New Hampshire Rebellion is bird-dogging presidential candidates in that state to demand action to get Big Money out of politics. To help start your own rebellion to end this corrupt mockery of our electoral democracy, you can get a free online toolkit from these modern-day Paul Reveres by going to www.nhrebellion.org.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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Every dollar of college grant money raises tuitions by 35 cents

To The Daily Sun,

Professors, academics and Democrats never stop screaming for more billions in aid for education from the federal government and the states. The money, they say, will make education cost less. That well oiled, liberal illusion, has finally been uncovered with some facts and data. Let's be clear, this is not information from Fox News. These findings come directly from the Federal Reserve Bank Of New York in a recently released report.

Loan originations (requests to borrow money for college) have more than doubled since 2001— to $120 billion in 2012. The banks research was quite specific. It wanted to know if the broad expansion of federal aid programs fueled the explosion in education and tuition hikes in past years. There has always been heated debate about that question dating back to 1987 when then education secretary, William Bennett, said that all more aid did was "enable colleges and universities to blithely raise their tuitions, confident federal loans would cushion the increases." The Fed researchers studied the period between 2006 and 2008 when per pupil aid limits were bumped up. Sure enough, students took out billions more in new loans.

Richard Vedder saw this trend 10 years ago, estimating then every dollar of grant aid raised tuitions 35 cents. The New York Federal Reserve Bank study reveals for every new dollar in aid schools receive from direct subsided loans raises tuitions 65 cents. For every dollar in Pell Grant money, it raises tuition 55 cents. The endless billions in federal aid (forgetting the hundreds of millions in state aid) has served only as a slush fund to increase tuition fees well above inflation every year for the past quarter century.

Students now leave college with debilitating debt averaging close to $30,000, while student loan defaults skyrocket nationwide. Worse, taxpayers are on the hook for 90 percent of every dollar of loan money. Student debt today exceeds $1.2 trillion. A massive sum of money sure to dilute the living standards for tens of millions of main street Americans for decades to come.

Nothing has harmed students more than the politically motivated freight train of federal and state aid money allegedly intended to help students finance an education. Hundreds of billions in aid has actually increased student debt, not reduced it. The sad truth is federal and state aid to education has been nothing but a wealth transfer from taxpayers to colleges and universities across the country.

The only way to make a college education cost less is to make college much more efficient while improving quality that currently lags many of our primary global competitors. That means putting out a far better product, at far less cost. There is no escaping what is blatantly obvious to every one except those employed by colleges. Reforms are not optional, they are mandatory. College tuitions will not fall until far less labor content and administrative content are inculcated into every college graduate.

The solution to lower tuitions is not rocket science in any way. In fact, the correct path is quite clear. Colleges simply have to become far more productive — like so many other professions and business endeavors have become. Thus far colleges and universities have refused every demand to become so. The unions that run colleges are simply opposed outright to higher efficiency, because it almost surely means less manpower which reduces labor content per graduate. That's how we get the costs down.

The debate is not about the correctness of the solution, the debate is over its popularity. With unions, and even administrators that is zero, no matter that position is bankrupting our children with $1.2 trillion in debt.

If the middle class is really the first concern of the Democratic Party, then why does it keep supporting the continual demands of unionized professors for never-ending wage increases, benefit hikes, and in many cases less work output that has underpinned the doubling of college costs over the past 15 years? The answer is, Democrats only care for the middle class after the union employees who support them like blind mice, have gorged taxpayers and tuition payers to their fill.

Tony Boutin

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