Monday, December 5, 2016

Progressive Lessons from the 2016 Election

The first thing to highlight about the 2016 Presidential election is that our electorial system is unfair – Trump lost the popular vote by over 2 million votes, but he believes he has a mandate.  In fact, 42% of eligible voters did not vote at all, and 4% voted for a third party candidate, which means that Trump was supported by less than 27% of the eligible voters, and yet Trump will be likely be able to control the national agenda because the Republicans control both houses of Congress and two-thirds of the governorships. It is also important to stress that many people said they were not voting for him but voting against Hillary Clinton, and the majority of voters simply voted for the same party they always vote for. In other words, Trump won the game, only because we have a screwed up winner-takes-all system where many people do not even participate, and most of the people who do vote do not vote based on an analysis of the policies presented by the candidates.

One of the big post-election debates is over the notion that the election proves that identity politics is over.  In other words, Democrats should stop talking about racism, sexism, and Islamophobia, and instead they should learn how to listen to the white working class that voted for Trump.   Many liberals are taking up this cause against identity politics as if we should simply close our eyes and ignore the fact that Trump used racism and sexism to gain votes. Of course, one of the great strategies of the Right for the last forty years is to argue that whites are the real victims of prejudice and that people of color are privileged because they are supported by government programs funded through the taxation of whites.  In this upside-down world, a billionaire like Trump is represented as a working class hero and the real victim of taxes, government regulation, and bad trade deals.  Meanwhile, in place of blaming big businesses or wealthy individuals for hording profits and downsizing jobs, the Republicans focus the attention of the working class on the liberal elites who make whites feel bad for their sexism, homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. Instead of giving into this reversed racism, we have to fight it at every step and offer an alternative vision.

One of the main reasons why Clinton lost is the same reason why in the last 65 years only one party has held the White House for three consecutive terms: Americans always seem to want a change after a two-term president, and Clinton clearly did not represent any real change.  There is also the pesky fact that half of all Americans spent parts of the last year below or just above the poverty line, and most workers have not seen a real pay raise in 50 years.  Of course Trump only proposes false solutions to these real problems, but they are still real problems, and it does not help us to turn our back on racism.  In fact, in our culture, race and wealth are highly correlated, and you cannot talk about class without dealing with race even though white working class men see themselves as representing a group that stands outside of race.


It is vital to recognize that race helps to rationalize inequality as it also divides people who share a common class interest.  On the other hand, politicians can also use race to scapegoat specific groups in order to build political unity.  The big question is how to bring together a concern for prejudice with a desire to a build a strong democratic coalition that takes on real economic problems.   

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Vote Yes on Prop 55

If you only vote for one proposition this year in California, I want to urge you to support prop 55.  This proposition continues the prop 30 tax increases on top earners in order to support public education.  Although these funds do not go directly to higher education, we have seen that when state revenue goes down, the easiest thing to cut is the public support for community colleges, the CSU system, and the UC system.  Since almost all other funding in the state is already mandated, increased costs and lower taxes force legislators to reduce their funding for higher education. Unfortunately, there are so many competing propositions on the ballot that many voters do not know what to do.  In fact, the voter guide is over 225 pages and will confuse even people with expert knowledge on the issues. 

For more information of Prop 55, please click here.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Top UC Myths

This summer I had the opportunity to speak to several top UC officials, and here are the main myths I heard repeated that relate to previous entries from this blog:

1) We should fund Berkeley and UCLA at a higher rate because these star campuses have put the other campuses on the map. 

Here we find a type of trickle-down prestige: since the star campuses have high ratings, they help the reputation of the system as a whole.  Thus, even if their reputations have been built up over decades of unequal founding, we should all be grateful for what they have been able to accomplish. One of the things wrong with this notion is that it neglects the fact that the campuses with the highest number of unrepresented minority students receive the lowest per student funding.  Furthermore, the students who may need the most instructional help receive the lowest support. 



2)  The process of rebenching has solved the imbalance of funding among the campuses.

As I have shown in several previous posts, the new method of redistributing state funds has occurred during a period when campus funding has become even more unequal due to the rise in the number of high-paying non-resident students on particular campuses. 


3) The high tuition/high aid model works because students coming from low- and moderate-income families pay no tuition after financial aid. 

The problem with this common idea is that it fails to see how two-thirds of the cost ofattending a UC comes from non-tuition expenses (housing, dining, parking, health, books, and fees). 

4) The deal with the governor to freeze tuition and increase the number of students from California makes sense. 

When I asked people at UCOP how they planned for this increase in enrollments, they told me they made sure there were enough beds, counselors, and medical services: they did not mention classrooms or teachers.   

     5) The UC knows how much it costs to educate each student.

After years of trying to get the university to come up with a more precise method for calculating the cost of instruction, we finally received a highly flawed newmethodology.  Although the new rebenching model tried to differentiate among the cost of education for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, it turns out that the numbers were based on a “historical approximation.” As I have argued many times, if we do not know how much it costs to educate students, how can we ask the state for more money?  

6) The UC does not rely on the state anymore for funding, so the state should not tell the university what to do. 

The first problem with this myth is that the state does support about half of the costs for theinstructional budget, and there has been a large increase in state financialaid.  Virtually all of the money cut from the state budget for the UC general fund was replaced by an increase in financial aid (Cal Grants and the Middle-Class Scholarship). UC says it does not get the aid money to run its operations, but the increased aid allowed for the increase in tuition after the Great Recession. When the UC neglects to point to this source of funding, it upsets the legislature, and makes them not trust the UC. 

7) All of the UC’s funding problems stem from the state budget cuts. 

Although it is clear that the state has not supported the UC in an effective manner, it is also true that many of the problems stem from the way the campuses spend funds and the way UCOP distributes funds among the campuses. Furthermore, UCOP still claims that there is no problem with excessive administration because all of the growth has happened in the medical centers. The reality is that administrative bloat continues on the campus level and at UCOP.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

UC Increases California Enrollments but Inequities Continue

UC-AFT has been on the forefront of pushing for the UC system to enroll more students from California, and recent data shows that 2016-2017 will see an increase of 8,000 students in this category.  The bad news is that the unequal funding of the campuses continues due to the distribution of non-resident students.  The following list shows the percentage of Freshmen enrollments that are non-resident students at each campus:

Berkeley   25.2% (down 3.7% from last year)

Davis         21.1% (down 4.8%)

Irvine        27.2% (down .2%)

UCLA         26.6% (down 2.7%)

Merced         .7%   (down .3%)

Riverside    3.8% (down .2%)

San Diego  28.6% (down 4.8%)

UCSB         16.1% (up 1%)

UCSC         12.7% (down 3.8%)

UC              20% (down 2.7%)

These trends highlight a partial movement in the direction requested by the legislature:  the campuses with the highest number of non-resident students have decreased their over-all percentage.  Yet, only UCSB increased its percentage of non-resident students and only by 1%.  UCOP has said that they wanted a more even distribution, but we still have three campuses with over 25% (Irvine, UCLA, Berkeley) and four campuses under 16.2% (Riverside, UCSC, UCSB, Merced).  These statistics are important because the tuition for non-resident students is $26,682 more than resident students.  So if Berkeley has 1,603 non-resident students, and Riverside has 213, Berkeley brings in $37 million more than Riverside. Since according to UCOP, the main reason for bringing in high-paying non-resident students is that they subsidize the resident students, it is still hard to see how this is working when campuses do not share extra revenue amongst themselves.  In other words, Berkeley does not transfer any of its $42 million in additional revenue from non-resident tuition to the other campuses.

It is important to stress that these statistics only look at one year of non-resident Freshmen enrollments, and if we look at all of the undergrads at a particular campus, we can multiply by four to get a rough estimate of the total inequity among campuses. So if the average student stays four years and the enrollment trends stay the same, Berkeley’s extra funding over Riverside becomes $148 million a year.

It is important to stress that the UC campuses have also increased their number of transfer students, and in this case, for Fall 2016, 15% are non-resident students (this has stayed about the same as last year).  We also see inequities generated here since only 4.8% of transfer students to Santa Cruz pay non-resident tuition, but 23.8% of the UC San Diego students pay the additional $26,682.


This year we will be working on trying to get the campuses to find a more equitable way of sharing non-resident revenue.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

After the Party: How to Understand the Election of 2016

It is always risky to predict how the future will see our present, but this year’s election could be seen as a major turning point for American politics.  As Donald Trump exposes the dark side of both the Republican Party and the billionaire class, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has disemboweled the Democratic Party and the establishment media. In order for the Democrats to make sure that a real Left alternative was an impossibility, the party had to do whatever was necessary to stop Sanders from gaining the nomination, but the result of this corrupted process is a lost faith in establishment politics and media.  

The Dems know that their greatest strength is the absolute backwardness of the Republic Party: no matter who the Democrats nominate, they know the other side will pick someone worse.  Of course, there is always a possibility of a third party candidate, but the system is so rigged against this alternative that there is no choice.  Also, voters have been sold on the idea that any third party candidate is a spoiler who will throw the election to the Republicans.

On one level, all of this does not matter because the Republicans have successfully redrawn voting districts in almost every state.  Even if Clinton wins and many more Democrats vote, the Republicans will still control the House of Representatives due to gerrymandering after the 2010 census.   The one possible reason to vote for Hillary is the Supreme Court, and for union member and people who care about labor, this is a huge thing.  However, people should not fool themselves to think that Clinton will be able to get anything past a Republican Congress that will obstruct her at every turn, even if the Dems win back the Senate. 

One thing this current system shows is that the Republicans have out-worked and out-organized the Democrats.  In order to win the right to redraw voting districts after the 2010 census, they had to win the state houses in key states.  Once they won, the put all of the Democrats in a small number of districts as they made sure the Republicans had control of the majority of the newly drawn districts.  This is why the Dems can win many more votes but still lose most of the races. 

Of course Trump is a huge problem for the Republicans because after they pushed for unlimited money in elections, they are now tasting the bad effects of their own medicine.  Trump shows that someone with no experience but a lot of money and fame can run around the party establishment, and the more the party tries to counter him, the stronger Trump’s claim of a rigged system becomes true.  Trump also shows the logical conclusion of a party that has tried to market itself as an outsider group who stands against the government.  Since the Republican Party fed the Tea Party’s call to throw out the establishment, we are now seeing the Republican establishment implode. 

It is clear we need a real Left alternative, but we cannot do it through a fake revolution; we need to follow the Republicans and organize with a strategy to take back the state houses and redraw the voting maps, but this can only be performed by a party that wants things to change and is committed to the long game. Unfortunately the Democratic Party appears to be dedicated to holding onto the status quo as they rely on the Republicans to always promote someone more evil.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why You should still Vote for Sanders

After Hillary Clinton’s recent victories, many pundits and political officials have argued that Senator Sanders should drop put of the race, but there are many reasons for him to continue to fight for more delegates.

The first reason he should stay in is that he still has a chance at winning the pledged delegates.  Currently, Hillary has 1,650 and Bernie has1,348, and both need 2,383 to win.  This means that Hillary leads by 302, and she still has to gain 733 to win the nomination before the convention. With 1,206 delegates still undecided, if the Sanders and Clinton split the remaining delegates, Hillary would fall short by 130 delegates, and the nomination would have to be dcided at the convention.  It is important to note that the superdelegates do not vote before the convention, and in 2008, many switched their votes from Hillary to President Obama.  

The main reason why many superdelegates might change their votes is that Sanders is a stronger candidatein the national election. Sanders strength is in part due to his popularity among independents; however, the fact that many states do not allow independents to vote in the primaries makes Hillary look stronger than she really is.   Moreover, Hillary has such a high unfavorable rating that she could actually lose to someone like Trump or Cruz. 

Even if Sanders loses the nomination, but he brings a large number of delegates to the convention, he can help shape the party platform and influence who Hillary chooses for Vice President.  If people want someone like Elizabeth Warren to be VP, they should keep on voting for Bernie. 

As Sanders has said throughout the campaign, he is trying to create a political revolution, and so it is important for people to keep on supporting him to show that establishment politics have to be transformed.  The fact that he has been able to raise most of his funds from small individual contributions shows that a different campaign finance system is possible.  In short, a vote for Sanders is a vote for a different political system, and while Hillary attacks the system, she continues to use it to her advantage. 

Unfortunately, many people are simply following the mainstream media narrative that tells them they are fools to vote for someone who is clearly going to lose.  Would the same pundits tell a basketball team that was down two games in a series to simply give up?  Why should Sanders drop out if he still has a chance of winning or at least influencing the party platform? Instead of sheepishly following the media narrative, people should vote their conscience.