By Matt Hoke
Students at the College face tuition increases. Conversations about spending cuts contain the implicit assumption that such measures are inevitable — the College budget is part of the state budget, the state budget a victim of the recession. But they are preventable and in ways that do not push the cost onto us future working people via things like tuition hikes or cuts to social programs.
The main problem is actually not Chris Christie. Yes, the bastard is cutting $560 million to state education funding while paying someone $60,000 to run his Twitter account. Still, Christie is part of a much larger system that prioritizes the rich, corporations and war over social programs.
According to a study by Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez, the top one percent of Americans financially captured two-thirds of income growth from 2002-2007. Eric Ruder of Socialistworker.org reported the budget deficit of the combined 50 states totals at $180 billion. While these deficits seem insurmountable, a 10 percent cut to military spending would close the gap. Furthermore, how can the federal government neglect state education budgets while giving over $700 billion to banks? More would have been done to revitalize the economy by funding social institutions like state budgets or public schools than by bank bailouts.
Even on the state level, it’s not that they can’t fund our education — it’s that they won’t. New Jersey has 200,000 millionaires, the third largest amount in the country. Recently, Oregonian voters increased taxes on corporations and households with an income over $250,000. Similar measures here would solve the financial crisis without undercutting students. Why destroy education when the money is there, laying untapped? Would this cause an exodus of rich people from the state? Maybe — so tax them federally, and fund education that way.
In her recent, campus-wide e-mail, President R. Barbara Gitenstein said, “Advocacy … will be particularly challenging this year because higher education is only one of many state-supported programs targeted for dramatic funding reductions.” What is meant by “advocacy?” Traditionally the College has attempted to protect its funding through the “respectable” strategy of behind-closed-doors conversations with politicians, called lobbying. But as Gitenstein herself said in the e-mail, “New Jersey’s institutions of higher education have experienced funding reductions in eight of the last 11 years.” Clearly the College goes through the motions of lobbying expecting defeat anyway. Many officials in this situation — college administrators, governors — assume the role of choosing what to cut, overseeing the slow strangulation. Instead, they should use their positions primarily to vigorously protest the whole insane situation, declaring that they should not have to make cuts at all. By accepting their role as budget executioners, they legitimize the damaging falsehood that cuts are necessary.
Ultimately, whether or not our society distributes its resources fairly depends on whether or not we force it to. We need faculty and students to unite in a democratically-run mass movement defending public education, using assertive mass demonstrations instead of lobbying. We can’t let working people be divided — Christie is attempting to scapegoat state workers and unions. Whenever their wages and benefits are cut, employers in the private sector follow suit, so their fight is ours as well. We can’t allow social programs to be pitted against each other — “which one should we cut?” Our fight must be for all students, all schools, all workers, all social programs — education, health care, job creation — with each movement strengthening the others. And at every step, we must declare and declare again our solutions — end the wars, and tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich without mercy. They have shown no mercy towards us.
Sources: huffingtonpost.com, mainstreet.com, dailyrecord.com, socialistworker.org