The Cancer Stage of Reaganomics

Our young people are drowning in a sea of debt, and it all started with Reaganomics. And Reaganomics is a lot like cancer. Most people don’t know they have cancer until it reaches the later cancer stages, when it becomes much harder to treat. In the early stages, cancer starts off as inflammation. A few cells grow slowly initially. But then, the cells begin to rapidly multiply, and the cancer begins to pick up steam. As it picks up steam, the cancer takes on more and more of the body’s resources, and starts stealing the body’s energy and tissues. Pretty soon, the cancer completely overwhelms the body, and, without treatment, the person dies.

Reaganomics has done the exact same thing to our economy and to the American people, and right now, we’re on life support. For proof of that, just look at the student loan debt crisis in America. Billionaire banksters and for-profit schools are making a fortune off of America’s young people. The average debt for a 25-year-old American student has risen a staggering 91 percent over the past decade - and most of that is student loan debt.

Over 38 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt right now, totaling over $1 trillion dollars. Student loan debt exceeds both credit card and auto loan debt in America, and the average is over $23,000. And, according to a study by Hamilton Place Strategies, by 2023, the average amount of debt that college students graduate with will equal what the median college graduate will earn every year. That's insane!

That same study found that average student loan debt at graduation has increased by over 200 percent since 1993. But it didn’t always used to be like this. Believe it or not, there was a time in America when the vast majority of college graduates didn’t leave campus thousands of dollars in debt. College used to be affordable for most Americans, and students could easily work their way through college to fully pay for it.

The number of baby boomers with college loan debt when they graduated is virtually nothing compared to the number of students with debt today. But then Reaganomics started to kick in, and everything changed. The price of college tuition has risen more than 1,100% over the past 35 years. Back in 1980, the average cost for a year of college was $8,756, and much of that was paid for by a wide variety of government supports and scholarships. As of 2010, the average cost of a year of college was over $21,000, and most of that support has dried up.

And as college tuition costs have skyrocketed, more and more American students have found themselves having to take out student loans to pay for a college education. In fact, since the 1990’s, when Reaganomics was really picking up steam, cumulative student loan growth, or the number of students taking out student loans, is up over 511%. And it really hit the full-blown "cancer stage" in the 2000’s, thanks to George W. Bush, who put Reaganomics on steroids. This is a problem that is almost uniquely American, because the soaring costs of college and growing mountains of student loan debt aren’t even an issue in most developed countries.

According to the 2010 Global Higher Education Ranking by Higher Education Strategy Associates, the average total cost of a year of college in Norway (factoring in education and living expenses) was just over $8,000. Same with France and Mexico. And in Germany and Latvia, the average total cost of a year of college was just over $6,000.

A college education in America used to be that affordable, but Reaganomics changed everything. It’s time for a college education to be affordable again. That starts with a national debt jubilee, with the government paying off all outstanding student loan debt in America. At just over $1 trillion, the government could easily find savings in other areas to pay for it; it's less than we're paying for either of George W. Bush's illegal wars! And a clean slate would do wonders for our economy.

But more importantly, let’s get back to the ideals of Jefferson and Lincoln, who both worked make a college education free for anyone who’s worthy of it. Jefferson started America's first totally free college, the University of Virginia, and Lincoln started the Land Grant Colleges by giving enough land to colleges all across the nation that they could use the income from that land to give students free or nearly-free tuition.

In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson once wrote that, “Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.” And while we're at it, let's ban for-profit schools from getting any kind of government aid whatsoever. That's a type of government welfare that our society really can't afford, and today it reaches into the billions of dollars every year.

The only way that “the education of the common people” can “be attended to,” is by wiping out the mountains of student loan debt that thirty-plus years of this cancerous Reaganomics has created, and making college affordable again. It’s time to get smart about getting a good education in America, and in the process, kill off a large part of the cancer that is Reaganomics.


Jo Ellen's picture
Jo Ellen 2 years 18 weeks ago

Thom - Definition of terms, please. I'll wager the vast majority of adults today don't know what Reganomics is. And only YOU know exactly what YOU mean by repeated use of the term. If what you mean is lower tax revenue resulting in cuts in government spending (even tho' Reagan raised taxes), then an explanation of that and clarification of why college costs have skyrocketed would bolster your argument. What has happened in California is that as state government aid, which was considerable to higher education, has shrunk drastically, the colleges have had to earn more and more of their operating costs from tuition revenue. I have read from various media sources that this loss of government resources is the root cause of the tuition explosion nationwide. I am skeptical that college operating costs have legitimately risen at this appalling rate. For I have also read that in competition for the paying students, colleges have increasingly spent large amounts on "extra's" that are not directly contributing to education -- such as elaborately furnished gyms for student workouts, lavish dormitory apartments, etc., to lure the paying clientele. Also, wage inflation for presidents and celebrity professors. What say you??

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 2 years 18 weeks ago

It's unjustified to saddle students with debt if a vast majority of jobs are off-shore.

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 2 years 18 weeks ago

You're right Jo Ellen, cutting funding of state colleges and more reliance on tuition was a back door privatization. Grover Nordquist really drove it in the Bush era when he wanted "a few of the states to go bankrupt just to teach them a lesson".

The real purpose of Reaganesque deficit spending, mainly on military appropriations, and "starve the beast" bankrupting of government is that it forces government to privatize its functions and allow oligarchs and profiteers to take control.

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 2 years 18 weeks ago

Howard La Verne, you're presuming the officials of the U.S. Government care about America. The rich are transnational and global now. They have nothing invested in America anymore.

In addition, the world is overpopulated now with a large "surplus population". They'd really like most of us to drop dead.

Craig Bush's picture
Craig Bush 2 years 18 weeks ago

Our institutions of higher learning have been bought by and are owned by special interests in the guise of benefactors. Tenure of associate proffessors are threatened by corporations that discover their products are harmful. End tenure. We do not need a chancellor on every campus. A state board of directors chosen by the students to run the different state campuses would be more efficient. Find real leaders with vision for higher education. End politically appointed real estate developers and wealthy benefactors. becoming chancellors. End trophy professor positions set aside for retired politicians. End political speaker fees. $65,000 to Sarah Palin for an hour speech? We do not need $5 million dollar football coaches and their million dollar assistants. The sports medical technicians earn more then medical doctors. End professor emeritus. Students cannot afford to subsidize retired professors. End the exploitation of teacher assistants who do most of the work for meager wages. Check out the cost of the elaborate budget for sports uniforms. End all of that and formulize sports programs to allow salaries for athletes and the profits for reducing student tuition. Find new ways to subsidize the costs of education. Formulate a new education treasury bond. Allow a check off on our income tax forms for money to go to this fund backed by treasury bills. Reforming higher education is not a difficult challenge. It will take a national student strike with their teachers to accomplish this goal.

Loren Bliss's picture
Loren Bliss 2 years 18 weeks ago

"Reganomics" is of course nothing more than the fulfillment of capitalism, which is infinite greed elevated to maximum virtue -- the methodical rejection of every humanitarian precept our species has ever set forth. "Reagonomics" is therefore capitalism that has captured all the powers of the state and thereby imposed "capitalist governance": absolute power and unlimited profit for the Ruling Class, total subjugation for all the rest of us. "Capitalist governance" is precisely what Marx and Engels foresaw when they correctly predicted capitalism would inevitably morph into what they labeled "imperialism." Another name for "Reagonomics" aka "capitalist governance" aka "imperialism" is "fascism."

Once again, as he inevitably does, Mr. Hartmann presents data that reveals the true, infinitely savage, innately predatory nature of capitalism. And once again, always at the last possible moment, he veers away from the three unavoidable conclusions implicit in all such data: that the state of the nation -- in this instance the death of affordable higher education -- proves beyond argument capitalism cannot be successfully regulated or reformed; that the only way to end capitalist depredations is therefore to end capitalism itself; and that the only way to end capitalism is to replace it with democratic socialism.

edayres's picture
edayres 2 years 18 weeks ago

What I find most stunning is how we have watched so many of the promises of working hard, playing by rules, fall by the wayside, yet do not rise up to stop it. Never mind rise up, how about just show up, to vote in midterm elections? Just who do people think is coming over the hill to save them? Stop looking behind you, too. There's nobody there. You're it.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 2 years 18 weeks ago

Jo Ellen -- I am not Thom, but I do listen to him a lot. Reganomics has a lot of moving parts. It is a whole lot of changes in the tax code made by the Reagan administration. The other day Thom pointed out what he thought the top 3 changes were. I remember two of them. One was, of course, bringing down the top tax rate. Are you aware that when the top tax rate went from 78% to 35% (or something in that neighborhood) that the top earners paid 2 to 3 times as much in income taxes? The other thing Thom mentioned that I remember was the paying of executives in stock options. This led to companies buying back stock rather than investing. The mod I think was the worse, was allowing the pension funds to be part of the assets of the company. This allowed private equity firms (probably the mod that Romney made all his money from) to use the pension fund as collateral to get the loan from the bank. The other things that Thom mentions about Reaganomics is stopping the enforcement of the anti-trust laws. This set off the M&A binge. The one that a lot of people consider the worst, was the granting China the Most Favored Nation status.

With respect to student debt, it is interesting that Gov Reagan stopped free college education in California. Infamously, he has been quoted as saying why do I want to pay for their college education all they do is complain about my governing.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 2 years 18 weeks ago

The Koch bros are spending a dollar to save a quarter. It is probably cheaper to comply with the EPA than to bribe deregulation.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 18 weeks ago

Chuck, I was a young adult living in California when Ray-gun was governor. He sucked as governor. Ya darn tootin' we complained!

I remember the "button man" who sold political buttons on Bankroft Avenue, right in front of the University of California campus in Berkeley, in the late 1960s. One of the buttons I bought has a black & white photo of Ray-gun picking his nose. To this day I am still in possession of it. This was more than a decade prior to that senile actor becoming - (Gag!) - our president.

I keep wondering how bad things will get before the American electorate stop voting for these fascist clowns. - Aliceinwonderland

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 18 weeks ago

"Edayres", that look on your face says it all.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 2 years 18 weeks ago

Aliceinwonderland: Check out his bio...he's a comedian...there's even a video of his performance. He looks great and very funny but, unfortunately, that video was very jerky..I found the video on you tube as well and it was also jerky..too bad..I would like to have seen his performance without the jerking.

Jo Ellen's picture
Jo Ellen 2 years 17 weeks ago

Mark, Craig, Loren (especially!) - Thanks for everyone's good comments!

Chuckle8 - Thanks for the recap of some of the fallout of Reaganomics. I felt not everyone reading Thom's essay would understand his 9 references to "Reaganomics" with no further explication such as you gave of the facts of the matter. How desperately the country is still suffering from the fallout from Reagan policies as amplified by the Bushes! Where do we go from here, you know? When so many are eager to vote against their best interests and in favor of their oppressors??

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 2 years 17 weeks ago
Quote Jo Ellen:How desperately the country is still suffering from the fallout from Reagan policies as amplified by the Bushes!
...and as continued by Obama! Voting for Obama was against our best interests too, wasn't it? You cannot vote for your best interests in a rigged one party system that has two factions...Republican and Democrat. Vote for your best interests this next time by voting for someone entirely new....send a strong message that we are not going to take it throw the bums Green or anything other than one of the parties owned by the ruling elite. Over turn the system for a change.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 2 years 17 weeks ago

So I guess we should accomodate them.

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 2 years 17 weeks ago

You better suck their asses if you know what's good for you, pal!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 17 weeks ago

Hah-hah! Way to go Mark.

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 2 years 17 weeks ago

Thom got a call yesterday from somebody who tried to say the U.S. attack upon Iraq was not illegal as it is commonly thought to be. He asked Thom, repeatedly, "What law did it violate?" and Thom had trouble finding an answer.

He first thought it was a violation of the Constitution by not getting sufficient congressional consent but that didn't hold up. Then he decided it was because Bush lied to Congress - which is a felony.

However, that isn't the reason the invasion of Iraq is so widely considered illegal. What makes the invasion of Iraq illegal is not any violation of U.S law but its transgression of international law. Bypassing the U.N. and siezing territory by force for its resource richness are international, statutory crimes in the modern, civilized world.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 17 weeks ago

You're right about that, Mark. And Iraq was no threat to us, not even remotely. Just like all the other countries the U.S. has attacked in our lifetimes! If that doesn't make it illegal, something's wrong with our laws. At least the international community gets it. - AIW

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 17 weeks ago

PD, I checked out Ed's video and you're right. I wouldn't have minded the jerkiness so much if the audio part wasn't mutilated as well. I could hardly understand most of the dialogue; it was rare to get even a complete sentence out of it. I left a comment telling Ed as much. My husband speculated this is a deliberate effort to protect the material from plagiarism. Ya think? - AIW

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 2 years 17 weeks ago

I think it was Lenin who was so about imperialism in his book Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Marx did, however, unambiguously state that nationality is irrelevant, only a ruse to divide and conquer the working classes, and that the real inherent operant, adversarial division in society is class or political/economic status in the proccess of production (capital vs. labor).

That is starkly revealed now with "globalization" as the technology now exists and is readily available to enable the management of production from the opposite side of the world. Business now is independent of any need for support from its "home country" government and need not even make a pretense of investing in the home country's well being.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 17 weeks ago

One of the best remedies for working people, aside from self-employment, is worker-owned cooperatives. I believe this is our only hope of restoring any semblance of democracy and fairness to the workplace. How else can we break that umbilical cord of dependency to franchises and other corporate entities that treat workers like slaves?! The less we depend on corporations & franchises for the necessities of life, the less power they will have over us and our economy. - AIW

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 2 years 17 weeks ago

Aliceinwonderland #21: Plagiarism...copyright laws? I don't know...never thought about that. There sure are a lot of youtube videos that might be in jeopardy of that because I've never seen a youtube video jerky like that. I don't know who would want to watch such videos. It could have just been that the video recorder was malfunctioning. But at least it does tend to validate that he has performed as a comedian and he did look and sound (sans the jerking) pretty funny. Says he's a pretty good singer too. Did I mention he says he's a pretty good singer, too? ;-}

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 2 years 17 weeks ago

Well said, Mark Saulys #19 & #22!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 17 weeks ago

Loren, there is little I disagree with in any of your posts… until I get to your comments about Thom. And regarding Thom, I don't think you are being quite fair in your assessments. Mark Saulys made an excellent point about Thom awhile back, that I see fit to paraphrase here. Mark reminded us that as a media spokesperson, Thom's mission is to influence as many people as possible.

The sad reality, Loren, is that you and I are WAY to the left of most people in this country. Thom has stated many times that he is a democratic socialist, and I've more than a hunch he would agree with most (if not all) our talking points about capitalism. But if he were to broadcast to the public that capitalism needs to get shit-canned or go extinct like the dinosaurs, he would alienate many of his listeners. It is indeed unfortunate that most Americans are brainwashed and consequently, very phobic about socialism; it seems the mere utterance of the word is enough to trigger panic attacks in much of the public. If Thom simply told it like it is without modifying the message, his listening audience would shrink drastically, as would his effectiveness as a progressive voice in a mostly fascist media environment. I would much rather that Thom follow his instincts and modify the message than alienate much of his audience.

I think you are spot-on about socialism versus capitalism. We truly are on the same page, my friend. I hope my repeated comments in defense of Thom and his tactics don't annoy you, but I guess that's a risk I'll have to take. - Aliceinwonderland

delster's picture
delster 2 years 17 weeks ago

You know, things are really at the fore front of being unsustainable in every way. Our lifestyle, technology, and futures are at the edge. Even the well to do probably don't realize the real peril they themselves are in. One can become too comfortable. I've heard it said somewhere that there is no greater motivation than captialism and no system more cruel or heartless when it is completely left unregulated. Greed is not a virtue yet we exalt it as one. While it is true we are a generous nation I think we pat ourselves on the back a bit too quickly. In the words of the late great George Carlin, we need to learn to take care of each other. We need a sense of shared responsibility for each and every one of us. Our political objective in this nation has been perverted by Greed. The young pay way to much for an incomplete education the less fortunate learn by experience. It's going to come to an end. You can walk out to the edge of a cliff and step off the edge or turn 180 and take a step forward.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 17 weeks ago

Ayn Rand sucked ass. Too bad that ugly toady bitch didn't get deported back to Russia where she friggin' belonged, like poor Emma Goldman ultimately was! Emma deserved it way less than A.R. That's American justice for ya! The socialist gets the boot; the fascist not only gets to stay here, but qualifies for Social Security and Medicare… That's right! This two-bit fascist ideologue, who preached that poor folks should be left to rot, received SS & Medicare at the end of her miserable life. The best of yankee hospitality! Don't ya love it…

Yeah delster, a real generous nation this is. Yup. Our cup runneth over... - Aliceinwonderland

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 2 years 17 weeks ago

Does anyone know any examples when two co-ops have competed against each other in the marketplace?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 2 years 17 weeks ago

I agree with Mark S that dubya's worst violation was against international law. However, I am surprised that Thom does not know the details of the "law" the congress passed to enable Bush to invade Iraq, I am more surprised because the only place I heard about it was on Thom's radio broadcast. I am foggy on the details but the agreement that congress gave to dubya said that he could attack Iraq after he provided proof of wmd to congress and they agreed to it. He started the bombing and sent the paper to congress signed saying he found wmd.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 2 years 17 weeks ago

Chuck, unless one lives in the big city, it's probably not too common to see cooperatives competing against each other. They're still not as mainstream as that. In the small Oregon town where I live, Bi-Mart is the one local worker-owned cooperative I can name, and they seem to be thriving. They've been here well over twenty years now, even managing to co-exist with Walmart. Nothing to sneeze at. - AIW

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 2 years 17 weeks ago

AIW -- Thanks for the info. My concern would be if co-ops become large with a significant number of employees that Walmart would use their monopolistic power to squash them.

What happens in a musician's brain when they play a song?

Let's get geeky on music. Ever wonder what's happening in a musician's brain when they're actually playing a song?

What about when a musician starts improvising - starts playing music directly "off the cuff"?

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to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."