As is his custom in his weekly addresses, President Barack Obama opened with a human interest story.
This time it concerned Elizabeth Cooper, a college sophomore concerned about the cost of college and how difficult it is for middle class families to afford it.
On the one hand, once a woman gives birth, the parents have nearly twenty years to save for college. If one starts twenty years before the first tuition and books bill arrives, it is no so bad. If one waits until high school graduation day, it is definitely a challenge.
On the other hand, college is more expensive. When I attended the University of Texas way back in the late 1970s, the University charged $15 a semester hour. That translates into about $45 a course or $225 a semester for a full load of five courses. Of course, the University hit me (or, more specifically, my parents) with all kinds of fees. Housing proved the biggest expense. Today, tuition at the University of Texas approaches $10,000 a year. I have since relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. Tuition at our flagship state university over in Athens is over $10,000.
Of course, what no one will hear from President Obama is red hot rhetoric about "greedy" administrators or professors. Thy constitute a small but important voting block.
Frankly, they are not responsible for the rising costs of college. Part of it results from rising demand. Because everyone knows the lifelong impact to one's financial well-being that a college degree will bring, everyone feels compelled to attend college. Many politicians at both the state and local level attempt to enact policies to allow more people to attend college. This increased demand drives up the cost.
It also means fewer subsidies to go around for each student. States have subsidized the costs in public universities for decades. With more students attending college and fewer tax dollars available to fund higher education, students find themselves paying a greater percentage of the actual costs.
Here in Georgia the legislature created a state lottery to fund the Hope Scholarship Program. This accounts for the fact that in while in Texas just over 50% if students receive some kind of aid, here in Georgia, over 90% of students receive aid. One side effect of the program is--you guessed it--increased enrollment in Georgia colleges. Some of this results from grade inflation. Although SAT scores remain stable, students "earning" the kind of grades that qualify them for the Hope Scholarship have increased. Teachers appear to be inflating grades to permit more students to attend college. This, of course, drives up costs.
Back to Barack and Elizabeth:
"And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what’s going on in Washington. She said she feels 'not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.' ”
Yes, this is one might feel when the one middle class government benefit dries up. The government appears increasingly devoted to the well-being of the rich and the poor--not the middle class.
The President acknowledges the plight of the middle class in the next passage:
"And after the worst economic crisis in generations, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008. By almost every measure, our economy is better off than it was five years ago.
But while we’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999, too many families barely earn what they did in 1999. It’s harder to pay for college, save, or retire, because people’s wages and incomes have not gone up. Nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top – and aren’t making a difference in your lives.
This is a sad, but revealing indictment of his own administration--that "nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top."
If this is true and he finds it objectionable, he only has himself to blame. Although he faults Republicans for obstructing his economic legislation, Obama enjoyed a Democratic majority in Congress for his first two years in office.
Granted, he inherited both the economic crisis and a policy of bailing out wealthy financial institutions. So what did he accomplish? He continued with bailout of financial institutions, especially those two notorious GSEs--Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. And he secured passage of the PPACA--a plan that already moved businesses to reduce working hours for their employees and will need incredible amounts of taxed derived subsidies to keep it on life support--taxes invested in the real economy.
How's that for helping the middle class.