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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Mar 25, 2015

The Politics of the NCAA Sweet Sixteen

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/politics-ncaa-sweet-sixteen/

When television cameras zoomed in on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in the middle of the Kansas-Wichita State NCAA basketball game a thunderous chorus of boos broke out. Viewers gained a rare glimpse of the politics behind March Madness. The announcers pointedly ignored the boos.

Viewers might have been better served if the announcers had offered some context for the crowd’s hostility. Both the University of Kansas and Wichita State are public universities. Brownback and the Republican dominated legislature have savaged state university budgets, resulting in rising tuition and more burdensome student debt.

In fact, twelve of the Sweet Sixteen teams are state universities. (Three are Catholic schools. Duke is the only non-religious private school.) Eleven play in states totally controlled by Republicans. (UCLA is the only team in a totally blue state.) In virtually all of these state spending on state universities has been slashed. Between 2008 and 2014 per capita state spending for state universities, adjusted for inflation, has shrunk by more than 40 percent in Arizona, almost 30 percent in Michigan, about 25 percent in Utah and Wisconsin. And in 2015, even though their state economies have significantly improved, many red states are seeking to further punish their state universities. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, for example, has just proposed a budget that would decrease spending on public universities by $300 million over the next two years, the steepest reduction in state history.

The largely student crowds at NCAA games may also be upset that their states justify cutting spending on state universities in order to reduce state deficits when the deficits have been caused almost entirely by tax reductions that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. Since taking office in 2011, Walker has steered over $2 billion in tax cuts through the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature. By one estimate the state of Kansas lost $803 million in 2014 because of 2012 tax cuts and the cumulative revenue loss will exceed $5 billion by 2019.

While the vast majority of NCAA teams in the Sweet Sixteen play in red states, almost all play in blue cities: Chapel Hill, Durham, Lexington, Louisville, Madison, Tucson, Lansing, Wichita, South Bend, Norman. And many of them are blue in large part because of how their students and recent graduates vote. Responding to the needs of their constituents, blue city councils have tried to lift their income, sometimes by increasing the local minimum wage. But when they try, red state legislatures often step in and strip them of their authority to do so.

In 2007, when Madison, home to the University of Wisconsin raised the local minimum wage, the legislature passed a bill to preempt its right to do so but the effort failed when Democratic Governor Jim Doyle vetoed the bill. In 2011, however, Republican Governor Walker signed a bill abolishing any Wisconsin city from enacting a local minimum wage higher than the state’s. That bill became a template used by more than a dozen other red states, most recently Oklahoma, to enact their own preemption statutes.

For the next week, we can concentrate on basketball and marvel at the remarkable athletes playing their hearts out and set politics aside. But perhaps, maybe during the commercials, we can reflect on the fact that the vast majority of these games are being played by teams from public universities in states whose governments are hostile to public universities and whose policies increase the already considerable financial burden on the students at these universities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: American Postal Workers Union for the Postal Workers' National Day of Action.
Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Mar 12, 2015

Can a Single Union Save the Post Office?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/single-union-save-post-office/

Let’s begin with the bad news. The U.S. Post Office, the oldest, most respected and ubiquitous of all public institutions is fast disappearing. In recent years management has shuttered half the nation’s mail processing plants and put 10 percent of all local post offices up for sale. A third of all post offices, most of… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Feb 26, 2015

Who Decides?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/decides/

Who decides? Conservative Republicans in Texas are split on the issue. Darren Hodges, a Tea Party councilman in the West Texas city of Fort Stockton, fiercely defends his town’s recent decision to ban plastic bags. City officials have a “God-given right” to make that decision he tells the New York Times. James Quintero of the… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Mar 5, 2015

The Other FCC Decision

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/fcc-decision/

On February 26th the Federal Communications Commission issued two decisions. One concerned net neutrality, the other municipal broadband. The first garnered by far the most attention, as it should. Net neutrality affects everyone and locks down a fundamental principle for Internet access. But as another presidential campaign looms the FCC decision on municipally owned broadband… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Jan 12, 2015

What Might Have Been

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/what-might-have-been/

Since its passage in 2009, ferocious opposition to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)  had proven a devastatingly effective electoral strategy for Republicans. In 2010, they gained a net 63 seats and control of the House of Representatives. They gained control of 11 additional state governments, bringing their total to 25. When the ACA went into effect… Continue reading