The shocking horror of free community college

January 14, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Do you know the estimated cost to the federal government for Obama’s unexpected, sort of amazing, not even all that radical plan to send any qualified American (read: lower-income and the underprivileged, because that’s who this program would benefit most, unquestionably) to two years of community college, for free?

An elegant, affordable, easily workable plan for free college? What are you, a communist?

An elegant, affordable, easily workable plan for free college? What are you, a communist?

It’s about $60 billion, spread over 10 years, with a bit more coming from participating states. That’s a paltry $6 billion a year, or about what the Pentagon spends every five seconds on toothpicks, on liquor stores, on shoelaces, on about 10,000 other bulls–t programs, weapons, operations, experiments, failed wars, nuclear submarines, toilet paper and beef jerky and the poisonous nuclear byproduct that Dick Cheney calls “blood.”

In other words, it’s a relative pittance, for an unquestionable social good. So why are Republicans already sneering at it, threatening to derail is, calling it too expensive and suggesting that the federal government can’t afford it? Because the program is a poor idea? No. Because they’re hateful, obstructionist cretins? Well, yes.

Do you think that’s too harsh? That is not at all too harsh. Do you think I’m exaggerating? I am not at all exaggerating. Here’s a fun factoid: The Department of Defense is, by far, the most shamelessly wasteful government agency on earth, defending America from almost nothing and squandering a staggering 20 percent of our GDP to do it. To be fair, it’s sort of difficult to know exactly how wasteful; the General Accounting Office has long called the DoD’s laughable chaos of a megabudget “inauditable,” due to roaring mismanagement. America!

Shocked to learn that some Republicans resist the idea of free college? Don't be. They dread anything that makes Americans smarter

Shocked to learn that some Republicans resist the idea of free college? Don’t be. They dread anything that makes Americans smarter

Translation: no one has any clue where all those hundreds of billions go. They only know they don’t dare stop the runaway gravy train, much less redirect a sliver of its gargantuan waste toward something as useful, as beneficent as making tens of thousands of Americans slightly smarter, happier and more employable. The horror!

I know what you’re thinking: “It doesn’t work like that.” And, rather tragically, you’re correct. Funding something as easy and gracious as Obama’s free college plan isn’t a matter of simply redirecting a modest amount of funds from one grotesquely bloated region of government toward another, far more reasonable one.

You’ve got to go to committee. You’ve got to get budgets approved, votes rallied, lawyers fellated, earn support from all kinds of sniveling white male congressmen like Lamar Alexander, who, by Southern GOP law, has to openly trash the president any chance he gets (he’s black, you know), despite how Obama’s plan is a mirror of Tennessee’s own, despite how TN is a ravenous welfare state, the 5th most dependent in the country on federal funds for its whimpering survival.

By the way, do you know what the US defense budget is, right now? Don’t worry; hardly anyone does, because it’s so ungodly, so blindingly, so nonsensically out of any scale of human understanding.

The US military budget for 2015 is upwards of $640 billion. You can combine the entire military budgets of Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, Germany, Japan and still not hit $640 billion. That’s how bloated, needless, ridiculous. Put another way: We could cut the US military to 1/10th of its current size and still be the largest military on Earth.

What are we defending ourselves against with all those pointless aircraft carriers, submarines, warheads, fighter jets, bizarre weapons, torture programs, drones and soldiers and the infamous “military-industrial, complex” that keeps America in massive, crippling debt? No one can possibly say. Because no serious threat exists.

Do you think Obama knows this? Of course he knows this. Every president, every senator, every politician with a brain larger than a gerbil knows the US military budget it a running joke, the gravy train to end all gravy trains, the single largest waste of taxpayer moneys in history. But no one has the nerve to scale it back. It greases too many wheels, funds too many horrible, unnamable programs, invades too many tiny countries and overthrows too many foreign leaders who dare stand in the way of our rapacious greed.

Upshot: white politicians from welfare states complain about paying for the black president’s astonishing idea for free community college – which would cost barely 1% of the DoD’s annual budget – even as their own states suck billions from the feds to pay for all their lousy schools and successful prisons.

It makes a bit of terrible sense, actually. Because if there’s one thing politicians – particularly Republican politicians – fear most of all, it’s smart people. An educated populace. Governments and organized religions since the beginning of time absolutely despise it when the hoi polloi start thinking for themselves, start asking difficult questions, pushing back against the laws, the police, the lies and the bloated military budget no one really wants. The fearful and the ignorant are far more easily led. Just ask the Tea Party. Or the NRA.

It’s an odd conundrum. Free community college for anyone who wants it is a wonderful, easy, no-brainer of an idea, one that costs (relative) pennies, raises the basic education level and would only strengthen the US workforce. Of course, it also makes the non-rich, the non-white, and the non-entitled of America just a little bit savvier, too, just enough that they might begin to question and to push back against the deeply entrenched overlords of power. And God knows they can’t have that.

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Mark Morford

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