Chris Merino: The age of irresponsibility

The pillars of indulgent corporate capitalism have collapsed, and the working class has been pinned by the rubble.

The fiscal crisis has been slowly developing for nearly a decade and has quickly unraveled within the past month, culminating with the failure of Washington Mutual and the drastic drop of the Dow Jones industrial average.

The crisis is a not-so-subtle reminder of the fallacies of an unregulated free market. In a sense, the recent “bailout” plan can be seen as a type of sly legislative atonement, proposed by Bush in an attempt to redeem his conscience and salvage his legacy.

What advocates of “invisible hand” economics fail to understand is that former President Ronald Reagan’s “supply side” worked in his first term because bureaucracy had ceased to be effective by the end of the Carter administration. It was the corruption of government institutions – not their existence – that caused the stagflation of the late 1970s. Within the historical context, Reagan was a capable reformer.

What worries me the most is not the ideological cult that has formed around Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman, but the lack of discretion policymakers display when they blindly pass legislation. When they ignore such situational contexts, citizens suffer. The state of relations between the government and education is especially worrisome.

Historically, we can see that when the government cuts taxes and departmental spending, it most directly affects education, especially programs which are deemed unnecessary to the “general welfare” of the American people. Recently, my hometown of West Palm Beach, Fla., passed a homeowners’ tax break by a significant margin of approval. The next day, a letter was sent out stating that funding for special-needs programs in public schools would be drastically cut by the state and district.

Such provincial matters do not concern us as students attending the most expensive university in the country. What does, however, is the assurance that federal financial assistance will remain consistent throughout the entirety of our schooling.

While GW may have sufficient resources to compensate for a lack of federal endowment, it is important to understand that other universities are not as well-funded, nor do they have as many privileged students who do not receive financial aid. For instance, I am paying less to attend GW than any of my friends pay to go to any of the Florida state schools.

Regardless of economic turmoil, the government should not cut the federal grants and loans that enable many lower-income students to attend college, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and “governmental dependence” Republicans love to complain about.

Increasing funding for government aid for education is an investment for America’s future stability; it will reduce the amount of crime, abortion and other social ills that threaten our well-being and identity as a nation.

The writer is a freshman majoring in political science and psychology.

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