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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants a huge $300 million cut in funding for the University of Wisconsin system over the next two years. At the same time, he wants a $220 million public subsidy for a privately-owned sports facility for the Milwaukee Bucks, an NBA team.

Walker is a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender who never earned a college degree. But he did play basketball in high school.

$300 million would be the largest cut in the university system’s history. And he would impose it with cynical dishonesty, freezing tuition for the two years it takes to implement the cuts. Of course, after that, the cuts remain, and the University of Wisconsin would have no choice but to raise tuition astronomically if it wants to save itself.

Walker's plan stands in head-to-head opposition with President Obama's goal to make public college/university education free, starting with the plan announced in the State of the Union to make two years of community college education free for students.

America, alone, graduates students with crushing debt that grows each year; in Europe, students' university educations, including books, food, and housing, are fully paid for. European nations see it as necessary to maintain competitiveness in a global economy.

Subsidizing billionaire owners of professional sports franchises comprised of millionaire players often gets a free pass from slash-and-burn advocates of austerity.

In 2014, total US student loan loan debt exceeded the sum total of Americans' credit card debt. And nobody else in the world amasses credit card debt like Americans.

In the US, both student loan debt and credit card debt are direct results of demands for austerity in government spending, wherein the rich enjoy reduced taxes and everyone else does without or accrues more debt.

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Yet somehow, subsidizing billionaire owners of professional sports franchises comprised of millionaire players often gets a free pass from slash-and-burn advocates of austerity. Clearly, Gov. Walker has no problem with giving-away public money to a privately-owned sports business - but he doesn't want to help struggling students.

It all raises some fundamental questions.

  • Are we headed for a return to the 1920s, wherein only the offspring of the rich can afford to attend college?
  • Are the masses, particularly less-educated people, easily pacified as long as they can indulge their passions in watching sports, just as Plato postulated?
  • For the rich supporting government austerity, does it function as a mechanism for retaining power in the hands of their offspring? As in, why should their rich, dumb, checkbook-tuition kid work for your poor, smart, subsidized-tuition kid?
  • Are Europeans correct about fully subsidizing higher education to preserve national competitiveness in a global economy?
  • Do conservatives fear more educated Americans? If so, to such an extent that they would use economics to reduce the number of college and university graduates?

Oh, what the hell. Let's just play ball. If you can afford the $48.71 average price of a single-game Milwaukee Bucks NBA ticket - in their old stadium. Of course, it'll go-up in a nice, fancy, new, publicly-subsidized stadium. It always does.

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Larry Wines