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Sunday, March 27, 2016


One of my less mature habits is shouting at the TV screen when some loud-mouthed commentator says something inexcusably egregious.  For a variety of reasons, I find myself yelling at Chris Matthews of MSNBC more often than at most.  He is transparently in the bag for Clinton, and routinely sneers at Bernie Sanders' call for free public college and university tuition as pandering to college audiences.  Since Matthews is a snob as well as an ignorant toad [there I go again], he always references "Berkeley and Wisconsin Madison," as though it went without saying that free tuition at such prestigious public universities was especially absurd.

So at 4 a.m. this morning I got up and did a little Googling [this will give you some idea of the depths of my obsessions.]  In-state tuition at Berkeley is currently $14,460 [this may be a trifle off, as I think this figure is a year or two old.]   In 1968, it was $300, which in 2016 dollars is $2044.  Although $2044 is not free, it is an amount that a serious student could earn with part time jobs.  If California establishes a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage, as it appears poised to do, that would work out to about five hours of burger flipping a week during term time.  That  still leaves room and board, of course, and also books and lab fees, but the point is that it would be possible, as we used to say when I was young, to "work your way through college."

I have written elsewhere on this blog about the reasons for the soaring costs of college.  I believe it is no accident [the favorite line of old-time Marxists] that costs began to rise exponentially roughly during the tumultuous Sixties [i.e., in the early Seventies.]  The social function of student debt is to compel college graduates to take safe, trouble-free jobs in order to pay off their debts, rather than opting for community organizing or other forms of social disruption.

I don't guess I will ever  get to point this out to Matthews.  Do any of you know him, perhaps?


s. wallerstein said...

For exactly the same reason I gave away my television about 10 years ago. Not watching TV news has done wonders for my blood pressure.

I listen to radio, which, in Chile at least, is a lot more politically diverse and less extreme center than television. When there are political debates or a decent interview on television, I watch them online.

There are certain figures in Chilean political life who are so annoying that I find it impossible to watch them on television, and I can skim through what they say in the newspaper or in online media.

Chris said...

Did you know that Matthews is presently mired in a scandal, for using bringing on guests that pay his wife's campaign. And his wife is a supporter of Clinton.

Also what are your thoughts on Bernie's YUGE wins last night. Real YUGE.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Chris, I did hear about that. It strikes me as really bad news, but then, what would one expect? Bernie's wins don't change the fact that he won't get the nomination, but he has already won the campaign. It is all about his ideas and proposals, and not at all about Clinton. I do not know how she is going to bring his supporters to her. I do not think she can ever motivate them as he has done. I think she can beat Trump handily, because he will be unable to stop himself from alienating all the women in America. But I think she might lose to anyone else.

The Republican Convention precedes the Democratic one. Could the Democrats at the last minute decide they need Bernie? I doubt it, but this is a weird year .

Chris said...

My layman understanding is that Bernie needs 56% in the states from March 22nd onward. And other than Arizona he has been doing above and beyond what's required to win. That's not to say he will for sure win, but his prospects are brighter.

Alan Grayson (my old rep) gives an unemotional, mathematical argument, as to why Bernie has a real chance of winning:

David said...

Chris, there are a couple things I'd like to point out that you may not have read in the media reports about Sanders' win in Washington State. Washington's Democrats are typically characterized as largely white and liberal. However, yesterday Sanders won by large margins in every county in Washington. Sanders' margins were the highest in the most rural (and conservative) counties in the state, with Sanders winning roughly 90% of the delegates in Skamania county (population around 11,000). In Yakima county (population around 245,000), in which the population is about 45% Latino, Sanders won over 75% of the delegates. In King County (population around 2 million), in which Seattle is located, with its relatively urban, ethnically diverse population, Sanders won about 67% of the delegates. Of course, without exit polls, we have no way of knowing what the demographic makeup of the caucus-goers was. It has been said that the caucus system tends to favor affluent (and thus largely white) people who can afford to take a Saturday to politic with their neighbors in a crowded gym for a couple hours.

What are the implications of all this? I have no idea. I think we're used to being an afterthought in the minds of the media, which many Washingtonians regard as part of the "East Coast elite." In fact, that might be part of the dynamic out here. Hillary Clinton is seen as part of the East Coast political elite, while, somehow, Sanders isn't.

Chris said...

Thanks David! Very helpful. I've been trying, but cannot find much information, on how Sanders did among black and latino voters last night. But this is good news!

David said...

Unless the State Democratic Party compiles and publishes the demographic data for the precinct caucuses, we simply won't know how Sanders did among African American and Latino voters in this state.

Over in the Washington Post, Philip Bump has argued that African American turnout is a key factor in Clinton's victories. While it's true that Washington has a relatively low African American population, that doesn't mean that the majority of African Americans in King and Pierce counties didn't vote for Sanders. We simply don't know how they voted. All of the reports I've received from friends who live in the most racially diverse sections of Seattle have indicated Sanders won by overwhelming margins. One friend, who is a Precinct Committee officer in the Central District,--which, historically, has the highest concentrations of African Americans in the city--reported that about 150 voters turned out and that Sanders won 77% of the delegates. However, without a representative sample, we don't know if her precinct is typical or unusual.

Here is another oddity. Kshama Sawant, a Seattle city council member and a member of the Socialist Alternative party, campaigned vigorously for Bernie Sanders. She and her campaign have been very effective in turning out immigrant and minimum wage voters in the city. However, because she isn't a Democrat, she didn't actually contribute to the get-out-the-vote campaign for the caucuses. One can only wonder how this might have affected the vote in King county.

Anecdotal reports indicate that Clinton's strength was in the suburbs, while Sanders strength was in the city. Who knows? I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Sanders did best among rural and urban voters, while Clinton did best among affluent suburban voters.

Chris said...

Bump's article was the usual mainstream dismissal about how Sander's vote and states 'don't really count because X' where as Clinton's do because y. And X and Y are totally arbitrary.