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Late Night: We’re #12! We’re #12!

Build or destroy? Image courtesy D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr (Pink Sherbet Photography)

In case anyone had any doubt that we are bearing witness to America in Decline, there’s this — thanks in no small part to reality television programming, No Child Left Behind and the skyrocketing cost of college tuition,  we are well on our merry way to Maximum Stupid:

Adding to a drumbeat of concern about the nation’s dismal college-completion rates, the College Board warned Thursday that the growing gap between the United States and other countries threatens to undermine American economic competitiveness.

The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.

On the same day that Sarah Palin dissed a teacher with an “oh, you’re one of THOSE people”  roll of her eyes (while filming her reality TV series), Obama took time out of his busy fundraising schedule in Austin, TX to spout platitudes about the importance of  a college education in today’s bleak job market.

“Over a third of America’s college students, and over half our minority students, don’t earn a degree, even after six years,” Mr. Obama told a an audience of cheering students at the University of Texas here. “So we don’t just need to open the doors of college to more Americans. We need to make sure they stick with it through graduation. That is critical.”

Mr. Obama has made reforming the nation’s education system one of the four pillars of what he calls the ‘’new foundation” for economic recovery (the others are health care reform, energy reform and financial regulatory reform). But after a year in which he has devoted himself intensively to health legislation and the financial regulatory bill, education has received scant attention.

Yeah, and look at how well those reforms worked out, amirite? Seriously, who doesn’t think the energy reform bill is . . . oh, wait.

See, there are one or two rather significant hurdles in the way of this fantasy of American educational exceptionalism: (1) How the hell are teachers, assuming they still have their generally  low-paying jobs,  supposed to provide quality education when they’re forced to teach to standardized tests that have been proven not to work; and (2) how in the name of John Boehner’s spray-on tan are students supposed to graduate when they face the Herculean task of shoveling out their personal Augean Stables of student loans?

And this is what is so fundamentally wrong with the country today. Our government has no trouble funneling sizeable chunks of the U.S. Treasury to its buddies in the banking, pharmaceutical, and health insurance industries (and to a lesser extent, the auto industry), but when it comes to the most basic building blocks necessary for a thriving, 21st century American economy — educated workers — they shrug and say, “Sorry, bro, you’re on your own.”

The President offered not one new education reform initiative at his cheerleading session at UT today. I’m hardly surprised. Obama and Arne Duncan, his Education Secretary, have been blowing smoke up the country’s ass for the past year and a half with pretty words and a new “education reform” plan that is nothing more than a scaled down version of No Child Left Behind, Bush’s absolutely disastrous, fetishistic fascination with charter schools.

“Oh,” administration officials and supporters exclaim, “but we’ve cut out the middleman between the government and the debtor! That saves taxpayer dollars! And look – simplified financial aid forms! SHINY!”

How, pray tell, does that help students pay down their loans?

So here’s a quick idea that might kickstart the President’s education reformation, one that would, IMHO, convince many of those disaffected college kids who campaigned for him back in ’08 to turn out again come this fall and beyond: Reduce the interest on all student loans currently being repaid to .  .  . ZERO . . . and make the amnesty retroactive to December 2007, the date most economic experts agree marked the start of the Great Recession.

That not enough? How about this? He could create a new WPA (hell, call it the “W-BA”), in which college graduates could get loan forgiveness by working on federally funded projects for the real betterment of America, not just for the Bank of America. They could acquire invaluable skills, tap into the entrepreneurial spirit that is the supposed hallmark of this country, and face a prosperous future,  instead of a life of indentured servitude to Sallie Mae and her friends.

I know, I know. This would simply  serve to cut into the plutocracy’s bottom line, and we can’t have that now, can we?

I’ll don  my “Socialist” dunce cap and sit in the corner now.

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NYC-based aquatic feline that likes long walks on the beach, illuminating the hypocrisies of "family values" Republicans, and engaging in snarling snarkitude.