The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Nobody seems to have noticed but the other day
Elizabeth Warren, chair of the TARP Congressional
Oversight Panel, told Bill Maher that nobody knows
what happened to the first $350 billion of TARP
money. Even Maher didn't seem to care much. It's a
measure of how used we are to huge expenditures by
the federal government with absolutely nothing to show
for them. Three trillion for the war in Iraq. Hundreds of
billions more on the thirty year war on drugs. Half a
trillion a year on the Pentagon, which by itself
completely loses track of a surprising amount of federal
It may be that a trillion is the new billion, but the total
disappearance of $350 billion of taxpayer dollars ought
to be at least a little worrying, if for no other reason
than we could have used the money for something else.
Take the fact that Americans are lagging the rest of the
industrialized world in higher education. Andrew
Delbanco in the New York Review of books tells us
that US universities are doing an increasingly poor job
of educating ever-fewer students from a narrowing
socioeconomic applicant pool. In an era of shrinking
government funding and battered endowments, private
and public universities alike are courting wealthier
students, giving them less education in return, all the
while charging rising fees.
This is not only bad social policy but stupid economics.
In California alone, every dollar invested in the UC
science programs returns three to four dollars of state
revenue. But that will not stop the states from slashing
education budgets again this year. So here's a thought:
the federal government already runs an extensive
nationwide prison system. The most fervent ideologue
could hardly argue that the feds don't have vast
experience in running large institutions. Why not a
national system of federal universities, completely free
for all qualified applicants and as lavishly funded as,
say, the federal corrections system? After all we don't
charge prisoners for the cost of locking them up, and
federal universities could teach physics and literature,
which would be a departure from the prisons' principal
subject of advanced criminality.
Over the course of a decade and a half or so, beginning
at the turn of the twentieth century, John D.
Rockefeller gave about $35 million dollars to found the
University of Chicago. 1914's $35 million is worth
about $700 million today. That $350 billion we gave
away to banks and insurance companies to disappear
we know not where? We could have built ourselves 500
spanking new University of Chicago equivalents, from
Maine to Hawaii. Every unemployed Ph.D. in the
country would have a job. Every student who wanted
one could have a first-rate college education. Every
dollar so invested would be returning multiples in
federal revenues in no time at all.
What say we ask Citi and AIG and Bank of America
for our money back?
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2009
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A NOTE TO READERS ***Update***
Another three week plus hiatus, from April 30th until May 23rd, again
due to Yahoo Geocities dismal service.
There was nothing new at The Nossiter Net between March 3rd and
April 26th, 2007, nearly eight weeks. The reason: tech sabotage.
Yahoo Geocities, the host for this site, denied access for the entire
period. At one point, they even managed to lose all the files. In many
discussions with Yahoo staff, no clear explanation was forthcoming.
No one seemed able to fix the problem. Ruling out the possibility of
Dubbya’s revenge, I finally wrote to Mr. Terry Semel, Chairman and
CEO of Yahoo! Inc and described the ordeal the page had undergone
since the beginning of March. A week later, a helpful Yahooo engineer
named Jason called. He had my letter before him. Though he couldn’t
do the repairs on on the spot, he promised a fix by the next day. That
was April 26th, nearly two months after shutting me down in the first
The Nossiter Net apologizes, which is more than I can say for Yahoo
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