August 23, 2008

Bestest of the Bestest Wisconsin Blogs

One thing I invariably look forward to on Saturday evenings is finding out what complete nonsense the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's editorial board, in its collective wisdom, has deemed fit to enshrine at the weekly "Best of the Wisconsin Blogs" featurette.

Tonight is certainly no disappointment, nor should it be for readers of tomorrow's hard copy edition, where this stuff actually appears.

This week's "Best of the Blogs" memorializes the mostly pointless meanderings of one Christian Schneider, who resides at a "free market think tank," the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, also storied home to such profoundly compelling cogitators as the local medium-wave radio "personality" Charlie Sykes.

Evidently Mr. Schneider was quite disturbed and alarmed by outgoing University of Wisconsin Chancellor John D. Wiley's deliciously trenchant kiss-off to the State's legislative and executive branches, and especially to Wiley's smacking around of the dishonest partisan apparatchiks dwelling at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

Skipping beyond the more blathery portions of Schneider's screed, what seems to be some hard number crunching appears forthwith:
First, Wiley trots out the old canard that the UW System is underfunded:

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the total UW budget was $2.5 billion in 1996-97. By 2006-07, just 10 years later, the total system budget had ballooned to $4.3 billion, an average increase of 5.7% per year over a decade.
What the Journal-Sentinel doesn't tell you is that but a portion of those figures is derived from State government contributions, which only increased by less than 2.2% annually over that same decade. And during two of the most recent annual periods, State funding was slashed, in one of them, by 10%. And cut again the next.

System-wide enrollment alone, meanwhile, rose by nearly 9%, to say nothing of other many and varied rising costs.

So how did UW pick up the State funding shortfalls? For one thing, it had to increase tuition. Drastically. In 2003, for example, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee bumped tuition almost 19%. The next year, it raised undergraduate tuition another 16%.

Since I first attended UWM in 2000, tuition has nearly doubled. The increases at the main campus in Madison, where enrollment is around 40,000 souls — roughly twice that of Milwaukee — are almost identical. And that's just resident tuition. I'm afraid to look at the figures for out-of-State tuition, which I paid for three or four semesters. From my own free market pocket, incidentally.

Of course, not even the "think tank" denizen Christian Schneider mentions any of that, let alone the Journal-Sentinel. Because then he'd actually have to address Chancellor Wiley's central point, instead of barely nibbling flaccidly around its nether edges, which is all he's apparently capable of doing.

But here's what Chancellor Wiley was saying: The less funding the State provides, the more difficult it is for Wisconsin individuals and families to receive college educations. And the more difficult that becomes for Wisconsinites, the less competitive the State becomes, academically, at business, and at research.

It's as simple as that and not really all that tough to follow.

And, forgive me the appeal to authority, but I'm prepared to defer to the head of the university on these matters rather than to an ideological bosom buddy of Charlie Sykes. The fact of beatification as a Journal-Sentinel "Best of the Bloggers" notwithstanding.

Yet Schneider has the unmitigated gall to say of Chancellor Wiley's missive, "The entire vitriolic commentary smacks of typical academic elitism — if you disagree with him, you are either evil or stupid."

Evidently Schneider counts himself among those who disagree with Wiley, and the reader is left to decide and pronounce upon which disjunctive side of Schneider's puerile false dichotomy applies to he.

But by disagreeing with Wiley one is forced to perpetuate academic elitism itself. Obviously when tuition doubles every few years, then pretty damn soon only the elite can afford academics.

Rocket science or even Econ 101, it ain't.

Occasionally I have to wonder why the Journal-Sentinel reproduces babblings like Schneider's in the truncated manner that it does. It's hard to tell whether Schneider's piece is excerpted thus as a means of positive recognition, or to make him look at least doubly foolish.

Because what it reproduced of Schneider's blog post is about 90% abusive rant and 9% misleading figures (the remainder is ellipses inserted by the paper's editors, including one set substituted for a quotation from Chancellor Wiley's original article).

And even at that, that's about all Schneider has to say about the University of Wisconsin's budget in his own original blog post. The balance of his deep thoughts, and not just the substanceless blithering selected by the Journal-Sentinel's editorial board, is all devoted to weeping the blues for poor little put-upon Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Cry us a river, won't you please.
Wiley goes on to blame WMC for the "toxic" political environment in Wisconsin, as if there has never been tension between those who want to raise taxes and lower them.
Ah, yes. Like complaining that the DVDs stocked by the Milwaukee Public Library aren't highbrow enough. Pretty tense stuff, that.

"Think tank." "Best of the Blogs." It is to laugh.


capper said...

Cry us a river, won't you please.

I believe they already are.

This is how bullies react when they are confronted. It is really that simple.

On a side note, I wonder why they never, ever publish me. Is there something about me that a member of their editorial staff doesn't like?

Display Name said...

Mr. Atomic Trousers' writings are among the Betterery of the Bestest Blogs. His piece from last March regarding the video competition bill was so bad, I was forced to fisk it. As a wise guy once put it, "It's not even wrong.".

Pete Gruett said...

I think Wiley's actual point was that the state's policy apparatus is completely paralyzed because our political dialogue has become a special-interest pissing contest.

If the legislature was capable of an actual, reasoned policy discussion, they might notice that most of the missing UW money got eaten up by corrections, not tax breaks. We spend twice as much as Minnesota on throwing people in prison and we haven't got a damned thing to show for it.

The truth-in-sentencing boondoggle was largely WPRI's baby but they're all one big conservative family. I wonder how WMC explains to its member businesses why it makes sense to spend 30 grand a person on a system with a 60% recidivism/failure rate. They probably just ask John McAdams.

kay said...

So, what exactly is the opposite of "academic elitism"? Is that what they want? Undereducated people who are not quite bright teaching college? Okay, so actually elitism rings of snobbery, but honestly, some people deserve to be a bit high and mighty if they really are brilliant.
And, I always get the biggest chuckle out of the biggest snobs using the term elitism as if it's different from what they are because there are more letters in it.

And, yes capper, there is something about you. But, I'm not revealing it here. ;)

Unknown said...

any asshole can have a think tank. wikipedia explains they are merely any "organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research and engages in advocacy". I've got one myself, but I still need a large special interest to fund it with juicy grants.