Friday, April 18, 2008

Deconstructing Hawpe

David Hawpe continues to shock and amaze us in with his campaign to send Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell packing.

This week, Hawpe complained that Kentucky colleges are losing money, due to the"General Assembly following those no-new-tax instructions that McConnell gave his fellow Republicans back in 2000, when they took over the state Senate." It follows, in Hawpian illogic, that "the state's universities should be sending out press releases announcing how many millions they have lost, thanks to Sen. Mitch McConnell."

The "General Assembly [is] following those no-new tax instructions" from McConnell? Who knew that McConnell is so powerful that he controls even House Speaker Jody Richards and his Democratic minions. Talk about conspiracy theories.

But back to Hawpe's "reasoning." Hawpe is mad that Kentucky colleges are raising tuition; he calls this the "McConnell tuition hike." If the state legislature had been more generous, Hawpe argues, tuition would not go up. Maybe.

Even if Hawpe's assumption is correct, however, colleges should pass their increased costs on to their consumers -- the students. That's fairer and more efficient than financing higher education based on how much poor people smoke, for example.

Yes, that means that students will have to take out loans. But any student who is unwilling to invest in himself is not mature enough to be going to college in the first place. A student who is literally invested in his education, in contrast, is more likely to make it to class -- and to graduate on time.

Hawpe bemoans the cuts in spending that he attributes to the Republicans' (and Democrats') refusal to tax. Businesses, however, cut spending all the time. And any business that doesn't do so fast enough doesn't stay in business -- unless the government bails it. Moreover, raising taxes makes it harder to convince businesses to relocate to Kentucky.

The most bizarre aspect of Hawpe's rant is that he implicitly criticizes McConnell for doing too well, for bringing too much research money to Kentucky colleges, though he does so with the back-handed compliment to McConnell: "Give credit where it's due."

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, earmarks for colleges have increased since the Democrats took control of Congress (though they campaigned to end earmarks). Even Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have won earmarks to support colleges in their states. McConnell just does it better.

Here's a sampling why McConnell deserves not only credit but our thanks and our vote. The University of Louisville this year ranks 11th in terms of earmarks, according to Higher Education, with total of $21.2 in federal grants. Note that five years ago, before McConnell became Republican Leader, U of L ranked 36th, with $12.6 million. Seniority matters. Any state that replaces a Senate party leader with a Freshman will lose millions of dollars as a direct result.

McConnell took care of University of Kentucky, too. This year, UK ranked 14th in the earmark contest, netting $17.6 in federal money. That's up from 43rd ($11.5) in 2003.

Many other Kentucky institutions of higher learning received federal money. So much so, that Higher Education ranks Kentucky second in the nation for "academic pork": $165 million. There's no way that the Kentucky General Assembly would give our colleges that amount of money, no matter how much it hiked taxes.

As for Hawpe and anyone else who is bitter about not being taxed enough, you are free to write a check to the Commonwealth or your favorite school.

We do owe Hawpe a thank you, of sorts. He is the nearest thing that McConnell has to a real opponent, and the election would be tedious without a little opposition.


Jean said...

Wow. The only people I've seen flunk out of college have been the trust fund kids, not ones with financial aid. I'd say a more worthy pork project would be to resume funding federal grant programs. Still, Hawpe is really overreaching with this one.

Bridget M. Bush said...

That's my point. The kids with financial aid are also have loans -- they have a stake in graduating.