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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Column: Connect the dots

It is an awful time to be a student in California. UC students are getting a large dose of reality from the 32 percent increase in tuition. The student protests are a manifestation of the anger and pain felt by all students who now must pay more for a lesser education. I have a question for the protestors, though: What did you expect?

What generally seems to be missing from the protests is an acknowledgment of the reality of California’s crippling deficits. The economy is doing terribly, people are losing jobs, businesses are hurting and there is no end in sight. Students are feeling the pain that the rest of California citizens have been experiencing.

The collapse of the economy can’t be blamed on students. The responsibility for the current budget mess falls directly on elected officials and California citizens.

Everyone wants someone or something to blame for all of the problems we are facing. There is certainly a lot of blame to go around. We must be willing to take responsibility ourselves for what has transpired and then we must fix it.

What I hear from the protestors is just more of the same kind of thinking that put us in this terrible predicament. What I hear are things like, “Free education for everyone!” and “Whose university? Our university!” If this is your university then why don’t you pay for it?

The answer is that the protestors want or need somebody else to pay for what they have received, which is a world-class education at a prestigious university. Does that not come with a cost? So the university belongs to the people who paid for it. That means that it mostly belongs to California taxpayers.

All these years Californian politicians have been spending taxpayer money like it was both easy to come by and unlimited. Now that the lean years have come we will pay for this financial irresponsibility. The waste, fraud and abuse that politicians always rail against – but do nothing about – is now important to students who have to pay for it.

It might sound harsh, but the reality is that the budget cuts and tuition hikes are the result of running out of other people’s money. We are now feeling the pain of what is essentially a huge tax increase on students. It hurts, doesn’t it? Now maybe we will understand why taxes are such a big deal to those who pay them.

For years California has waged war on producers. More and more money is taken from the productive part of the state and is given to what is unproductive. Our money has been funneled to politicians, bureaucrats and administrators who have wasted it on overzealous regulation and unnecessary pork projects.

Do you approve of the job they are doing? Has the massive expansion of government, regulations, bureaucracy and taxes increased the value of your education, fostered prosperity or given you the chance to succeed?

Looking at California’s current situation I would say that the answer is a resounding “No!” This is why my columns focus on the money wasting agencies like the California Air Resources Board and budget busting projects like the High Speed Rail.

If we are unable to reassess our spending priorities and insist on assaulting those who have truly made our education possible, then we will continue to resume the unsustainable path that we are currently on.

Students will insist on raising taxes and government officials will insist on raising tuitions to fund their programs. This is taking the shortsighted and misguided path back to prosperity.

If a rising tide lifts all boats, what happens when the tide recedes? Our reliance on the most productive part of the economy to pay for an unsustainable budget crafted by those who produce nothing has left us high and dry. We risk greater disaster by draining the sea of prosperity further.

JARRETT STEPMAN is miffed but unsurprised by the massive tuition increase. You can send your protests to him at jstepman@ucdavis.edu.


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