This was published as an op-ed in the August 3, edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper in Conway, NH. I've been writing an opinion column for this conservative paper since 1997.
The NH Dept. of Education released a report this week on the Status of Higher Education in New Hampshire. Those who believe in higher education and wish to keep our young people in our state will find much to be concerned about in this report. Those who abhor every dime spent on education and believe that colleges are seething hotbeds of liebrulism won’t bother to read the report, and wouldn’t be able to understand it if they did.
One surprising bit of information from the report is that NH’s high school dropout rate has continued to decrease, reaching a low of nearly 1%. I was skeptical of Governor Lynch’s plan to keep kids in school when they didn’t want to be there, but clearly, the plan is working. A high school diploma is essential these days, and so is some form of higher education or training, if one wants to be able to live indoors.
As I’ve written before (endlessly) NH ranks in last place for state funding of higher education. That was true before the last biennium when the Freebaglicans cut the already embarrassingly low level of funding in half.
Tuition at our two and four year colleges is amongst the highest in the nation. NH may be in 50th place for state funding of higher education, but we are number one in student debt. Yay! We’re number one!
The report shows that 5% fewer NH students are staying in state for their education than did a decade ago. In other words: our young people are going out of state for their education in increasing numbers. When they do, they are unlikely to come back. Good jobs are scarce, and our state’s over reliance on the property tax means they can’t afford to buy a house and start a family. And if they did, they’d still have to contend with the ongoing circular drama of how NH Republicans hate education spending at every level. It makes sense in a way. Educated folks have a harder time buying into the constant stream of GOP propaganda. Today’s Freebaglican Party counts on a populace that will repeat the endless sloganeering, without bothering to think an issue through.
A recent letter to the editor of this paper was full of breathless talk of how the Freebaglicans protected our individual liberties and freedoms in the NH legislature over the last biennium. It’s true that the legislature was deeply interested in protecting the rights of white, male, heterosexual gun owners. Women, on the other hand, got a heaping helping of “your uterus belongs to the state.” The writer also repeated the big lie about the $900 million deficit that the Democrats allegedly left behind. It’s a myth. There was stimulus money that the state used during the worst of the depression. It was one-time-only money, and everyone knew it. They knew they’d have to make cuts in the next biennium. The Republicans have spun that into whole cloth, to manufacture a huge “deficit.” Be sure to ask one of ‘em about the $11 million surplus that was left behind that they wanted to move into the state’s Rainy Day Fund in 2011. Then ask yourself how a legislature can have a huge deficit AND a surplus at the same time. As our friends on Sesame St. are fond of singing, “One of these things is not like the other.” The purveyors of freedumb and libertea are counting on you NOT to think.
William O’Brien, Speaker of the NH House, recently appeared on NHPR’s call in show, The Exchange. It’s available to listen to online if you missed it. If you are one of those folks who thinks NHPR is a hotbed of liberalism, I’d encourage you to listen to this interview. Host Laura Knoy failed to ask appropriate follow up questions at every opportunity, failing to challenge O’Brien as he made a number of astounding comments and claims. The 2011 budget cut state spending on the university system almost in half, and O’Brien criticized UNH for increasing tuition. O’Brien finds UNH is “inefficient.” What that really means is that there’s an employees union. The irony here is that O’Brien began his own college years at Framingham State University in Massachusetts: a publicly funded college, with an employees union.
This interview failed on every level. It was most apparent when O’Brien stated that the legislature HAD to pass a “partial birth abortion” law. Knoy didn’t ask him the obvious question – WHY? What was the hurry? She just sat there, letting him spin an intricate guano web, without challenging any of it. It was an amazing performance, rivaling only the interview she did with writer E.L. Doctorow who asked her at one point if she’d ever actually read one of his books. NHPR is the NH GOP’s secret weapon. Everyone knows that the Union Leader is the propaganda wing of the party, but NHPR gets blamed for being biased toward the left, when nothing could be further from the truth.
NH media is a big, sucking, black hole, and O’Brien knows it, and uses it to his advantage. He refused to allow a reporter from the Concord Monitor into his last press conference, because the paper printed a cartoon that made fun of him. It had nothing to do with the reporter in question, but most short despots have very thin skin, and so he refused to allow a reporter into the press conference. All of the other reporters present meekly filed in (including NHPR’s political reporter) and didn’t stand up for a fellow reporter, or for freedom of the press. This never became a big story in NH. Is it because the other media outlets were embarrassed by their own behavior? Or is it because they function on some level as propaganda purveyors for the GOP? Given that this is the first in the nation primary state, we are remarkably ill served by our media. It can only be seen as intentional.
“No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.” Thomas Jefferson