After decades of stagnating income, social upheaval and family dislocation, the white working class has found a champion in Donald Trump. Disaffected by both the Republican and Democrat politicians, these individuals are searching for political leadership and action that will address their concerns and frustrations with a system that they perceive as “fixed” -tilted toward the rich and powerful. A detailed analysis of these Americans can be found in a recent article in the NY Times by Thomas B. Edsall.
While national political leaders have tried to tap into voter discontent, the question that I think left unanswered is what to do about it. What changes in government policies and priorities will help this great numbers of angry Americans?
Let me offer a partial but I think powerful prescription – fund public higher education by making it possible for individuals to attend a public college or university at little or no cost. The country has tried this experiment before with great success – the GI bill that enabled millions to obtain a college degree, led to the growth of both public and private higher education and laid the basis for an extra-ordinary period of economic growth and civic health in the United States during the period 1944 to 1968.
Nationally, an infusion of money to reduce or eliminate public higher education student costs will have the following salutary effects:
· Enable large numbers of individuals to obtain a college credential;
· Encourage individuals who are worried about the cost of college to begin higher education;
· Keep high school graduates off the streets and busy learning and advancing toward a good career;
· Provide skilled employees for growing US businesses;
· Boost economic activity immediately by expanding colleges and universities and long-term by helping businesses grow;
· Reduce student college debt making it possible for college graduates to buy a house and start a family;
· Increase tax revenue at the state and federal level as graduates obtain decent paying jobs and businesses expand.