FAIL STATE now available to stream on-demand:
Broadcasting and streaming on STARZ: December 17th, 2018
Watch the official trailer for #FailStateMovie
Executive produced by news legend Dan Rather, Fail State investigates the dark side of American higher education, chronicling the decades of policy decisions in Washington, D.C. that have given rise to a powerful and highly-predatory for-profit college industry. With echoes of the subprime mortgage crisis, the film lays bare how for-profit colleges exploit millions of low-income and minority students, leaving them with worthless degrees and drowning in student loan debt. Director Alexander Shebanow traces the rise, fall, and resurgence of the for-profit college industry, revealing its Wall Street Backing and the lawmakers enabling widespread fraud and abuse in American higher education.
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Official Site: https://failstatemovie.com/
It’s hard to make plans when the rules keep changing.
With each passing week it becomes ever clearer that Donald Trump’s trade war, far from being “good, and easy to win,” is damaging large parts of the U.S. economy.
- Farmers are facing financial disaster; manufacturing, which Trump’s policies were supposed to revive, is contracting;
- consumer confidence is plunging, largely because the public (rightly) fears that tariffs will raise prices.
But Trump has an answer to his critics: It’s not me, it’s you. Last week he declared that businesses claiming to have been hurt by his tariffs should blame themselves, because they’re “badly run and weak.”
As with many Trump statements, one immediate thought that comes to mind is, how would Republicans have reacted if a Democratic president said something like that? In this case, however, we don’t have to speculate.
As some readers may recall, back in 2012 Barack Obama made the obvious and true point that businesses depend on public investments in things like roads and education as well as on their own efforts. Referring to those public investments, he said, “You didn’t build that.” The usual suspects pounced, taking the line out of context and claiming that he was disrespecting entrepreneurs; Mitt Romney made this claim a centerpiece of his presidential campaign.
Attacks on Obama as being anti-business were, of course, made in bad faith. Trump, however, really is denouncing businesses and blaming them for the problems his policies have created. And tariffs aren’t the only policy area where Trump and American business are now at odds.
Some of Trump’s most consequential actions involve his frantic efforts to dismantle environmental regulation. Unlike tariffs, this may at first sound like something business would want.
It turns out, however, that many businesses want to keep those regulations in place. Major oil and gas producers oppose Trump’s relaxation of rules on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Major auto producers have come out against Trump’s attempt to roll back fuel efficiency standards. In fact, in a move that has reportedly enraged Trump, several companies have reached an agreement with the state of California to stick with Obama-era rules despite the change in federal policy.
When Trump won his upset victory in 2016, many investors assumed that his rule would be good for business. And he did indeed give corporations a huge tax cut — which has almost entirely been used for higher dividends and stock buybacks, with workers getting essentially nothing.
Aside from the tax cut, however, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Trumpism is bad for business. Or more precisely, it’s bad for productive business.
Imagine yourself as the head of a business that plans and expects to be around for a long time. Sure, you’d like to pay less in taxes and not have to comply with costly regulations. But you also want to invest in your company’s future. And to do that, you need some assurance that the rules of the game will be stable, so that whatever investments you make now aren’t suddenly made worthless by future shifts in policy.
The big complaint business has about Trump’s trade war isn’t just that tariffs raise costs and prices, while foreign retaliation is cutting off access to important markets. It is that businesses can’t make plans when policy zigzags in response to the president’s whims. They don’t want to invest in anything that relies on a global supply chain, because that supply chain might unravel with Trump’s next tweet. But they can’t invest on the assumption that Trump’s tariffs will be permanent, either; you never know when or whether he’ll declare victory and surrender.
Environmental policy, it turns out, is similar. Business leaders aren’t do-gooders, but they are realists. Most of them understand that climate change is happening, that it’s dangerous, and that we’ll eventually have to transition to a low-emissions economy. They want to spend now to secure their place in that future economy; they know that investments that worsen climate change are bound to be long-run losers. But they’ll hold off on investing in our energy future as long as conspiracy theorists who consider global warming a gigantic hoax — and/or vindictive politicians determined to erase Obama’s achievements — keep rewriting the rules.
To be fair, however, some kinds of business do thrive under Trumpism — namely, businesses that aren’t in it for the long run, operations whose strategy is to take the money and run. These are good times for
- mining companies that rush in to extract whatever they can, leaving a poisoned landscape behind; for
- real estate speculators sponsoring dubious ventures that take advantage of newly created tax loopholes;
- for for-profit colleges that leave their students with worthless degrees and crippling debt.
In other words, under Trump it’s springtime for grifters.
But to say the obvious, these smash-and-grab operations aren’t the kinds of business we want to thrive. Put it this way: Remaking the U.S. economy in the image of Trump University isn’t exactly making America great again.
And why should they be?One of the problems with elite universities is that they accustom students to a sense of prestige that’s both superficial and inhibits a certain kind of risk-taking and genuine nonconformity. Obviously that’s not universally true but it is hard to move off the beaten path when the one before you seems well-lit and glittering. It’s also a truism that failure is life’s great teacher, and whatever else the beneficiaries of the cheating may get, they are being deprived of something ultimately more valuable.
The larger question is whether this scandal exposes how rotten the entire enterprise of higher education has become. I personally think the four-year college model is crazy — it should be three years, as it is in England. And that’s just for starters. We need to reinvent the model root-to-branch. That’s one of the reasons I’m against making college available to all: You are merely funneling more students into a system of increasingly dubious value.
Gail: Kids who can’t afford to go to college and who would benefit from college should get government funding. But the loan system is a different question. It’s worrisome. I’ve always wondered if high school graduates should have to work a year or two — volunteer programs count — before they can commit to an expensive education.
Bret: Agree completely. Frankly every 18-year-old at any level of income would benefit from a year of service of some sort. I know I would have, and I’d love to see my children take a gap year or two before college.
Gail: Our current government loan program is terrible. It helps schools grow by building up unnecessary programs and of course encourages kids to take out huge debt they’ll be dragging around for half their lives. The for-profit schools are the most egregious offenders. Many of them rake in a ton of money by making promises they can’t deliver on — great high-paying jobs that never materialize. I’m not sure students should even be able to get federal loans for for-profit schools. What do you think?
Bret: I don’t share your profound skepticism regarding for-profit schools, but I think you’re right on this point. The federal government should not be indirectly subsidizing for-profit entities, period, especially when they have a questionable track record of achieving the results they promise. Then again, I’m skeptical of federal student loans in general, because I think they help drive up the cost of tuition, exacerbating the problem they’re intended to solve.
.. Gail: What we need is so simple — strong background checks on gun purchases, a ban on rapid-fire weapons that make it easy to mow down dozens of people. But I wonder sometimes if we could up the ante. Require that everybody who buys a gun has to be able to demonstrate both an understanding of gun safety and a minimal level of marksmanship. The one thing we don’t talk about is how inept many gun owners are. You need a decent amount of skill to be able to hit a target, particularly if you’re nervous or on the move. Unless, of course, your target is a mass of people at prayer.
.. Bret: None. And it is particularly disappointing to see a Republican like Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a so-called constitutional conservative, vote with the president just weeks after he delivered a statement denouncing the national-emergency declaration. It means that Republicans have no higher principle than their own political self-preservation.
So now it will be up to the Supreme Court to act to defend the separation of powers. Don’t be surprised if Chief Justice John Roberts or another conservative justice delivers the majority opinion against the president, along with the court’s liberal wing. As we both know, the Trump presidency makes for strange bedfellows.
The special investigative team was created in 2016 after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, which catalyzed a flurry of complaints from students about predatory activities at for-profit schools. The institutions had been accused of widespread fraud that involved misrepresenting enrollment benefits, job placement rates and program offerings, which could leave students with huge debts and no degrees.
.. Under the Obama administration, the group was investigating not only DeVry, now known as Adtalem Global Education, but also Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, which also operate large for-profit schools.
.. The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor. Former employees of Bridgepoint and Career Education also work for Ms. DeVos, including Robert S. Eitel, her senior counselor, who worked for both, and Diane Auer Jones, a senior adviser on postsecondary education, who was with Career Education.
.. Last month, Congress confirmed the appointment of a lawyer who provided consulting services to Career Education, Carlos G. Muñiz, as the department’s general counsel. And Bridgepoint is a former client of Mercedes Schlapp, the director of strategic communications at the White House.
If the Trump economy were so wonderful, why would the speaker of the House feel the need to traffic in disingenuousness? Because the Trump economy isn’t actually so wonderful. For most Americans, it is downright mediocre, and it has deteriorated somewhat since President Trump took office, despite the healthy G.D.P. and unemployment statistics.
.. As a result of the growth, nominal wages — that is, the numbers people see in their paychecks, before taking inflation into account — are growing. You can see the pickup in the gentle upward slope of the chart’s solid gray line. Over the past year, the average hourly nominal wage has risen 2.7 percent.
.. Prices matter, too. When the prices of good and services are rising faster than nominal wages, people end up with less buying power. And that is exactly what’s happening now.
.. Events in the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela have reduced the supply of oil, even as a growing global economy is increasing demand. Trump has aggravated the situation by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, further raising oil prices.
.. My best guess is that real wages will do modestly better over the next year, barring another oil spike or an unexpected recession. But there is no reason to think that most Americans are on the cusp of truly healthy pay increases
.. They face too many obstacles:
- Companies that are larger and more powerful than they used to be;
- unions that are weaker; and,
- thanks in large part to Trump, a federal government that keeps siding against workers, be it on
Right now, Trump is presiding over precisely the wage growth that he deserves: zero.