Editor, Casa Grande Dispatch:
Recent news and opinion pieces have focused on the problem of student debt. Nothing new there; I recognized this syndrome of economic disease decades ago and have spent those decades using some of my pension protecting my six grandchildren from it with 529 funds as a vaccine.
But that independent activity wouldn’t have been necessary if our society had continued the efforts to strengthen our democracy begun in the 1950s and ‘60s. Those efforts included consolidating school districts to begin the nearly impossible goal of equality of educational preparation for college; a minimum wage so that ambitious teenagers might have a chance of overcoming the near poverty of their families; and government assistance in the form of interest-free loans for college students if they became teachers (paying forward the effort to improve the country’s literacy by forgiving the loans completely if the recipient taught in public schools for five years).
Over the intervening years our society has gone through some positive changes as well as some negative ones, but has stalled (maybe even crashed) in the realm of public education. Legislatures at both state and federal levels have made sure their rich supporters have kept up with (or jetted past) the cost of living. To do this they have punished the middle class, however, every way they could conceive. Cuts to public education have been decapitations instead of trimmings. While the cost of living is 10 times what it was, the federal minimum wage is only three times what I could earn working summers to pay my tuition for the whole year.
As long as we have governments that are totally biased in favor of those who earn or steal millions each year, we will never achieve the true democracy our founding fathers dreamed of and our children hope and pray for.