22 August 2011

Who's Government Funded?; More Shared Sacrifice: Students Bear Burden; Jury's out for Professors; Massive Debt? Thank GW Bush; Bluffing out Confessions

It's hard to tell which party represents the average workers and which party receives the average workers' votes. It's a bit mind boggling when a 57 year old disabled veteran on Social Security, receiving Veteran's Insurance, and receiving meals-on-wheels votes republican. That's called voting against one's own self-interest and it happens all of the time especially since many of the folks who benefit from government social programs don't believe that they are receiving government assistance.

Suzanne Mettler of Cornell University found precisely that. In "Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenges of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era" Mettler uncovered that large percentages of people receiving government assistance actually believed it was not government assistance (e.g. the guy with the "Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare).  Turns out that's not so rare.


So we're all in this together.  That's true if "together" has semantically shifted and now means the poor are screwed.  The burden of the sacrifices pushed for in Washington by the tea baggers and republicans are again targeted at a minority class who receive assistance that accounts for a negligible amount of government spending: graduate students.

Even though the Prez wants more access to higher education, he's willing to waive the nominal amounts spent by the fed on interest accrued on graduate student loans as part of the cuts in the recent debt discussions and compromise.  Even though Pres. Obama seemingly fought with little effort, these cuts are purely republican reductions.  Republicans are forced to cut to any social programs that benefit citizens because they are unwilling to raise more revenue or cut military spending.  The cuts to student aid will save the government $18 billion over the next ten years.  And it will mean graduate students will be spending a lot more time at their parents' homes.  Another very good reason why parents of graduate students should be voting against republicans.


Also in higher education, a new study found that socioeconomic equity in America is but a myth.  The evidence is in the pudding of elite colleges and universities.

For many years the one thing America really had going for it, one advantage over the rest of the world, was the higher education sector.  Poor, rich, minority, majority - the level playing ground was the university setting.  That is quickly evaporating.  The costs associated with higher education are rising making equity in higher education a thing of the past.


Evidently professors are too liberal to serve as jurors and the Nevada Supreme Court agrees. 


Thanks to Lori Montgomery for this article devoted to the causes of our current debt crisis.  If there are people you know who think Obama is responsible for the mess we're in, get them a copy of this article; it's more articulate than anything in the Wisconsin State Journal.


Almost last but not least is this fascinating study on false confessions.  Saul Kassin and Jennifer Perillo of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice instructed a group of university students that they were taking part in a test of their reaction times.  The students were asked to press keys on a keyboard but not to push the ALT key because depressing the ALT key would cause the computer to crash and all of the data to be lost.

The computer, in fact, was designed to crash no matter which keys were pushed.  When this happened, the student was accused of pushing the illicit key.  When prodded to confess, a quarter of the students confessed to pushing the error causing button when in actuality only one student had pushed the ALT button.
"Results suggest that the phenomenology of innocence can lead innocents to confess even in response to relatively benign interrogation tactics."

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