Friday, August 17, 2012

The Other One Percent (guest blog)

Every now and again a subscriber, either by email or in the comments section of the blog, presents me with a perspective that expands a given topic – taking it yet deeper than did my essay.  This is one of those times.  Professor Baldis is a deep thinker and clearly a free market ideologue.  I found his history lesson on the contribution to education by some of America’s most successful individuals to be particularly provocative.  As well as his question as to where we’d be if the redistributive forces that too-many professors advocate were unleashed onto our society.  This was his reply to my recent column Never took Economics.  The second to last sentence of the last paragraph speaks to how desperately neglected are the economics departments of today’s universities…


The (Other) One Percent

The title of this reply is “The Other 1%”. The economics professor that you refer to in your essay rails against the “1%” who has more than they should have, needs, and deserves.  It doesn’t matter what they started with, how they got it, or what they plan to do with it.  The fact is…the 99% don’t have it, particularly the professor.  Why this attitude?  Envy (identified as one of the seven deadly sins, I believe) can cloud thinking and judgment.  After all, it’s not fair that the professor spent the first 18 years of his life engaged in public education programs, and then spent the next 10 years of his life attending universities, culminating in a Ph.D.; termed a “terminal” degree, because there is none higher.  (Or is it because that’s when one stops thinking and learning?)

‘Poor’ professor, for 28 years he worked hard in school.  In fact, only 1% (the other 1%) of the U.S. population has a doctoral degree.  You would think that the intellectual elite would be compensated very well.  The top 1% in business are compensated with millions!  Professors may make $100,000, give or take. (FYI, CSU Fresno professors make $65,000 – $95,000. A few do make more, some less).  The ‘poor’ professor says, “It’s not fair!”  (Envy)

The professor reported, “My parents started reading to me on the day of my birth, because the Department of Health and Human Services website (supported through federal taxpayer funding) said it was healthy and the right thing to do.  My parents carefully followed the California Department of Education, Infant/Toddler Learning and Development Guidelines (supported through California State taxpayer funding) to ensure I began learning as soon as possible.  I was enrolled in preschool programs through the California First Five program (supported through California State taxpayer funding).  My parents used my uncle’s address as our home address so that I could attend public school (supported through California State taxpayer funding) in a better, oops…uh, different school district.”  (The professor began his life living according to guidelines written by learned authorities (Ph.D.’s) and funded by taxpayer monies; gee…I wonder how this might influence his thinking?)

The professor says, “I went to Columbia School of Business to earn my B.A.!” (Established in 1916 by the trustees of Columbia University with a generous supporting gift from Emerson McMillin, founder of E. McMillin & Company, a New York bank).

The professor shouts, “I attended the Wharton School of Business to earn my M.B.A.!” (In 1881, American entrepreneur and industrialist, Joseph Wharton, founder of Bethlehem Steel Corp., provided the money to establish the world’s first collegiate school of business.)  The professor cried out, “I attended Harvard Business School and spent countless hours in the Baker Library to earn my Ph.D.!” (In 1924 George F. Baker donated $5,000,000 dollars to build the HBS.  He was a co-founder of the First National Bank of the City of New York, the forerunner of today’s Citibank N.A.)

Wow!  Who would have thought that all those greedy, undeserving, 1%’ers would give away so much? Even today, the Bill Gates Foundation gives away about $1,000,000 a month!  I wonder how much all those people would be able to give away if they only brought home $50,000 a year.  I wonder where we would sit our fat rear-ends to watch concerts if SaveMart had been broken up into Mom & Pop stores?  I wonder where the severely injured and burned would be treated if the Peters family were forced to pay 75% of their money in taxes?  I wonder where our CSUF students of business would study if Sid and Jenny Craig hadn’t been allowed to capitalize on our fat rear-ends because Obama Care determined that only the government should provide those types of healthcare services?

But, back to our ‘poor’ professor.  (Of course, we won’t dwell on the fact that he chose his career path) Twenty-eight years in school (paid for by scholarships, grants, and state and federal financial aid).  Lands his first teaching job at age 29 at CSUF (working for the government).  Spends the next 10 months (remember summer vacation) of every year for the next 5 years working diligently to earn tenure. (Really?  A guaranteed job for life?  Vive la France!)  He then spends the next 8 years working hard through the promotion ranks to achieve full professor status.  At age 42, he’s now at the top of his profession (still working for the government) and making less than $100,000 a year.  It’s not fair!  (Envy)

After all, he has a lot of knowledge about economics.  So what is missing?  Umm?  Oh yeah…experience. Well, actually he has experience.  His experience is working for the government.  He has experienced the fact that his budget, his salary, his expenses are all reimbursed by the state (government).  His entire lifestyle depends on tax revenues.  So why should we expect him to teach economics any differently than he does.  We teach what we know.  This guy has been supported, in one way or another, by tax revenues for his entire life.  Everything that has allowed him to be where he is today has come from taxes and government.  Therefore, if he seeks to have more, he returns to the wellspring of life…taxes and government.

It is said that knowledge plus experience equals wisdom.  In his own way, the professor is wise.  (I guess, well….????).  What we need is perhaps what Emerson McMillin, Joseph Wharton, and George F. Baker might have been thinking.  Let’s take the best and the brightest, who have private sector, “real-world” experience (as they did) and give them a little “book learnin’.”  Now that’s the recipe for an effective economics professor.  I nominate Marty Mazorra.  My years of conversations with him tell me that he is exactly what university economics departments need.

Sorry for rambling on so long.  It’s what us college teachers do.

Mark Baldis, Ph.D.
Department of Kinesiology
California State University, Fresno



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