Monday, May 15, 2017

When The 'The Shoe' Doesn't Fit

The release in April by The Ohio State University of its top earners, 13 of whom pull in more than $1 million per year, will impress many who see seven-figure salaries and figure a big, nationally recognized public university like OSU is doing what it has to to compete for top talent.

At the same time salaries for public employees like head football and basketball coaches dwarf that of OSU's actual president by millions, the average student debt for OSU graduates is approximately $27,336 after four years, a tidy sum that puts the pressure on those graduates to find jobs to pay it all back while also affording a life outside their parent's basements. The burden of student loans, which by law cannot be refinanced at lower interest rates, prevents these newly minted graduates from participating as good consumers by buying cars or homes because they don't have the disposable cash.

Data released by OSU shows how misplaced the university's priorities have come to be: head football coach Urban Meyer rakes in $4.61 million in salary and bonus pay. Urban is followed by men's basketball coach, Thad Matta, at $3.39 million. OSU President Michael Drake, by contrast, earns a paltry $1.04 million, which includes a $204,000 bonus. In the mightiest of all departments at OSU, athletics, Director Gene Smith won't have to worry where his next meal is coming from with a yearly income draw of $1.98 million.

Student athletes, the ones who win the big games and whose performance nets hundreds of millions into Scarlet and Green coffers, are unpaid. Paying them like any university employee would be the right thing to do in light of what they do to further the brand and create revenue, but the long-standing taboo that shrouds amateur athletes remains strong, even though coaches' salaries is a point of commercial pride for their respective universities.

Ohio remains above average in college costs, as college boards raise tuition whenever the legislature lets them. Gov. John Kasich, aided by his fiscal conservatives in Ohio's GOP-led General Assembly, stemmed cut back on funding public colleges, which only motivates trustees to mind the gap by raising fees and tuition when they can.

And since Gov. Kasich can't produce enough jobs, even with his so-called friendly attitude toward business, the ones he does take credit for are jobs that mostly pay minimum wage, guaranteeing those job holders need to find other incomes sources to make ends meet each month. Ohio's lame-duck CEO has consistently under performed the national job creation average for over 50 straights months, so while it sounds impressive when he says he's overseen the creation of 460,000 jobs, some of them came on the heels of former Gov. Ted Strickland leaving office, while the rest have trickled over the last six years.

Ohio ranks in the bottom half of states in job creation, according to the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, a well respected national analyst of how well states perform in economics.
It's no wonder that Ohio suffers from a so-called "brain drain" as students get their K-12 education here, then move to states where good-paying jobs are being created, like California, a favorite whipping boy for Kasich who mocks it as a "whackadoodle" state, which under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and a Democratic legislature has turned into a leading job creator. In other categories, like green energy jobs, the Golden State is truly golden compared to Ohio that once had the nation's most advanced energy portfolio but squandered it as Gov. Kasich called for a reset.

John Kasich has bemoaned the fact that Ohio has plenty of jobs but is wanting in applicants with the right skill set to fill them. As Dean Baker at the Economic Policy Institute argues, those jobs would be filled if wages offered were higher. Who wants to work for low pay when they have skills that should command higher wages? But wages are not rising, having been essentially stagnant for 30 years. If skilled workers are in demand, they would be seeing it in their paychecks, but that's not happening. So Gov. Kasich's claim that more training is needed is politically artful but bogus.

Instead of standing up to the wasteful spending of tens of billions of dollars in for-profit charter schools that mostly perform below the worse public schools, Mr. Kasich should look to Ohio's future, if it's an educated workforce he wants. He should change course 180 degrees and renew funding to Ohio's still unconstitutional system of public education, including boosting funding for public colleges and universities.

Instead of paying outrageous sums to individuals who have as many hours in their day as anyone else, and who are now leasing out assets for decades in exchange for a fistful of dollars now—sold in part to help boost student scholarships—to offset the funding Camp Kasich isn't giving them, Ohio lawmakers should go back to what made Ohio great in the first place: public funding for important core public needs like a quality education and functional infrastructure. But that's unlikely as Ohio's 69th governor has more important spending priorities like funding income tax cuts for the wealthiest, a manifestation of his ideology to wean groups and individuals off pubic assistance. But after decades of demonizing government as spendthrifts and bureaucrats dismissive of local needs, the emphasis remains to allow private sector corporations to rob workers of high payer. With profits at record levels and tax rates at record low levels, returning value to shareholders is the best and highest use of after expense profits for governors like Mr. Kasich who want to work "at the speed of business." The cost of labor is to be minimized like any other business expense.

Speaking in Columbus Thursday, urban soothsayer Richard Florida, author of "The Creative Class," told an audience at the Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State University that ""I think we need to understand that we as a society are not going to function well if we don't pay people a living wage," according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Who wouldn't want to make a million or more per year of income? The question should be, when will austerity politicians wise up to the fact that their plans to create a livable society has failed miserably? The downhill slide started with President Ronald Reagan, who famously said government isn't the solution, it's the problem. Tax shifting that creates more income inequality may result in big pay for university honchos, but it only pounds another nail into the coffin of workers who wonder if they'll have a job tomorrow, and what it will pay when compared to the cost of a robot working 24/7 forever, without need of shelter, food, healthcare or retirement income.

If 1,000 people were stopped on the street at random and asked to give their first thought about The Ohio State University, the odds are better than great that they would mention the glorious history over time for the men of the scarlet and gray. The stadium where the men's football team plays home games, built in the 1920's with an eye to the future, has been dubbed "The Shoe" since it resemblance a horseshoe. It seats more than 100,000 clamoring fans who pay big bucks to watch the current coach lead his team to victory, and maybe even a national championship.

Maybe thinking outside "The Shoe" for a change is what's needed in light of the pay scale at OSU? And maybe, just maybe, this shoe shouldn't fit anymore. With concussions on the rise, can anyone imagine a day when men's football is divorced from university academics? In other countries, soccer teams are run like clubs. When students go to Oxford or Cambridge or any other great world university outside America, they don't go there because these institutions of higher learning have a great sports team.
Isn't the education, stupid, that should count, not whether OSU beat Michigan this year or not.

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