If taxes remained the same for 99 out of 100 people, but increased for the top 1 percent of the population to what taxes were in the 1990s, the revenue output would be more than enough to pay tuition, fees, and books for students at all colleges and universities across the nation. This is one of the major points that Dan Clawson, a professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, made during his speech on public education as a public right at Tuesday’s “Where’s The Funding?” sit-in at the Student Union Ballroom.
Chants like “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard throughout the afternoon as a serious of 20 speakers, from Director Eve Weinbaum of the Labor Center to Melissa Urban from the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, spoke to inform students, faculty, and each other about budget cuts and government spending. Questions like, ‘why are we in this mess in the first place’, ‘who is being affected’ and ‘what can we do about it’ were addressed at the event, which was UMass’ part in a national teach-in that over 176 campuses participated in on April 5.
“Let’s fight for a society that puts human need before corporate greed”, said Madeline Burrows, a Wisconsin Protestor and member of the International Socialist Organization.
Burrows speech on ‘The Country’s Not Poor, So Why Are We?’ was an introduction to Sociology Professor Jo Comerford’s revelation that if corporations paid the 30% tax they are supposed to, the fiscal year of 2010 would have seen a revenue of $150 billion more. Last year General Motors paid zero taxes on their $14.2 billion profits and received $3.2 billion in tax credits. Falling corporate taxes, falling taxes for the wealthy, and rising payroll taxes are all changes that have created a larger gap between the rich and the poor.
But wondering where the money is coming from is only one part of the picture. A discretionary pie chart detailing the United State’s $1.24 trillion budget for fiscal year 2012 reveals that 57% will go to military funding. A mere 4% of that will go to education. UMass Sociology Prof. Dan Clawson said, “public universities are being privatized by cuts in funding”, before adding that in the 1980s a student could work 10 hours a week at a minimum wage job and earn enough for their tuition and fees. Today, the same student would have to work 29 hours a week, which would not cover additional costs like food and rent.
The UMass system faces $60 million in funding cuts, while UMass Amherst in particular will see $30 million in cuts. Sarah Donovan, a junior sociology major, specifically attended the teach-in for her human rights class, where they have been discussing a recent article from the Boston Globe that revealed incoming President Robert Caret’s salary to be $550,000 including retirement payments and a housing allowance. Outgoing President Jack Wilson saw a salary increase of 6.5% in 2009 to 2010 compared with the previous fiscal year, according to university figures and a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The teach-in ended with a two hour live stream from New York entitled Fightback USA: A National Teach-in On Austerity, Debt & Corporate Greed. Speakers included Frances Fox Piven, Cornell West, Jeffrey Sachs, Heather McGhee and Richard Trumka. For more information, visit the Fight Back Teach-in website.