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The Lighthouse


The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 39: September 27, 2016

  1. Clinton’s “Free College” Isn’t Free
  2. Would Trump and Clinton Drive America over the Fiscal Cliff?
  3. Seeking Accountability for Wells Fargo Rip-Off
  4. Is President Obama an Aspiring Rodney Dangerfield?
  5. Job Openings at Independent Institute
  6. Independent Updates


1) Clinton’s “Free College” Isn’t Free

Hillary Clinton was trying to win over young voters from the Bernie Sanders camp when, last July, she cribbed from her socialist rival’s playbook and made “free college” a campaign promise of her own. While Clinton’s political calculation may have been clever, her economic calculation—how to fully pay for her New College Compact—was anything but. According to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, “free college” is not something that a federal government nearly $20 trillion in debt can afford.

Offering tuition-free college for students from households earning less than $125,000 per year—eight out of 10 American families—would cost an estimated $350 billion over ten years. To foot the tab, Clinton proposes a tax on the top quintile of income earners, along with taking dollars from a few other revenue sources. But the numbers just don’t add up. “In reality, the plan doesn’t come close to covering public tuition and fees, which now total more than $70 billion annually—twice the projected yearly cost of Clinton’s plan,” Alger writes.

But it’s the hidden costs that might worry us the most. If you think colleges devote too many resources to remedial education, just wait until enrollment swells under the Clinton/Sanders plan. “Perhaps the greatest cost of all to Clinton’s free college plan is nurturing the notion that a college degree is an entitlement, not something earned,” Alger writes. As educational quality deteriorates, don’t be surprised if a B.S. degree comes to mean something other than Bachelor of Science, and a worthless college diploma is used for something other than decorating a wall.

Hardly: ‘Free’ College Plan Comes with $350 Billion Price Tag, by Vicki E. Alger (Boston Herald, 9/20/16; The Sacramento Bee, 9/15/16; and other Tribune News Service newspapers)

Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, by Vicki E. Alger

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2) Would Trump and Clinton Drive America over the Fiscal Cliff?

What will dominate the remainder of the presidential election season—personality clashes or policy differences? With egos as big as Trump’s and Clinton’s, it’s a safe bet that important details about critical national issues will get the short end of the stick. Among the most troublesome problems the next U.S. president will face (or worse: not face) is the nation’s fiscal dilemma. Unfortunately, neither Trump nor Clinton offers much hope for bringing government spending under control, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann.

Whatever the differences in their spending plans, “the similarities between Trump’s and Clinton’s budget proposals probably matter far more than their differences,” Eyermann writes. Every indication shows that federal deficits and total public debts will continue to grow for as far as the eye can see, regardless of whether the next president is named Donald or Hillary.

“Whether quickly or slowly, the nation’s fiscal ship is headed for the rocks, and neither Trump nor Clinton has a credible plan for changing course,” Eyermann concludes.

Whose Budget Is Worse—Trump’s or Clinton’s?, by Craig Eyermann (InsideSources.com, 9/14/16)

MyGovCost.org – What’s Washington Costing You?

Video: Love Gov: From First Date to Mandate

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3) Seeking Accountability for Wells Fargo Rip-Off

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was the envy of no one last Tuesday when he sat in the Senate Banking Committee’s hot seat, trying to defend his actions regarding the bank’s fraudulent customer-account scandal. It’s no wonder why elected officials tore into him. Although Wells Fargo fired 5,300 workers implicated in the create-a-phony-account-to-make-easy-money scheme, the public wants someone held really accountable for abetting massive fraud—accountable as in doing jail time.

As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan writes in the San Francisco Chronicle,unless guilty people are held personally accountable for their criminal behavior, the wheels of justice will have yet to turn.”

Since at least the bank bailouts of the financial crisis, voices from across the political spectrum have complained that the system is “rigged” in favor of politically connected elites, especially the captains of high finance. Learning that federal prosecution of white-collar crime reached a 20-year low last year only adds to the perception of unfairness. “Americans deserve to see thorough investigations, indictments, convictions and real jail time for business criminals,” McQuillan writes, “not merely fines and political posturing.”

Jail Time Needed, Not Fines, for CEO of Wells Fargo, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/20/16)

Financing Failure: A Century of Bailouts, by Vern P. McKinley

Boom and Bust Banking: The Causes and Cures of the Great Recession, edited by David Beckworth

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4) Is President Obama an Aspiring Rodney Dangerfield?

Barack Obama may be the Rodney Dangerfield of the world stage. But if the U.S. president gets no respect, it’s not because he’s personally weak, but rather because the United States lacks a global grand strategy, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

The perception that the White House is having trouble in the global appreciation department was reinforced earlier this month when Philippine President Rodrigo “The Punisher” Duterte hurled profanity at Obama. But the deeper problem, Eland argues, is that the American president’s blurry foreign-policy vision commits the United States to so many allies that it can’t focus on anything in particular.

Obama, and whoever replaces him in the Oval Office, would do well to heed these words of Prussian king and military strategist Frederick the Great: “To defend everything is to defend nothing.” Doing so, according to Eland, implies reducing the U.S. security umbrella, playing only the role of a power-balancer of last resort, and sending resources that are currently squandered by the Pentagon to the place where they would be employed productively—America’s private economy. Carrying all this out, Eland tells us, would “ensure [U.S.] status as a great power for decades to come.”

Why President Obama Has Difficulty Garnering Respect Internationally, by Ivan Eland (Huffington Post, 9/22/16)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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5) Job Openings at Independent Institute

Want to help improve the world? Independent Institute is currently seeking enthusiastic, professionally minded liberty-lovers to fill three new job openings: Grants Writer, Publications Director, and Production Manager. (And we are always on the lookout for student interns.)

Few—precious few!—jobs offer the opportunity to grow professionally while advancing the cause of freedom. That’s why, when Independent Institute has job openings, we like to share this news with as many friends as possible.

If you’re not currently seeking a transformational job change but know someone who is, please forward this announcement or direct them to our Employment Opportunities page.

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6) Independent Updates


The Beacon: New Blog Posts
MyGovCost: New Blog Posts
Featured Video
News Alert

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  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org