The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, June 08, 2015, Image 6

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The Lone Star Stumble
Founded in 1873
STEPHEN A. FORRESTER, Editor & Publisher
LAURA SELLERS, Managing Editor
BETTY SMITH, Advertising Manager
CARL EARL, Systems Manager
JOHN D. BRUIJN, Production Manager
DEBRA BLOOM, Business Manager
HEATHER RAMSDELL, Circulation Manager
Colleges need holistic
approach for student gains
After a decade of starvation, ill-
ll politicians — from President Obama to governors — know
that praising community colleges is a guaranteed applause
line. But for all our vaunted appreciation of the role these commu-
nity-based colleges play in the post-secondary education matrix,
the Oregon Legislature has been starving them. It is no secret that
Oregon ranks 46th among states for its support of higher education.
A just-released audit and a state
Senate bill are useful windows on
what’s wrong and what might be
practical as countermeasures after
decades of neglect.
The audit by the Secretary of
State — “Community Colleges:
Targeted Investments Could
Improve Student Completion
Rates” — notes Oregon’s low
standing for community college
completion rates. It notes that pro-
grams designed to generate de-
gree completion don’t reach most
students. The audit recommends
gistic, to move more students to
degree completion.
At the same time, a legislative
triumvirate proposes a remedy for
one element in the student chal-
lenge. The legislators are Senate
Democrats Mark Hass and Tobias
Reed and House Republican Mark
Johnson. Their proposal is alter-
natively termed Last Dollar In
and free community college. The
idea is to use federal Pell Grant
money and state funds to ensure
graduates could attend community
college, effectively tuition-free.
But college leaders say this
concept could swamp unprepared
Oregon institutions.
If SB 91 became law, it might
trigger student enrollment that com-
munity colleges, such as Clatsop,
would lack the capacity to han-
dle. CCC President Larry Galizio
points out that, “Because funding
has been paltry for so long, we
don’t have the capacity — counsel-
ors and advisors — to help students
get good plans or the understanding
of how to navigate Oregon higher
education.” To survive the reces-
sion, CCC took drastic measures,
which included reducing the num-
ber of academic programs and the
size of the teaching staff.
Galizio notes that, “I’m a strong
proponent of the intent to increase
access and affordability.” But his
anxiety and realism is palpable.
The Secretary of State’s
audit makes a similar point:
“Community colleges have few
resources to devote to student suc-
cess initiatives.”
The phrase “holistic approach”
is perhaps overused these days.
But that is the only way out of the
self-limiting box that Oregon has
built for itself. Any move toward a
free tuition program must be cou-
to increase community colleges’
capacity to advise and counsel stu-
a third of the difference
Sam Brownback, the
between growth in Texas
state’s hard-right gover-
and growth in the rest of
nor, pushed through large
tax cuts that would, he
emember the Texas eco- the country.
promised, lead to rapid
nomic miracle?
economic growth with
two-thirds? Like the rest
In 2012, it was one of the three of the Sunbelt, Texas is
little, if any, loss of rev-
main arguments from then-Gov. VWLOO EHQH¿WLQJ IURP WKH
enue. But the promised
Rick Perry about why he should long southward shift of
boom never materialized,
be president, along with his strong America’s population that
support from the religious right and began with the coming
something else I can’t remember
there’s California, long
tioning; average January
(sorry, couldn’t help myself). More temperature remains a powerful mocked by the right as an economy
broadly, conservatives have long predictor of regional growth. Texas doomed by its liberal politics. Not
held Texas up as a supposed demon- also attracts new residents with its so much, it turns out: The budget is
stration that low taxes on the rich and permissive land-use policies, which back in surplus in part because the
emergence of a Democratic super-
harsh treatment of the poor are the have kept housing cheap.
keys to prosperity.
enact tax increases, and the state is
So it’s interesting to note that
experiencing a solid recovery.
But Texas
Texas is looking a lot less mirac-
The states, Louis Brandeis fa-
ulous lately than it used to. To be
mously declared, are the laborato-
fair, we’re talking about a modest
ries of democracy. In fact, Brown-
supposed to
stumble, not a collapse. Still, events
back himself described his plan as
in Texas and other states — notably
an “experiment” that would demon-
be like other
Kansas and California — are pro-
strate the truth of his economic doc-
viding yet another object demon-
trine. What it actually did, however,
stration that the tax-cut obsession
was demonstrate the opposite - and
much the same message is coming
that dominates the modern Repub-
supposed to
from other laboratories, from the
lican Party is all wrong.
be the shining
stumble in Texas to the comeback
The facts: For many years, eco-
in California.
nomic growth in Texas has consis-
exemplar of
Will anyone on the right take
tently outpaced growth in the rest
heed? Probably not. Unlike real
of America. But that long run ended
the economic
experimenters, Brownback wasn’t
in 2015, with employment growth
willing to take no for an answer,
payoff to
in Texas dropping well below the
whatever happened, and the same is
national average and a fall in lead-
true for just about everyone on his
ing indicators pointing to a further
side of the political divide. Or to put
slowdown ahead. In most states, this
it another way, belief that tax cuts
slowdown would be no big deal; oc-
are a universal elixir that cures all
casional underperformance is just a
economic ills is the ultimate zom-
fact of life. But everything is bigger
bie idea - one that should have died
tions, so the slowdown has come as
Now one of the three big driv- long ago in the face of the facts, but
something of a shock.
ers of Texas growth has gone into just keeps shambling along. Noth-
Now, there’s no mystery about reverse, as low world oil prices ing that has happened in the past
what is happening: It’s all about the are bringing the fracking boom to quarter-century has supported tax-
hydrocarbons. Texans like to point a screeching halt. Hey, things like cut mania, yet the doctrine’s hold
out that their state’s economy is a that happen to every state now and on the Republican Party is stronger
than ever. It would be foolish to
J.R. Ewing’s day, and they’re right.
But Texas wasn’t supposed to expect recent events to make much
But Texas still has a disproportion- be like other states. It was sup- difference.
Still, the spectacle of the Texas
ate share of the U.S. oil and gas posed to be the shining exemplar
LQGXVWU\ DQG LW EHQH¿WHG IDU PRUH of the economic payoff to reverse economy coming back to earth, and
than most other states from the Robin-Hood economics. So its re- Kansas sliding over the edge should
fracking boom. By my estimates, cent disappointments hit the right- at the very least make right-wing
about half the energy-related jobs wing cause hard — especially bombast ring hollow, in the general
created by that boom since it began coming on the heels of the Kansas election if not in the primary. And
someday, maybe, even conserva-
in the middle of the last decade were debacle.
in Texas, and this extractive-sec-
For those who haven’t been fol- tives will once again become will-
tor windfall accounted for about lowing the Kansas story, in 2012, ing to look at the facts.
New York Times News Service
The separation strategy on Iraq
New York Times News Service
n 2006, Joe Biden, Les Gelb
and many others proposed
plans to decentralize power in
Biden, then a U.S. senator from
Delaware, Gelb and others recog-
nized that Iraqi society was frac-
turing into sectarian blocs. They
believed that governing institutions
alties on the ground. According to
the Biden plan, the central Iraqi
government would still have per-
formed a few important tasks, but
many other powers would have
been devolved to regional gov-
ernments in the Sunni, Shiite and
Noble aim, but
unclear outcome
Bill would make criminals of
employers who seek truth
hould the criminal activity
of a job candidate be hidden
process? That is the essence of
a bill that seems likely to pass in
the waning days of the Oregon
HB 3025 is our state’s version
of a national campaign to give
ex-cons a break in landing a job.
Pushed by labor unions and so-
cial activists, the legislation would
make it unlawful for a business to
inquire about an applicant’s crimi-
nal history until either a condition-
al job offer is made or an interview
is conducted with the candidate.
HB 3025 would eliminate
the “criminal conviction” check
box commonly found on job ap-
plications. Advocates claim that
requiring that employers defer
background screening until a later
point in the hiring process would
allow ex-cons to be evaluated on
their merits rather than being auto-
lation, they say, will lead to more
jobs, reducing the crime rate.
The idea behind HB 3025 is
noble. Everyone deserves an op-
portunity to become gainfully
employed. But essentially hiding
criminal activity from an early
Screening applicants is an es-
sential part of the hiring practice.
It allows employers to narrow the
pool of applicants before setting
aside time and resources to review
don’t have human resources de-
partments to handle these tasks.
Federal and state laws have
made the termination process
more risky, so employers must
place more emphasis on making
solid hires. But the traditional ref-
erence check has been gutted by
legal restrictions on what former
employers can say. Adding yet
another barrier further cramps the
hiring process.
Under the bill, any employer
who runs afoul of the new law may
face a lawsuit and the prospect of
punitive damages. A judge also
could order the business to hire the
aggrieved candidate under a sec-
tion of the bill.
Making it lawful to conceal
an applicant’s criminal activi-
ty while making it a crime for
an employer to seek that infor-
mation is complicating, even
The administration of George
W. Bush rejected that federal-
ist approach and instead bet on a
Baghdad-centric plan. The Iraqi
prime minister at the time, Nouri
al-Maliki, and his band of Shiite
supremacists enflamed sectarian
tensions even more, consolidated
power, excluded rivals, alienated
the Sunnis and Kurds and drove
parts of the opposition into armed
The Obama administration
helped oust al-Maliki and replace
him with a group of more moderate
and responsible leaders. But that
approach is still centralized and
Baghdad-focused. The results are
nearly as bad. The Sunnis contin-
ue to feel excluded and oppressed.
Faith in national institutions has
collapsed. Sectarian lines are hard-
ening. Over the last several years,
the number of people who tell poll-
sters that they are Iraqis first and
foremost has plummeted.
Vastly outnumbered fighters for
the Islamic State keep beating the
Iraqi army in places like Ramadi
because the Islamic State terrorists
believe in their lunatic philosophy
while the Iraqi soldiers no longer
believe in their own leadership and
are not willing to risk their lives for
a dysfunctional, centralized state.
This attempt to impose top-
down solutions, combined with
President Barack Obama’s too-fast
withdrawal from Iraq, has contrib-
uted to the fertile conditions for the
rise of the Islamic State. Obama
properly vowed to erad-
been a failure. Instead
of fostering cooperation,
icate this terrorist force,
efforts to bring Sunni
but the U.S. is failing to
and Shiite elites togeth-
do so.
er have only rubbed at
That’s largely be-
raw wounds, exacerbat-
cause, mind-boggling-
ed tensions and acceler-
ly, the Iraqi government
ated the slide toward a
has lost the battle over
regional confrontation.
the hearts and minds to a
The Islamic State is now
group of savage, behead-
targeting Shiite pilgrims
ing, murderous thugs. As
in Saudi Arabia in order
Anne Barnard and Tim
to enflame that country
Arango reported in The
Times on Thursday, the Islamic and widen the religious war that is
State is hijacking legitimate Sun- brewing across the region.
Iran is sponsoring terror
ni grievances. Many Sunnis would
apparently rather be ruled by their armies across the region and try-
own kind, even if they are barbaric, ing to turn Shiite Iraq into a sat-
than by Shiites, who rob them of ellite state.
A brutalizing dynamic is now
their dignity.
firmly in place: Sectarian tension
radicalizes the leaderships on both
the Sunni and Shiite sides. These
leaders incite bigger
goal should be radicalized
and uglier confrontations.
Maybe it’s time to shift course.
to help lower
America’s goal should be to
help lower sectarian temperatures
so that eventually a moderating dy-
namic replaces the current brutaliz-
ing one. The grand strategy should
so that
be to help the two sides separate
as much as possible while con-
eventually a
taining the radicals on each side.
The tactic should be devolution.
Give as much local control to dif-
ferent groups in different nations.
Let them run their own affairs as
much as possible. Encourage them
to create space between the sectar-
the current
ian populations so that hatreds can
This was the core logic of the
Biden/Gelb style decentralization
plan, and it is still the most promis-
The United States is now in the ing logic today.
The best objection has always
absurd position of being in a de
facto alliance with Iranian-backed been that the geography is not so
Shiite militias. Up until now, these neat. Populations are intermin-
militias have plowed through Sun- gled. If decentralization gets out
ni territory “liberating” villages of control and national boundar-
from the Islamic State and then, of- ies are erased, then you could see
ten enough, proceeding to execute ferocious wars over resources and
the local leaders, loot the property national spoils.
That’s all true, but separation
and destroy the towns.
The Obama administration is and containment are still the least
hoping that these militias will re- terrible of the bad options. The
strain themselves and listen to the U.S. could begin by arming Iraqi
central authority. But that would Sunnis directly and helping Sun-
be to defy all recent Iraqi history. nis take back their own homeland
The more likely scenario is that from the terrorists, with the assur-
the militias will occasionally beat ance that they could actually run
the Islamic State on a tactical lev- the place once they retook it.
Central politicians love central-
el while making the larger climate
ization. But this is the wrong recipe
even worse.
The centralizing strategy has for an exploding Middle East.