At the height of the country-punk-reggae-hip-hop craze in May of 1967, a song written and performed by Scott McKenzie hit the radio and changed the music industry. It was called “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” and was remarkable for doing two things.
First, it set the bar for the most parenthetical words in a song title -- so many, in fact, that the 45-rpm single had to be made 18 inches wider just to fit them.
Secondly, it told the rest of the world that San Fran was a place of hippie dreams and fantasies.
Fifty years later, city politicians have cemented that fantasyland image by instituting a completely fanciful new government scheme. They’re going to “give” city residents “free” college.
“Now we can say to California resident students that your city college is free,” he proclaimed. The mandate, along with his 2014 push to make San Fran one of the first cities in the U.S. to mandate a $15 per hour minimum wage, puts him in the lead for the title of “Most Economically Backwards” politicians in the 21st Century.
According to the plan, when magical faeries aren’t sprinkling gold dust on the Spumoni-like campus, the city will impose a new “transfer tax” (i.e., a sales tax) on properties selling for over $5 million. From the estimated $44 million per year that tax will seize (sorry, we must use the politically correct term, “generate”), $2.1 million a year for the next two years will go to paying students to attend the foundering City College of San Francisco.
This, city leaders hope, will bolster the school's dwindling fan base (attendance has dropped from 90,000 a year in 2012 to just 65,000, and the school almost lost its accreditation). It's kind of like giving the “fake news” purveyors at MSNBC a bailout.
But offering tuition to cover what they estimate to be only 3,750 students taking a full 12-credit load is only part of the story. According to Nanette Asimov, of SFGate:
The city’s contribution will also provide $250 a semester to full-time, low-income students who already receive a state-funded fee waiver. They will be able to use the money to pay for books, transportation, school supplies and health fees. Part-time students with fee waivers will get $100 a semester for the same purpose.
So it’s possible that wily city residents -- say, those who might have been priced out of the workforce by Mayor Lee’s brilliant idea to impose that $15 per hour minimum wage – might decide to sign up for the free classes, and receive the $250 per semester stipend, while never attending a class. Brilliant! It’s paid for by evil, wealth property owners, after all, so, why not?
But what sensible person wouldn’t want to attend classes at the now 100-year-old San Francisco City College? It’s been so popular (with classes like “Marijuana Growing” that people would definitely want to pay to take, rather than just learn while getting paid on the job) that surely, folks would want to line up to get in the doors.
But, strangely, this hasn’t been the case, as Susan Lamb, the college chancellor noted:
“We have a lot of empty seats,” she said, and urged the public to “come back (to City College) and give us a try.”
This tells us a lot about the myth underlying the crazy government push to inflate demand for college by subsidizing it with tax cash and debt instruments – a push that has created a soon-to-burst loan bubble that will rival the 2008 mortgage crash. The faulty premise beneath the whole teetering Ivory Tower is that education is a “right.” But rights are negative in nature. You have a right to be left alone by me, and I have a reciprocal right to be left alone by you. If we claim “positive” rights to things like education and the fruits of others’ labor, we are proclaiming an ex ante claim on people to provide those things, we claim those people as our slaves.
Look at it this way. If “education” is a right (defining “education” is a subjective task anyway), that means that the government can force Person A to work for hours to pay for the education of Person B’s child. But if that is the case, and we are forcing Person A to work, why not remove the middle-man and force all the teachers to work?
That rips off the artifice. We would never enslave teachers because someone had a “right” to be taught. But the government will enslave others to pay the teachers’ salaries, increasing demand for more teachers, driving up costs, and watering down the content of the education to the point where the schools teach classes on how to grow pot in a city where, we have to figure, folks can learn how to grow pot pretty darn easily.
It’s rumored that Scott McKenzie planned to write a whole theme album to go with his tune “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair)." Songs like “Chicago (Be Sure to Wear a Kevlar Vest)," and “Boston (Be Sure to Wear Local Sports Gear or Hit the Road, Guy!)” are said to have been on his agenda. But, if he were still alive, perhaps he would want to revisit San Francisco, and write a new one.
Something like, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Hold Onto Your Wallet Because the Tax-and-Spend Politicians Here Think It Belongs To Them)” comes to mind.