Mid Week Roundup

Ezra Klein puts his smarty pants on (does he ever take them off?) and breaks down the Ryan and Romney budgets.

What we (don’t) talk about when we talk about Medicare.

But when Romney gets kind of serious, the big categories he identifies for cuts — and I’m quoting from his speech in Detroit here — are Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies and job training. Programs for the poor, in other words.

And the reason he needs to focus on these programs is because he’s taken Medicare, Social Security, defense and taxes off the table for the next decade.

We’re not talking about the budgets like this because both campaigns think it’s in their interest to turn the conversation to Medicare. After all, seniors vote. And they particularly vote in Florida. And so the Obama campaign has decided to focus on the Ryan and Romney’s long-term plan to voucherize Medicare, and the Romney campaign has decided to focus on the Affordable Care Act’s cuts to Medicare. There’s not much  electoral upside in making a big issue out of cuts to programs for the poor.

Not much electoral upside to reminding the electorate that according to Romney, the only way to balance the budget is to take health care from 45 million people and cut 57% of all programs that aren’t Social Security, Medicare, or defense spending. Because the poor people affected won’t vote and the rest of us aren’t going to vote on their behalf.

Really? I’d like some new polling, please. But maybe those cynical folks in charge of the campaigns are right and I’m wrong. And there really is no percentage in talking about the lower income brackets.

And while we’re thinking about health care for all, here’s some pleasant news from my whereabouts:

The first consumer-owned health insurance co-op opened last month with seed money from the gummint. From Obamacare.

“The idea there’s a health insurance product for underserved, rural parts of the state is really critical to the successful reinvention of the health system,” said Dede de Percin, director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “So it’s super exciting.”

And here’s our Senator Udall trying to woo some red-staters leftward using the language of choice and independence. Lest they notice that a co-op is more socialist than anything that’s actually in Obamacare. Worker-owned health care system, and all that.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, praised the co-op launch as “an important option designed to increase independence and empower individuals when it comes to making decisions about their own health care.”

Is it a worker-owned collective? Or is it rugged individualist farmers doing for themselves like they always have? Depends on what bumper sticker you put on your flatbed, I suppose.

And finally, maybe you have missed my musings on the ongoing radical transformation of higher ed?

Here’s a thoughtful essay by a UNM faculty member ditching the sham calling and working for Google. He has many reasons. Narrowing of intellectual inquiry, reduction of funding, and a little buggaboo called work/life balance.

Immense amounts have been written about this, and I won’t try to reprise them here. Suffice it to say that the professorial life can be grueling, if you try to do the job well, and being post-tenure can actually make it worse. This is a widespread problem in academia, and UNM is no different. But, as of my departure, UNM had still not approved a unified parental or family leave policy for faculty, let alone established consistent policies and support for work/life balance.

Here’s Al Jazeera noticing the state of wannabe professors. That’s contingent faculty to you.

In most professions, salaries below the poverty line would be cause for alarm. In academia, they are treated as a source of gratitude. Volunteerism is par for the course – literally. Teaching is touted as a “calling”, with compensation an afterthought. One American research university offers its PhD students a salary of $1000 per semester for the “opportunity” to design and teach a course for undergraduates, who are each paying about $50,000 in tuition. The university calls this position “Senior Teaching Assistant” because paying an instructor so far below minimum wage is probably illegal.

Here’s the LA Times noticing it. This one has some provocative numbers. About women and family and work. But the main point is that academia is losing top talent—women—because women believe they cannot have a happy life (family life, according to these provocative numbers) while on the tenure track. And if you’re not on the tenure track, you may as well be on no track. A sad little PhD train stranded in a book-filled meadow (??? is this a wise metaphor??), with no track to get her home.

Other women, like my student, decide not to pursue an academic career at all. Though 40% of female students aspire to a research-driven academic position at the beginning of graduate school, that figure drops to just above 25% as they carry on their studies. As Mason concludes, academia may be losing top talent because many female graduate students feel that the tenure-track pressure cooker and having a family are almost impossible to balance. Almost half of all women (48%) surveyed cited children as a very important reason for shifting their career goals (versus just 21% of men).

4 out of 5 dentists agree that academia needs some new changes to counteract the ongoing changes.

Zero out of 5 dentists can do anything about it.

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