Political Involvement: It’s No Choice, Now


AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum, in his column in the May/June issue of Academe, when did the growth and vigor of the American middle class–and of American higher education–end?

The reversal began under the Carter administration and accelerated during the Reagan years. Why did it end? The answer has been well documented in the book Winner-Take-All Politics by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. The reversal of fortune for what we now refer to as the 99 percent occurred because the 1 percent got organized. During the 1970s, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business grew dramatically. Powerful corporate political action committees emerged. The supporters of the 1 percent began to create their own think tanks, like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, funded by the Olin Foundation, beer magnate Joseph Coors, the Mellon Foundation, and, more recently, the Koch brothers.

The agenda of the 1 percent included rolling back government regulation, cutting taxes for the wealthy to “starve the beast” and thereby downsize government, and privatizing public services. To…

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