College students and graduates in the United States have a debt crisis on their hands, owing a trillion dollars.
Some 80% of university students attend public colleges and universities, which were set up to provide inexpensive education.
These public institutions are increasingly expensive, however, in large part because [pdf] state legislatures have systematically cut their contributions to their state universities since 1990, by 26%.
At the same time, states have vastly increased their prison populations and prison costs, primarily because of the so-called ‘war on drugs,’ which everyone throughout the Americas recognizes as a complete failure except Barack Obama, Eric Holder and most other US politicians of both parties. Many of us suspect that the liquor corporations or private prison owners are bribing them through campaign contributions to keep marijuana illegal.
So here is a fix for the student debt crisis and the crisis in public education funding.
1. Legalize marijuana (Belgium, the Netherlands and Peru have not suffered from doing so, and it has been decriminalized in places like Portugal and Argentina with no ill effects; Portugal’s drug addiction rate has actually fallen).
2. Tax marijuana farms and dedicate the tax receipts solely to public higher education and student debt forgiveness
3. Pardon the hundreds of thousands of prisoners in state penitentiaries whose sole crime was using or selling marijuana. Save $40,000 per year per prisoner. Dedicate savings solely to public higher education and student debt relief.
4. Allow multiple sclerosis sufferers to use medical marijuana as a treatment, and let those with cancer, glaucoma and other conditions proven treatable via marijuana by science to use it for that purpose (as even conservative Arizona is now doing).
5. Tax medical marijuana clinics and dedicate their receipts solely to public higher education and student debt relief. (In California alone, pot is a $12 billion a year industry, and a ten percent tax would yield $1.2 billion a year to state coffers, helping save the University of California system).
6. Employ fewer narcotics police, achieve savings, apply those to, you guessed it.
7. Finance the education of new poor but outstanding students with the tax receipts on the marijuana industry, helping restore some of America’s former upward mobility.
These steps would not only solve the student debt crisis and allow universities to lower tuition, but would strengthen higher education in the US and allow us to remain competitive with Europe and rising nations in Asia (we are not keeping up). Our current declining investment in higher education will otherwise cause us to start falling behind in scientific and technological innovation and in cultural contributions, so vital for a dynamic democracy.