Ripping of the taxpayer, student-style

Posted: Feb 04, 2004 12:00 AM

Ouch. I got the bill for this quarter at the University of California-Los Angeles on Monday. It was ugly. With the budget crisis in California, tuition has been raised. Under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, government is scaling back its activities. I'm going to have to pay more to go to class. But better to endure government cuts than to have Gray Davis back in office.

Gray Davis never understood the idea of controlled government. He was a pure tax-and-spend politician. The main reason Davis got the electoral boot was his tripling of the vehicle license fee. Davis' justification for the increase: The state was out of money. With the general fund running out of money, the taxpayer would have to dig deeper. Unfortunately for Davis, the taxpayer was sick of digging deeper. Davis was soon out of a job.

Gov. Schwarzenegger is a different animal. As soon as he entered office, he terminated the fee increase by executive order. Schwarzenegger also restored money to local governments. In order to pay for that restoration, he invoked his emergency powers, ordering $2.6 billion in local aid and $150 million in cuts.

The public agrees with Schwarzenegger. By the middle of January, Schwarzenegger was enjoying a 52 percent approval rating. Twenty-two percent of Californians felt that Schwarzenegger would "do the right thing" to fix the budget, as opposed to the 9 percent who felt Davis would have done the right thing.

While most Californians -- like me -- are looking forward to government downsizing, some are afraid of losing benefits. Unsurprisingly, those crying the loudest for money from the pockets of others are my fellow college students, the "gimme" generation. A group led by the University of California Student Association and four UC students is suing Gov. Schwarzenegger for repealing the car tax and cutting outreach and labor programs at the University of California.

Many of these outreach programs have admirable goals. None of them deserves state money. Private funding to help "underrepresented" groups reach the UC system is proper and worthwhile. But in a state where the top 4 percent of each high school class automatically are eligible to enter the UC system, race-based outreach should not be subsidized by public dollars.

Outreach at the University of California is designed to bring "diversity" into the college classroom. After the abolition of affirmative action programs in California, outreach became big business. Outreach caters to black and Latino communities to the tune of $24 million per year. One outreach program, Puente, specifically targets Latino students in community colleges and high schools. Both the college and high school programs offer English classes with a specific focus on Latino literature and experience, field trips to University of California campuses, and personal Puente counselors and mentors.

Similarly, the goal of the Early Academic Outreach Program is to maximize the presence of "underrepresented" racial groups on campus. EAOP services include helping students write personal statements for admissions applications and organizing campus tours and field trips. Indirectly, UC outreach includes funding student groups like MEChA, a radical Latino group that espouses the conquest of Aztlan (the American Southwest) for the "bronze" people.

I spoke last week by phone with Daniela Conde, a sophomore at UCLA. Conde was a beneficiary of outreach programs when she entered college, and she is involved with MEChA. She is especially upset with cuts to the labor programs proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. "I went to a program through the university called the Summer Internship Program," said Conde. "I was placed with a union, and I helped organize the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride." The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride imitated the civil rights freedom rides of the 1960s, encouraging the government to grant full rights to illegal aliens. Conde participated in this activity on the taxpayer buck.

I also spoke with Peter Tadao Gee, a junior at UC Berkeley. With all of the cuts to EAOP, Puente and other non-student-initiated outreach, Gee explained, "a lot of the weight of the responsibility to make up for that is going to be put on student groups." Gee is involved with a student group that will lose money for outreach if the cuts go through.

Both Gee and Conde show admirable tenacity in their efforts to help their communities, but they are all too willing to do so with tax dollars. As a UC student, I have benefited immensely from state education, but if the taxpayers are unwilling to spend money on my schooling, I must take personal responsibility for my own tuition. When Californians elected the Terminator, they voted for government cuts. Cuts hurt. But they hurt far less than tax increases, as Gov. Davis discovered.