Thursday, September 22, 2005

Why Are Academics Economic Liberals?

Most academics support a highly progressive income tax system. A study conducted by California economist, Daniel Klein, and Swedish social scientist, Charlotta Stern entitled, "How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?" found that liberals dominated the academic landscape. The researchers surveyed almost 5,500 professors in six disciplines to determine their political affiliation. They found that 30 times as many anthropologists voted Democratic as voted Republican; for sociologists the ratio was almost the same. For economists, however, it plummeted to 3 to 1. On average those responding to the survey were 15 times more likely to identify themselves as voting Democratic. This pattern is often described as progressive and a signal that members of the academic community are more caring of the less economically talented. Unfortunately, this reasoning, while quite laudable, is just plain misleading. There are several more salient reasons that academics support taking more of an income tax bite from the more productive members of our society.

First, few academics can even fathom that their income will ever rise to levels where the federal tax bite will seriously undermine their ability consume their required allotment of brie and chardonnay (note: I am also a chardonnay lover). For example, Duke University pays their professors at the top of the range for universities in the U.S. Full professors, the top of the heap, earned only $131,500. When these professors shout, “tax the rich,” they are referring to someone else such as CEO’s that earned $9.84 million in total compensation in 2004, according to The New York Times. And who would ever dispute the NYTimes-Jason Blair aside!

Second, academics benefit from a large federal government. The hallways of the National Endowment to the Arts to the National Science Foundation are littered with faculty and academic administrators cajoling and pleading funding sources for more money. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, although the federal government is faced soaring demands on federal spending and a burgeoning budget deficit, it still directed more than $2-billion this year to pork-barrel projects at colleges and universities. That record level marked the first time that academic earmarks had surpassed $2-billion. Congress sprinkled academics with funds projects as diverse and bizarre as (source: The Heritage Foundation):

$1 million for Shakespeare in American Military Communities
$2.5 million for the Canola Oil Fuel Cell Initiative
$5 million for the Bug-to-Drug Program
$725,000 for the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
$200,000 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio;
$150,000 for a single traffic light in Briarcliff Manor, New York;
$100,000 for the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee;
$500,000 for the Montana Sheep Institute; and
$50 million to construct an indoor rainforest in Coralville, Iowa.

So if you really want to know why academics are more likely to be liberals and support Democrats, just follow the money to the trough. But please if you are a long-haired academic, wear a hairnet.

Ernie Goss

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