Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Here's Why Scott Walker's Lack of a College Degree Really is a Big Deal

by Nomad

Ever since Wisconsin governor Scott Walker hinted that he might be interested in running for president in 2016, his critics have questioned his qualifications.
One point that keeps coming up is Scott's lack of a college degree. Is this such a big deal? You can decide.


Walker Running
Back in January, Walker made it clear that he was interested in running for president.
“We need someone who hopefully has the backing and the track record of success, of showing that common sense conservative reforms can work not just in Wisconsin, but they can work all across America.”
The results have been lackluster at best. Wisconsin job growth has ranked at or near the bottom of the Midwest, personal income growth has been last in the Midwest and 44th nationally, and the budget is in shambles.
A measure of Walker's failure becomes apparent when one compare Wisconsin to its neighbor, Minnesota. That state did not install those common sense reforms that Walker mentioned and what was the result? 
Disaster? 
Well, only if you listen to conservatives. 
The truth is that by raising taxes on the wealthy, increasing spending, boosting the minimum wage, and implementing Obamacare, Minnesota has, as one writer puts it, "blown Wisconsin out of the water" when it comes to job growth and budget balancing. In fact, the law of Land of 10,000 Lakes ended up with a $1.2 billion surplus.

Walker's reforms have left his own state with a budget deficit in the billions. Today Wisconsin reportedly trails behind Minnesota in job growth, unemployment, and wages. Not very impressive.

Besides the incompetence and bad policy, who could forget Scott's scandalous telephone with a person he thought was David Koch. That alone should rule him out of higher office.
(In fairness, he wasn't the only person to be fooled. Sarah Palin fell for the same trick when she gushed and schmoozed with the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy-  who later turned out to be a Canadian radio show hoaxer.)

In fact,  given Walker's dismal performance as governor, Scott's lack of a college degree seems like a pretty minor - almost petty- issue.

Morbid Curiosity?
Conservatives are all ready to paint Scott as the victim of a liberal smear campaign. For instance, Jack Kelly at Real Clear Politics writes that liberals are "morbidly curious" about why Scott Walker dropped out of Marquette University and yet were not at all interested about Obama's university grades.
Mr. Walker left Marquette because the Red Cross offered him a good job. Unlike Mr. Obama, he gave his college permission to release his academic records. He was a student in good standing when he left.
The often repeated Obama allegation is a very tired one, hardly worth the time it takes to counter them. I will instead refer to Factcheck.org.
Kelly goes on:
For conservatives, who value accomplishment, this is a non-issue. Scott Walker has had a successful career, despite not having a college diploma. Dropouts Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have done all right, too. But for liberals, who value credentials, not having a college degree indicates stupidity (if the dropout is a Republican).
Well, we have already seen Walker's valuable accomplishments that the conservatives are regaling.
We are not as impressed. Actually, Walker gets a "F" when it comes to both credentials and accomplishments.  

Comparing Apples to Oranges
The Kelly defense falls short on other points.
Comparing Jobs and Gates is a bit of a red herring since both Gates and Jobs ran their own companies and, for this reason alone, the question of being qualified never came up. More importantly, neither of them ran for elective office.
That's a different kettle of fish.  

A company CEO is not-despite what so many conservatives seem to think, the same as being the world's most powerful leader.

If Gates had made a mistake, it might possibly have resulted in the collapse of his corporation, a loss to shareholders and layoffs. If a president makes a stupid mistake, if could lead to a epoch ending World War, an economic collapse or the loss of millions of lives. Ask George Bush.
It is also disingenuous to blame liberals for thinking that college degrees should be considered relevant.

If liberals question Walker's qualifications and his educational background, it might not be "morbid" curiosity or even the proverbial liberal snobbishness. It could just be because a presidential candidate without at least a one college degree is so unusual.

Back to Truman's Day
Out of the forty-three presidents, only 11 of them have had no college education and of those, the overwhelming majority came in the first hundred years of the nation's history. Both Lincoln and Washington, it has to be said, had less than sterling educational backgrounds. 

However, in modern times, the last president without at least one degree was Harry Truman who became president in 1945. 
A full 70 years ago! 

Earlier in life, Truman had dropped out from both Spalding's Commercial College and the University of Kansas City School of Law.
The reason that Truman's lack of higher education was never a campaign issue is pretty easily explained. 
As vice president for Franklin Roosevelt, Truman had become president upon the FDR's death. Therefore, Truman had already been in the White House a full three years before he actually ran for the executive office. By that time, he had established his credentials to hold the position. Nevertheless, the 1948 election was an extremely close one.

There was another reason why a college degree wasn't a strong qualification requirement. Back in the 1940s, only 5.5 percent of the male population had completed four years of college or more. Compare that to a full 32 percent in 2013.

Even for Truman's day, a college degree, while not required, was expected. Before Truman, one has to go back to Grover Cleveland, a man who took office in 1885. 
(One could perhaps include William McKinley who attended Allegheny College but did not graduate. I have excluded him because he later graduated with honors from Albany Law School.)
And before Grover Cleveland, we have to go back another 20 years to Andrew Johnson

Qualifications of a Modern President
That was long before America became a super power, long before the complications of the modern age.  

In those days, higher education was much more of a rarity and, in the public's view, may not have been as important as it is today. Additionally, it could be argued that the issues that faced presidents were not as intellectually challenging as they are today. 

In the end, both sides would probably admit that a higher education should not be the highest qualification for any presidential candidate. There is of course, common sense and a sense of morality. A natural capacity to negotiate or to organize divergent groups. The ability to represent the interests of all voters, over the interests of powerful and wealthy.
Those are not elitist views.
Above everything else, perhaps, there should be at least an illusion of honesty. For  the long list of lies told by Walker, just go to this link and marvel.

From what we have seen from Scott Walker as Governor of Wisconsin. on those terms alone- degree or not, he would make an extremely poor choice for the Republican nomination. 
On the other hand, as unqualified as Walker is, he isn't a Bush and he hasn't been indicted.
Yet.

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