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James Ferragut, Published March 06 2011

Ferragut: ND House devalues higher ed

There are no winners or losers in politics. There’s just the agony and frustration of watching people toil away in a mind-numbing process. Party politics are so polarized that ideology trumps higher ideals every time. As an independent voter, I hold no allegiance to either party.

A recent Forum headline read: “House tweaks gov’s budget.” But the story held much more than the headline implied. The subject has since been the focus of a Forum editorial, rebuttals by the guilty and commentary by experts and idiots.

Political issues are rarely about making decisions that lead to the greater good. More often, they’re about protecting ideological turf. Few things say more about the values held by a culture than the worth that is placed on basic humanitarian principles. For example:

Honor the elderly by providing a stress-free, accessible, quality end-of-life environment, including health care. Make sure every veteran never has to be burdened by financial insecurity or the degrading process of fighting for medical and emotional care. Educate the young, understanding that our future depends on the willingness to recognize that the value of education is far greater than initial investments.

We have a historic surplus of money in North Dakota. The Legislature was handed an opportunity to fortify the state’s university system. But the vision required to advance the agenda was so far beyond the comprehension of the House that they failed to anticipate the angry and, in some cases, horrified public reaction to their selfish protectionism.

The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Bob Skarpohl, R-Tioga, N.D., said, “… We’re generous beyond what we should be until they indicate a willingness to change …” It reminds me of bad parenting. What’s the lesson, Bob? Are you saying our future students should pay for the sins of a long-gone university administration?

Republican representatives wrote a response to The Forum’s spot-on editorial that was obtuse, contradictory and featured fuzzy math.

I’ve read and re-read their circular, backtracking, confused rebuttal to the editorial. Their trail led me so far into the woods that I don’t think I have enough breadcrumbs in my rucksack to help me find my way out of their self-made maze.

No matter how you look at it, no matter what kind of language is used to explain or defend their position, they blew it.

North Dakota has so much to offer. The state has unprecedented financial resources. What possible rationalization could justify the Legislature locking shackles on programs that will enhance our excellent university system?


Ferragut is director of marketing for a Fargo company and is a contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.