Chris Powell: 'Nonprofit' Yale, with its vast endowment, is overwhelming New Haven

Yale’s Old Campus at dusk

Yale’s Old Campus at dusk

Without Yale University, there might not be much left to New Haven beyond the daily shootings, drug overdoses, indignant demands for nullification of federal immigration law, and good pizza. Even so, Yale may be getting too big not just for New Haven but for Connecticut as well. Indeed, the university seems to be slowly taking over the city, which might be an improvement if it wasn't so undemocratic.

The New Haven Register reported the other day that the university this year converted six buildings from commercial to educational or medical use, thereby rendering them exempt from city property taxes and costing the city $3 million a year. Five months ago the university said it will build a neuroscience research center on the part of the Yale New Haven Hospital campus formerly owned by St. Raphael's Hospital, thereby keeping that prime property off the city tax rolls as well.

Meanwhile Yale's endowment has just broken $30 billion even as the finances of city government and state government remain a mess.

Sometimes nonprofit organizations fall too much in love with the endowments they amass from the tax exemptions conferred by state and federal law. Yale may be an egregious example of this. The university could not acquire much more property for nonprofit use in New Haven without demolishing the city's already weak tax base, and Yale's $30 billion endowment already might cover free or heavily discounted tuition for all ]the university's students for decades.

Unless it plans to acquire the rest of New Haven or even the state, how much larger an endowment does Yale really need?

According to the Register, Yale pays the city $5.6 million a year in property taxes on its nonexempt property and about $12 million more in a voluntary payment and a fee for fire protection. That's nice but still a fraction of what the university might pay without its property tax exemption.

From time to time state legislators and others have proposed taxing university endowments rather than repealing the property tax exemption for all colleges and hospitals, since Yale's endowment is so big that it easily could be taxed without touching any other endowments. The second largest such endowment in the state is said to be that of Wesleyan University in Middletown, only $1 billion. The endowment tax proposals have not gotten anywhere in the General Assembly.

But as Yale slowly consumes New Haven and as nonprofits and government agencies encroach more on the property tax bases of Connecticut's other cities, the rationale for tax exemption for nonprofits weakens, especially as crushing student loan debt shows that higher education is greatly overrated.

Bernie Sanders is not president yet, so any big stash of money is not automatically a target for communistic confiscation. But as long as donations to colleges and universities are tax-exempt and diminish the income tax revenue that otherwise would be collected from the donors by the state and federal governments, huge endowments like Yale's are fairly questioned. It's no matter that such endowments may be growing more from profitable investment than from fresh donations, since they originate mainly in donations that were tax-exempt.

But any revenue from taxing Yale's endowment should flow to state government, not city government, since state government already reimburses half the city's budget and city government is even less competent than state government. The best use of any new revenue for state government might be just to cut state taxes, since “property tax relief” is just a euphemism for raising municipal spending.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


A stressed student? Check out a puppy


From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

Bill Nemitz, a very good columnist for the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, had a good piece the other day about the tendency to coddle college students at some campuses; the young people are considered all-so-fragile. He cited a “campus puppy party’’ at the University of Maine at Farmington that used seven golden retriever  puppies (criminally cute!) at the student center as part of administrators’ efforts to help students deal with the anxiety associated with final exams and papers.

Meanwhile at Yale, Mr. Nemitz reports, students can “actually check out dogs from both the medical and law libraries because, as one librarian explained to the student newspaper {the Yale Daily News}, ‘For a lot of students, it’s their first time away from home and they do miss their home comfort – families, pets.’’’

All this cosseting, which includes a proliferation of highly paid assistant deans to address a panoply of students’ emotional, psychiatric and sociological worries,  and some luxurious spa-like services, has of course helped make college ever more expensive (another cause of anxiety!).

The students will find the world after they leave college remarkably unsympathetic.  How to prepare for that? As Mr. Neimitz writes: “Rather than agreeing with hand-wringing undergrads that life is indeed a tough journey and they’d best get about navigating it, we’re validating their ‘suffering’ with adorable little bundles of bliss.’’

To read Mr. Nemitz’s column, please hit this link:

From the Yale "Whiffenpoof Song'':

We're poor little lambs who have lost our way
Baa, baa, baa
We're little black sheep who have gone astray
Baa, baa, baa

Gentleman songsters off on a spree
Doomed from here to eternity
Lord have merc
y on such as we
Baa, baa, baa


Nice scenery at Yale

''Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail'' (1873), by Albert Bierstadt, in the show "Exploring the Incomparable Valley,'' at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, through Dec. 31.

''Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail'' (1873), by Albert Bierstadt, in the show "Exploring the Incomparable Valley,'' at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, through Dec. 31.

The show commemorates the 150 anniversary of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.


Chris Powell: Politically correct vandalism at Yale

Liberals, the old saying goes, are too broad-minded to take their own side in an argument, and Yale University in New Haven prides itself on defining liberalism, or at least the political correctness into which liberalism has devolved.

So Yale has asked the New Haven state's attorney's office not to prosecute a black cafeteria worker for the university who, finding it intolerable, smashed a stained-glass window at Calhoun College, one of Yale's dorms, that depicted two black slaves carrying baskets of cotton. The shards fell on a passerby and the vandal was charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. He confessed and resigned, though now he wants his job back and promises to behave.

Yale long had defended the cotton-picking window as a mere historical illustration rather than an endorsement of slavery, though it has been getting harder to understand the university's persistence in honoring John C. Calhoun, a Yale graduate from South Carolina two centuries ago. While Calhoun held many national offices -- in Congress, the Cabine and the vice presidency under two presidents -- he was not one of the country's founders and he is most remembered for advocating slavery and state nullification of federal law.

Maybe Calhoun's advocacy of nullification is what Yale still finds attractive about him, since the university has made itself the headquarters of the movement to nullify federal immigration law, having induced New Haven to proclaim itself a "sanctuary city" and issue city identification cards to illegal aliens.

After the cafeteria worker's arrest the politically correct brigades who essentially run New Haven and patrol it around the clock for improper thought and expression rushed to his defense. They said the window was "racist" and deserved to be smashed and that Yale should rehire the smasher.

So the incident raises an issue more important than an employee's duty to his employer: freedom of expression. That is, Yale may be insensitive in merely depicting slavery; the university may be crazy in glorifying it and may even hold racist views. But doesn't the university still have the right to put into its windows whatever illustrations it wants and to honor whomever it wants?

The PC brigades say no. They contend that smashing windows is not just acceptable but necessary if a window bothers you enough.

Of course the perpetrators of Kristallnacht, another outburst of window breaking, felt the same way. Suppressing contrary opinion and enforcing orthodoxy, they were the politically correct of their time. No one stood up to them until it was too late.

But at least they were rebuked eventually, perhaps best by a judge of the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, the great Learned Hand.

"Liberty," Hand declared to an audience of more than a million people in Central Park in 1944, "lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.

"And what is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will. It is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few, as we have learned to our sorrow. ... The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure it is right."

If Hand tried giving such a speech at Yale today he'd be shouted down, as others who are politically incorrect have been shouted down lately, and not merely because he went to Harvard but because attending Yale these days seems to confer the certainty that one is right, even in breaking windows.

Chris Powell, an essayist on politics and culture, is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


Chris Powell: Don't blame the NRA or Yale


Connecticut saw four of the five remaining presidential candidates on the eve of its primary election.    

On the Republican side, Donald Trump, having admitted that he doesn’t want to seem "presidential," went to Bridgeport and Waterbury to revel in the buffoonery, mockery and contempt that have made him so appealing to so many. In Glastonbury, Ohio Gov. John Kasich easily contrasted himself as thoughtful and respectful.   

On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders complained to a rally in New Haven that 36 percent of that city's children are not just living in poverty but doing so within sight of Yale University's $26 billion endowment, as if there was some connection.

Hillary Clinton visited Hartford, emphasized the problem of gun violence, and pledged to confront the National Rifle Association and strive to "change the gun culture."  

But repugnant as the NRA may be, it has little to do with gun violence, and the"gun culture" Clinton deplored -- presumably the NRA’s 5 million purported members -- is not the culture doing the most damage with guns.   

Rather, the "gun culture" that does the most damage is the culture of poverty,  unconditional welfare, drug dealing and drug prohibition. Most shootings --  from Hartford to Chicago to Los Angeles -- are not committed by NRA members but by fatherless and uneducated young men, products of the family-destroying welfare system who see drug dealing and crime as their best career options.    Sanders’s silly linking of child poverty in New Haven with Yale’s endowment only emphasizes the difficulty of pushing the political left out of its ideological dead end.   

Since Yale is such an awful influence, the expropriation of its endowment and the resulting smashing of its political influence under the assault of Sanders’s socialism would be positive. But all Yale’s money could be spent in the name of alleviating poverty and, if it was spent as the hundreds of billions of dollars before it have been spent, there would be only more poverty and dependence afterward.   

Amid this half century of policy failure it is hard not to suspect that poverty and dependence are actually the objectives of the political left generally and the Democratic Party particularly. For poverty and dependence fuel the need for government patronage and become not afflictions to be eliminated but profitable businesses and ends in themselves.   

A few decades ago it was possible for a few on the left and a few Democrats to acknowledge this failure of policy, as the sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan did before becoming one of Clinton’s predecessors as a Democratic senator from New York.   

Moynihan wrote in 1965: "From the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern seaboard to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable  lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence,  unrest, disorder -- particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure -- that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved."  

In the Senate 20 years later, Moynihan elaborated: "The institution of the family is decisive in determining not only if a person has the capacity to love another individual but in the larger social sense whether he is capable of loving his fellow men collectively. The whole of society rests on this foundation for stability, understanding, and social peace."   

To end poverty and gun violence, government needs first of all to stop manufacturing them. 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn. 

Chris Powell: Applying the Looney Principle to a deserving Yale University


Let no one accuse Connecticut's Democratic Party of not having any principles. The party seems to be operating on a principle of state Senate President Martin Looney. The Looney Principle is simply: What's yours is mine.

The Looney Principle is on display more than ever now with his legislation to tax large private college endowments, the threshold set so that only Yale University's endowment, nearly $26 billion, would be subject to taxation. Looney and other supporters of the legislation say it would prod Yale to invest more in ways beneficial to New Haven, as if Yale doesn't have a right to spend its own money in its own interests.

But the core constituencies of Connecticut's Democratic Party, the government and welfare classes, are growing anxious as their parasitism and mistaken policy premises keep driving the state down and tax revenue with it, and they see Yale's endowment as ripe for plunder. After Yale's endowment is taxed, maybe private endowments and savings will be next.

For Connecticut must not ever tell its government employees that they no longer can take Columbus Day off with pay, nor its welfare recipients that they should stop thrusting on state government the support of children they never were in a position to support themselves.

Despite the assertion that Yale should do more for New Haven, Yale already does a lot for the city, voluntarily paying the city millions of dollars each year out of guilt for being tax-exempt like other colleges and nonprofit civic organizations. Indeed, without Yale and its thousands of middle-class employees and its students bringing a lot of money into the city from all over the country and the world, New Haven, impoverished as much of it is, would be Bridgeport, whose miles of crumbling industrial hulks along the Northeast Corridor railroad tracks give rail passengers the impression that a nuclear war broke out shortly after they left New York.

Actually what broke out was the Looney Principle.

Yale officials have responded indignantly to it, but the endowment-tax legislation is just what the university deserves for long having subsidized the parasitism that is now turning on it. No college in the country has been more politically correct than Yale. From nullification of federal immigration law to nullification of free speech to the coddling of the fascist impulse of its students demanding "safe spaces" against disagreement, Yale has supported many of the movements that are wrecking the country.

So if the endowment tax gives Yale ideas like those recently entertained by General Electric as it considered Connecticut's future, saw ahead only decades of tax increases, and began packing up in Fairfield to depart for Boston, at least Connecticut would be rid of a bad influence and New Haven's government and welfare classes would have to turn their parasitism on each other.

As for the state's premier purportedly public institution of higher education, the University of Connecticut, it again has defeated demands for greater accountability for its own endowment, managed by the UConn Foundation, which has enjoyed exemption from state freedom-of-information law.

Instead of subjecting the UConn Foundation to that law as all other public agencies are subjected, state legislators have agreed to require only that the foundation submit an annual report summarizing its financial transactions. The foundation would remain free to conceal the identity of donors and thus free to keep selling them university favors, as it did several years ago when an especially arrogant donor purchased the dismissal of the university's athletic director.

Since UConn will remain in effect a private university, state government might as well tax away its endowment too.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester.