Patterico's Pontifications


Same Old, Same Old: Socialist Makes an Economically Ignorant Argument

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:13 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Champagne socialist Katrina vanden Huevel writing in her Washington Post newspaper column today took up the current fashionable leftist dream: forgiveness of student loan debts coupled with “free” (my absolute least-favorite word in political economics) college education at state universities and community colleges. And what’s the rationale for cancelling this debt? Just because, dontcha know:

[Politicians from both parties] have created a system that prices college out of reach and forces children to take on growing levels of debt to pay the fare. That debt too often becomes a millstone on the young people it was intended to assist.

Politicians from both parties have also created a system that prices automobiles and homes out of reach and forces — no, Ms. vanden Huevel, not “children” but young adults — to take on growing level of debt to pay the fare. Does this mean that the next step is to pay off everyone’s auto loans and mortgages? There is little that is as insipid as the leftist creed that government should be paying for any old thing that some plurality of us determine to be generally beneficial. Note where Ms. vanden Heuvel next takes her argument:

Student debt now totals about $1.5 trillion, more than credit card and auto loan debt. About 4 in 10 people who have attended college have taken out loans to help pay for it. These are the children of working- and middle-class families, not the affluent. As the price of college has skyrocketed nearly 400 percent over the past 30 years, the debt burden of those who take out loans has soared as well. The College Board reports that, in 2016, the average debt for those who took out loans to finish a bachelor’s degree was $28,400 — an inflation-adjusted increase of about 30 percent since 2001.

There is no shortage of interesting statistics regarding college loans, rises in tuitions, and overall affordability. The (original) links in Ms. vanden Heuvel’s paragraph quote above are all interested reading, as are others which study how increases in loan subsidies lead to a rise in tuition, or a general comparison of average tuition levels over the past thirty years in constant dollars. Ever the foot soldier for the left (she can probably more aptly be described as a junior officer), Ms. vanden Heuvel makes a somewhat misleading comparison of women holding two-thirds of all student debt without bothering to acknowledge that they also now comprise over 57 percent of bachelor’s degree earners, close to 60 percent of master’s degree earners, and over 52 percent of doctoral degrees; and that women generally receive degrees in fields that are less financially lucrative than the fields in which men receive degrees, meaning that women often take longer to pay back an equivalent amount of student debt.

To her credit, Ms. vanden Heuvel acknowledges the out-of-whack explosion in tuition levels, and rightly places some of the blame on the corresponding growth in higher education bureaucracy:

Part of the cost increase is because state funding didn’t keep up with rising costs, so students and parents are expected to bear more of the expense. A big reason, though, is the obscene growth in administrative salaries and staffing at public colleges and universities, even as more and more of the teaching is done by impoverished adjuncts.

The link in the preceding paragraph is from an opinion piece written by quasi-libertarian fully-contrarian law professor, Paul Campos, so perhaps there are some economic issues where a left-right consensus can be formed. But what Katrina vanden Heuvel fails to acknowledge is that much of that “obscene growth in administrative salaries and staffing” can be traced to the creation of huge left-leaning offices, from general grievance-mongering to trendy environmentalism to preferences for organized labor, none of which I would doubt are particularly unacceptable to her worldview. If she really thinks that colleges need to address administrative bloat, a good place to start might be with the diversity offices that continue to grow even when financial conditions cause faculty members to be laid off, or maybe a Sustainability Office which employs seven full-time staff members with a director who pulls down a cool $156k in salary and benefits.

But the worst part about this op-ed is the author’s contention that the solution to the baleful effects of all this student loan debt is to simply cancel it. Sure, it’s a socialist stand-by: the answer for every problem under the sun is for the government to take it over, make it infinitely worse, yet at the same time protect the most irresponsible of us from the ramifications of our bad decisions. Ms. vanden Huevel would have the federal government “forgive” the loans by buying them up from the various creditors and writing off the federally-backed ones. She envisions this occurring over a ten-year time period, and she points to a study done by economists at Bard College which claims that the effects of this policy will be pretty much uniformly positive, proving that there apparently really is such thing as a free lunch. (Seriously: the study from Bard explicitly refers to the cancellation plan as “a free lunch.”)

Coupled with this debt forgiveness, according to Ms. vanden Heuvel, would be the twin socialist goal of providing free public university education to all students. This is of course one of the many panders popularized recently by Senator Bernard Sanders, and it appeals to young people who love the idea of something for nothing, their parents who would also be let off the financial hook, and the higher education establishment who would no longer have to feel guilty that teenagers are going heavily into hock in order to pay their salaries. The only loser, theoretically, are the taxpayers who would once again be hit up with more costs. People of a certain age (for example — ahem — mine) would have the honor of paying off their own student loans and then paying for the modern social justice warrior to spend five or six years protesting Donald Trump while studying he intricacies of Genderfluid Theory or Latin@/Latinx Street Art.

Or maybe not. One unanticipated consequence of the state taxpayer footing the entire bill is that the legislature would almost surely supplant the existing bureaucracy as the ultimate arbiter of what is offered in the curriculum and who is hired on campus. Imagine the Texas State Legislature gleefully telling the UTEP Women’s and Gender Studies Department to evacuate the premises or letting Texas State know that there is no money forthcoming for the Social Justice Speakers Program. New Jersey politicians might start to question the hiring of nutcase malcontents as faculty members, and maybe deranged moonbats will no longer be foisted upon impressionable young mush-minds. California may continue to try and lard their higher education system with trendy left-wing shibboleths, but even the Democrat-dominated legislature will be at pains to continue to find money to keep the gravy train rolling, especially as we also transition to single-payer health care and chase the bullet train to nowhere.

Our country is awash with horrible ideas these days as the radical left fully takes over the Democrat Party. Pampered and aging gentry radicals like Katrina vanden Heuvel no doubt envision a world where the masses rise up yet somehow don’t challenge her privileged place in society (she went to Princeton, no doubt on family trust funds, and I would hazard a guess that her daughter also attended Princeton on old money from her mother’s side). But ironically enough, their ill-considered plans might end up paving the way for actual higher education reform. There is bound to be lots of bad before any of the good comes along, but clipping the wings of the utter incompetents running public higher education is long overdue.


The Recasting of Prosecution of Illegal Border Crossers as an Attack on Children

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:27 am

Everywhere you look, people are talking about how Donald Trump is putting children in cages, and separating children from their families.

It’s accompanied by what is certainly sad audio of children crying because they have been separated from their parents.

It would be easy to get the impression that the Trump administration recently came to the decision to start arbitrarily separating families for cruel sport. A typical headline can be found in the New York Times: How Trump Came to Enforce a Practice of Separating Migrant Families. And yet that very article admits:

Technically, there is no Trump administration policy stating that illegal border crossers must be separated from their children. But the “zero tolerance policy” results in unlawful immigrants being taken into federal criminal custody, at which point their children are considered unaccompanied alien minors and taken away.

The lefties at PolitiFact elaborate:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April announced a “zero-tolerance” policy, meaning every person caught crossing the border illegally would be referred for federal prosecution.

A good number of these people are adult migrants traveling with children. By law, when adults are detained and criminally prosecuted, their children cannot be housed with them in jail. Instead, kids are placed in a Department of Health and Human Services shelter until they can be released to a legal guardian.

Past Presidents gave illegals a pass on prosecution if they brought their kids with them. Trump isn’t. That’s the difference.

Now: whether we have devoted sufficient resources to be able to actually enforce such a zero-tolerance policy is a separate question. But the media is simply taking the necessary consequence of a policy of prosecuting lawbreakers, and acting as though it is the entire point. It’s not. Prosecuting lawbreakers is the point.

Ultimately, someone who is not a citizen can keep their family together through a simple expedient: do not enter the United States of America illegally. If you want to enter, follow the laws and get in line with everyone else.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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