Patterico's Pontifications

6/19/2018

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.

– JVW

25 Responses to “Same Old, Same Old: Socialist Makes an Economically Ignorant Argument”

  1. Anyway, TL/DR: a socialist wants to give retroactive free stuff and then make it permanently free from there on.

    JVW (42615e)

  2. I would love to see some projections on what this would do to labor participation. Who wouldn’t ride the free gravy train for as many years as allowed.

    Nate Ogden (223c65)

  3. Q: Why Student debt?

    A: It’s a direct payback, using everyone else’s money, to the Academics, Education Professionals, and student activists that have done so much to indoctrinate and propagandise American institutions and society with the Democrat Party’s Leftist Theology of “isms”.

    If they also sway multitudes of weak-minded kids with half-baked intellects to the glories of the All-Powerful, All-Knowing State against capitalism and democracy, so much the better.

    DMO (beab58)

  4. “Elizabeth Torres is outraged, but as a Venezuelan she takes the affront in her stride. “We are a country of millionaires,” she says ironically, eyeing a carton of eggs in the market. Price? Three million bolivars.

    “You are a millionaire because you have to pay that much, and for that you get 36 eggs, but the minimum salary is 2.6 million! With what you get every month, you can’t buy them,” she says.

    It’s the great irony of the country’s cruel decline. Sitting atop the world’s largest reserves of crude, Venezuela — once Latin America’s richest country — is now a state of millionaires, but the millions are in bolivars and practically worthless.

    According to the country’s leading universities, 87 percent of the population is now officially poor.”

    http://news.abs-cbn.com/business/06/19/18/venezuelas-millionaires-the-new-poor

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  5. I seem to recall somebody once saying “If you think it’s expensive now, wait’ll you see what it costs when it’s free”.

    Jerryskids (cfad51)

  6. A free education will be worth what one pays for it.

    Fred Z (05d938)

  7. Socialism is a cargo cult.

    Skorcher (5b282a)

  8. When did KVH jump to the Post? I thought she was editor at The Nation.

    Some have seen this student loan/debt forgiveness coming for awhile. It’s a combination vote-buying and propping up funding for indoctrination pure and simple.

    Meanwhile, liberal/socialist/SJW orthodoxy is destroying the university system.

    As recently as yesterday I heard on the radio praise for the useful idiots on the Mizzou football team who were duped into race protests that ended up getting the president of the university fired.

    Result: enrollment and alumni donations way down.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/university-missouri-pays-high-price-its-public-meltdown/

    harkin (e5c973)

  9. It used to be when I saw or read a nit-wit like Ms. vanden Heuvel spout this type of crap I took it the way I take Trump when he Tweets his line of crap: as the opening salvo for a heated debate followed by a sane solution. Not any more. vanden Heuvel is a leftist not a liberal and as such she is completely serious about all of her nonsense. It’s the opening salvo all right but not for a sane compromise rather for a slippery slope.

    Interesting how none of these elites care about trade schools. Wonder why.

    Rev.Hoagie® (c5d6cf)

  10. Education is a good thing. Another word for Civilization is Literacy. Free education is a good thing. However …

    Not more than one-quarter of the population is worth a college education.
    Not more than half the population is worth a high school education.
    I would even go so far as to say that a quarter of the population would not especially benefit, or provide a benefit to society, from education past third grade.

    nk (dbc370)

  11. nk, if you believe “Free education is a good thing” then I suggest you get educated to the fact tat nothing is free, including education.

    Rev.Hoagie® (c5d6cf)

  12. 10… would that your world could be rid of those people.

    Colonel Haiku (c7ccf8)

  13. Free education is a good thing.

    TANSTAAFL. Why not say this more accurately? Having someone else pay (presumably involuntarily) for another person’s education is a good thing. There, FIFY.

    Now personally, I am good with that for the vast majority of the population up to 10th grade or so. With significant changes as to how such is currently implemented.

    Skorcher (5b282a)

  14. West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy are not good things? ROTC? Police academies? Firemen academies? And is military and police education the only education that contributes to the general welfare, and the preservation and advancement of society?

    nk (dbc370)

  15. And is military and police education the only education that contributes to the general welfare, and the preservation and advancement of society?

    Well, I would respond that if you made everyone’s college experience as strict and disciplined as they do at the military academies, then I would support the taxpayer footing the bill. But I’m not going to support little Bobby and Jenny spending six years partying at State U while they languidly chase that Sociology or Gender Studies degree, taking three courses per term and making sure they don’t have class on Thursdays or Fridays.

    JVW (42615e)

  16. And of course the folks who graduate from the military academies have their next five years scheduled for them, don’t they?

    JVW (42615e)

  17. I would make the admission requirements as strict as well. And without the political appointments. I think that would take care of the top 25% requirement. As for “the next five years”, the 25% who actually make use their college education contribute closer to forty years.

    nk (dbc370)

  18. Jessica Valenti
    @JessicaValenti
    DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was confronted at a DC restaurant by DSA protesters and it’s VERY satisfying to watch. She should never be able to show her face in public again.

    __

    PEG
    @pegobry
    Temporarily separating children at border: literally Auschwitz.

    Normalizing mob violence against political opponents, which is literally a fascist trait: totally awesome.

    harkin (e5c973)

  19. ‘Cancelling’ student loan debt means, in effect, transferring that debt to the taxpayers in general. ‘Free’ college tuition means, in effect, transferring those costs onto the taxpayers in general. The lovely Miss vanden Heuvel would, in effect, tax the parents of children who will never get into college, and those young people who will never attend college, to pay for the education of the people who will become the bosses of those people and their children.

    A woman of privilege simply wants more privileges for other privileged people? Sounds about right!

    Want ‘free’ college tuition, want to not have student loan debt? That’s what my daughters did . . . by enlisting in the United States Army. I’m sure that such would be anathema to Miss vanden Heuvel.

    The economist Dana (9d97ce)

  20. Our Windy City barrister wrote:

    Not more than one-quarter of the population is worth a college education.
    Not more than half the population is worth a high school education.
    I would even go so far as to say that a quarter of the population would not especially benefit, or provide a benefit to society, from education past third grade.

    Many employers have used the requirement of earning a high school diploma as a weeding out mechanism. The positions don’t really need such to perform them, but the job requirements list such, as the managers believe that obtaining a diploma demonstrates diligence.

    At least during the recession, the Army started to require a high school diploma, and not accepting GED students. That may no longer be the case.

    The human resources manager Dana (9d97ce)

  21. The knife aficionado from Chicago wrote:

    West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy are not good things? ROTC?

    Considering the obligations incurred by the cadets at the service academies, which can include the duty to put yourself in the line of fire of our enemies, I’d say that they are paying for their educations, the hard way.

    The Army-daddy Dana (9d97ce)

  22. Politicians from both parties have also created a system that prices automobiles and homes out of reach

    We have a very unusual pricing system for cars. Cares are not priced according to condition, but, mostly, according to model year, and secondarily, according to recorded mileage.

    and forces — no, Ms. vanden Huevel, not “children” but young adults — to take on growing level of debt to pay the fare.

    Sammy Finkelman (02a146)

  23. Something went wrong.

    Whle used cars in good working condition can be extraordinarily cheap because of our absurd car pricing system (maintained in part by insurance companies) there is no such generally available ouit for housing except living with parents, living in a cvar or being homeless. Politicians are indeed responsible for that – they strive to maintain property values. They also regulate building and zoning very very much. Government indeed is responsible for the highh cost of housing. (in some places they compensate and make things tolerable, at least for longtime registered voters, with rent control laws. Then there are the affordable housing lotteries.)

    Housing and education and medical care have this in common: they arte not paid out of current income.

    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;

    That’s the kind of half statistics you find pretty frequenntly among what might be described as the left. We see this also with statistics by race, for instance with car loans, (where race is indeed a factor, because car salesman do profile negotiating ability somewhat by race and sex) not to mention imprisonment..

    She is trying to imply that women get charged more for education just like they get charged more for clothing. This is totally absurd and can’t even be openly alleged. (how would you argue it? They get fewer athletic scholarships? How much is that a factor? What about more women going to community colleges maybe, which should lead them to have less debt? Or what else could she try? Say that parents don’t pay as much for girls education as for boys? If they don’t, wouldn’t the girls be less likely to go to college rather than taking on debt?)

    She just uses a statistic that, if you were from Mars, could be used to argue that.

    the author’s contention that the solution to the baleful effects of all this student loan debt is to simply cancel it.

    That’s what would have happened if Conngress hadn’t changed the bankruptcy laws to make it very difficult to discharge student debt. If student debt was treated like mortgage or credit card debt, the loans would indeed be cancelled.

    Congress changed it because first, they federally guaranteed it, and secondly, because then it is not unexpected that people soon after graduating would be insolvent if they went into bankruptcy court at that time.

    But nobody watches the cost of college, and Congress decided to ignore the fact that the cost, and the debt, was too high.

    Sammy Finkelman (02a146)

  24. One aspect of student debt is a bit odd.
    While the Federal Reserve has been practically giving money away, federal student loans have been 6% .. 7.5% and more. At least points above the Fed Funds rate.

    Neo (d1c681)

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