Nicholas Freiling over at Values & Capitalism—a blog run by the American Enterprise Institute—has a well meaning but utterly misguided—and I would argue, rather silly—post about bankruptcy and student loans. It is inappropriately titled “Student Loan Forgiveness: One Idea That Doesn’t Deserve to Graduate.” He says:
If you are like most college students, you have already accrued a considerable amount of student loan debt. College is expensive, and without student loans many would simply be unable to obtain a college education.
But over the past few months, many have begun to question the efficacy of borrowing so much money—even for a purpose as worthy as education. Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported that student loan debt reached $870 billion—surpassing both car and credit card debt—and is projected to climb rapidly over the next few years.
Thus, it is understandable that The Fairness for Struggling Students Act (FSSA) has become high on the agenda for many government and education officials. The FSSA would allow student loan debt from private lenders to be wiped out in bankruptcy proceedings. Seen as a remedy for a growing economic problem, the Act has found support among many in government and academic circles.
But the reality is: The FSSA is an unjust bill that should warrant no support from respectable students, no matter how indebted they are.
So basically, what FSSA would say is that student loan debt would be treated like…every other single type of debt? So it wouldn’t be, you know, a “special” and “unique” form of debt that people could not erase, but would be treated like debt from any other source, like a mortgage or a car loan or anything like that?
And this is bad thing? Where does he get this idea from?
Our U.S. Constitution is a remarkably efficient document. It is our only founding charter. Many times changed, rendered, adumbrated. But it’s essence is unshakable. Written in Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting, edited against his will, pored over, discussed, hushed about, while it lay about some small wooden tables in independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Americans believe, that the Constitution is the link between our government and our lives. Congress and the Executive, can not overstep the harmony that exists, by each American following his path of liberty. Unfortunately, too many harmful minds, want too much power in this country. Power never vested in the Constitution. Power never meant to be handled by bureaucrats or officials or committees. We need to change all this. The oath of office should be sworn on the Constitution. In the Capital Rotunda. Among the historicity of remains from past great ages of the United States.
Drones in our night skies. Unelected lawyers interpreting the U.S. Constition. Surveillance. Internet spying. Blackouts and Stasi-like encroachements. Torturing. Deaths and internment of American citizens. Socialization of medicare for the elderly, and healthcare for those in mid-age. Food stamps and deductibles for people who do not work. Taxation over representation. Data-accumulation. Groping at airports. Fumbling and nefarious Justice Department officials. Cronies. Welfare abuses. War and destruction as an industry, like Hollywood and Corporate America! Blame-games. Undermining of basic civil rights. Monetarism-mongering! Unaccountability and state-sponsored fear. Campaigns of division. Solutions disguised for self-created problems.
Republican voters are being put through the pincers. We are back to 2008. Heaps of strong candidates, but no consensus. Great speeches, but no substance. PAC money spent by the millions, but no conclusive results. GOP candidates are even welcoming Democratic voters, to smear each other, to add to their victories, or to just plainly embitter each other. The Republican race is not going to get any more civil. Once, we see these subterfuges, we can ask the real questions: what will it take to unseat Obama in November, and who can best do this?
In America the conservative movement has been changing. Neo-conservatives, who had for roughly two decades (1980-2000) held the strongarm of the party, are gone with the Bush Administration’s doctrine of “pre-emptive strike” and the PATRIOT ACT. We are in the midst of the dregs. Still trying to find out which direction this country will spill it’s spirit of changelessness.
For all his grandeur, Mitt Romney just has not taken his campaign to the next level. Rick Santorum has peaked, but more likely will not hold his miniscule leads. Newt Gingrinch’s populism and Ron Paul’s constitutionalism, so similar to each other, are self-negating. None is in charge. Marginal candidates can’t win delegates, nor the RNC party’s nomination. Mitt Romney, the ever-chameleon like business mogul, can’t strike a human touch to save his life and political prospects.
If Mitt Romney is the front runner of the wolves, ready to flay Obama; what is his version of the American Dream? How does he see this country, through which prism? Is it a legalistic, rigidly technocratic, institutional approach? It seems, his advantage is not his base, his character, anything as much as his warchest. He won’t run out of steam. Even if the delegate count gets close in Tampa, FL this spring; he’ll be able to resurrect himself, make the necessary promises and sail away with the nomination.
Let us make fresh.
The reason why Rick Santorum would not oust Barack Obama in November, is not his faith. It is simply that he is running a ‘social message’ of uniform decency against a ‘social message’ of uniform healthcare. Plainly, Obama’s health plan, is vital: but not more pressing than the economic calamity of bailouts, frauds, money-laundering, spending and public debt. These are focal issues of the 2012 election.
Santorum is the politician everyone can super-impose themselves on. He’s no CEO like Mitt Romney, no renowned speaker like Newt Gingrich, not intellectual like Ron Paul. No, he is a regular Pennsylvania lawyer, who argued some weird World Wrestling Federation cases. Somehow he is unspectacular enough, that he could almost be your town butcher, postal deliverer or stockyard piler. You would think this is a strength. But it is not.
Eventually, while trying to keep your political pronunciations to a minimum, to correspond to the widest social base possible, you hit a tollboth going 160 mph. Santorum is earnest, he surely is: means well to families and the elderly, but he has yet to prove his salt. His record is plain: he has taken massive amounts of Washington D.C. beltway funding, voted to raise the debt ceiling, is in cahoots with the (so-called) ‘military industrial complex’ and dislikes many anomalies of our population: young pregnants, migrant-labor, jobless, gays, blacks. He has been able to entrench his campaign in an atmosphere of rustic humbleness and simpletonness.
The more connected you are, within the Washington D.C. circuit; and on the long-stretch between Los Angeles and New York, the more clout you have as a politician. Especially, if you’ve squandered taxpayer money on “bridges to nowhere” (Rick Santorum), Olympic “Games” (Mitt Romney) or have been kick-backed by Fannie & Freddie (Newt Gingrich).
All these, of course, are fine examples of Capitalist enterprise, of leadership and smart capital-management. But what do all these undertakings reveal, about abilities in leadership, necessary to plug the dam of the 2008-unward recession? Not, much.
Ron Paul is the antithesis. He negates almost in it’s entirety, every other issues brought by his opponents in the GOP presidential race. He is not reported on, because those who indeed try to, fail miserably: the way Gerald Seib did, moderating the Republican Debate in South Carolina. Ron Paul is too honest: clear, succinct, philosophically astute. This makes him a slippery fish, to place in the Republican Party, although he is by far the most consequently, stalwartly arch-conservative since that other Gipper, that slipped his way into the White House: Ronald Reagan!
Being less ‘politicized’, in other words by having put his neck out on an execution-block, or guillotine, to amass money, has meant he has to do with less campaign finance. But what Paul has lacked in initial spending, his patriots have donated in turn. No other US politician has ever raised a sum, close to over 1 million, which Paul’s campaign has been able to do in 2011. What this means, is; people base decision on mass-media, pandered bits-and-pieces of evening chatter, boxed soundbites (often misinterpreted) while heading out the door in the morning. Ron Paul is lucky to get 3 minutes airtime, after a debate platform.
Much hash is being made over a viral video of US Marines urinating on corpses. Two of them have already been identified, and government figures including Defense Secretary Panetta and Secretary of State Clinton are already labeling this as “deplorable” and demanding there be some sort of corrective action. Harmid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, is naturally outraged over this and is thumping his chest.
Personally, I find the actions of these Marines to be disgusting, degrading, and a stain on the United States. They definitely should be punished, and I hope that happens. Little wonder people in other countries don’t like us when we do things like this.
But I’m not going to rant on about that. I have a somewhat different argument.
James Joyner of Outside the Beltway has already written an insightful post on the situation. I really could not add more to it. Instead, I want to focus on a comment made by a commentator who goes by the name “Ben Wolf.” The interesting part is thus:
You can’t take an 18 year old who just got out of high school, give him a gun and then expect him to be a paragon of nobility, virtue and cultural sensitivity.
Perhaps not be a paragon, per se, but I do think that this is wrong. Or, at least, it should be. Our eighteen year olds should be more mature and more developed, but they’re not. The reason why we can’t train and equip eighteen years old in the military and expect more dignified behavior is, I believe, a result of two generations of infantilizing teenagers in our schools and homes, because we think they are incapable of doing anything. This, I believe, is a grand mistake.
Well, DC, you did the impossible. You got dumber. From Fox News:
Lawmakers in the nation’s capital have floated a plan to require high school students to apply to college or trade school — even if the students have no interest in attending.
The proposal is a bid to ensure students in the troubled Washington, D.C., school system at least have the know-how to navigate the admissions process.
D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who introduced the bill, said the proposal would establish a “mandatory workshop” to teach teenagers how to apply for aid and admission. It would then require everybody to apply to at least one post-secondary school before graduation.
“I believe that every child should have the opportunity, even if they don’t go, to at least apply to a college,” he said as he introduced the bill Wednesday.
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t take it out on all of DC. But Mr. Brown, you sir, are a moron.
In a time where the value of college is plummeting while the cost of said college education and the unemployment rate among recent college graduates is increasing, such a suggestion is mind boggingly boneheaded. Apparently, Brown forgot that most colleges charge around $50-$75 for an application, in effect making this dumb idea a tax on poor students and their families, and a gimme to already well off educational institutions—who are then going to just throw the applications in the trash anyways. (If you haven’t heard, DC public schools are horrendous.) Oh, no wait, he didn’t forget, as the article adds “Brown said he would work with the school system to make sure students have the ‘resources’ to apply,” or in other words, make this dumb idea a tax on poor students and their families in DC.
In a modern example of Frederic Bastiat’s “The Seen and the Unseen,” in Seattle, school adiminstrators are finding out that their ban on junk food has actually hurt student activities:
The Seattle School Board is considering relaxing its ban on unhealthful food in high schools amid complaints from student governments that the policy has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in vending-machine profits over the past seven years.
The policy, approved in 2004 — before any state or federal regulations on school nutrition had been established — put Seattle on the cutting edge of the fight against childhood obesity.
But board members now acknowledge they probably went too far. The restrictions, which are more strict than the now-crafted state and federal nutrition guidelines, allow only products such as milk, natural fruit juice, baked chips and oat-based granola bars.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many students are not particularly interested in those items.
(I just want to insert a “Duh!” in here. Like, seriously?)
In 2001, before the junk-food ban was passed, high-school associated student body (ASB) governments across the city made $214,000 in profits from vending machines, according to district data. This year, they’ve made $17,000.
The district promised in 2006 to repay ASBs for the revenue they lost because of the policy. But it never did. So the ASB organizations — which subsidize athletic uniform and transportation costs, support student clubs, hold school dances and fund the yearbook and newspaper, among other expenses — have had to cancel programs and ask students to pay significantly more to participate on athletic teams and in school clubs.
It appears that many do not understand why college costs so much, even though it is relatively simple to explain. Some—who I will leave nameless—even go as far to say that the reason tuition is rising is because states are subsidizing less of it! Well, Holy Postnominal Letters, Batman, where did you get that idea?
In reality, the situation is a bit more complicated than that, though not by much. Here’s a simplified explanation:
- Federal government guarantees education money
- Pell Grants
- Stafford Loans (Both subsidized and non-)
- Backstopping all other education loans
- Private lenders lend wildly, as their loans are guaranteed by Uncle Sam
- Students take on loans to pay for their education
- Universities notice this, realize their customers are guaranteed to have money, and jack up prices
- Students suffer, while university presidents and lenders prance around in glee
Okay, so maybe the prancing part is a bit much.
Mish Shedlock, who I regard as one of the finer macroeconomists out there, has taken some stabs at this. You can read here. Or over here. Or yes, even more on this one. Mish also wrote, in response to Obama’s aide, David Plouffe, saying that they will “safeguard” student loans: “Bragging about safeguarding student loans is like bragging about safeguarding the plague.”
The current, ongoing showdown between Democrats and Republicans over the federal budget is giving Americans a front row seat for the fight over national spending priorities and, for the conservative wing of the Republican Party, over the proper role of government itself. There are huge quantities of heated rhetoric being thrown around about greedy corporations, the need to help the poor and dire warnings against “Draconian” cuts to the budget. Yet, make no mistake about it; the problem is solely one of spending. Even if we taxed 100% of earnings for those hated millionaires and billionaires that Obama and the Democrats so love to publicly flog (even as the privately court them for their campaign donations), we wouldn’t even fund the annual budget, much less make a dent in the national debt.
While we will be forced in the very near future to finally have a serious discussion about the Big Three entitlements (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid…with ObamaCare pending resolution in the courts), there is some low-hanging fruit that we can cut in the budget if we look at a cost-benefit analysis of programs and agencies that are duplicative, outdated or simply unnecessary. Right near the top of that list should be the federal Department of Education.
The federal Department of Education was created in 1976, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. The legislation narrowly passed Congress, but succeeded in large part because of a heavy lobbying effort by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Many politicians, eager to secure the donations, manpower and influence of a large and powerful constituency, jumped at the opportunity to cement this politically incestuous relationship.