Nothing’s free and there’s no forgiveness.
We’re about to enter the last lap of 2019 which means that the 2020 election looms large. Before you know it, we’ll be covering the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.
Unlike 2016, when it was an open race for both parties, the 2020 primary season will be an all-Democrat show. Donald Trump will be watching and waiting between now and sometime next summer, when a Democratic Party nominee is finally settled upon. In these next ten months or so, our national politics are going to turn even more sharply left.
It is a fact of politics that during the primaries, one must play to the base in order to win a spot on the general election ballot. The base of the Democratic Party has gone far left and the candidates are all following.
One example of this lurch to the left is front and center in the minds of parents all across the country who are, at this very moment, packing their 18-year old sons and daughters off to college. In the midst of buying duvet comforters and other dorm room accoutrements, anxious parents are lying awake at night trying to figure out how they’re going to come up with tuition money in the next four years that could otherwise afford them a very nice middle-class home in most communities.
Bernie Sanders has an easy answer. Bernie says that a college education is a “fundamental right.” None of his rivals seriously disagrees. Thus, for the next year and a half we’re going to hear about “free” college and college loan “forgiveness.”
Both are terrifically bad ideas.
Let’s start with loan forgiveness. It’s no such thing. That student loan was funded by the U.S. Treasury via tax receipts, with the proceeds going to a state or private university. The check has been cashed.
“Forgiving” the loan simply means that instead of it being repaid by the student who used the money to obtain a comparative literature degree from a snobby, richly-endowed private university, the owner of that successful, wage-paying, tax-paying auto repair shop down the street – who chose to skip college – now pays it.
As to “free” college; again, there’s no such thing. Someone has to pay. So back we go again to that auto repair shop owner.
When at the point of consumption a good or service is “free,” the discipline of consumer price sensitivity is removed. Absent that discipline, colleges have no incentive to control their expenses. As a result, the cost of college, already unconscionably high, explodes. Such is the moral hazard attendant to anything that appears to the consumer to be “free.”
It’s a fact that “free” anything via the conduit of government is simply the assertion of a presumptive right by one group of people to the fruits of the labor and time of another group of people. It’s an economic model that fails every time it’s tried.
But economic facts don’t often stop Democrats. And they surely won’t stop this group of Democrats.