Elizabeth Warren is making the rounds with promise after promise in an attempt to avoid falling into the same news (black) hole as the other endless number of Democrats lining up to be their party's presidential candidate next year.
These days, she attempts to inch just ... a ... little ... closer ... to ... Uncle Bernie Sanders. But in those attempts, she's taking a standard play from Oprah's book, promising everybody free stuff. Look under your seat, and you'll find a free college education!
Not only that, but free health care, too, free government jobs, free whatever-she'll-think-of-for-the-next-news-cycle. She thinks, unlike Margaret Thatcher, she'll never run out of other people's money.
But this free college idea won't be limited to future students. The senator wants to eliminate most student loan debt for those holding it now. Talking about buying votes.
Here's more from NPR: "Warren proposes that the federal government write off hundreds of billions of dollars in existing student loan debt. The amount of debt that would be eligible for forgiveness would vary by income, but an independent expert analysis submitted as part of her plan suggests that three-quarters of households would see all their federal student loans forgiven."
The government will just write it off. It's like printing money! Which brings to mind that Seinfeld scene in which Kramer tries to convince Jerry to mail his busted stereo, then claim postage insurance to buy a new one. "Jerry, all these big companies, they write off everything," Kramer tries to explain. "You don't even know what a write-off is," the comedian responds. We get the sense the good senator doesn't, either.
There's a big logic problem with all this free stuff. First, somebody has to pay. Eventually. If all this "free" college is just going to be put on the public debt, at the price of at least a trillion dollars, then taxpayers in the coming generation will foot the bill. As long as professors still wish to be paid for their services, college will never be "free."
Second, a less talked-about problem is the unspoken casualty when everything is free: national progress.
One of the beauties of the free market is that competition drives innovation. Bob opens a business that offers a new product. Samantha opens her own business to offer a competing product. Bob re-invents his product and slashes prices to compete. Samantha does the same. Meanwhile, customers are given new products and services at better prices.
If the health-care and education industries are given guaranteed paychecks from Uncle Sam to provide "free" services to millions of Americans, where's the drive to compete? And get better?
Competition and innovation can die with the stagnation that comes with guarantees by the government. Look at history for the best examples. And not ancient history at that.
Third, the whole idea of writing off loans that have already been taken out goes against everything we've been taught about obligation. What message does that send to millennials, and not just millennials, about their word, their bond, their duty? If this latest idea from the Free Lunch crowd gains momentum, will they just "write off" the national debt next? That way surely lies the ruin of the American economy, and maybe the dollar as the world currency.
We the People should look at other solutions for tackling rising education and health-care prices instead of just throwing tax dollars at it. We've never bought into the belief that government makes things cheaper anyway.
"If you think health care is expensive now, wait till it's free."--P.J. O'Rourke. That goes for college, too.
Editorial on 04/25/2019
Print Headline: A casualty of free