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What Would Free College Be Worth?–Meditations on Bernie Sanders’ Plan

Yesterday (24 June 2019) Senator Bernie Sanders upped the discussion among those candidates hopeful of winning the Democratic nomination. If I understand his plan, there are two parts to it.ap_738914881801-smaller_slide-c38afbf1af02da96e2f3e6688d883493538cf8cd-s800-c85

Part One: Offer free tuition at public universities and trade schools to everyone.

Part Two: Cancel all existing student loan debt.

ABC news reported it this way on their website:

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his most sweeping plan yet to tackle the increasing cost of a higher education, introducing a bill Monday that would make public colleges and trade schools tuition free and cancel outstanding student loan debt for everyone full article here

I completely understand why some people want these changes. It starts with the pernicious problem of history majors from Princeton with $150,000 in student loan debt only qualified to teach history for $45,000 a year. I feel for these situations, I really do. I was able to attend the college of my choice because of financial aid, but still had to borrow some money to finish. A four-year university is expensive and the most expensive schools and degrees do not always offer promising jobs in the future, especially if all you have is an undergraduate degree.

Yet there are problems with the Sanders’ plan. If you make something free, the value plummets. By excusing debt, those who have already paid their loans back and those who chose to go to local schools, work through, and leave debt free are punished.

I have five big concerns that make me opposed to Sanders’ (and Warren’s) plan. I want you to know, though, I could be talked otherwise, as these are where I start from not where I may finish. A solid argument could persuade me. I just haven’t heard the solid argument yet.

Objection 1: If tuition at public institutions, like my alma mater, the University of Texas, is free then it will only be a matter of time before a university education at a public school is downgraded to essentially be a biggie sized high school diploma.

Objection 2: When public institutions are so constrained, the dividing line between public and private will only increase (a distinction that is currently neglible) with no public school able to get into the top tier. This will further divide the haves and the have nots.

Objection 3: Many private schools are religious institutions. By excusing debt accumulated, say, at BYU or Notre Dame, the government is funding religious education. As a Baptist, I have a hard time accepting this.

Objection 4: Canceling that much debt at one time, with no obligation or payment of any kind from those who amassed the debt, creates two immediate problems. The first problem is artificially tilting the free market economy.  The second problem is the expectation of a whole generation of mostly young people that they can have someone else pay their debt. It undermines responsibility, which is something college is supposed to teach.

Objection 5: Going forward, what do we do? If you cancel the debt now, in five years there will be students with loans needing to be paid back. Is this a perpetual promise, because that would get expensive fast. Free tuition doesn’t cover the most expensive part of college–room and board, thus guaranteeing there will always be college loans and college loan debt problems.

I am cynical of Sanders’ plan, because the Democratic candidates are falling all over themselves to give away more and more free stuff in an effort to get elected. I have a counter proposal. It is three parts. Part one, increase both need based and merit based federal aid while putting tougher limits on how much money can be borrowed. Part two, instead of free college, spend money on healthcare and create a universal care system. That would take a big spending burden off the entire public. Part three, expand and make for easier application the methods of having individual student loans forgiven. Some methods already exist, but these could be increased to include things like volunteering at your child’s school or a local food bank, jury duty, or donating blood or plasma.

 

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You May Have Heard of This Mueller Report Thing

Let me take a moment and quote myself — from December of 2017. That’s right friends, December of 2017:

Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election will not produce any incriminating evidence against President Trump, and then POTUS will pardon everyone who received indictments, particularly Michael Flynn.

The verdict is still out on the pardons, but some will be coming. You can click here for the link to the original blog post.

WARNING: COMMENTARY BELOW–ANYONE WHO DOESN’T WANT TO READ SOMETHING HE OR SHE COULD POSSIBLY DISAGREE WITH, PLEASE STOP READING NOW

So, let me just put in a few thoughts out there on where I’ve been pretty much all along.

  1. Collusion is hard to prove, and even if he did it, it would be nearly impossible to prove it unless they had something like an email from POTUS to Vlad begging for help.
  2. This is not Trump’s first rodeo. He knows how to stay ‘clean’ so they were never going to catch him. He always has fall guys.
  3. I am so glad they didn’t, because an impeachment process would be horrible for the country, one I don’t know if we could come back from.
  4. There may yet be other indictments and legal proceedings, particularly when the President leaves office, but this was always a hard one.
  5. I am so glad it is over. Please be over (although, no spoilers, but skip to the bottom and watch the President from this morning and you get a feel this might just be the beginning).

Now, having said these things, let’s think about going forward.

  1. I am not a big fan of the President, and I’m still trying to figure out how a habitual womanizer, adulterer, billionaire, casino owning, greedy, arrogant, foul-mouthed New Yorker on his third marriage became the darling of the evangelical right. I can’t tell if this fact (and these are all facts) is a paradox or irony–but back to my point, I am not a big fan of the President, but I don’t believe in removing him with subterfuge. If the Dems want him out, they need to do it the right way, at the ballot box. THEY PUT UP HILLARY CLINTON AGAINST HIM TO BEGIN WITH, and that was a huge mistake.
  2. President Trump owes Robert Mueller an apology. He will never give it, but he owes it. The things he said about Mueller and Tweeted are just horrible and unbelievable from a President about someone just doing the job he was asked to do.
  3. President Trump made this mess to begin with, by being coy about the Russian interference with the election. His schmoozing of Vlad (Helsinki still makes me sick)  and insistence that Russia didn’t meddle made him look guilty, even if he wasn’t.
  4. Oversight needs to continue, because I don’t think everything in the Trump Administration is on the up-and-up. But . . . the Dems better be careful. If they think the public has an appetite for two more years of this, they are wrong. There are plenty of things–from immigration, health care, the environment, and trade to debate.
  5. On the flip side, The GOP needs to make certain they don’t swell up too much with satisfactory smugness on this Mueller report. Pretty much everyone in the country knows that Trump is a dirty man who does dirty things, whether they voted for him or not. In fact, many people voted for him for that very reason–they wanted him to do whatever it took to stick it in the eye of the establishment. But, if the GOP begins painting Trump as a virtuous victim (as the President has already begun saying), then they may have a ‘jump-the-shark’ moment when they lose what credibility they have left.
  6. I don’t like at all the tone of revenge and denouncing as ‘illegal’ the investigation. Take a listen for yourself. It sounds to me like Trump is preparing to go to war, and that wouldn’t be good either.
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#Oscar Predictions 2019

I used to be much better at predicting these, but then Birdman and The Shape of Water happened and now my confidence is shaken. Will I let that stop me from making predictions. No way!

Here are my picks. Keep in mind, I don’t pick all the categories, just the ones I’m interested in. For example, costume design and sound mixing are irrelevant to me.

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Best Picture–I predict Green Book. It is the best ‘total package’ movie. It is not a great movie, like Spotlight, The Artist, Or 12 Years A Slave, but it is probably the best this year. I would not be surprised if BlacKkKlansman or Roma won, but I don’t think so. If The Favourite wins, I’ll be mad for a year or two. For more thoughts on best picture, click here.

Actress In a Supporting Role–Regina King. There is a chance Marina de Tavira might pluck this as an early upset, and if she did, I wouldn’t be mad. My actual choice for this was snubbed for nominations–and that is Awkwafina from Crazy Rich Asians.

Actor In a Supporting Role–Sam Elliot. I called this one the day I walked out of the theater, and I’m sticking to it.

Foreign Language FilmRoma

Documentary FeatureMinding the Gap. The biggest travesty of the Oscars is Mr. Rogers Won’t You Be My Neighbor was snubbed. If RBG wins it is a political choice, because in terms of documentary skillset, it wasn’t that great.

Original Song–Shallow

Animated FilmIncredibles 2

Actor In a Leading Role–Christian Bale. By the end of Vice, I thought it was Dick Cheney on the screen.

Actress In a Leading Role–Glenn Close. Hands down. no contest.

Director–This is a tough one. It is a two person race between Cuaron and Spike Lee. I’m picking Spike Lee on body of work.

 

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State of the Union 2019: What I Saw and Heard

I’m gonna keep this quick because it is Wednesday and I have lots of work to do. Nevertheless, I always like to follow-up the State of the Union address with a blog post, because the two or three people out there who read this might want to know what I was thinking.

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Doesn’t it look like Speaker Pelosi is checking President Trump’s Work?

 

  1. President Trump broke protocol by starting his speech before Speaker Pelosi had a chance to formally introduce him. I don’t know I this was intentional–to minimize her screen time, or if it was unintentional. If he meant to do that, it is one more move in the chess game these two are playing. If it wasn’t, then the President showed lack of focus on the big stage.
  2. I adore World War II veterans, but I never figured out exactly why there was so much World War II in the speech.
  3. Meeting with North Korea in Vietnam is curious. I mean, it is a big globe, but to connect the two anti-communist wars in this way is a bold choice. North Korea, in Vietnam: What could go wrong?
  4. The President is right when he talks up the criminal justice reforms he and congress have made. Those were a long time coming. I’d like him to build on that and move the same bipartisanship to infrastructure.
  5. POTUS made no move toward a compromise on southern border. Everyone should prepare for another government shutdown.
  6. Speaker Pelosi was something special to watch. I think I saw her four times ‘shush’ her side of the chamber with her extended hand. More than once she was reading the incredibly large pieces of paper while POTUS was speaking. More than one she ‘forgot’ to sit back down. Again, I wonder if this was intentional or a lapse in focus. Then there was her clap–that odd clap where she pointed her fingers at the President while she clapped.
  7. Vice President Pence has histories biggest man-crush on POTUS. Just look at how he gazes at the Commander-in-Chief.
  8. President Trump threatened “war” on congress if they “investigate” him.
  9. The President exploited the truth–and rightly so–the Democratic Party has zero tolerance for pro-life views. I’ve said it before and it is still true: you can’t be pro-life and be a Democrat. The result is the GOP has many, many voters by default.
  10. I think I heard the President say Hillary Clinton would have started a war with North Korea had she won the election.
  11. Teleprompter Trump is not as fluid as Rally Trump, and there was a bizarro moment when he read two lines that didn’t go together in the same tone. “all children — born and unborn– are made in the holy image of God. The final part of my agenda is to protect America’s National Security.” I lifted the actual line from the transcript, which yes, has National and Security both capitalized. He read both of those lines like they were connected–one idea and you could tell on his face he realized it but couldn’t do anything about it.
  12. There were four awesome moments: Congress singing Happy Birthday to a survivor of the Jewish synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Buzz Aldrin’s amazing necktie, times when both sides of the aisle chanted USA! USA! USA! and when the women all in white celebrated their huge numbers and historic gains in the House of Representatives. Regardless of political persuasion, these were “American” moments.
  13. The speech was Rated PG-13. At times it was graphic and the language was rather provocative. I wouldn’t have wanted to have an eight year old watching it, that is for sure.
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Hero wearing a Hero Necktie!