The Corner

In Which I Am Called a Socialist Liar

A letter I received from a reader in regard to my slim post on the government “takeover” of the major channel of student lending in this country:

Most folks at NRO aren’t liars.

You are.

The govt didn’t ‘take over’ the student loan program.  It simply stopped socialism for the rich.  The govt guaranteed private lenders against default.  So the banks made money, the taxpayer took the loss, and the rich got richer.

I wasn’t aware that socialist liars wrote for NRO. 

Now, I am.

Ummmmkay. Let’s review:

Before 1965, student loans functioned in a relatively free market. Then, the Higher Education Act was passed as part of LBJ’s “Great Society” and heralded as an historic achievement by the left. With a massive influx of cheap credit underwritten by taxpayer dollars, tuition rates swelled over the ensuing decades, student debt in turn ballooned, and the left started making the same sort of profoundly myopic arguments about “socialism for the rich” that this reader advances. Most showed the same sort of ignorance about the provenance of the program, acting as if it were an impediment to a federal takeover instead of a down-payment. And even those who recognized its “progressive” goals nevertheless argued that its fruits – the crushing debt and soaring tuition rates – were evidence that we didn’t go far enough.

This is perhaps the Left’s most brilliant rhetorical feat – magically transforming failed corporate-statist half-measures they once championed into examples of the sorry state of the status quo and arguments for yet more statism. And you’ll see it again in about ten years, when well-meaning but dim liberals start calling federal subsidies for health-care coverage “socialism for rich insurance companies” and arguing that what we really need is a single-payer system.

This is why the right fought Obamacare tooth and nail. Not because we’re racist, or heartless, or socialist (!). We fought it because we know that statist intervention usually exacerbates the problems it is meant to fix, and worse, that it becomes the new normal, the baseline for bigger, more complex future expansions of state power. All this lets folks like my reader sleep easy, safe and sound in the knowledge that “at least we’re doing something for a change.”

To borrow from Baudelaire, the greatest trick big government ever pulled was to convince the American people it doesn’t exist.

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster has been news editor of National Review Online since 2009, and was a web site editor until 2012. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The American ...

Most Popular


If Amy Wax Is Wrong, Let’s See the Data

Regarding the kerfuffle Jason Richwine addressed here earlier, the economist Glenn Loury has posted an impassioned plea to his Facebook page. Loury, you may recall, hosts the video blog where Wax made her controversial claim that black students at Penn Law School rarely graduate in the top half of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

San Francisco Bans Fur Sales

San Francisco has banned the sale of fur. From the CBS-SF story: San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of fur clothing and products. Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a measure that prohibits the sale of fur clothes, accessories, even souvenirs in stores and ... Read More

For the First Time in Weeks, Relief Sweeps over Austin

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Austin bomber is done in by one of his own devices; some new numbers suggest that a small but significant portion of Trump voters are tiring of the chaos and aren’t showing up to support other Republicans in 2018; and the mixed news for conservatives coming out of the ... Read More

The Baleful Effect of #MeToo on Campus

Remember the series of hurricanes that pounded the Caribbean last summer? Something like that has been occurring on college campuses, as they're hit by one destructive mania after another: diversity, Title IX, anti-speech protests. Now it's the #MeToo Movement. In this Martin Center article, British academic ... Read More
Politics & Policy

A Time for Choosing

This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference was controversial. Invitations to European nationalist populists such as Nigel Farage and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (the niece of Marine Le Pen) caused many longtime conservatives to question whether they still belong to the conservative movement. Vocal critics ... Read More