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.
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.