Phi Beta Cons

Neal McCluskey Calls Out Bernie

Bernie Sanders

It is one of those leftist shibboleths that the GI Bill was a brilliant policy because it did so much to raise the educational level of the nation and thereby boosted the economy. In his recent Washington Post op-ed making his case for free college, Bernie Sanders predictably relied on the claimed success of the GI Bill. That got Cato’s Neal McCluskey interested, and he dug into the evidence that Sanders cited to back up his claim.

In this Cato@Liberty post, McCluskey writes that of the two pieces of evidence Sanders cited, “not only does neither illustrate that the GI Bill spurred economic growth, neither even contends it did. They say it spurred college enrollment growth, and one says veterans ended up being better students than some college presidents expected them to be, but neither makes the Sanders’ growth claim.”

McCluskey goes on to point to evidence that undermines the economic growth idea. For one thing, most of those who took advantage of the benefits would have gone to college anyway. Also, it seems that the benefits went mostly to veterans who were rather well-to-do, not to the poor.

I have never bought the notion that the GI Bill was essential to America’s post-war economic success. We had never suffered from any shortage of superbly trained professionals prior to World War II. What the GI Bill mainly “accomplished” was  to begin the wasteful process of making a BA the prelude to learning an occupation.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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