Friday, October 2, 2009

Taking the Student Loan Bill to Class

Oh, Gail Collins is such a well intended and sweet woman. Too bad she doesn’t understand all of the ramifications of the House proposed “student loan bill” she is pushing in her Op-Ed piece. Yes, it is a great idea to simplify the current student loan system by consolidating all the steps into the one, a step she described simply as: “the federal government makes the loans.” Meaning the 3 previous steps of “Federal government provides private banks with capital, federal government pays private banks a subsidy to lend that capital to students, federal government guarantees said loans so the banks don’t have any risk” are gone. And, yes that is a rather round-about system, but the new one would cause for many, many more students seeking financial aid, since they no longer have to go through the process of getting approved for the loan from a private bank. Many more students. That means more money will be given. Millions of dollars that were not spent before will be spent if the bill passes. And, as Ms Collins pointed out so well, “the central problem with financing higher education is that tuition keeps running ahead of the rate of inflation like Secretariat closing in the Belmont.” Good public schools, (good, not great or amazing) cost as much as a mediocre private school and good private schools cost an arm and a leg. And one needs not even look at the cost of great or amazing public or private schools. All they need to know is it will take at least six figures to graduate. And, since the cost of all these schools is going up every year, the federal government will be spending more, and more every year.

               That is wonderful news for the students, but where will the federal government get the money? Both, the House and Senate Finance and Appropriations committees will have to get together, and sit in a room with the door closed to discuss where in the federal budget that money will come from. Will taxes be raised? They can’t be to cover this. They will already be raised to cover health care reform, as well as whatever other reform bills that have actually managed to stay on the table. The National Endowment for the Arts has about 125 million, can it come from there? Well, if my memory serves correctly, all of Europe and Japan spend between 1.5 and 3 billion on the arts. There is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the Arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare. We need to give the NEA more money, but that is another story, and we will live to fight another day. What about getting it from the DOD? Do they really need 400 dollar ash trays? Well, the ashtrays on the USS Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and a likely target for torpedo attack, are made to break into 3 dull pieces. Those on the Greenville have enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the Officer of the Deck. They lead a slightly different life out there, and it costs a little extra. No money should be taken from the Department of Defense.
  In fact, I cannot even think of a good place to get the money. Where in the federal budget can we can about 100-500 million dollars for this? If someone can tell me, and Ms Collins, that would be amazing. But, for now she needs to not commentate on pieces of legislation she does not understand. She does not know the socioeconomic ramifications or the political nuances involved with this bill, and neither do I. No one individual does. Only the Appropriations and Finance committees 

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