Student-Loan Reboot to be Folded into Healthcare Reform

Can this be for real? The Democrats are folding student-loan reform into the health bill so it can be enacted without 60 votes in the Senate.

I’ve written about this here. There’s been a lot of talk about student-loans since the current Administration came to power. The two key features that reportedly will make it into the healthcare legislation are:

1) Putting an end to the subsidized private student loan industry. Citibank, Sallie Mae and hundreds of others will be out of this business (except possibly as servicers rather than finance providers). From now on, the money will go directly from the Federal government to schools.

Senator Tom Harkin says this step is long overdue to stop wasting the taxpayers’s money. I say that if the government really wants to be a bank, they should first prove how they’re going to be any better at it than real banks are.

2) Sharply increasing the maximum amounts of Pell grants for low-income students, and automatically indexing the maximums for inflation every year. Some eight million Pell grants are awarded each year. Economists have been saying since I was in college that federal supports for higher education are the reason that, as with healthcare, the costs have been rising at far more than the general rate of inflation for decades now. We’re going to be kicking those cost increases into a higher gear now.

Why attach this thing, which upends and federalizes a quite substantial industry, to the on-again, off-again healthcare reform effort? That’s easy. To avoid both a public debate of the issue, and also the need to get 60 votes to pass it in the Senate.

There’s some pretty determined statism going on in Washington, if they think it’s right to use parliamentary maneuvers to ram major changes through that the people don’t want (like healthcare) or without a broad public debate (like student-loan reform). Or else they’re saying to themselves that we’re too stupid to want government to do the right things. Or maybe, like Nancy Pelosi, they’re thinking that we’ll like what they’re cooking as soon as we get a taste of it.

Even FDR had widespread public support for policies that were hardly more radical than these. Have we ever had a government this arrogant?