Of all the arguments for big government giveaway programs, this one really takes the cake. Richard Eskow, blogging for the Huffington Post, explains how forgiving student loans would be “in the spirit of the G.I. Bill.”
Once upon a time this country thought big. We survived the Great Depression, fought the Second World War, rebuilt Europe on the Marshall Plan… and provided tuition-free education for college students.
Ask anybody from that era about the G.I. Bill and chances are you’ll hear how someone’s life was changed for the better. That bill educated a generation and provided affordable opportunities to form households and start small businesses. At the same time, and for years afterward, many public colleges and universities charged little or no tuition.
Not coincidentally, these moves were followed by an extraordinary period of growth in jobs and wages.
Excuse me. These benefits were offered to people who had just put their lives on the line for the defense of western civilization from Nazis, Fascists, and Imperialists bent on world domination. They earned it, and a lot more that could never be repaid. The spirit of the G.I. Bill is to assist those who have demonstrated the willingness to sacrifice all for their country, not to reward people who made bad financial decisions.
Today, it seems, we have forgotten how to think big. Austerity economists and the anti-government right wing have persuaded us to cut education funding and, in so doing, drastically increase college costs. Students and their families are now shouldering what was once society’s shared obligation: investing in the education that will lead to future prosperity.
Tuition hasn’t risen astronomically because of funding cuts. It has risen for much the same reason healthcare costs have become unaffordable for many. The ultimate consumer of the product isn’t paying for it, therefore market forces and competition cannot work. It is economically absurd that a product that everyone supposedly needs is unaffordable for all but a few. That sort of economic absurdity rarely occurs without government meddling.
Survivors of Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the Battle of the Bulge, or any number of unnamed perils where they risked life and limb for America deserved the benefits they received. If some Occupy Wall Street snowflake triggered into running for his safe space by seeing “TRUMP 2016” scrawled in chalk on a sidewalk borrowed more money than he can pay back for his degree in gender studies, that in no way entitles him to the same benefits as someone who stormed Omaha Beach.
Let’s get real about what created prosperity back in the post war period. That prosperity was created by people who knew what it was like to make sacrifices, people who had a strong work ethic, and people who appreciated the opportunities they had living in a free society. What they got through the G.I. Bill isn’t just another handout. It was a thank you and a reward for service. It helped the country because they understood its value and put it to work for themselves. Forgiving student loans would just be another welfare program creating no more economic growth than handing out surplus cheese.