"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Cancelling Student Debt, Affordable Housing, And Social Welfare–Free This, Free That, And A Free Ride For Everyone

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but you’d never know it to look at White House policies.  High gas prices? Lower or eliminate taxes at the pump and take credit for alleviating pain and suffering.  

Of course such tax abatement means fewer dollars in the treasury, fewer resources for heralded environmental protection; increased vehicular travel, more pollution, increased demand on energy, weakened geopolitical position, on and on until we’re back where we started from.

Rising rental costs? Spend billions of tax dollars to keep people in high-rent neighborhoods which they otherwise would not be able to afford.  A free ride to Park Avenue, Spring Valley, St. Tropez, or Pacific Heights.  Because of rent control, generous housing subsidies, and enforced low-income units in otherwise high-income buildings, buildings remain unoccupied, developers invest their money elsewhere, and tax dollars decrease. If developers can negotiate favorable agreements with the city on the number of affordable units and decide to build, they will be sure to put the ‘affordable’ units in the least favorable location – lower floors, no balconies, little sunlight, inconvenient access.

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Furthermore renters in those few new high-end buildings with a legislated percentage of low-end units will find little affordable in their newly gentrified neighborhoods where shops, bars, and restaurants will cater to an upper-middle class clientele. forcing them to shop in their old neighborhoods.

Landlords of rent-controlled buildings in cities like New York, Washington, and San Francisco do what they can to ‘encourage’ residents in below-market priced units to leave; or in many cases, simply leave units vacant until zero occupancy when they can tear down the building and built the high-rent structures they had always intended.

Too burdened by student debt? No problem, for the Biden Administration intends to forgive it for everyone.  The issue of subsidized student loans has been an economic and financial problem for decades.  Thanks to these loans and government grants, students with the barest qualifications for four-year college, matriculate, fail, and leave in debt (however minor after government support) after a year or two, enter the job market with no skills or training, and too poorly-educated to participate intelligently in civil society.

Affirmative action programs, combined with such generous subsidies have guaranteed an unfit student population.  Those students who were admitted to four-year colleges and universities on the basis of race and interests of ‘diversity’ never had a chance in the first place.  Coming from dysfunctional family backgrounds, poor secondary schools, and in need of special tutoring, they were never able to keep up.  Administrators, concerned about what might be a high failure rate for minority students, cooked the books, gave special grade consideration to them, and passed them up and out, taking their money and graduating them with little of educational value in their book bags.

The only beneficiaries of these subsidized loans and grants are the colleges and universities who gladly take the government’s largesse and build stadiums, new residential housing, gymnasiums, and athletic fields.  They have no investment in the graduation of these underqualified and subsidized students, because there will be many more where they came from.

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Now, with the cancellation of student debt, the same unqualified students will now be able to cruise through the remaining years of their ‘education’, even less concerned about graduation or their economic and civic future than before.  Study? Play? Drop out? It really doesn’t matter at all. 

While the taxpayer will bear the burden of cancelled public debt, the government will also have to repay all private lending institutions which have financed student loans.  These private lenders will no longer care about the debt worthiness of borrowers since they know that Uncle Sam will repay them in case of default. In the future these private lenders be quite happy to ramp up lending to credit shaky families.

Perhaps worst of all, those families who have paid full freight, who have saved, invested, and marshalled their resources for the sake of their children’s education and future will rightfully feel cheated, even more mistrustful of government than before, and will be encouraged to feed at the public trough like everyone else.

Social welfare programs which under more conservative administrations (even Democratic ones) began to add conditions to payments (such as work, limited time of payouts, repayment plans, etc.) are now reverting to old-style giveaways.  People cannot help themselves, say progressives, and thus must be helped by all of us, providing the same familiar, retreaded, worn argument given for public spending used for decades. 

Such a system, of course, makes no demands on recipients and deflates demand for gainful employment.  Why should a welfare recipient, receiving money with no strings attached bother to work?  Why should mothers receiving thousands in grants from Aid To Dependent Children (ADC ) bother to configure their families, work, and social life around the upbringing of their children?

Free pre-school education is another old idea fostered and promoted by progressives.  How can anyone deny the right to the institutional nurturing and early child education provided by a universal system?  

Of course, the statistics tell a different story.  Children in the famous Head Start program did indeed show some learning advantages over non-benefitted children after leaving, but this advantage was ephemeral at best.  Within a year all advantages dissipated or disappeared.  Worst of all, advocates of free universal pre-school education see a unique opportunity to introduce and promote concepts of ‘alternate’ sexuality, anathema to most parents (the experience of Florida and other states are good examples of parental outrage), and a guarantee of a political circus for four-year-olds.

In a free-market, capitalist society like the United States, everything is valued based on economic investment and return.   Even granting the marketing genius of ‘ascribed value- - i.e. a value above and beyond the function of the product or service – you get what you pay for; and something you get for free will always be suspect.   Work, risk, benefit, and reward are all part of this socio-economic system and key to the American ethos of enterprise.  

Most Americans resent value being ascribed solely or primarily on the basis of identity and race, gender, and ethnicity.  They resent doles, welfare given solely on the basis of poverty without assessing economic potential and mobility.  They resent free rides and free lunches.  Compassion does not mean give-aways.  It means consideration, a willingness to encourage opportunity, and a helping hand to those climbing not lying on the bottom.

The era of free rides cannot last, nor can the distorted view of society promoted by the progressive Left.  The vision of Jefferson, Hamilton, and the Founding Fathers has not changed – America is a land of individuals productively and responsibly living within the context of community.  It is a land of individual enterprise moderated by the interests of the commonweal.  It is not a nation owned and ruled by the state.  Sooner or later the tide will turn, and this era of failed promises, political fantasy, and hopeless idealism will end.

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