Last Friday, I launched a couple of political missiles on social media and then promptly went into a tent in the woods with no Internet access. In addition to abandoning an interesting debate here, and I also tweeted:
What did I mean by that? Was I being sarcastic? Whenever we left the woods to get dinner, my phone would light up with replies and likes and hate comments. Last time, I looked that tweet was viewed 128,000 times. I muted that thread, because I didn’t feel like dealing with random weirdos.
But I’ll talk about it with you guys here.
Life might not be fair, but government laws should be. A goal in every healthy democracy is to make laws that are fair or make the world a little more fair. Laws that benefit people wearing green shirts, as opposed to people who wear red or blue shirts, are usually considered bad laws.
It feels really unfair that the government is giving one of my kids a $10,000 check, while the other kid is clinging to his last two years of a government-structured program — two years that were begrudgingly given to us after I spent a full year on advocacy and hired a lawyer. After the two years are up, he faces the real possibility of living at home with us with nothing to do until we all die. Not an exaggeration. The kid with the $10,000 check has a world of possibilities at his feet. The autistic kid with no check is pretty much screwed.
He’s been screwed for a while, but the pandemic made everything worse. Theoretically, the government gave our school district $2 million to help students like Ian, who were completely abandoned and isolated since March 2020. Except not a penny of that money made it to my. kid for extra tutoring or after-school activities. I begged and begged. I created a powerpoint presentation for administrators explaining why he needed help. And he got nothing until a lawyer entered the picture.
Now, why didn’t kids like mine get any help from the government? The federal government provided some guidelines about how schools could spend that money. But those guidelines were vague. So, elected school boards are using that money to make repairs and do other improvements on buildings that they had to make any way, which saves the taxpayers (voters) money. Also, nobody is charge of checking where all the money went.
It’s the end of the summer. Ian had nothing to do for six weeks. He hasn’t had a full day of programming since mid-June. We’ve dropped everything to keep him busy and stimulated and away from 24/7 computer stuff, but we are extremely tired. And weary of watching other parents launch their children over the ramparts into college.
Ian and other disabled kids aren’t the only ones who have not been served by this latest reform. College relief is, no doubt, much needed for low income families in this country. Colleges charge too much, and have been disgustingly dishonest about pricing and debt repayments. People have been ripped off and should be compensated.
But why just college debt relief? Plenty of low income people also run up debt on their credit cards to pay for food and rent. In fact, the biggest issue for community college students is that they can’t get student loans to pay for living expenses, so they put those expenses on their credit cards. Every community college has a food pantry. Why are we not helping community college students and other low income families with credit card debt? Why are we giving preference to college debt rather than food/housing debt? If the issue is that student loans can’t be dissolved with bankruptcy, why not change those laws?
The chitchat among suburban parents is all about this loan forgiveness plan. Those who had chosen to have their kids take out loans are very proud of themselves. The others are vowing to never make that mistake again. Going forward, every high income family in this country will make sure that their kids take out loans, in case the government does another college loan forgiveness plan in the future. Families, who can afford the full freight costs at Harvard, are going to have their kids take out loans.
Fairness is an important goal. When you walk away from fairness, democracies unravel.
41 thoughts on “Government Fairness”
I totally know I’m not in your shoes and that this is a really tough time with getting supports so just want to acknowledge that.
My view for government is that there is a difference between ‘fair’ or ‘equal’ and ‘equitable.” It’s that old cartoon with the kids and the fence and the boxes/ramp. For me, you have provided so much understanding about why special ed supports are so important even if providing them is not ‘fair’ to the other kids that don’t need them.
Also for me, government’s role in education is to position its citizens for success in a capitalist democracy. Sometimes that’s funding the school or related supports, sometimes that’s funding research, sometimes that’s funding individuals because their needs are unique. My own personal preference for university is something like Finland where you have to compete for a spot but once you’re in there’s no tuition. But a capped amount works for me too. (Of course there are issues like ‘who can get in’ etc. – not suggesting any system is perfect.)
There’s also the social safety net, which for me is a kind of different budget line but includes employment insurance, disability, medicare/medicaid, welfare, child benefits, etc. I personally think strong safety nets are important.
For me, with social supports anyway, the idea that government should provide fairness isn’t really a thing, but they need to help people who need it. When I received pandemic unemployment I was really glad for it, but as soon as I could work again I was glad to stop. Same thing if I don’t need disability support.
I really can’t say where student loan forgiveness fits on that spectrum, but I suspect a lot of the arguing is because for some people it falls into the social support category and for some it looks like stimulus/a tax break.
To me, the US tertiary education/loan system has seemed so predatory in how young adults are recruited and how financial aid is handled that I see this as an adjustment to come into line with other Western countries and make sure the young American adults of today can compete in a global market. Like I said, I’m not sure anyone’s got it right — I looked and Canadians buy their houses later in life on average than Americans (36 vs 33), so that doesn’t speak well to our university funding. But that’s where it fits in for me, something like paying for unemployment and retraining when the fisheries dry up.
The way parents in your area are behaving to me — and I love you American guys really — points to a fundamental anti-social stance that somehow if anyone pays a penny more than anyone else it’s visceral, like getting scammed. That *freaks me out* because it’s ignoring equity issues. I am really scared of living in a society where that is our fundamental approach to things, because ‘fair’ often means leaving a heap of people behind.
I think it was a big mistake, but it’s not going to hurt the dems much, thankfully.
I’m very glad it was capped at 10,000; but I’m furious the income cap is so high. Parents making much less than 250,000 cannot use the deduction/credit whatever it is for college costs-I think that’s set at 180,000–and they are at the end of their careers. So now young people making a ton at the beginning of their careers can have their loans forgiven? Horrible idea to cap it there.
Also, we must stop giving money to institutions of higher ed that have vast endowments. If the government wants to spend money on higher ed, give it to the working class public colleges that do the heavy lifting when it comes to helping the working class. Stop with the giveaways to the UMC and the UMC adjacent.
I was writing similar thoughts to Jen and really like the summing up “That *freaks me out* because it’s ignoring equity issues. I am really scared of living in a society where that is our fundamental approach to things, because ‘fair’ often means leaving a heap of people behind.”
When people in the US complain that systems aren’t fair, I think the common political solution is suggest that we cut taxes and let people spend their own money as they choose (what you say is happening with the pandemic funds in your district — except for those who are able to fight the system to get what they were promised). So I am wary about yelling about fairness. Maybe they are better policies but fairness complaints don’t result in enacting them.
Equity means sharing resources based on need and recognizing that we are not all in the same boat. That’s the case with people with disabilities but also others who face significant challenges. I associate fairness with giving everybody the same resources (if not today, in net). We design programs so that people can pretend they are “fair” using that logic, even when they are not. Our rules around obtaining disability benefits (including educational resources) are largely designed to make them look “fair” but then require significant resources to jump the bureaucratic hurdles (and to negotiate the rules) — money I consider wasted.
I was motivated by the complaints about the student loan forgiveness to run the numbers on our 529 plans for our kids — and, the benefits were are substantially larger than this 10K loan forgiveness.
I am certainly not suggesting to my kids that they take unsubsidized direct student loans, with interest accruing while they are in college (and potentially graduate school) in the off chance that the loans will be forgiven, again. If we were poor enough to be eligible for subsidized loans (and I think that’s pretty poor), I might, but, it still wouldn’t be based on the off chance of more loan forgiveness. Maybe if we find the political will to elect a functional government (and I think this shouting about fairness makes that less likely) we’ll have real policy solutions as possibilities again.
I really don’t see how it’s equity when the forgiveness extends to those making 250,000 per household. Our household will never have a year where we make that much, and that is true of the majority of people I know. It’s not right. It really enrages those left out. It does nothing to make college more affordable for people–properly funding public colleges, and requiring elite privates with huge endowments to spend down their endowments to reduce student debt, would do far more.
I really don’t get the outrage over this particular policy.
Shouldn’t people be more outraged at the benefit families like mine get from the 529 plan, which is not capped, or income limited, of much greater value and available only to those who had the money to save when their children are young?
Or that I get farm subsidies?
Eh, it’s still the carried interest benefit that gets me (and, that Thiel has billions in his Roth IRA that he’ll never pay taxes on).
87% of the loan forgiveness goes to students (out of school) who earn less than 75K. Would the program have gained more support among your circles that oppose it if the income cap was lower? Or is the complaint really just the forgiveness that might go generally, if not specifically, to a group of people other than them?
Well, it does give ten thousand per to Biden White House aides “Chris Meagher, Claudia Chavez, Hee Jung L Shim, John McCarthy, Justin Oswald, Kelliann Blazek, Maju Varghese, Michael LaRosa, Michael Leach, Rory Brosius, Shilpa Phadke, and Zephranie Buetow” who “all make under the salary threshold and have outstanding loans so would … benefit from Biden’s handout” so there’s that.
It gets harder and harder to maintain the stance that the Dems are the party of the laboring population.
And furthermore: https://bfi.uchicago.edu/working-paper/2020-169/ to help lower quintile people, it’s not terribly effective compared to alternatives.
Now, is this going to be ‘basket of deplorables’ bad? Or, ‘helicopter evacuation of the Embassy in Kabul’ bad? Hard to know. But I don’t think it’s going to be a plus.
Paul Begala thinks it’s bad for the Dems: “Former top Clinton advisor Paul Begala blasts Biden’s student loan debt bailout: “What is my party doing with this? I think they’re not helping the people that we’re here to help, which is poor people and underprivileged communities.””
If you’re upper/upper-middle class, you think of college as the easy, obvious choice. For lower/middle class and especially for poorer students, it’s neither easy nor obvious: it’s the risky, difficult choice you make if you want to work hard (most likely while holding down a job) and make your life and your family’s life better. But it doesn’t always work out financially – especially if you don’t complete college – and so debt forgiveness helps to make those students’ lives better. The move with Pell grants helps those students.
I’m supportive of a whole bunch of alternatives you propose or might support in the name of fairness: a universal basic income, free community/state college, expanding supports for disabled kids and adults. (I’m happy to pay for taxes for public education even though I don’t have kids, for Medicaid even though no one I’m related to uses it, etc. Typical tax-happy liberal.) I’d prefer a much lower income cap. But this is something that was doable by executive order and will help some of the right people, many of whom have gone to community colleges or middle-tier regional state universities like mine.
Yup, that’s me, too. And, I don’t mind the income cap threshold that much since I think the benefit mostly go to others. I also like the revisions in the income based repayment plan, which changes the cost of taking loans to make the risky decision to go to college at all potentially a little bit easier.
I think there’s a lot of projection of who takes student loans and why skewed by our own personal experiences and media reports (like the students taking large loans to go to NYU) and people taking private loans and parent loans (which allow the debt to balloon significantly).
The article in The Atlantic saying you shouldn’t go to a “boutique” college is a case in point. I agree that you shouldn’t take a second mortgage on your house or incur substantial debt to send your child to a college the family can’t afford. And, many families in the UMC circle feel a lot of pressure to do that and the government aids and abets the choice by letting families take out 30K or so in loans for the total undergraduate education. I question that choice and think that families should be willing to tell their kids what they can afford.
But those aren’t the people, mostly, that this forgiveness program is helping.
“Going forward, every high income family in this country will make sure that their kids take out loans, in case the government does another college loan forgiveness plan in the future.”
Are you kidding me? Seriously, is this a joke?
Why would anyone take out loans on the *incredibly small chance* that there will ever be this kind of loan forgiveness again in our lifetime? I’m just trying to think of a situation in which this is even possibly a good idea. You’re not investing in something. You’re dumping money into a loan (that will usually bear interest, i.e., costing you money) when you could invest that money in something far more soulless than education and actually make money.
My kids’ Direct Subsidized student loans are/were granted on the basis of need, as a form of financial aid. E’s loans right now are Direct Unsubsidized, which means they are interest-bearing, because we don’t have the same level of need (my husband was laid off for 2 years right when S started college). So it costs to take out this money. I don’t see how it would be a financial benefit to take out these loans on the small chance student loan relief would happen again. I think only people who don’t ever deal with financial aid and federal student loans would think this is a good idea.
Also, in your original viral tweet, you wrote: “Why just student loans? Why not give $10,000 to people who have huge credit card debt for rent and food?”
Under your same logic, why wouldn’t wealthy people just rack up credit card debt in the hope that they too would get $10K credit card debit relief some day?
This whole hubbub all reminds me how badly the people of this country need financial literacy education.
Loans don’t accrue interest, while the student is in school. And the interest rates are relatively low. I know wealthy people who have their kids take out loans, invest the money for four years, make a profit, and then pay back the money immediately after graduation.
In terms of the $75K income threshold… the doctor’s kids who took out loans for these reasons probably earn less than $75K the year or two after graduation.
More later… watching that new Game of Thrones
“For subsidized federal student loans, your interest is paid by the U.S. government while you’re in school. For most other loans, interest continues to accrue, so you will owe more than you borrowed by the time you leave school.”
Right. We’re talking about fed loans, not the private school loans. And it’s relatively low interest. We took out a combined $75K in loans to get our PhDs. After graduation, we had to deal with the interest. After a while, we had enough to pay back the loans and interest, but didn’t, because the loan rate was relatively low. Anyway, the point that I was making was that people who have the means take out college loans for their kids.
But that was all a side point anyway. I do very much want to help lower income people eat, pay rent, and afford college. This program helps people who took out student loans.
https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsidized: “Who will pay the interest?
You are responsible for paying the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan during all periods.”
And, I think the current rate is 5%.
Wendy is offering more personal knowledge, but government only pays interest for the loan for income based subsidized direct student loans.
The loan forgiveness doesn’t apply to the private loans, right?
Credit card debt can be wiped out in bankruptcy. And other programs that might have helped the poor pay their rent, for food, and for college were rejected by the Republicans in the Senate (and Manchin & Sinema).
But, I keep saying the same things again and again. I feel like there’s something deeper or unstated in the “centrist” outrage that I simply do not understand.
Why are we not helping community college students and other low income families with credit card debt?
Because we did? We handed out several rounds of massive checks over the past two years to pretty much any household making less than $150,000. Much of this money that went to lower income households was almost certainly used for food, housing, and to pay down debts.
It also went to people like us, who really honestly didn’t need it. It was nice to get the cash but we didn’t need it. So when UMC people are asking “When do I get paid?” in response to the student loan forgiveness, the answer is “you already did.”
Look, I’m exhausted right now. After two years of getting royally screwed by the government for having a special needs kid during a pandemic, and I continue to have very little support and help from the government, I am grouchy. He spent all last year locked in a windowless basement with three other students, none of whom could talk. He mostly played video games in that government classroom all last year. Nobody gave a shit about my kid. No AOC speeches on the floor of Congress about kids like mine. Hopefully, his new private program will be appropriate for him, and he will get two years of help.
idk. All I’m saying that our personal situation is definitely coloring my perspective right now. I reserve the right to totally change my mind in two weeks, if his new school turns out to be okay. Maybe I’ll stop having anxiety dreams about driving him to a computer class on time.
Why are other centrists opposing this reform? I’ve seen a multitude of reasons.
– Mike Rowe on Facebook has been writing long essays about how this program is a slap in the face of every person in the country who chose to get a plumbing degree instead of a college liberal arts degree.
– Other people have said that they sent their kids to a state college, because they had limited funds, but other people sent their kids to fancy private schools and didn’t worry about the price tag. Why should people be rewarded for buying something they can’t afford?
– People have said that this reform does nothing to fix a fundamentally broken system. And, in fact, encourages people to take out more loans in the future.
– Others have said that this cash hand out was just a transparent effort to buy votes.
– Some have said that this was undemocratic policy. Should have gone through Congress. Rolled out with more public input and so on.
– Others say it was a really bad use of money. Those funds should have been used at community colleges to improve systems and expand offerings. Free lunch at community colleges would help a lot of people.
Anyway. That’s a long comment. Enough now.
Why are other centrists opposing this reform?
Why do I care what “centrists” think? So-called “centrists” in our pundit class don’t have a particularly good record of having well-informed or successful ideas. The fact that McMegan, in particular, is so against this reinforces my belief that this isn’t bad, because you would be hard pressed to come up with any substantive issue that she has actually ever been correct about.
Mike Rowe on Facebook has been writing long essays about how this program is a slap in the face of every person in the country who chose to get a plumbing degree instead of a college liberal arts degree.
What is a Mike Rowe? This Mike Rowe? Why should I care, in particular, what he thinks? In any case, his position doesn’t make sense? What is a “plumbing degree?” If he is talking about people being trained to be a plumber, people usually do so in one of two ways. Either they do it through an apprenticeship (often union funded and organized) with an employer (as people do in my county when they go through the voc-ed program) or they go to a trade school or community college. In the first case, they are paid for their training. In the second, they often fund this training through student loans which are forgivable under this program and so, rather than being slapped in the face, will very well benefit from it if they have outstanding loans.
People have said that this reform does nothing to fix a fundamentally broken system. And, in fact, encourages people to take out more loans in the future.
Taking out more loans based on a small probability that a fraction of them will be forgiven is certainly a decision, but doesn’t necessarily strike me as a particularly smart one.
Some have said that this was undemocratic policy. Should have gone through Congress. Rolled out with more public input and so on.
This is an argument of sorts. But the counter-argument is that somehow people have accepted that the Republicans get to veto any legislation with 40 Senate votes through an institution that did not exist for the majority of our nation’s history and was set up to safeguard Jim Crow. I would, as well, rather this went through the legislative process and we would have gotten better policy from it but it is what it is. I am not going to wring my hands about Democrats who have received far more votes than Republicans did doing what they need to do to govern.
Others say it was a really bad use of money. Those funds should have been used at community colleges to improve systems and expand offerings. Free lunch at community colleges would help a lot of people.
See above. These things require legislation to spend new money. The loan forgiveness does not actually spend any additional money.
“Why do I care what “centrists” think? So-called “centrists” in our pundit class don’t have a particularly good record of having well-informed or successful ideas. The fact that McMegan, in particular, is so against this reinforces my belief that this isn’t bad, because you would be hard pressed to come up with any substantive issue that she has actually ever been correct about.”
Well, Jay, one reason to pay attention to centrists is that political candidates from the center do less to alienate voters from the center. So if you want to have backed candiddates who actually, well, win, it is often a good strategy to heed the views of centrists.
Since when is McMegan a centrist? Isn’t she a Milton Friedman acolyte? Or am I confused?
I remember an old blog post of hers that asked if there was ever anything good done by Unions because she couldn’t see any. Now as a child of a union worker I’d don’t have some romanticized idea of unions – we tended to think of them like health plans, a mix of benefits with some real crap but you were better off with them. But the main thing my father and other relatives all said was “safety.” It it still true, companies can push you to overlook OSHA rules much more if there is no union. As the kids say, SMH.
There was once a nice characterization of Bill Clinton as a ‘Rockefeller Democrat’. That’s about where I would put McArdle. And, I see her as a centrist because she is about like me….
There was once a nice characterization of Bill Clinton as a ‘Rockefeller Democrat’. That’s about where I would put McArdle
I doubt very much that (a) Clinton and McArglebargle share many, if any, substantial political positions (b) McArglebargle comes within 40 points of Clinton’s substantial (if morally compromised) IQ, and (c) Clinton has ever been an Ayn Rand disciple, which seems to be what passes for McArglebargle’s philosophical and moral foundation.
And, I see her as a centrist because she is about like me….
While that *is* quite explanatory. Although it does confirm the idea that what “centrist” really means is not a well-defined set of positions and beliefs but rather “someone who I am in sympathy with.”
there’s a union song I found once but can’t find again with the refrain, “I just want to work here, I don’t want to die” sung by a unionized sawmill worker whose boss asks him to crawl under some logs to shift them. the worker says no, calls out the danger, and then waits for his union rep, singing the song.
Well, Jay, one reason to pay attention to centrists is that political candidates from the center do less to alienate voters from the center. So if you want to have backed candiddates who actually, well, win, it is often a good strategy to heed the views of centrists.
I doubt (and polling data confirms) that there really are very few “voters from the center.” Rather, there are mostly disengaged voters who don’t want to or bother to think about politics at all but when one actually pins them down they are (a) partisan leaning and (b) not in sympathy with what most “centrist” so-called intellectuals actually believe. In fact, what “centrist” voters and “centrist” pundits tend to believe are often in direct opposition.
Rather than go into detail of the problem with “centrist” so-called intellectuals, but I would instead point to this piece by John Ganz. He is speaking about and to Shahidi Hamadi but he could just as well be referring to McArglebargle or any number of vapid idiots who conflate having an Ivy League degree and personal connections with actually being worth taking seriously.
“to McArglebargle or any number of vapid idiots” Gosh Jay, I think it was in about middle school that I abandoned the idea that making fun of someone’s name was a witty and incisive debate technique. But, you be you.
Dave, didn’t you yourself refer to her as McMegan?
bj – was this the song?
Yes! Yes! I’ve literally been looking for this song for a year and couldn’t find it. I have tears in my eyes. A random comment on a blog and someone across the world has found it for me. Thank you Ann. An example of why I still find the internet magic.
How did you do it? I know sometimes it’s a simple twist, but I really haven’t been able to find this site and song for quite a while — maybe 2 years? I think I first found it when we were discussing safety in schools in 2020.
I’m particularly enamored of this song when it points out the different worlds the worker and the boss are functioning The backstory for the Stamper song was that he was asked to move some logs, so the comment that “if it’s always level on the floor where you’re working” is specific. The worker on the mill floor knows that logs can roll and is refusing the task. The supervisor in the office thinks it’s no big deal because things don’t roll in his office.
Happy to help.
It’s just my reflex information science background (my degree is in Library and Information Science) – but I mostly get to work on programming data sets these days – so nice to keep my hand in.
Back in ‘the day’ we had lectures on how to deconstruct a query, and search the different elements – knowing that (there’s a lot of research on it), people only get around 50% of the details ‘right’. The ‘Reference interview’ occupied a significant chunk of a semester.
Of course, you search for the whole phrase first – just in case they’re one of the people with a photographic memory. 🙂
The general gestalt, or feeling behind it, is most likely to be right. So it was likely to be a protest song, and probably a union one. So those were my base queries. “Union” “Songs” “Lyrics” (because I wanted the lyrics to check, rather than listening to sound clips)
Words like “I” or “you” or “we” are likely to be mis-remembered (we tend to translate them in our heads) – so you’re better off sticking to nouns and verbs.
Then I plugged in the specifics. No luck with “sawmill” (but it might well have been another unionized industry, or the song might have been a variation – lots of protest songs get re-worded for different events)
Tried “die” – but too many songs related to the Civil War 😉
Then tried “Work here” as a phrase, combined with “union” and “songs” and “lyrics” – and bingo, the Harry Stamper one popped up.
Glad it was the one you wanted.
Ask a Librarian 🙂
Love the explanation, especially the part about what people get wrong. I think I was getting the verb wrong in the lyric.
Turns out it’s the “anthem” of the occupational health and safety movement. I found a version by an RN in the early days of the pandemic.
I’ll agree that making fun of Megan McArdle’s name doesn’t sit well with me either. It’s easy to see a person whose words you read as just words, but she is a person, and if we wouldn’t call her names in person, we shouldn’t do it on the internet, either. (also don’t appreciate making fun of Meghan Markle’s name)
I’m potentially particularly sensitive since I saw the comments on a thread on twitter about my kids’ famous classmate (commenting on his mom’s legs & his younger sister’s hotness).
I also am not a fan of most of McArdle’s columns – I find a lot of them glib – but am not on board with the name-mocking either. Also, I was impressed with her stories of taking care of her father who had Covid during the earliest, scariest days. (Plus she used to write an excellent gift guide on kitchen stuff, which, aside from an obsession with sous vide equipment, had great suggestions.)
Yeah, let’s not mock people. Especially those who read this blog. If we wouldn’t say it to their face, let’s not say in on the Internet.
I’m not an ideologue. I like ideas. I read stuff from all political stripes (not pro-Trump stuff though) and have always posted links to different ideas on this blog. I’ll keep doing it.
Wrong wrong wrong. Sous vide is wonderful, the best thing since penicillin! You can get gorgeous flavor and easy chewing from otherwise tough and chewy cuts, you have far less chance of disaster from over-cooking. For barbecue, you can basically pasteurize the meat, then develop some crust over the coals, fresh tomato sauce… another great example of McMegan insight!
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