Promises Promises…

Trump promised to revive coal mining. Bernie is once again promising to eliminate student debt. Bernie’s goal is a lot more attractive, but his strategy is equally delusional.

Trump, of course, is too dumb–and unconcerned–to know how energy markets work; he just throws red meat to his equally-uniformed base. Is that what Bernie is doing, too? Playing to his core voters without realizing how unrealistic/unworkable his promises are? I doubt that. Unlike Trump, he’s pretty smart–and he actually knows how government works.

And that’s worse, because it means he has to know his plan is an absolute non-starter.

Student debt is admittedly an enormous problem, both for the students who spend years burdened by it and for the economy, where it constitutes an enormous drag on consumer spending and economic growth. Policymakers definitely should do something to alleviate the burden, but the pertinent question is: what sorts of proposals make sense?

What would a workable solution look like?

Economists point out that simply canceling all student debt ends up helping high-income families most, which seems like a less-than-prudent use of tax dollars. Estimates are that the top 40 percent of earners would receive about two-thirds of the benefits.

Sanders has made a similar proposal before, and David Honig, a friend (who is an exceptional lawyer), took a “deep dive” into that previous plan. I am appending his analysis. It’s long, and it’s legalistic/technical, but it also demonstrates why political promises sound so much better when they aren’t closely examined.

I’ve bolded language that I think is particularly important…Here’s David’s summary.

Time for a breakdown. Here we go:



That’s our first title, and what it tells you is that this isn’t a Federal program alone, it’s a State and Federal program. In turn, that means that States have to sign on. The King v. Burwell precedent from the ACA litigation is going to still control, and that means we’re not talking about free tuition everywhere, just in blue States.
(a) Program Authorized.—
(1) GRANTS AUTHORIZED.—From amounts appropriated under subsection (f), the Secretary of Education (referred to in this section as the “Secretary”) shall award grants, from allotments under subsection (b), to States having applications approved under subsection (d), to enable the States to eliminate tuition and required fees at public institutions of higher education.
(2) MATCHING FUNDS REQUIREMENT.—Each State that receives a grant under this section shall provide matching funds for a fiscal year in an amount that is equal to one half the amount received under this section for the fiscal year toward the cost of reducing the cost of attendance at public institutions of higher education in the State.

That’s your formula — 2/3 Fed, 1/3 State. So if Sanders’ own estimate is right, that the cost to the Feds is $750B over 10 years, that means the States are going to have to come up with $375B, and they can’t tax Wall Street.

So how much do they get? Well, that’s interesting, and the legislation quite clearly institutionalizes the vast differences in education spending from State to State:

(b) Determination Of Allotment.—

This is how the dollars are determined.

(1) INITIAL ALLOTMENT.—For fiscal year 2016, the Secretary shall allot to each eligible State that submits an application under this section an amount that is equal to 67 percent of the total revenue received by the State’s public system of higher education in the form of tuition and related fees for fiscal year 2016. For each of fiscal years 2017 through 2019, the Secretary shall allot to each eligible State that submits an application under this section—
(A) an amount equal to the allotment the State received for fiscal year 2016, plus
(B) if the State provides additional funds toward the cost of reducing the cost of attendance at public institutions of higher education in the State for any of such fiscal years that is more than the matching funds requirement under subsection (a)(2), an amount equal to such additional funding provided by the State, which amount provided by the Secretary may be used for the activities described in subsection (e)(2).

Ummm, wow. So the State gets 2/3 of the revenue it received in the form of tuition and related fees? That, by the plain language of the statute, would exclude money spent by the State from general funds, lottery funds, special education funds, etc., and include only tuition and related fees. So States that subsidized education the most would get the least? That’s how it reads. If so, this is a total non-starter, and the legislation is a complete sham —  a promise written in unrealistic numbers to make it seem possible. If that is really what is intended, kill it now. Just forget it, and stop even pretending it was realistic.

But, in the interest of fairness, let’s assume it doesn’t really mean what it says, and that what it is really intended to do is replace all State spending on higher education. Okay? Is that fair, at least for the sake of discussion?

Even under that reasoning, there are problems. California’s budget is $10.5B, while Vermont’s is $84M. More important, New Hampshire is $104/capita, while Wyoming is $606/capita. So we start with that spending (assuming it’s not really tuition, which would make the whole thing a farce), and see right away that the new Federal program would instantly endorse unequal spending decisions made State-by-State, and pay for those decisions with Federal money. How long do you think that would last without challenge, either in Congress or in the courts? Yeah, not very long. If the money is coming from DC, paid via New York, what justification is there to spend so much less in one State than another?

And for years after 2016, while the States can increase their spending, they only get a one-to-one match in Federal funds, rather than the initial two-to-one match, making future State spending far more expensive than past State spending.

(2) SUBSEQUENT ALLOTMENTS.—Beginning in fiscal year 2020, the Secretary shall determine the median allotment per full-time equivalent student made to all eligible States under this section for fiscal year 2019 and incrementally reduce allotments made to States under this section such that by fiscal year 2025, no State receives an allotment under this section per full-time equivalent student that exceeds the median allotment per full-time equivalent student made under this section for fiscal year 2019.

Oh look, starting in 2020 there is an “evening out” of the money. Except, it comes down, instead of going up. So a State that was spending a lot of money on education gets a whole lot less, dropping the median, while a State that was spending less doesn’t get more. The median just keeps dropping to the lowest common denominator.

Do people really think this is a good idea?

(c) State Eligibility Requirements.—In order to be eligible to receive an allotment under this section for a fiscal year, a State shall—

Okay, so what does a State have to do to stay in the system?

ensure that public institutions of higher education in the State maintain per-pupil expenditures on instruction at levels that meet or exceed the expenditures for the previous fiscal year;

You have got to be kidding me! So one-half of the States, the ones actually trying to fund their higher education, get less starting in 2020, but the State has to keep paying just as much? So now the funding will go down from 2-1 to perhaps 1-1, or even less? This is insane. In the meantime, they have to do just as much with even less than they had before? So the University of California system is going to have funding from the feds that matches funding to Missouri, but has to put just as much California money into it, while trying to maintain their standards? Interesting.

ensure that tuition and required fees for in-State undergraduate students in the State’s public higher education system are eliminated;

Hey guys, we get less money, but we can’t charge tuition. Terrific!

(3) maintain State operating expenditures for public institutions of higher education, excluding the amount of funds provided for a fiscal year under this section, at a level that meets or exceeds the level of such support for fiscal year 2015;

Okay, this one’s not a big deal. Except, it hints that when it said “tuition” up above, it really meant “tuition.” And that’s nuts.

(4) maintain State expenditures on need-based financial aid programs for enrollment in public institutions of higher education in the State at a level that meets or exceeds the level of such support for fiscal year 2015;
(5) ensure public institutions of higher education in the State maintain funding for institutional need-based student financial aid in an amount that is equal to or exceeds the level of such funding for the previous fiscal year;

Huh? Why do they have to spend just as much on need-based student financial aid if students don’t have to pay tuition? Somebody please explain this one.
(6) provide an assurance that not later than 5 years after the date of enactment of this Act, not less than 75 percent of instruction at public institutions of higher education in the State is provided by tenured or tenure-track faculty;

A lovely goal, but the money just dropped through the floor for the highest-paying half of the States in the country.

(7) require that public institutions of higher education in the State provide, for each student enrolled at the institution who receives for the maximum Federal Pell Grant award under subpart 1 of part A of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a et seq.), institutional student financial aid in an amount equal to 100 percent of the difference between—
(A) the cost of attendance at such institution (as determined in accordance with section 472 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087ll)), and
(B) the sum of—
(i) the amount of the maximum Federal Pell Grant award; and
(ii) the student’s expected family contribution

So in addition to the funding discussion above, now they have to make up the difference between costs and Pell grant money? This is starting to sound like a whole lot of new unfunded mandates, the kind the Supreme Court doesn’t like.
(8) ensure that public institutions of higher education in the State not adopt policies to reduce enrollment.

Same enrollment, less money.

(d) Submission And Contents Of Application.—For each fiscal year for which a State desires a grant under this section, the State agency with jurisdiction over higher education, or another agency designated by the Governor or chief executive of the State to administer the program under this section, shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require.

Only States that want to participate will need to submit applications. Guess which States will want to participate? The Democratic States that spend low amounts of money on higher education. The higher-paying States, even if they’re blue as blue can be, won’t want any part of it, for the reasons noted above. 
(e) Use Of Funds.—

How do they get to use the money?

(1) IN GENERAL.—A State that receives a grant under this section shall use the grant funds and the matching funds required under this section to eliminate tuition and required fees for students at public institutions of higher education in the State.

First, reduce tuition. Okay, got it.

(2) ADDITIONAL FUNDING.—Once tuition and required fees have been eliminated pursuant to paragraph (1), a State that receives a grant under this section shall use any remaining grant funds and matching funds required under this section to increase the quality of instruction and student support services by carrying out the following:
(A) Expanding academic course offerings to students.
(B) Increasing the number and percentage of full-time instructional faculty.
(C) Providing all faculty with professional supports to help students succeed, such as professional development opportunities, office space, and shared governance in the institution.
(D) Compensating part-time faculty for work done outside of the classroom relating to instruction, such as holding office hours.
(E) Strengthening and ensuring all students have access to student support services such as academic advising, counseling, and tutoring.
(F) Any other additional activities that improve instructional quality and academic outcomes for students as approved by the Secretary through a peer review process.

Second, you have to put any additional money back into education. Savings may not be spent elsewhere. Not even State money. So the Feds are now controlling the State use of its budget, even if the State is meeting all its obligations. Interesting. How long do you think that will last in court?

(3) PROHIBITION.—A State that receives a grant under this section may not use grant funds or matching funds required under this section—
(A) for the construction of non-academic facilities, such as student centers or stadiums;
(B) for merit-based student financial aid; or
(C) to pay the salaries or benefits of school administrators.
Oh for ____’s sake! Do we really think school administrators, the people who enroll students, who handle disciplinary issues, who manage dormitories, and a thousand other things, aren’t part of running a successful university? Is there some imaginary university where the kindly professor meets the students under the ol’ oak tree to impart knowledge, while they nibble their brown-bag lunches?
(f) Authorization And Appropriation.—There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $47,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2016, and such sums as may be necessary for each of the fiscal years 2017 through 2025.

And the cost? $47B the first year, and whatever is necessary for the years to follow.


There you go. That’s Sanders “free college” plan.

It doesn’t sound quite as great to me when you look at the details as when you put it on a bumper sticker.

That reminds me–how are all those new coal mines doing?


  1. While doing away with student debt under Bernie’s plan as presented by David Honig is not achievable; eliminating student debt is the goal the country should be striving towards. Personally, I am more interested in candidates who present a vision of a better future for our country than those who’s only cry is to defeat the opposition whether that opposition be from the opposing party or within their own party.

  2. We always have people who will tell us – “We can’t do it”. 50 years ago in July we put two men on the moon. When President Kennedy years before the moon landing announced our goal to put a man on the moon and return him safely, the goal seemed beyond our reach. We did it, we put two men on the moon.

    As JFK said, ”
    “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

    We bailed out Wall Street more than ten years ago for their reckless behavior. Some how countries in Western Europe provide “free tuition”. I understand in Denmark not only is tuition “free” students are paid a stipend for higher education.

    We get the same song and dance whenever Medicare for All or Single Payer is presented from some- “We can’t do It.”

    We need the JFK spirit, rather than the GOP and Corporate Democrats telling us – We can’t do it”.

  3. “And that’s worse, because it means he has to know his plan is an absolute non-starter.”

    Regarding Bernie’s unworkable idea to end student debt (I was a Bernie supporter till he withdrew); are his supporters, the Bernie Bots, any more rational than Trump’s supporters? I have the same question about his fast-track for single-payer health care which would have to repeal Nixon’s repeal of the law preventing health care providers from being for-profit organization. They are not going to willingly give up their profitable corporate positions any more than the sources of student loans. Will the Bernie Bots maintain the same hard-headed stance as in 2016 when they ignored Bernie’s repeated pleas to support and vote for Hillary Clinton when he lost the nomination? They proved themselves not to be actually supporting Bernie or the country.

    More than ever at this time in our history we need a president who will view the present in terms of the future; the realities of the present and the route to the future with solutions based in reality. Currently; the United States Senate is the dead end of the reality of any progress in our future. The presidential candidates need to stress the vital need for high voter turnout in November 2018 if they intend to become the nominee in November 2020. However hopeful it may APPEAR in the polls; the Republican states are not going to support any Democratic candidate.

    Theresa’s vision of candidates whose interest is “a vision of a better future for our country than those who’s only cry is to defeat the opposition whether that opposition be from the opposing party or within their own party.” Supporting that realistic vision will lead to defeating the opposition.

  4. Big deal. Sheila is right, Theresa is right, & Monotonous is right. We’ve had a FUNDAMENTAL change in the Body Politic. We now have a WANNABE FASCIST elected as our President. Try dealing with that PRESENT REALITY.

  5. “Bumper stickers for his supporters.” If you and your other corporate Dem have concluded that much of the money will go to help high earners — doctors and lawyers — then who exactly do you think Bernie’s base is?

    You insinuate the young progressives left of center, but as your own analysis discloses, it includes all Americans.

    Imagine that, a plan that helps out the poor and rich alike. Not only that, it’s great for the economy because student debt is a huge drag. Cars, homes, and other consumer durables are unaffordable for many young to middle-aged Americans because of the student debt load.

    Universities are culpable in floating the promise that a college diploma is needed and it’s expensive to educate you. Bullshit!

    Also, who benefits from an educated populace?

    You are constantly clamoring about how uneducated and uninformed voters support GOPers like Trump but the moment a plan comes to incentivize education for the masses, you pour cold water over it. Now I know where the lack of innovation results are coming from — college professors apparently.

    Bernie doesn’t need to write the laws as POTUS. A Congress that works for the people can do the minute work. As I’ve pointed out a thousand times, the only thing stopping us from being a top rate country is the lack of political will.

    As pointed out above, we gave $34 trillion to Wall Street and none of it went to our debt. It was asset transfers. We can do the same thing for students and health care and then tax Wall Street.

    Any idea how much off-balance sheet derivatives are worth?

    $1.2 Quadrillion (000 more beyond a trillion)

    Guess how much it is taxed?


    Someone isn’t paying their fair share…

  6. I’m not sure anything of value should be free, but I am sure that those things that are essential to our well-being as a community should not be out of reach for the poorest among us. I do favor a kind of GI Bill for service rendered to the community, whether it be military, teaching, cleaning, building, or planting. I know the SCOTUS shot down the WPA and the CCC, but there are a lot of places where the need is significant and the funding is proportionally insignificant. We can re-write the laws and get started.

  7. I think there is, at least, less reason to be cynical of Bernie’s plan. I wouldn’t argue that his plan as written probably needs adjusting (maybe even SERIOUS adjusting), but it’s a good goal. I think it’s important to differentiate types of “red meat” I guess. Maybe it’s just my liberal bias, but I feel like Sanders’ version of red meat is at least healthy/helpful. Bringing back coal mines, even if remotely feasible in the climate of cheap gas, wouldn’t be a net good. Forgiving student loans and figuring out a way to make college affordable would be a (huge I suspect) net good.

    It does feel like this country can always find money for none-too-cheap wars, corporate bailouts, and tax cuts – but things that seem like they’d help a lot more people at the same cost are always said to be too expensive, too difficult, or both.

    It just seems similar to how a “hippie” position of “no war” may not always be possible – but it’s a laudable/worthy goal that we should at least strive for.

  8. ive looked at bills being pushed in legislature,open them up, you have laws and rules, that need addressing on any level of wording and needs amending. bring it up to date etc,before the committees decide,and what to do, long before a vote. the edu, needs a total rewrite. as do the states. its not a overnight made for t.v. moment. there are contries that educate for the economic needs of its commerce,and its people. everyone gains,educated,uneducated, anyone who deals with them..if countries like Germany can educate its people at little to no cost, to the student,why cant we? their economic status in the ruro ranks the highest,and healthcare is also at little cost. wall street doesnt like hickups, and tough shit if your investment in non working ( as in physical)greed is interrupted. we as the working class are literally done with this forced scam of taking our sweat and giving the rich our wages,taxes and leaving us next to a ( studied and initated program of) keeping us next to a poverty line,with a voice less than the monied pockets that are killing us for control of our country. are we the next Palistien? seems like those who control like throwing us in a bag and telling us what we must do for them… Sanders ideas are long over due,and the thanks and what ifs,and the crap being thrown is also long over due. excuse us for rising up,we see a shithole like trump and we see in plain view how we are ,and been, literally treated as the finest working people on this planet.. we see and now scream, we are tired of the status quo. we have 20 some canidates running to stream roll trump and mcconnels game flat. they know they wont all be elected,but,,,they all, send the same message,(except biden) its time for a change,and we want our democracy back….best wishes

  9. The straitjacket presented today is not the only means by which we can both rid ourselves of tuition debt and make higher education free to poor and rich alike. Let’s try something else, as New Dealers did when their acronym agencies were shot down by the Supreme Court in the Thirties. Let’s also look at the net result when under such a plan (literally) trillions of dollars are unleashed on our economy, trillions now frozen in debt which in turn results in declining birth and marriage rates and other Japan-like signals of social failure. Let’s also factor in the greatly increased revenues to government and the expansion of the middle class which happens with a better educated workforce and a booming economy, an economy based on real performance in the production of goods and services and not on government handouts in the form of tax cuts and loopholes giving rise to artificial booms and Dows, as now.

    Will such a program that can ultimately pass constitutional muster be perfect? Of course not, no program concocted by humans can be, but perfection is a concept not a reality, and programs can be adjusted to new realities. So Bernie’s plan won’t work? Fine, let’s come up with one that will work, one that will pass CBO economic muster as well as that of the Supremes.

  10. How about dramatic changes people want that are not divisive, make our country better and clearly supported by a majority of all voters except the far left and right and are straightforward and DOABLE with minimal unintended consequences, like:

    – Sensible gun safety: “no fly, no buy”, tracking of sales at gun shows, limits on buying if you are under a domestic violence order or severe mental illness order, etc. – all supported by a majority of NRA members

    – Reducing interest rates/more flexible payment arrangements on college debt

    – Fix tax loopholes that primarily help the .1 % :“stepped up” loophole,
    “carried interest” loophole and real estate 101 exchange loophole. Use money for infrastructure that creates jobs for working class

    No doubt there are more…

  11. How about they just lower the interest rate on these loans and allow them to be included in bankruptcy filings.

  12. Thank goodness we can have a public debate on IDEAS. What the Dems need to do in this election is come up with lots of IDEAS that working people and young students can get enthusiastic about besides being against Trump. As this blog points out daily, anyone with some intelligence and who is not driven by greed alone will be able to parcel out which IDEAS have merit and which are not well thought out. I am looking forward to the debates the next 2 nights to see who has some really good IDEAS we can get behind. And it won’t be Joe Biden!!! Obama didn’t win by making the old farts happy — he was a favorite among young voters and people who usually didn’t vote. If the DNC uses their wherewithal to put Biden on the ticket, OMG!!, we’re up S**t Creek without a paddle.

  13. Good ideas all, Lester. Perhaps we could design a statute on loan and tuition forgiveness that would exempt the children of millionaires from its beneficent provisions on some sliding scale indexed to inflation or other criteria for non-millionaires. I will leave such legislative nuances up to DC scriveners. We are only limited by what we perceive to be impossible but isn’t, as in, Social Security was once thought to be impossible, but wasn’t, and there are many others. What’s possible is a matter of time, space and circumstance. Can’t afford it? When all the numbers are in, a better response to our present circumstance might be that “We can’t afford not to do it.”

  14. So it’s not only Bernie who is promising things he can’t possibly deliver – it’s Elizabeth Warren as well. And here’s the thing: When a candidate – or a party – makes those kinds of promises, then they set up the next Trump.

    I appreciate Theresa’s line of reasoning: I don’t disagree – but Trump is so dangerous, and the next president will most certainly be nominating at least one supreme court justice — that I’m very willing to pound the pavement for a caretaker candidate now and live to fight for a better vision of America tomorrow. I truly believe that nothing less than the future of democracy– not only in the US, but the entire world– is at stake.

    No, we should not be providing unlimited “free” (there is no such thing) education to everyone. There is no workable plan to do that. And there are no incentives to contain costs when the consumer isn’t making choices and allocating resources. As some republicans rightly point out – if you think college is expensive now, just wait until it’s “free”.

    We live in a society that requires more education, skills and training than 150 years ago when a high school diploma was the standard. Admittedly, we don’t even do k-12 universally well — but It makes sense to extend publicly funded education to include 2 years of community college or trade school that could then transfer to a 4-year state school. Additional school funding could be tied to military service (as it is) or community service such as building housing or infrastructure.

    What also makes sense is some level of ongoing adult education / job skills training at low cost so that adults can adapt to new work requirements. We know that “lifelong learning” is a thing… now let’s get real about some lifelong training centers. They could cover life skills like personal finance, child rearing, computer skills, or more advanced job skills training.

    Both of these ideas would help those people who are willing to put forth individual initiative with “help up the ladder” and help align our education resources to our social needs without breaking the bank and without subsidizing high-earning individuals.

    Democrats need to move away from magical thinking and base policy proposals in sound financial reality. We have massive demands for money – from our current record national debt, social security shortfall, health care commitments we currently have, a retirement crisis forming, infrastructure needs, global climate change, housing, disaster relief, etc. These are all massive issues individually – and we have to start dealing with all of them. In virtually every case we have been kicking the can down the road for decades.

    I’d really like to see a reasonable accounting of our current liabilities projected forward for 30 years – including those liabilities that are implied by social security, Medicare, our military (and vets), climate change, infrastructure and the rest.

    Our country has serious problems. There’s nothing wrong with expecting a candidate to provide a vision of a better America. But frankly it’s growing a little tedious hearing a growing shopping list of demands – from reparations, to free education, to free health care, from folks who buried themselves in student loan debt – these aren’t exactly our best financial wonks. I would like to hear from them when those loans are paid off and they fully understand what kind of sacrifice that actually means.

    To suggest that we are going to “forgive” $1.6 trillion in loans and provide “free” college and “free” healthcare is beyond irresponsible, it’s delusional – and I don’t want another delusional president.

  15. “frankly it’s growing a little tedious hearing a growing shopping list of demands – from reparations, to free education, to free health care, from folks who buried themselves in student loan debt – these aren’t exactly our best financial wonks. I would like to hear from them when those loans are paid off and they fully understand what kind of sacrifice that actually means”

    Hey Kurt,
    You’re talking about my daughter who is trying to pay off $27,000 to pay off her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina. She didn’t have a choice whether to “bury” herself or not. That’s how much it cost. As a single mother of two children, she sacrificed plenty to get a degree that will help a lot of people and increased her earning power. (She now works for medical company delivering hospice services.) Your comment smacks of privilege. Try putting that “tediousness” out there in front of people who work 2 and 3 jobs to pay their bills or who come from enslaved ancestors that started from less than 0 just over 150 years ago. No inheritance, no “legacy ” relatives, Jim Crow laws, institutional racism, gender bias, etc. – now that’s tedious.

  16. Of course “Free Tuition” will not be “Free” some how a system would need to be devised to deliver “Free Tuition” to the student, user (consumer). We can start by rolling back the President Agent Orange- Ryan tax breaks for the 1% and Mega-Corps. Crack down on money Laundering, Tax Loopholes. I paid more in Federal Income Tax than Amazon did.

    I will take the spirit and ideas of an FDR, JFK, Sanders or Warren. We need a political earthquake to shake things up, rather than some slow moving glacier like Joe Biden.

  17. Kathy M,

    To begin with, $27k for a master’s degree is reasonable and is not buried in debt. And I understand, more than most, how the states aren’t subsidizing state schools the way they did just 30 years ago.

    I have a pretty clear personal understanding of what it means not have enough food, heat, health care, or adequate housing (think 8 kids in a 2 br house with a leaky roof, no hot water and a $200 station wagon).

    I have been fortunate in that I have remained employed full time and I was able to pay for school out of pocket by going part time over 10 years. At that same time I was doing a ton of community service work. I graduated in 2008 and I thank god I dodged the student loan mess and kept my job. I know plenty of people who didn’t.

    But my point remains: There are stunning demands for resources in the next 30 years. I know that the war on poverty has become the war on poor people. Policies need to change to make things more affordable and to help people move up the ladder – I sincerely believe that. But there is no “free” and people need to be accountable for their own decisions.

  18. The race to recover from Republicanism is not a sprint. Think triathlon. In fact a triathlon relay through several future administrations. You can’t buy a house neglected for decades and rebuild it in days.

    The list of things that we can’t afford is long and priorities are critical to establish the order in which they are addressed and they will always have to be addressed as part of a comprehensive strategic plan. Think one party in control as long as Republicans have been in control over our lives.

    We can’t afford climate change, our health care, our higher (think table stakes now) education or our public education failures. We haven’t been able to afford our military for decades. We are decades behind in maintaining infrastructure.

    On the other hand we have been very busy moving money from the public to the aristocracy for a long time now so they are going to have to give some back. Trivial to them, huge compared to the savings of working people. The would be aristocrats will scream like stuck pigs and invest lavishly in entertainment media propaganda/fake news/advertising/brain washing to stem the flow of the money that they redistributed from workers so we have to be strong enough to think for ourselves.

    Right now our focus needs to be on the Democrat primary alone. Which of the big 20 is 1) most likely to dump Trump then 2) best able to reunite all but the outliers and 3) the best long range thinker and short term doer.

    I don’t know yet. Tomorrow I will be a tiny bit better informed. Friday another little bit. But there’s time to let Trump continue digging his grave and Nancy and Chuck to keep the wolves at bay and us to do our part with open minds and ears and mouths to discuss what we have yet to learn.

  19. So Bernie has a problem in appealing to Red States? Who doesn’t? I recommend we hold a contest to see what member of Congress can write a bill – any bill – even one that opposes a Russian takeover – that will be welcomed by South Carolina, Alabama, New York and California . Would Mitchie bring it to the floor of the Senate? I retired to a state, South Carolina, where Nicky Haley and her Director of Education turned down $400 million from the U.S. Department of Education so they wouldn’t have to cough up a paltry amount that did nothing but demonstrate that the state gives a damn. It doesn’t. It’s proud of its ranking of 49th among states delivering competent education to the body politic. It’s got all it needs – Mississippi to look down on – to make them feel good about themselves.

    Although the putrefy America process will be slowed by a Democratic president, government will continue to be stalemated if Mitchie remains in place. Like Obama, a Democratic president will once again serve his term(s) with his hands tied behind his back, and America will continue to disintegrate for lack of a functioning government. We won’t be able to beat our chests about winning the presidency if we can’t turn the Senate blue.

    So, like the ACA, this bill isn’t perfect. How about if we agree that student loans are deleterious to America’s economic well being and commit to working our asses off to improve it to a higher level of acceptability. I know of families with two professional breadwinners whose activities are seriously circumscribed due to student loan repayments. Largely because the states decided not to contribute the levels of higher education support needed to keep the nation – and themselves – moving forward. In most cases this position helped politicians achieve their goal – get re-elected.

    Bernie’s grandiose goal is righteous and wise, even if it needs a lot of adjusting to turn it into a workable law. Even small steps will help. Even limiting or denying aid to wealthy families should be considered.

  20. Forgiving student debt is neither irresponsible nor delusional; nor is it free. The same was said about social security in FDR’s day. If we can give away tax liabilities of over 1.5 trillion (roughly about the same as student debt) to the rich and corporate class with no discernible plus to the rest of us other than to be billed for it along with the unborn via a bump in our national debt and upcoming trillion dollar current account deficit budget per the CBO, then we have 1.5 trillion to forgive student debt and make this economy boom. How to finance it? Let me count the ways, beginning with fairer taxation of the coddled rich and corporate class, which will provide ample funding for this and other programs I can envision. Socialism? Hardly. It’s rather fair play in how we are to spend public funds to replace the present system of socialism for the rich we have wrongly chosen to call capitalism.

  21. “Free” anything—education, health care, child care—tends to dilute quality for the sake of the masses. Yet amassing tremendous debt prior to any formulation of economic contribution is legalized gambling of a sort.

    Why not have states invest in higher education like apprenticeships in trade school? Here in Indiana, we have high-quality universities and colleges, yet we suffer from “brain drain”. How about taking a cue from military enlistment programs by crediting graduates’ debt if they remain in-state for a period of time? Corporate entities could put their money where their pleading mouths are: hiring in-state graduates could get them economic credits as well.

    And perhaps reducing student debt, but not wiping all debt clean, especially those not on grant/scholarship programs. Again, “free” gets short-term relief but not long-term independence. “Free” makes for a great bumper sticker but an unsustainable policy. Once it starts, where/when does such a policy stop, or does it? As for other countries offering free tuition, is the comparison to the U.S. equitable when factors like total populations, minority numbers, and financial potential are taken into account? I do not have answers to these questions, and yet, I wonder, are they are being asked? If not, why not?

  22. Well, I quit Bernie the last time around, though for a totally different reason — or maybe not so different after all. In any case, this doesn’t hugely surprise me. Lots of politicians make promises that don’t bear too much scrutiny before falling apart.

    There is one point, though, on which I must disagree:
    The point was made that only blue states would opt in to this plan. I don’t think so.
    Unlike opting out of Medicaid which the well-off people in red states perceive as hurting only “those people, not me,” tuition-free college would affect them proportionately MORE than the poor.

    And they certainly won’t want their children flocking to the blue states to “get indoctrinated by all those libruls.” But, if their states don’t accept the funding, will they be willing to pay the freight when parents in blue states won’t need to? I seriously doubt it.

    And, when it comes to choosing between their pocketbooks and their ideology, how will they vote? I don’t think their legislators are interested in learning the answer to that question.

  23. A relative of mine has been working for over 20 years in higher public education, has a PHD in a physical science, is fully tenured, working several other jobs in the summer sessions, and still is holding $15,000 in student loan debt for himself and his wife who also is working. By his own reckoning, he will be retired after 10 more years and still have student loan debt. That will be after teaching in a public university for his entire career (if he still has a public school to teach in after 10 more years of Trump/Pence,DeVos and Daniels).

    You can project numbers until you are blue in the face and it makes no difference in the everyday lives of those impacted by predatory lending practices. The rich will always come out on top as they control the game.

  24. The problems with student loans include the fact that the government guarantees lenders interest on the loans at a higher-than-market rate. Lenders then package up these loans in bundles and sell them, and sometimes this process is repeated dozens of times. Along the way, paperwork gets lost and there may only be an electronic file containing nothing more than entries with figures that may not be accurate. Students move away after completing school, and may move several times, change their e-mail account and may not have retained records of payments, interest rates and terms, so challenging the amount claimed to be owing could be impossible. Most students don’t know that they have the right to demand the original loan paperwork plus a ledger of all debits and credits to explain how the balance was arrived at, which often times cannot be produced. Also, there is no statute of limitations, and lenders confiscate tax refunds, state and federal, which they apply first to late fees and interest, so the principal never goes down. Many times, parents are co-signers, so their tax refunds get seized, too. Federally-guaranteed student loans are next to impossible to get discharged in bankruptcy, so the debt may well outlive the student. Private student loans can be discharged.

    Federally guaranteed loans, like health insurance, all but guarantees that tuition costs will keep going higher. There is no incentive whatsoever to hold costs in line because the lenders have the US Treasury to rely on and everyone is encouraged to go to college. Another problem is the compounding of added on charges, for which interest is also charged, like, for instance, huge late charges. A debt of, say, $2,000 can easily balloon into several times this amount.

    Then, there’s the issue of the for-profit schools whose diplomas or certificates are literally worthless because the schools are not accredited and no employer will hire the graduate. The sad thing about this is that many of these students are not sophisticated enough to realize that it’s not a good idea to go to a for-profit that is unaccredited. They may be single mothers or people who left high school years ago and don’t have a guidance counselor to advise them. So if, for instance, someone takes nursing classes from an unaccredited school, he or she is not eligible to sit for boards, but he/she still owes the money. Some of these for-profits have closed mid-semester, leaving students with a tuition bill to pay for an incomplete semester. Other accredited schools often will not accept these students or the credits they earned, if they can even get their records.

    There have been multiple proposals to discharge obligations from these for-profit schools, but Betsy DeVos has shot them down every single time. Another assistance to students she has shot down is discharging loans in exchange for public service. Since her brother owns Blackwater, she is a huge fan of privatization, but this should be restored. People should be encouraged to go into public service.

    Another way to help would be to outlaw huge late fees that are added to the principal balance for which interest is charged. Another way would be to loosen the restrictions on discharging a student loan in bankruptcy, which is nearly impossible at this point. Having cancer or being disabled isn’t considered a hardship. There has been a proposal that the loans can be forgiven after 10 years. That would help, too. One other thing might be to allow discharge after a period of years if the principal balance has been all or mostly paid back, once late fees and added interest are subtracted from the alleged balance due.

    Student loans are an albatross that oftentimes prevents young people from purchasing a home, starting a business and sometimes starting a family. It is out of control, but don’t look for help from Republicans if they continue to control any part of Congress.

  25. To my mind the biggest single issue I have is that there are no EXCELLENT choices in Indiana for a potential representative to be voting on anything that may be good for the greater good…even if it is genuinely possible. I am an independent (former Republican that often voted for Democrats that will most likely NOT vote for a Republican anytime soon) that is really bummed out with the lack of a VIBRANT candidate in the fifth district. In fact, I am less than impressed with the Democrats that I have seen pretty much throughout the state aside from Mayor Pete.

  26. I’m wondering if those that are tired of hearing demands from “the populace”have trouble with donors making demands upon the party? Should laundry lists be exclusively the domain and provenance of high-dollar donors? Should foreign states be denied of their “demand”of our dollars of aid?

    It seems so many within the Democratic Party want to continue the path of illiberalism and rising inequality. Most are former Republicans–so,this is not surprising. It is they and their policies that have brought and created Trump. Not the opposing of such. It’s easier to blame Russians for the last election when the ambivalence and indifference to those under the top 20% of the population. Republicans support the top 5% whilst Democrats work on behalf of the top 15%. Those outside of those boundaries do not exist to the upper echelons of both organizations. Besides,many years ago –until Reagan– education was attainable for much of the population. Even Thailand has universal healthcare. Why is it that such operatives want to deny many of those opportunities and things to their own countrymen? Because they are full of hate. Hate is not exclusive to Republicans. Former Republicans have brought their hate with them into the Democratic Party. Their policies and indifference to the needs of others is quite revealing.They have never wanted to share the neighborhood/power/influence with YOU.

    Unfortunately,the way both organizations operate today,voting for Republicans or Democrats is akin to voting as if you’re choosing between a 45 or 357 to end your life.

    Moreover,Todd Smekens has hit the nail on the head with his post.

  27. This sentence should read as…

    It’s easier to blame Russians for the last election, when the reality is decades of ambivalence and indifference toward those outside of the top 20% of the population brought Trump to fruition.

  28. One more thing. Notice how many lawyers and doctors are now Democrats? Specifically at a time in our history when the services of those two occupations are out of reach for many within the population. That’s not a bug,that’s a feature. The Democratic Party is no longer the party of FDR. It’s the party of Stephen Cloobeck.

  29. No one asked when bailing out Wall St. “How will we pay for it?”

    Universal healthcare: How will we pay for it?

    War in Afghanistan and Iraq: How will we pay for it? Done deal! Bring on the champagne at Northrup Grumman.

    Attainable education: Can’t do it.

    Permanent tax breaks for the mega-wealthy: Done!

    Perhaps ol’ Uncle Joe should start trumpeting the following slogan:” Vote For Me! I’ll stop the access to free books by the children of millionaires by abolishing the American Library System.”

    Knowing how the party automatons are today,It would probably work to his advantage.

  30. If the comment: “I’m wondering if those that are tired of hearing demands from “the populace” – was directed my way the answer is pretty clear in what I said.

    I want policies that are fundamentally economically sound.

    You can talk about predatory lending, unreasonable tuition, etc– and there’s plenty to talk about there… but nonetheless, there is a large group of people who voluntarily signed up for decades of indentured servitude without a reasonable plan to pay it off. As the bills are coming due, they are suddenly waking up to the reality of how deep the hole is that they had dug and how hard it will be – if not impossible– to get out of it.

    I don’t want that same fate for our country.

    What’s more – there are a whole lot of lot of us who aren’t 24 years old and just discovering the reality of adult decisions and responsibilities for the first time. We know what debt is about. If Democrats want to lose the general election all we need to do is keep pushing free this and that.

    If you want to unleash a shit storm of “influencing our elections” that makes the Russian thing look like child’s play, keep pushing a radical vision of health care rather than a gradual buy-in of single payer. Those health care providers and insurance companies are locked and loaded.

  31. Kurt Weigand:

    We need more of the same and we must keep the status quo.

    Trump will get 4 more years and the Democratic Party (as it should) will keep shrinking. Because healthcare as practiced in most of the world is just…too……radical.

    There is just nothing to offer those outside of the top 20 percent from both political organizations. Perhaps Putin will bring universal healthcare to America after the Russian takeover?

  32. Gerald Bostock:

    No you are willfully misrepresenting my position.

    Here are the facts around health care as I know them:

    1. We pay at least 2x as other developed countries for health care, and have worse overall outcomes. We do not have “the best health care in the world” we have some very good high-tech interventions and some really bad basic care.

    2. A big barrier to health care is the cost of care. (duh!). In other words, if it weren’t so expensive more people would have insurance, etc.

    3. We need to reduce the cost of health care by 50% or more. (see points 1&2)

    4. We can’t achieve Point 3 if insurance companies and the overhead they impose in billing & coding, profit, HR benefits offices, etc remain part of the system. They easily impose costs of 20-30% and don’t add much value for that.

    5. A single payer system in likely the only way to achieve point 3 (see point 4).

    6. Health care providers, insurance companies, etc. are going to work very hard to make sure #5 doesn’t happen. We saw it when Hillary was working on health care, we saw it with Obama.

    7. If we want to lose this election, get that health care lobby fired up. There are trillions of dollars invested in our current system – it’s not going down without a fight.

    8. I don’t want to lose this election. And if we do lose this election all of these policy proposals aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. You have to win elections to get to govern.
    And if we lose this, we will have lost opportunities for decades because of gerrymandering, the courts, voter suppression, etc.

    9. We have to be strategic about easing into health care reforms (see point 8) A single payer option is one way to do that.

  33. KW:”You have to win elections to get to govern.”

    True. The Democrats did nothing for decades. When the WH and Congress were under the aegis of Democrats,what do they do? Capitulate and act as if they’re Republicans. The Democratic Party and its apparatchiks act as if they’re entitled to our votes,they are not. They must earn them. Unfortunately the party has become the Washington Generals against the Republican Party. Outside of the salaried uppermost 15% (also those with employer paid health insurance) the Democrats offer nothing. They’re a lousy alternative to the Republican Party. They are Republican-lite. That’s not acceptable. The Democratic Party acts as if the previous 40+ years was merely just a dress rehearsal and, only now are they willing to fight to do what’s right. That is a crock of shit and everyone is aware of it. Everyone.

    New, DNC Slogan: Biden Is The Great White Hope!! Biden? Really?

    Next thing you know,the Democrats will come up with Means-Tested Health Savings Accounts for the deplorable hourly wage earners. Or, an invigorating War-Tax upon citizens when we’re at war! That’s gonna stop the War Machine!! Way to go Beto!

    The Democratic Party has become the middle-aged white-guy in the bar still hitting on coeds and getting rejected. The Republican Party is the drunken wealthy jock.

  34. GB,
    Not really sure what you are going on about… or why.

    But here’s a tip: middle-class and wealthy people, as well as middle-age and older people, vote – reliably. Younger people, poorer people, minorities – not so much. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is.
    And you can be sure that Trumps base isn’t going to sit at home on election day. They are very motivated and very engaged.

    You have to play the longer game.

    But If you want to withhold your vote because somebody isn’t promising you some ridiculous scheme that they can’t actually pull off anyway, enjoy another 12 years of Donald Trump.

  35. Sheila’s post is another example of Democrats trying to govern on eggshells, which is what gets Democrats defeated time after time, including 2016.

    The masses are fed up with leadership that chooses to ignore problems because Legislators cannot write a bill that does not do a little harm to someone.

    Trump won a lot of support simply by promising solutions in spite of obvious painful details, which many crossover Democrats assumed he would fix later. But rather than fix a painful solution, he revels in the pain.

    Democrats can do better than that, but Democrats need a candidate for President who proposes solutions (even if the fix cracks a few eggshells) and makes it clear that rough places in bills diligently will be smoothed out. Otherwise, Trump wins again.

  36. Food for thought – you may need to say you’re going to dismantle the insurance system in order to be able to compromise at public option. Starting at public option might not get you there.

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