I read a book not long ago entitled The Student Loan Scam (Boston: Beacon, 2009), by Alan Michael Collinge.
The book illustrates one of my biggest problems with the Republican Party: with all of its talk about “free markets” and “fiscal responsibility,” it’s perfectly willing for the government to get into bed with big business interests.
Collinge documents that Congress under Republican control passed a law that eliminated competition in the student loan industry. If a student deals with Sallie Mae, then he will owe Sallie Mae for the duration of his debt. Nobody else can buy out the debt. According to Collinge, this is problematic because Sallie Mae profits from the additional fees that accompany defaulted loans, meaning it gets a windfall from the absence of competition.
Collinge also contends that it is cheaper for the U.S. government to make direct loans, since Sallie Mae overbills the government. But Collinge points out that Republicans have sought to weaken the direct loans program.
My relationship with Sallie Mae has been good, and we should remember that there are two sides to every story. But the scenario that Collinge presents exists in other areas. A while back, I read David Kay Johnston’s Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and StickYou with the Bill). One part of that book that sticks out to me is his account of how Rudy Giuliani as mayor of New York spent gobs of money for a sports stadium, even though stadiums usually don’t improve the economy. Meanwhile, he sought to cut spending for libraries and museums.
Then there was the time when the Republican Congress in the early 2000’s was about to make cutbacks. It tried to go after food stamps and Medicaid funding for the poor. Never mind that Haliburton was overbilling the taxpayers, or that Medicare was giving money to insurance companies, with the approval of even a maverick Republican like John McCain. No, for a lot of Republicans, “fiscal responsibility” doesn’t mean that everyone has to tighten his belt!
I remember Cal Thomas writing at the time that, if the Republicans are really interested in finding places to cut spending, then they shouldn’t start with the poor. He then went on to enumerate examples of waste, fraud, and abuse in government. Here’s a Republican in whom my heart delights: someone who truly cares about fiscal responsibility, rather than cutting off aid to the poor to foster the illusion of fiscal responsibility.
In Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution, Michael Tanner states that the Republican Congress has hindered the construction of hospitals. No wonder the cost of health care is on the rise! The Republican Party has suppressed competition.
Then there was Glenn Beck last night. Glenn showed that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is supporting a pork barrel project. Of all people!
I’m sick of the Republican Party–of it saying we should tighten up on food stamps or Medicaid in the name of fiscal responsibility, while it supports egregious waste in the federal budget. As for any reductions that Bush and the Republican Congress accomplished, what good did they do? The deficit still rose!
The Clinton Administration is starting to look better to me as I think back. Here was a President who established a commission to reduce federal bureaucracy. He even vetoed a Republican bill because it cost too much!
And, although I didn’t vote for Obama, I like some things that he is proposing: a commission on fiscal responsibility, cutbacks in spending on agri-business and insurance companies, etc. I think Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans do well to point out any extravagance in the stimulus package, but why should we always see it in terms of debt? If its tax cuts on the middle class do their magic, then the economy will improve. Shouldn’t that lead to an increase in revenue? Isn’t that basic supply-side economics?
Republicans are criticizing Obama’s health care plan, saying it will raise taxes. For one, the percentage of the tax increase for families making over $250,000 a year appears to be a few percentage points. And, second, even McCain’s health care plan would have imposed a tax on employer-based health insurance. If you want a program, then you have to find some way to pay for it. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a little tax increase on those making over $250,000 to make health care a little more affordable. Taxes. Premiums. Both can suck the life out of people!
At the moment, it seems to me that the Democrats are the more fiscally responsible ones, even though they want the government to be a little more generous to the poor and struggling middle class. Too bad they’re not pro-life on the abortion issue!