The case for Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden » « Progressive candidate narrowly fails to unseat conservative Democratic incumbent Sadly, some people do think this way (Matt Bors) Share this:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail The case for Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden » « Progressive candidate narrowly fails to unseat conservative Democratic incumbent
That’s not thinking. I believe this attitude is inherent in our little primate minds. Call it Baboon Behavior.
OT -- I know I’m commenting more often than usual. I apologize if it offends. If I really want to write this much I ought to get my own blog. But I have a little more time and a lot of steam to let off at the moment. I’ll drop back to my usual level of comments pretty soon. Probably when I start my next project. I’m going to learn how to plaster a ceiling next. That will be fun.
Mano Singham says
No need to apologize. You are always on topic and I enjoy reading your thoughtful take so feel free to post as much as you like.
Can you guess which ones are the Trumpers?
I’m all for cancelling student debt. I’m probably going to be too late to personally benefit from it if it ever happens, I’ve finally got my student loans down to a reasonable amount, and if my current situation regarding employment continues, may be able to pay them off entirely in a few years…
I feel like people tend to fall into two major categories regarding hardships and injustices they have personally/directly experienced. One sort, the type pictured in the comic, seems to feel that because they suffered through whatever hardship, everyone else should too. Another sort, that I suspect are common in the readers around here, seem to feel that because they have personal experience with a hardship, that they recognize it’s bullshit, and our world could be better, and we could change our world so that others don’t also have to endure that bullshit.
I’m probably oversimplifying things a bit…
The cartoon fails as an analogy. In the last three panels, it’s showing progress — someone younger who is being given new options or opportunities. Student loan forgiveness is different — it’s about perverse incentives for decisions already made in the past.
If you want a better analogy, let’s say you’re the parent of three kids who graduate from high school at the same time, all three want to go to college, and you have no money for them. One of them hates debt, so she works double shifts for six years and saves up everything until she can afford college. Number two gets a loan and goes to college, then cuts out Netflix, eating out, and going on vacations to pay off the loan as quickly as possible. Number three also gets a loan but spends most of her paycheck on expensive hobbies and pays off the minimum on the loan.
After ten years of this, one and two are debt free, and you win the lottery and get a million dollars, so you pay off three’s debts. One and two get nothing, so they say, “Hey, how about we get some of that money? We adopted characteristics that society considers virtuous, after all.” And three says, “Ha! I always told you frugality and self-denial were for suckers.”
It’s just like the older brother in the parable of the good Samaritan — doesn’t he have every right to be angry?
I have no problem with the government beefing up its grants to students who are starting college now. It could pay the interest of current loans too. Maybe if there was a way they could give a big tax break to people who have already paid off their loans quickly, that might be fair? But if the perception of this program is that it rewards the most prodigal, it’s going to be a very tough sell.
I think it succeeds as an analogy -- people don’t want others to receive a benefit they did not get themselves. Going through life with a burdensome student loan, and managing to pay it off, is being used as a reason to force others to have the same burden.
Your analogy on the other hand is a slap in the face for the students hoping to have this burdensome education system lifted, as it directly equates them with the lazy and irresponsible ‘frugality is for suckers’ jerk.
Ken Baker says
Instead of canceling student, or maybe in addition, let’s cancel student tuition.
Sadly, this seems to be the way some people think. A couple of years ago in Canada there was an uproar over pension security, as companies going bankrupt were often found not to have keeping up their pension payments to employee pension plans, leaving employees without work and with poor pensions. In some cases it was a matter of creditors getting paid in bankruptcy before the employee pension shortfall. Yet the news seemed to focus on gold-plated government pensions, and why government employees should have such good pensions, NOT on how to fix the problem so that this didn’t happen in the future, or how to make sure everyone has good, well-protected pensions, with companies obligated to always keep up with their contributions. Instead of a focus on raising everyone to a higher level, it was an attitude of dragging everyone down to the lowest level.
Disclaimer, I am a former government employee with one of those pensions. But like my pension, why isn’t all pension money put (or pooled) in a separate, well-managed trust fund that the employer can’t access? And all employees obligated to contribute decent levels of their income to the pension (in my case, 11%), matched by the employer? And employers obligated by law (with appropriate fines/jail terms to upper management) to pay out pension money to said trust with each paycheck? And if for some reason that doesn’t occur, why aren’t pension funds first in line for payment after a bankruptcy?
@Ken Baker, #7,
That’s already part of the discussion. The short form is that if college tuition is going to be free because it’s good for society as a whole that tuition is free, then student debt should be forgiven. If it is good for society that tuition is free now, then is would have been good for society if tuition had been free in the past. So any remaining debt people have for student loans should also be forgiven as part of the free tuition package.
Oddly enough, the same argument was used when social security was proposed. Social security penalizes the people who saved for retirement because they were frugal and responsible while those people who frivolously spent their money on things like cigarettes and liquor got a handout. Social security rewards bad behavior! And when it was started, there were people who hadn’t contributed a dime, but got SS payments! What a terrible way to spend public money!
I remember watching arsehole historian David Starkey talking about homophobic bullying at school once. He complained that it was “character building” for him, and so we shouldn’t do anything about it.
If the character it builds is David Starkey, that’s even more reason to stamp it out.
Just playing a little devil’s advocate. Your social security example isn’t quite the same as the case of student loan forgiveness. The people who had saved for retirement and then got social security on top of that had a lot more money that they could spend as compared to the ones that hadn’t saved and were dependent on social security alone. In this case, the guys who exhibited what society considers “virtuous” characteristics get absolutely nothing. That being said, I’m all for forgiving at least a part of student debt. My biggest concern is not about unfairness to the “virtuous” but rather with how we are going to pay for it.
I’m also for reducing the price of college even further. Probably not to the point where it is free. I always think that it is good to have some skin in the game. It can be reduced to a nominal amount for those below the poverty line and the subsidy can gradually reduce based on family income. No reason why the kids of successful professionals who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) should get college for free.
In the same vein, in Seattle some of those who objected to raising minimum wage gradually to $15/hour were those who were already earning $15/hour or just a bit more. How demeaning to suddenly be equal to minimum wage earners!
Porivil Sorrens says
I fail to see why anyone, even the kids of successful professionals, should have to pay for university when education is a widely accepted human right, and nations have an extreme vested interest in ensuring they have an intelligent populace.
Sure, people don’t die if they fail to get a college degree, but we’re not cavemen. We should hope to hold ourselves to a higher standard than just “not dying”.
That aspect was introduced so that it would pass. The original plan was that there would be means-testing for social security. Those who had enough money saved to retire comfortably wouldn’t have gotten it. The compromise to get the legislation enacted was to give social security to everyone. So the attitude of “people shouldn’t get what I didn’t/won’t get” was certainly still present.
Students already have some skin in the game. It’s called passing grades which allow them to continue their education.
Beyond that, I’ve seen no proposals which would eliminate all fees for college. The proposals have been to eliminate tuition and pay off debt generated by student loans. Residence fees, laboratory fees, registration fees, textbook costs, food, etc., not all of these are collected by the university, but they are all costs which students need to find the cash to pay. They also should have some oversight so that universities are not gouging students for the ancillary fees beyond tuition. Students won’t be singing songs in the beer-hall all day.
As for the kids of successful professionals getting free education, why not? The reason social security hasn’t been killed is because everyone, including successful professionals, gets it. If actual means-testing for social security ever happened, the remaining life-span of social security would probably be less than 20 years. There are a lot of people who, today, feel that social security money is going to undeserving people. What saves the program is that it is seen as fair. Everyone gets it. It may not seem fair to the poor that the rich get social security, and certainly the money could be put to better use. But if it becomes a program that only the poor get it will be de-funded rapidly.
Our primate minds hate the idea that our social inferiors get benefits we don’t. No matter how much more valuable those benefits are to our social inferiors, they shouldn’t get benefits we don’t have. I don’t think this is a learned reaction the behaviors Sapolsky identifies in baboons track pretty closely to some behaviors of human. We just exhibit them on a grander scale and with far better rationalization. (To be honest, I’m not certain anyone’s asked a baboon for their rationalization on the established pecking order in a troop.) Which is why I say that the OP cartoon is not about how people are thinking, only how their brains are reacting. Education needs to be free to everyone if for no other reason than it will seem fairer to our little primate minds.
Simple reason -- we have a limited amount of money we can spend on this. I would rather we spend it on those who need it. Plus, I did not say that the wealthy would have to pay their entire tuition at state schools -- just that the subsidy they got would be somewhat smaller than what people with less means got.
There are a whole lot more poor people than rich people. Sure, it might be a bit of a “waste” to give free education to those who can already afford it without even glancing at their finances, but I don’t think that would amount to a significant drain on funds. Granted, I haven’t tried to research this, and may be very wrong, but I strongly suspect that it would be easier to plan to fund free education to everyone, as opposed to planning to fund free education to the lower ~90% or whatever, and then try to establish means-testing, fraud prevention, auditing, appeals, etc., etc…
If you really want to make sure the wealthy pay their share, I think progressive taxation and universally free services/programs is much more reliable than a system that is free to some, but requires means-testing
Porivil Sorrens says
Yes, and rich people have quite a lot of money. Perhaps if there was some sort of way to take that money from them, and use it for things that benefit the public good. I’d rather we make a maximum wealth level with 100% taxes over that point than charge for something that should never be for-profit in the first place.
consciousness razor says
It has a limited cost, because there aren’t an infinite number of rich people, which we’d be adding to the list by including them. They’re actually a relatively small group, and obviously, the plan is that those people are paying more in taxes anyway, compared to poorer people. They can get the same things out of it and they will pay more, as it should be. There’s no need to deprive them of that, while also making them pay more. And we shouldn’t do that, because the fundamental issue is that education is a human right (another premise is of course that wealthy people are human beings).
Also, like it is with elementary and high school, many will still go to private schools for a variety of reasons, especially the wealthiest ones but many others as well. That group will still be paying their taxes for our public education system, like they always have been, putting their share of money into it and not contributing to the costs because they are not using it. They will get the numerous economic/social/political benefits of living in a well-educated society, which is worth a lot more than the money they’re putting into it.
There are already lots of “socialistic” systems/programs like this, although centrists/conservatives don’t usually try to demonize them with that label, because an even larger number of people would think they’re radical glibertarian bullshitters and/or idiots. A simple example is that you pay for public roads that you will never drive on, but you do benefit socially/economically/politically from the fact that all sorts of other people can freely go to those places, to do whatever it is that they wanted to do. Notice how nobody ever gives a shit whether it’s a rich person driving on that road-you-don’t-personally-use or whether it’s a poor person doing the same thing. That is irrelevant, because it is just a public thing that is demonstrably beneficial to everybody.
In an ideal world, what you say may be true but given the state of the US budget (the national debt is how many trillions now?) and other priorities such as healthcare, giving away stuff for free to people who can easily afford to pay for it strikes me as being wasteful in the extreme. State universities are already quite heavily subsidized for in-state residents. For example, in-state tuition at any of the University of California campuses is around $15K for California residents and close to $50K for out-of-state students. I really do not see why wealthy people need a bigger subsidy than this. In fact for those in the top five percent, I’d argue for a lower subsidy. The extra money can be used to help poor students with other expenses. Using the University of California as an example once again, tuition accounts for less than 50 percent of the total cost of attendance for in-state students. Even if tuition went down to zero, the cost to attend any of these colleges would be around $20K per year.
We already have a progressive tax scale. I’d argue that we need a progressive subsidy scale as well for stuff like education and healthcare.
Porivil Sorrens says
Right, and we obviously disagree. Why charge for something that should never have been for profit in the first place, when we can just increase the taxes on people who have no possible moral justification for the wealth that they hold? I, as mentioned, would like a 100% tax on any income over a certain amount of yearly income (for example, the $450k proposed in france), along with a vast amount of nationalization in industries to prevent the money from being hoarded by wealthy megabillionaire owners.
Seems like a kill two birds with one stone situation, rather than bending over backwards to defend a corrupt, predatory industry just to penalize a handful of rich people’s children. We’re one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. If we can’t somehow manage to provide free education to our people, we’re already a failed, debased state and there’s very little that could change that.
consciousness razor says
The rich will pay higher taxes. Do you not comprehend that?
Which sort of policy are you proposing and why?
1) It should be illegal for rich people to attend public universities.
2) Rich people should pay more than poor people who attend public universities.
If it’s not the first one (as I have to assume) and if it’s anything like the second one, then making public colleges/universities/etc. tuition-free does exactly that. You treat it like the human right that it is, not like a commodity to be bought and sold.
Your move to talking about the national debt is bullshit — what you should be thinking is that the wealthy will certainly not go into debt once they finally start paying their fair share of taxes.
Also, Sanders is prioritizing healthcare…. He’s outlined how we’ll fund Medicare for All, which will save us tons of money, save tons of people’s lives, prevent healthcare-related job losses and bankruptcies….. Do not think of this as “giving away stuff for free.” It can revitalize wide swaths of the economy which aren’t insurance/pharmaceutical companies — just take a look around at any other part of your town/city and ask yourself where else people may spend the money they’re saving. It shouldn’t have to be pointed out that the same types of things happen with free public education.
I know the rich will pay higher taxes. As I said, in ideal world, that would be enough. My worry is that in our current situation that may not be. Can you not comprehend that? I know Sanders has his explanations of how we are going to fund his plans. You seem to be convinced by them whereas I am not.
My gut feeling is that unless we resort to extreme measures like one of the commenters above suggested and raise the top marginal tax rate to 90 or 100 percent, the government may not have enough money for all of his ambitious plans. Raising marginal tax rates to those levels does not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of actually happening in the near future. We have a small chance of getting the top marginal tax rate increased and of getting an increase in capital gains taxes. Given that the tax increases we are likely to get are more modest than we would like, I think that our plans for education and healthcare need to be scaled down somewhat.
consciousness razor says
Then argue with some other person who wants some other plan, because that’s what you must be talking about.
I don’t know who that may be or what plans they may have…. It sounds like a figment of your imagination right now. Or paranoia. Or plain old naysaying, once you’ve run out of arguments, because you’ve got a “gut feeling” and haven’t done any math to back it up.
But whatever it is, argue with that (perhaps just with yourself), not with the platform that Sanders put forward.