The trouble with populism

Anyone who has read here over the last 16 years or so can guess that, most of the time, I vote for the Republican candidate in a electoral race. But there have been exceptions over the years, especially when I have a Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate I like better, and 2020 was one of them.

When I endorsed for Delaware’s U.S. Senate race 18 months ago, I noted:

(Lauren Witzke) would be an almost automatic choice except for two places I vehemently disagree with her: one being the idea of incentivizing marriage and family through government policy (as opposed to that of merely not penalizing it) and the other being her stance against right-to-work as some sort of appeal to Big Labor voters – never mind that jobs tend to accrue to right-to-work states when all other conditions are substantially equal. Those are two big strikes against her, and her reaction to RBG’s death was very nearly strike three – somehow she managed to foul it off and stay alive.

“For Delaware 2020,” monoblogue, October 25, 2020.

Thanks to the Libertarians running a right-leaning candidate I voted for Nadine Frost instead, and it turned out I didn’t cost Lauren the race by doing so; in fact, she trailed all four other GOP statewide candidates and I don’t think it was because Chris Coons is all that popular.

The allusion to RBG upon her passing was really controversial, but in looking that gem up I found this quote from Witzke:

“Well the truth of the matter is that the Delaware GOP keeps losing and they think they can beat the liberals by becoming more liberal and that’s not gonna be the case, this is war.”

Roman Battaglia, Delaware Public Media, “GOP Senate candidate retains party backing, despite condemnation of social media posts,” September 21, 2020. Quoting Lauren Witzke.

Perhaps it’s a good thing Witzke hasn’t thrown her hat into the House race (since there’s no Senate race this year) because then how do you explain “becoming more liberal” with this social media complaint?

In full support of Student Loan Forgiveness:

Having crippling student loan debt makes it as difficult as possible for young people to buy a home, get married, and have children. An entire generation has become a slave to debt, signing their lives away at 18-not knowing that the US Government would import the third world to compete with them and push wages down in the workforce.

If the GOP was really the “party of the working-class” they would get behind this and get this done, in addition to seizing college endowments to prevent it from happening again.

Lauren Witzke, Social media post, April 28, 2022.

Never mind she got slaughtered in the comments, I have to say my piece too.

There’s a difference between conservatism and populism. One big worry I had about a Trump presidency early on was that the GOP would be pushed in a more populist direction, but he generally managed to straddle the line well and didn’t let his populist side out too much.

But in Trump’s term, he made two moves toward canceling student loans: in September 2019, before the CCP virus struck us, he signed an executive order that canceled student loan debt for permanently disabled veterans, which he estimated would save veterans “hundreds of millions” of dollars. And of course, during the pandemic Trump began the process of pausing student loan payments and interest that Joe Biden has continued, saving an estimated $90 billion for borrowers.

A pause of payments and interest, though, is a lot different than wiping out their student loan debt. And it wouldn’t necessarily help the working class, according to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Bear in mind that graduate degree holders – who don’t tend to be working-class – hold 56% of the outstanding student loan debt, so they would benefit the most from forgiveness.

It was a long, long time ago but I was one of those who took out student loans to go to college and I remember handing Sallie Mae about $120 or so a month beginning six months after graduation. I’m not going to say it was easy or that I always paid them on time, because student loans are a little like medical bills: hard to collect because you’re not taking away the ER visit for the flu, the knee replacement, or the bachelor’s degree if the payments are late like you can for a car or a house. But, over the span of fifteen years and a couple forbearances and refinances, I got my student loans paid off. Even as liberal as we considered Bill Clinton to be back in that era of my student loans, the idea of forgiving them for the masses was not seriously considered.

Aside from the giant issue with seizing college endowments – don’t you love it when government confiscates private property? – there are three huge problems with what Witzke and much of the other regressive community is backing.

First off, I’m still looking for the place where it says our federal government should have a role in education like this. One thing that disappointed me in the otherwise relatively stellar Reagan legacy is that he couldn’t convince the public to warn Congress that the Department of Education was really unnecessary, and maybe they need to think about defunding it if they wanted to stay in Congress. Reagan was a “Great Communicator,” but not so much a lobbyist for creating a public outcry for ridding us of an unnecessary Cabinet post. More recently I was hoping Betsy DeVos would help that process along, but, alas, Donald Trump couldn’t compete with the votes purchased with Zuckbucks and…well, you know what happened. Then again, you read what Trump did with student loans in the grafs above so I don’t believe he was really down with the struggle, either.

Secondly, it further erodes the idea of commitment. We already have issues with the concept when it comes to marriage and relationships in a culture where celebrities seem to be having a contest as to who can have the highest number of marriages and divorces and the most kids out of wedlock, with our society either cheering them on (as in “you do you”) or just turning a blind eye. This is how our culture has devolved since the era of our grandparents; an era which Witzke seems to want to restore – she uses the policies of the nation of Hungary as an example* – but this time through generous government subsidies that our ancestors didn’t need and, out of pride, would have likely refused anyway. Having the government step in and say, “yeah, we’ll pay off the student loans you took out for your womyn’s studies degree” just feeds the entitlement society we’ve become. Student loans, then, go from a hand up to just another handout.

Finally, on the college front, the biggest part of the reason those ivory towers have become so fat and happy financially these days – with those endowments that Witzke covets for government seizure in the millions or even billions of dollars – is that they have raised tuition and fees with impunity knowing that the government makes student loans widely available for any warm body they accept. Students don’t even have to get a degree, but the college gets paid for spouting off whatever the woke flavor of the day is and now the taxpayers will be footing the bill. If it were the colleges having to come up with the coin for the failures of their students, you better believe they would be more prudent and careful with who they let in and what is taught, don’cha think? It may make ditchdiggers out of all those “diversity, equity, and inclusion” department hires but the world needs honest labor, too.

There’s been a political cartoon turned meme making the rounds for awhile that makes the point more succinctly than I did, but I’ll go with a paraphrase: You took out a student loan, pay it back. I didn’t say it was easy or without sacrifice, but honor a commitment for once.

(*) I will give Lauren credit in that she writes well in an Ann Coulter vein. But I still disagree with her on this student loan thing.

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