GOP Won’t Like Obama on Higher Education.
Matthew Yglesias, Slate: GOP Won’t Like Obama on Higher Education.
Owners of for-profit colleges (including Slate’s parent company) generally argued that this kind of top-down regulation was going to be innovation-stifling, option-restricting, competition-reducing, and overall bad. Republicans overwhelmingly agreed with this line. Their view is that if subsidizing student loans is wasteful, the way to address that is to reduce subsidies for student loans. Republicans favor rules to restrict eligibility for public money in cases (like drug testing for SNAP benefits) when the restriction can be structured in a way that reduces aggregate spending. But a rule that tries to ensure that a fixed pool of money should be spent wisely rather than foolishly doesn’t appeal to the right.
In part that’s because the right has somewhat oddly committed itself to the “public choice” view that it’s impossible for public sector agencies to be effectively managed. But in part I’d say it’s because they would genuinely prefer to see tax dollars wasted than well spent. The big problem with Social Security, from a conservative viewpoint, is that a program of simple cash transfers is so clearly free of waste that it’s very politically challenging to cut it. The way federal higher education subsidies are currently structured allows conservatives to advance the (empirically false but not totally insane) argument that these subsidies are useless and only fuel tuition hikes. If policymakers were to succeed in reforming higher education finance so as to make it unambiguously beneficial, then the case for spending more money on subsidies would be extremely compelling and the public sector would grow.