Is Warren’s college plan progressive?

by Harry on May 6, 2019

Ganesh Sitaraman argues in the Garun that, contrary to appearances, and contrary to the criticism that it has earned, Elizabeth Warren’s college plan really is progressive, because it is funded by taxation that comes exclusively from a wealth tax on those with more than $50 million in assets. Its progressive, he says, because it redistributes down. In some technical sense perhaps he’s right.

But this, quite odd, argument caught my eye:

But the critics at times also suggest that if any significant amount of benefits go to middle-class or upper-middle class people, then the plan is also not progressive. This is where things get confusing. The critics can’t mean this in a specific sense because the plan is, as I have said, extremely progressive in the distribution of costs. They must mean that for any policy to be progressive that it must benefit the poor and working class more than it benefits the middle and upper classes. This is a bizarre and, I think, fundamentally incorrect use of the term progressive.

The logic of the critics’ position is that public investments in programs that help everyone, including middle- and upper-class people, aren’t progressive. This means that the critics would have to oppose public parks and public K-12 education, public swimming pools and public basketball courts, even public libraries. These are all public options that offer universal access at a low (or free) price to everyone.

But the problem isn’t that the wealthy get to benefit from tuition free college. I don’t think anyone objects to that. Rather, the more affluent someone is, on average, the more they benefit from the plan. This is a general feature of tuition-free college plans and it is built into the design. Sandy Baum and Sarah Turner explain:


But in general, the plans make up the difference between financial aid — such as the Pell Grant and need-based aid provided by states — and the published price of public colleges. This means the largest rewards go to students who do not qualify for financial aid. In plans that include four-year colleges, the largest benefits go to students at the most expensive four-year institutions. Such schools enroll a greater proportion of well-heeled students, who have had better opportunities at the K-12 level than their peers at either two-year colleges or less-selective four-year schools. (Flagship institutions have more resources per student, too.)….For a clearer picture of how regressive these policies are, consider how net tuition — again, that’s what most free-tuition plans cover — varies among students at different income levels at four-year institutions. For those with incomes less than $35,000, average net tuition was $2,300 in 2015-16; for students from families with incomes between $35,000 and $70,000, it was $4,800; for those between $70,000 and $120,000, it was $8,100; and finally, for families with incomes higher than $120,000, it was more than $11,000. (These figures don’t include living expenses.)

Many low-income students receive enough aid from sources like the Pell Grant to cover their tuition and fees. At community colleges nationally, for example, among students from families with incomes less than $35,000, 81 percent already pay no net tuition after accounting for federal, state and institutional grant aid, according to survey data for 2015-16. At four-year publics, almost 60 percent of these low-income students pay nothing.

It isn’t just that the wealthier you are the more, on average, you benefit. It is that, unlike the other public options he mentions, the college plan does not actually offer ‘universal access’. It is restricted to those who have graduated from high school, and can, realistically, benefit from a college education. In other words it is restricted to those for whom k-12 has been good enough.

The upshot is that the plan uses revenues drawn exclusively from the very wealthy, but distributes benefits to the rest highly unevenly, predictably benefiting each income group less until it reaches a plateau below which hardly anyone benefits.

Sitaraman compares the plan with public schools. Imagine a Democratic Party candidate were proposing to inject large amounts of federal funds—enough, let’s say, to raise the salary of every teacher in the country by $40k if applied across the board—but distributed it in a way that roughly tracked the affluence of the student population, but excluded the lowest achieving 15% of students, and provided nothing or almost nothing for a large swathe of other low income students. You might buy the thought that it is, in some fundamentally correct way progressive. But, correct as it might be, this seems like the bizarre use of the term.

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{ 138 comments }

1

Mike Huben 05.06.19 at 1:16 pm

If you take progressivism to mean “improvement of society by reform”, Warren’s plan is clearly progressive. It reduces the pie going to the rich, greatly improves the lot of students who are less than rich, and doesn’t harm the poor.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

2

nastywoman 05.06.19 at 1:37 pm

@
”Is Warren’s college plan progressive”?

Who cares – as long as this plan -(and hopefully an even more extended plan) puts an end to a big part of the insanity of the (stupid and greedy) US education system?

In other words – let’s call it ”conservative” that might help to have it passed!

3

Trader Joe 05.06.19 at 1:49 pm

The difficulty with the plan as proposed is not whether it is progressive or not but that it targets the wrong behavior – borrowing for education. If the goal is to make education more accessible – subsidize the university directly to either facilitate point of admission grants in the first place or simply bring down tuition cost to all attendees.

Under this proposal (assuming one thinks Warren would win and it could get passed) the maximizing strategy is to borrow as much as one possibly can with the hope/expectation that it would ultimately be forgiven. If that’s the “right” strategy, then it would benefit those with the greatest borrowing capacity which most certainly is not students from low income families but is in fact families which could probably pay most of the cost themselves but would choose not to in order to capture a benefit they couldn’t access directly by virtue of being ‘too rich’ for grants or other direct aid.

4

L2P 05.06.19 at 1:50 pm

“Rather, the more affluent someone is, on average, the more they benefit from the plan. ”

This doesn’t seem like a fair description of what’s going on.

If Starbucks gives a free muffin to everyone who buys a latte, it’s theoretically helping the rich more than the poor under this way of looking at things. The rich can afford the muffin; the poor can’t. So the rich will get more free muffins. But the rich don’t give a crap. They can easily just buy the damn muffin in the first place. They’re not really being helped, because the whole damn system helps them already. They’re just about as well off with or without the free muffin.

Same here. My kid’s going to Stanford. I’m effin rich and I don’t give a crap about financial aid. If it was free I’d have an extra 75k a year, but how many Tesla’s do I need really? How many houses in Hawaii do I need? But when I was a kid I was lower middle class. I didn’t even apply to Stanford because it was just too much. Yeah, I could have gone rotc or gotten aid, but my parents just couldn’t bust out their contribution. Stanford just wasn’t in the cards. And Stanford’s a terrible ecxample, it had needs blind admissions and can afford to just give money away if it wants.

This sort of analysis is one step above bullshit.

5

bianca steele 05.06.19 at 2:02 pm

I don’t understand the fear, in certain areas of what’s apparently the left, of giving benefits to people in the middle of the income/wealth curve.

The expansion of the term “middle class” doesn’t help with this, nor does the expansion of education. These debates often sound as if some of the participants think of “middle class” as the children of physicians and attorneys, who moreover are compensated the way they were in the 1950s.

The ability to switch between “it’s reasonable to have 100% college attendance within 5 years from now” and “of course college is only for the elite classes” is not reassuring to the average more or less educated observer (who may or may not be satisfied, depending on temperament and so on, with the answer that of course such matters are above her head).

6

Harry 05.06.19 at 2:06 pm

L2P — its an exactly correct analysis of the plan. What’s wrong with it? I genuinely didn’t understand what proceeded.
And, just to be clear, I don’t appreciate accusations of bad faith. Come to our house if you want, but don’t expect to be welcome if you insult the hosts. Unless you can be very witty in doing so.

7

Ben 05.06.19 at 2:12 pm

The actual plan is for free tuition at public colleges. So not “the most expensive four-year institutions” that Baum and Turner discuss. [HB: they’re referring to the most expensive 4-year public institutions]

There’s also expanded support for non-tuition expenses, means-tested debt cancellation, and a fund for historically black universities, all of which make the plan more progressive. And beyond that, I could argue that, for lower-income students on the margin of being able to attend and complete school, we should count not only the direct financial aid granted, but also the lifetime benefits of the education the aid enables. But suffice it to say, I think you’re attacking a caricature.

8

Harry 05.06.19 at 2:14 pm

Bianca: its just not reasonable, given the structure of early childhood – 12 to have 100% college attendance within 5 years. Or within 10 years. I don’t know anyone who thinks it is. Warren sure doesn’t: if she did, her plan would ignore higher ed altogether and focus on everything that happens before that.

Mike Huben: its not even clear to me that its an improvement. I like some features, such as allowing the Pell Grants to be spent on books, supplies, living expenses, and regulating the for-profits. But it is certainly far less of an improvement than other things that could be done with the money. There’s a completely separate issue, which I included in a draft, and then took out, which is whether Warren thinks this is, in fact, a good policy (I find it hard to believe she does) or whether she thinks it is a vital part of some sort of coalition building that will enable her to win and pass a package of progressive measures that might (or probably would not, in fact) include this non-progressive plank.

9

Dave 05.06.19 at 2:17 pm

the college plan does not actually offer ‘universal access’

Given that something like one third of Americans gets a college degree, Warren’s plan seems good enough. It’s not obvious to me that universal access to college education is a progressive goal.

10

Harry 05.06.19 at 2:23 pm

Dave — right. But restricting a benefit to the most educated say, one-half (optimistically) of the population who are, by definition, considerably more advantaged on average than the least educated half seems – well, not very progressive on any natural understanding of the term. One could distribute the benefit equally by, for example, raising the salaries of public school teachers in the US by $40k per person. Investment in pre-k-12 isn’t hard, and its not as though its saturated with resources.

11

Phil 05.06.19 at 2:34 pm

I think the point L2P is making is that you shouldn’t assume that people’s behaviour under Warren’s plan will be the same as it is now, only with one particular cost item removed for a lot of people who currently have to pay it. People perceive services that are provided FOC, with no eligibility criteria and no conditions attached, differently from paid-for services – even services with 100% rebates. Even if it doesn’t actually deter people from taking up the service, it has broader effects, “Does he or she deserve that rebate? Would I qualify for it? If I did qualify, can I justify taking the money? I’m paying for this – am I getting value for money?”

Ultimately the question isn’t who benefits from making X or Y free for all, but whether X or Y should be free for all; if it should, then taking the cash nexus out of it is a public service.

12

bianca steele 05.06.19 at 2:39 pm

Harry, I don’t remember what Obama’s goal for college attendance was, but it seemed quite high and quite fast, and not that long ago ISTR the idea that getting everyone to college was desirable (and might resolve certain social and political problems) was relatively popular in certain circles.

There are both incorrect factual assumptions (financial aid doesn’t result in a debt-free existence) and odd leaps of logic in the passage you quote, but I’ve read enough of these to strongly suspect Sitaraman is right about the deeper reasons for the disagreement. After all, if the criterion is “is the average income of those helped by program A or B higher?” programs that help the middle class will all fall on one side.

13

reason 05.06.19 at 2:47 pm

Harry,
this is more complicated than you make it sound. Increasing the supply of the well educated should decrease the price of their labor and that should help people with less education. Countries that subsidize the education of doctors and dentists pay less for them.

14

JimV 05.06.19 at 3:00 pm

“the largest benefits go to students at the most expensive four-year institutions. Such schools enroll a greater proportion of well-heeled students”

If tuition was free or subsidized, maybe that proportion would change? Why assume, as the argument seems to, that it would remain unchanged?

In any case, progress occurs by trial and error, not by rejecting ideas on the grounds that they might not be perfect on the first try. If it has a chance to be better than what we are doing now (which I think it does), try it, and then modify it based on the results.

15

Harry 05.06.19 at 3:08 pm

reason: yes, to the general point. But aren’t there more efficient ways of increasing the supply of the well-educated (eg, spending in k-12). And, the number of doctors is controlled by State governments and medical schools: demand won’t change. If supply and demand won’t change, why will wages? Its not that doctors get paid so much because they aren’t subsidized (which, by the way they are).

Phil — thanks. That makes sense of L2P’s comment. Maybe.

I don’t think people are taking seriously the opportunity cost of this plan: how the money could otherwise be spent on education. Its really a huge amount of money. Nor do I think you are taking seriously just how many people are excluded from taking up higher education, and the structural forces that exclude them that this plan does not address at all.

16

Michael Glassman 05.06.19 at 3:46 pm

I think it is extremely important to understand where Warren is coming from on this. Warren initially became active in politics because she recognized the pernicious nature of debt and the impact it had on well-being. If you are trying to get out from under the burden of debt your capabilities for flourishing are severely restricted, and these restrictions can easily become generational. One of the more difficult debts that people are facing are student debts. This was made especially difficult by the 2005 bankruptcy bill which made it close to impossible for individuals to get out from under student debt by entering in to Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Warren’s emphasis in this particular initiative, it seems to me, is to alleviate debt so that individuals can pursue more advanced functionings/capabilities. So if you think that the definition of progressive is creating situations where more individuals in a society are given greater opportunities for flourishing then the plan does strike me as progressive (an Aristotelian interpretation of Dewey such as promoted by Nussbaum might fall in this direction). There is another issue however that might be closer to the idea of helping those from lowest social strata, something that is not being discussed near enough. Internet technologies helped to promote online for profit universities which has (and I suppose continues to) prey and those most desperate to escape poverty with limited resources. The largest part of their organizations are administrators who help students to secure loans with promises of high paying jobs once they complete their degrees. These places really do prey on the most vulnerable (homeless youth for instance) and they bait individuals with hope in to incurring extremely high debt. The loan companies are fine with this I am guess because of the bankruptcy act (they can follow them for life). This is also not regulated (I think you can thank Kaplan/Washington Post for that). Warren’s initiative would help them get out from under debt immediately and kick start their life.

I agree k-12 is more important, but it is also far more complicated. This plan is like a shot of adrenaline into the social blood stream and it might not even be necessary in a few years. I think it dangerous to make the good the enemy or the perfect, or the perfect the critic of the good.

17

Anarcissie 05.06.19 at 4:11 pm

@reason 05.06.19 at 2:47 pm(13), Harry 05.06.19 at 3:08 pm @14 — I think there is some confusion in the discussion, with the different functions of the education system being treated as a uniform indefinitely partitionable substance, like, say bologna, which they are not. There is, for example, the difference between education as a class filter, as an indoctrination practice, and as vocational training . Education as a class filter, for instance, has zero value (for those who now value it) if 100% go to college, but may still be valuable as vocational training or indoctrination. A clarification of purpose might be useful if the hard work of wresting money from the better-off is to be engaged in heartily.

18

Gabriel 05.06.19 at 4:55 pm

This seems pretty basic to me: if the U.S. instituted a policy tomorrow wherein 5% of the top 1% of salary earners’ income was taken and redistributed, that would be a progressive policy, even if the redistribution wasn’t means tested. Indeed, it would be progressive even if the redistribution was weighted AWAY from those most in need.

Can we envision policies that are MORE progressive? Sure. But that’s not the question in the title.

19

Tim Worstall 05.06.19 at 5:06 pm

This is rather blurring “progressive” as a meaning. In US politics it has one meaning. What Progressives like. In terms of economic definitions of tax etc it has another. Meaning that the effect is greater for those on lower incomes, or the costs fall more heavily upon those with higher. The US income tax system is highly progressive for example, as the average tax rate rises strongly with income.

Hey, sure, maybe not as much as many Progressives would like but it’s still a progressive tax system.

The problem with analysing as Sitaraman does is that we want to analyse the raising of tax revenues separately from the spending of them. It we taxed the 1% to provide a benefit exclusively for the 2% then that’s progressive but not particularly Progressive. So it’s not a useful method of analysis.

Warren’s taxation plans are progressive, yes. The benefits only flow to those who attend college. Largely, but not exclusively, those who will be in the upper half of the income distribution during their working lives. Not hugely progressive really, is it?

20

nastywoman 05.06.19 at 5:10 pm

@
”Warren initially became active in politics because she recognized the pernicious nature of debt and the impact it had on well-being”.

Let me try the utmost cynical I can be:

Getting out of (student) debt has become THE incentive which ”drives” the U.S. economy.

That’s why we are the ”GREATEST” country on earth – while all these people of all of these countries where education is FREE – have no ”incentives” and ”motivations” anymore – they just enjoy their ”pathological happy lives” – and make endless vacations…

21

Harry 05.06.19 at 5:21 pm

Gabriel — Warren’s plan does involve a very efficient forms of means-testing: if you don’t go to college you don’t get the benefit. I answered my own question as follows: “You might buy the thought that it is, in some fundamentally correct way progressive. But, correct as it might be, this seems like the bizarre use of the term.”

TW: ” It we taxed the 1% to provide a benefit exclusively for the 2% then that’s progressive but not particularly Progressive. So it’s not a useful method of analysis.”
Exactly!!

22

nastywoman 05.06.19 at 5:28 pm

– and how cynical does one have to be – to redefine a plan canceling the vast majority of outstanding student loan debt – as some kind of (”NON-progressive”) present for ”the rich”?

23

nastywoman 05.06.19 at 5:45 pm

– but as nearly all the arguments against Warrens plan are the type of arguments which very cleverly twist her very admirable effort to get ”debt relief” for millions of young Americans – and like with ”Health Care” – WE are ”totally unable” to focus on ”the real meaning” of any… ”issue” anymore – it might take a really, REALLY long time until also Americans understand that ”education” -(and Health Care and Living Wages and secure jobs and vacations) are NOT some ”financial instruments” in order to create more ”debt”.

24

oldster 05.06.19 at 5:48 pm

I like Tim Worstall’s comments best.

And yet I disagree with his conclusion.

Progressiveness comes in degrees. A program that taxes the 1% for the benefit of the 2% is progressive, to a very minor degree. A program where every citizen who has less than N dollars benefits more than any citizen who has more than N dollars is progressive to a very high degree.

Where on this spectrum does Warren’s plan fall? I’d say that it is pretty damned progressive.

25

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 05.06.19 at 5:59 pm

I think this work by Susan Dynarski and others really makes the case that reducing price will change access and populations significantly: https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-U-of-Michigan-Appealed-to/245294

But even apart from that, the argument of the post seems like it would suggest that many things that we currently fund publicly are not progressive in a problematic way. Everything from arts to national parks to math research “benefits” the rich more than the poor. There’s possibly a case that public provision of these goods is problematic when we as a society could spend that money on those who are more disadvantaged. But that’s a very strong claim and implicates far more than free college.

Finally, it’s worth comparing the previous major expansion of education in the US. The point at which high school attendance was as widespread as college attendance is now (about 70% of high school graduates enroll in college of some form right away) was around 1930, well after universal free high school was available. I think moving to universal free college is an important step to raise those rates, just as free high school was.

26

nastywoman 05.06.19 at 6:06 pm

– and about the argument:
”how the money could otherwise be spent on education” –
could be considered to be – a truly ”NON-progressive” argument of somebody who just doesn’t want to forgive the debt of millions of young Americans or doesn’t believe at ALL – that ALL education HAS to be FREE – from Kindergarten to College –

And the only way to get to such a society where education is free -(and sufficient and payable Health Care is a ”human right) – IS to start with forgiving all student debt.

As at least it teaches the people that the times to treat education as a money making business model are over.

27

James Reffell 05.06.19 at 6:07 pm

What is the motivation for this definitional argument? And why the insistence on isolating this plan of Warren’s platform from the rest of her proposals? Her platform also includes a childcare & early childhood education element which is pretty relevant. Is that progressive? If she later rolls out a massively distributive K-12 policy, does that change the equation?

I’d prefer either a direct critique the policy (implied here but not totally stated) or a direct critique of Warren as a candidate in general.

28

bob mcmanus 05.06.19 at 6:52 pm

BS: I don’t understand the fear, in certain areas of what’s apparently the left, of giving benefits to people in the middle of the income/wealth curve.

I do not claim to be speaking for them, but as I understand something that are critical to Democratic primary voters, the important questions for feminists and anti-racists of the current generation are ones of hierarchy and relative status and social position not absolute. By some analysis, the universal programs have not worked at all.

Sanders understands two things: 1) Activist groups want targeted programs , and 2) the white working class hates hates hates targeted programs , set asides, etc. He is so vague on reparations because of this.

29

Leo Casey 05.06.19 at 7:31 pm

It strikes me that the argument made here against a universal program of tuition free college is not all that different than an argument made against social security — that the benefits go disproportionately to middle class and professional class individuals. Since in the case of Social Security, one has to be in gainfully employed to participate and one’s benefits are, up to a cap, based on one’s contributions, middle class and professional class individuals receive greater benefits. Poor individuals, including those who have not been employed for long periods of time, receive less benefits. (There are quirks in this 10 second summary, such as disability benefits, but not so much as to alter this basic functioning.)

Every now and again, there are proposals to “means test” social security, using this functioning as the reasoning. A couple of points are worth considering.

First, it is the universality of social security that makes it a political ‘third rail,’ such that no matter how it would like to do away with such a ‘socialist’ program, the GOP never acts on proposals to privatize it, even when they have the Presidency and the majorities that would allow it to get through Congress. The universality thus provides a vital security to the benefits that poor and working people receive from the program, since it makes it politically impossible to take it away. Since social security is often the only pension that many poor and working people get (unlike middle class and professional class individuals who have other sources of retirement income), the loss of it would be far more devastating to them. There is an important way, therefore, that they are served by the current configuration of the system, even given its skewing.

Second, and following from the above, it is important to recognize that the great bulk of proposals to “means test” Social Security come from the libertarian right, not the left, and that they are designed to undercut the support for Social Security, in order to make its privatization politically viable.

Most colleges and universities “means test” financial aid for their students, which is one of the reasons why it is generally inadequate and heavily weighted toward loans as opposed to grants. I think it is a fair generalization of American social welfare experience history to say that “means tested” programs are both more vulnerable politically (think of the Reagan ‘welfare queen’ narrative) and more poorly funded than universal programs.

There are additional argument about the skewing of Social Security benefits, such as the fact that they go disproportionately to the elderly, while those currently living in poverty are disproportionately children. This argument mistakes the positive effects of the program — before Social Security and Medicare the elderly were the most impoverished — for an inegalitarian design element.

The solution to the fact that children bear the brunt of poverty in the US is not to undermine the program that has lifted the elderly out of poverty but to institute programs that address the problem of childhood poverty. Universal quality day care, for example, provides the greatest immediate economic benefits to middle class and professional class families who are now paying for such services, but it provides poor and working class kids with an education ‘head start’ that would otherwise go only to the children of those families that could afford to pay for it. And insofar as day care is provided, it makes it easier for poor and working class parents (often in one parent households) to obtain decent employment.

So the failings of universal programs are best addressed, I would argue, by filling in the gaps with more universal programs, not ‘means testing’ them.

To the extent that Warren’s ‘free tuition’ proposal addresses only some of the financial disadvantages of poor and working people obtaining a college education, the response should not be “oh, this is not progressive,” but what do we do to address the other issues, such as living expenses. It is not as if there are no models on how to do this. All we need to do is look at Nordic countries that provide post-secondary students both free tuition and living expenses.

30

bianca steele 05.06.19 at 7:48 pm

Bob, I would be surprised if Sanders has the first idea that schools aren’t what they were in the 1930s when he was a child, even for people who don’t belong to what he probably still thinks of as “disadvantaged” groups where parents don’t make their kids do their homework. But obviously that’s my fault because I’m not enough of a lefty.

31

christian h. 05.06.19 at 9:15 pm

Having grown up and gone to university in Germany it is simply incomprehensible to me that there is tuition supporters on the political left in the U.S. It’s true that free college isn’t universal in the same sense free K-12 education is. But neither are libraries (they exclude those who are functionally illiterate completely, and their services surely go mostly to upper middle class people who have opportunity and education to read regularly), for example. Neither are roads – the poor overwhelmingly live in inner cities, often take public transport – it’s middle class suburbanites that mostly profit. Speaking of public transport, I assume Henry opposes rail; it is very middle class, the poor use buses. (The last argument actually has considerable traction in Los Angeles, it’s not completely far fetched.)

32

steven t johnson 05.06.19 at 10:25 pm

Following the link, the claim is:
“‘Free tuition’ is the opposite of progressive policymaking
It’s presented as leveling the playing field. It would worsen economic inequality.”

My first thought is to wonder why Bezos; Washington Post thinks this would be a bad thing then.

As near as I can tell the heart of their argument is here:
“For those with incomes less than $35,000, average net tuition was $2,300 in 2015-16; … it was more than $11,000…

All told, in terms of dollars spent, an estimated 38 percent of the benefits of a straightforward national free-tuition program for full-time students would flow to those from families with incomes above $120,000. About 8 percent of the benefits would go to students from families with incomes below $35,000.”

The first thing to realize is that by “benefit” these people mean only the average cash equivalent of tuition. In the larger perspective I’m not quite sure what it means to complain that it takes less money to help more poor people, ignoring their average income. That seems to me the same as complaining that rich people pay most of the taxes because poor people don’t make that much money on average.

Assuming for a moment, limiting the benefit purely to cash, $ 2 300 less money spent on a year’s tuition for a family whose income is under $35 000 is 6.6% or more, in a sense added to family income. But $11 000 less spent for a family whose income is over $120 000 is at most 9.2% This doesn’t sound quite ideal, but the idea that inequality will be increased by a 2.6% benefit differential between the top and bottom tiers is quite the leap in inequality suggested. Also, the families whose income falls in the ultra tax bracket will be losing quite a bit more. This effect on decreasing inequality is omitted. (It might explain why a Bezos doesn’t like the plan.)

Dropping the arbitrary limitation of cash benefit to a single school year, we find that the benefit is first of all a college education, presumably increasing family income after school and social equality (at least in a fictional world where lack of skills is the cause of poverty.) There is also the cash benefit to the family in the interest on student debt. The higher credit ratings and pre-existent savings of higher income families means their cash benefit from that would be less. The claim above that this reform would be regressive is in my opinion one that would be poorly argued were it so congenial to the Washington Post’s politics.

There are other aspects mentioned, such as the fact that free tuition at public colleges doesn’t directly benefit people who don’t go to college, or fail. This ignores the way the program is coupled with a higher tax on very wealthy individuals. When they have to quote Mayor Pete to hide they aren’t actually discussing Warren’s program any more, I don’t think we need to take them seriously.

There is no reason I can see to think Warren’s plan is regressive, save by the trickery in pretending the only benefit is the cash value of the tuition not paid.

That said, I think it is also pretty clear that this is a minor reform that will not greatly increase equality.

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Harry 05.06.19 at 10:42 pm

It’s Harry, not Henry.

I lived in Los Angeles for years, using buses which, in LA itself, were, then, used pretty much exclusively by the poor; if you know how LA works you’d understand why that argument has real traction in LA.

Leo. Warren proposes a voucher system, use-able among public providers, that is worth more the better educated you are, for which the least educated 20% are ineligible, and which a large portion of the rest of the least educated will not use. Would you be ok with this in pre-k-12? I know its not far from what we actually have ended up with, but would you be ok with someone proposing it?

34

Harry 05.06.19 at 10:45 pm

“All we need to do is look at Nordic countries that provide post-secondary students both free tuition and living expenses”.

Look at the investment and level of inequality in pre-higher (lower??) education in the Nordic countries: that’s a progressive education policy.

35

christian h. 05.06.19 at 10:53 pm

Sorry for the name mix-up. I did live in LA for a long time, I do know why the argument has traction, and I supported the Bus Riders Union my whole time there. Doesn’t mean I agree that the way to improve bus service is to oppose rail, any more than the way to improve K-12 education is to cut university funding. (Do you support privatising the University of Wisconsin? If not why not?)

36

Harry 05.06.19 at 10:55 pm

“That seems to me the same as complaining that rich people pay most of the taxes because poor people don’t make that much money on average”

Complaining that the benefits to poor people are too low is the same as complaining that rich people pay too much in tax. Ok.

37

Harry 05.06.19 at 11:03 pm

Neither Baum and Turner nor I are suggesting that we cut university funding. They are not even opposing increasing it. They are just opposing increasing it so unequally, in an already highly unequal system.

That said: opportunity costs. If someone proposed, say, doubling the subsidy for public transport in LA when I lived there, and offered to spend it on either transport used mainly by the wealthier 50% or on transport used by everyone, I’d favor the latter. And I’d favor the latter till I thought we were close to saturation. We are nowhere near saturation of resources in prek-12, and wouldn’t be even if we spent double what Warren is proposing to spend on higher ed all in prek-12.

38

christian h. 05.06.19 at 11:21 pm

I don’t understand. The logic of the argument clearly indicates that university funding should be cut and I imagine replaced in part by means-tested tuition grants, and the savings put into K-12 education. (Except possibly dedicated research funding, maybe you acknowledge that this has some value in and of itself.) After all, even with public university tuition increases since the GFC, attending such universities is heavily subsidised for state residents in most states. I cannot for the life of me see a reasonable argument that the current funding levels are the ideal ones from the point of view of distributive justice as defined in the OP. We should privatise the University of Wisconsin, force it to pay rent for all the real estate it uses (land grant and hence past public support for the upper classes, it could be monetised to use in K-12 schooling), charge tuition covering full costs and increase means-tested financial aid accordingly.

39

christian h. 05.06.19 at 11:31 pm

Final comment with apologies to Harry as I must be more than wearing out my welcome: I think it’s perfectly fair to discuss if a free tuition plan is the best use of the money it will cost. I find the “where does the money go” argument largely a red herring, though. Just like we support public libraries because we consider them a good worthy of support beyond the immediate economic welfare effect (even though we could close them and use the savings for, say, psychological services for the indigent), we should also support higher education and academic research for the same reason – not capitulate to the right-wing argument that a 24% tax take is the maximum possible and we therefore will be forced to choose.

40

SamChevre 05.06.19 at 11:57 pm

I agree that Warren’s free college and debt forgiveness plans would not be very progressive, but I’d propose that I think the dynamic mechanism built in would make it worse than a static analysis shows.

(Note that most of my siblings and in-laws do not have college degrees; this perspective is based on my own observations.)

The more a college degree is the norm, the worse things are for people without one. Making it easier to get a college degree increases the degree to which its the norm, and will almost inevitably have the same impact on the value of a college degree as the growth in high-school attendance (noted by Sam Tobin-Hochstadt above) had on the value of a high school degree. (We’re already seeing this: many positions that used to require a college degree now require a specific degree, or a masters degree.) This will increase age discrimination, and further worsen the position of the people for whom college is unattractive for reasons other than money.

To give a particular example of a mechanism (idiosyncratic, but one I know specifically). Until a couple decades ago, getting a KY electrician’s license required 4 years experience under a licensed electrician, and passing the code test. Then the system changed; now it requires a 2-year degree and 2 years experience, OR 8 years experience. This was great for colleges. The working electricians don’t think the new electricians are better prepared as they used to be, but all of a sudden people who don’t find sitting in a classroom for an additional 2 years attractive are hugely disadvantaged. Another example would be nursing licenses; talk to any older LPN and you’ll get an earful about how LPN’s are devalued as RNs and BSNs have become the norm.

41

J-D 05.07.19 at 12:27 am

Harry

Neither Baum and Turner nor I are suggesting that we cut university funding. They are not even opposing increasing it. They are just opposing increasing it so unequally, in an already highly unequal system.

Is there a different proposal for increasing university funding which you would prefer to this one?

42

Dr. Hilarius 05.07.19 at 12:39 am

I suspect tuition reform will be complex, difficult and subject to gaming. Being simple minded I offer an inadequate but simple palliative. Make student loan debt dischargeable in bankruptcy. You can max out your credit cards on cars, clothes, booze or whatever and be able to discharge these debts but not for higher education.

The inability to even threaten bankruptcy gives all the power to collection companies. Students have no leverage at all. The threat of bankruptcy would allow for negotiated reductions in principal as well as payments.

Bankruptcy does carry a lot of negative consequences so it would offset the likely objections about moral hazards, blah, blah. I would also favor an additional method of discharging student debt. If your debt is to a for-profit school that can’t meet some minimum standards for student employment in their field of study then total discharge without the need for bankruptcy. For-profit vocational schools intensively target low income and minority students without providing significant value for money.

43

Harry 05.07.19 at 12:47 am

Many.

But for pretty much any amount, if you’re interested in increasing the education level of the population or rendering that level less unequal, you’d spend it on prek-12.

christian h — I don’t have time right now to respond in detail. But, on the last point: there is some limit to how much a new President will raise in new taxes, and an even tighter limit on what that new President can use to do good with those funds. We’re talking about priorities.

44

John Quiggin 05.07.19 at 1:44 am

Progressivity looks much better if the program sticks to free community college, at least until there is universal access to 4-year schools. That’s what Tennessee did (IIRC the only example that is actually operational).

45

bianca steele 05.07.19 at 2:12 am

Christian @ 38

An awful lot of the argument against Warren’s plan seems to rely on the fact that it’s tacked into the existing financial aid program, which is already means-tested but often doesn’t provide sufficient funds for all students.

I’m curious how far the argument might be applied at K12. To what extent should the curriculum offered at an elementary school track the resources the kindergarten students arrive with? At what point are enough poorer kids going to nursery schools where they learn the alphabet that the argument “only richer kids will benefit from this program” doesn’t apply anymore. As the parent of a ten year old I’ve been a little troubled by how easily administrators can use progressive-sounding explanations for what amounts to acquiescence in segregation and racism, and a kind of tracking they’d recoil from if it were called that.

46

faustusnotes 05.07.19 at 2:26 am

Surely it’s only not “progressive” if you consider it as separate to existing financial aid, rather than as a reform or extension of that financial aid? If you see it as reform, then under the new plan the combination of existing grants plus the new Warren plan means that the very poor still fully benefit, but now those benefits extend fully to the working poor and the near-poor. Yes people in the middle are going to benefit too, but that’s a feature of pretty much every welfare program ever invented.

It might be a matter of debate if the US didn’t have much money, but given under the GOP you have basically adopted MMT, that’s not an issue.

I would also mention that this fear of extending benefits to the middle class or even the upper class is a really middle/upper class preoccupation. When you’re poor, if the government offers you a welfare benefit you can afford to live on and free education, you really really do not care if some undeserving schmuck also gets it. And generally, when governments means test benefits or try to restrict them to the “deserving” poor, a lot of actually poor people get refused those benefits because of the complexity of documents required. Plus you find yourself very rapidly sliding down the slippery slope of defining “deserving” poor until almost no one qualifies. Far better to splash a bit of cash on the “undeserving” middle class, than to try and set up a system that only benefits those who really need the money.

47

Gabriel 05.07.19 at 3:03 am

Harry: it doesn’t seem as if you responded to my comment. I’ll try again.

1. A policy is progressive if it is redistributive.
2. Warren’s plan is redistributive.
3. Thus, Warren’s plan is progressive.

Comments about how effective the redistribution is are fine, but to claim a non-ideal distribution framework invalidates the program’s claims to being progressive seems spurious. And I don’t think this definition of progressive is somehow wildly ideosyncratic.

48

Nia Psaka 05.07.19 at 4:01 am

To whine that free college is somehow not progressive because not everyone will go to college is a ridiculous argument, one of those supposedly-left-but-actually-right arguments that I get so tired of. To assume that the class makeup of matriculators will be unchanged with free college is to discount knock-on effects. This is a weird, weird post.

I guess I’m going back to ignoring this site.

49

Kurt Schuler 05.07.19 at 4:04 am

The debate on this subject strikes me as misguided because it says nothing about what students learn. A good high school education should be enough to prepare young people for most kinds of work. In most jobs, even those allegedly requiring college degrees, the way people learn most of what they need to know is through on the job training. Many high school graduates have not received a good education, though, and go to college as, in effect, remedial high school.

Readers who attended an average American high school, as I did long ago, will know that there are certain students, especially boys, who are itching to be done with school. It is far more productive to give them a decent high school education and have them start working than to tell them they need another two to four years of what to them is pointless rigamarole.

Rather than extending the years of education, I would reduce the high school graduation age to 17 and reduce summer vacations by four weeks, so that a 17 year old would graduate with as many weeks of schooling as an 18 year old now. (Teachers would get correspondingly higher pay, which should make them happy.)

Harry Truman never went to college. John Major became a banker and later prime minister of Britain without doing so. Neither performed noticeably worse than their college-educated peers. If a college education is not necessary to rise to the highest office in the land, why is it necessary for lesser employment except in a few specialized areas?

An experiment that I would like to see tried is to bring back the federal civil service exam, allowing applicants without college degrees who score high enough to enter U.S. government jobs currently reserved for those with college degrees.

50

J-D 05.07.19 at 4:07 am

Harry

Many.

I’m assuming that’s a response to my question, namely, ‘Is there a different proposal for increasing university funding which you would prefer to this one?’

But for pretty much any amount, if you’re interested in increasing the education level of the population or rendering that level less unequal, you’d spend it on prek-12.

I, too, would prefer (if it were the choice I were given) increased expenditure on school education to increased expenditure on university education (and I’ve thought the same for years, I haven’t just recently adopted that position). But I’m still interested in the answer to the question, more specifically, (and I hope I don’t now seem like a nag) ‘Is there a different proposal for increasing university funding which you would prefer to this one and which is currently being advocated, or at least canvassed, by somebody who is currently running for President?’ and also, come to think of it, ‘Is there anybody currently running for President with a proposal for increasing expenditure on school education on a scale comparable to Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for university education?’

I realise, of course, that just because I’m interested in these questions is no reason why you should be interested in them, but I don’t figure that as a reason for not asking.

51

bad Jim 05.07.19 at 5:45 am

I think Harry’s larger point is that the public school system in the U.S. is not doing the job we need it to do, that disparities in college admissions and graduation rates have more to do with the deficiency of funding of primary and secondary school education than with the expense of college attendance.

The break in the pipeline comes well before college. Poor neighborhoods have bad schools and rich neighborhoods have good schools, because they’re locally funded. This is not to say that the cost of education from a state college is not a problem, but rather that there is a bigger problem which might be easily solved with a lot of money.

52

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 6:30 am

@Christina.H
”Having grown up and gone to university in Germany it is simply incomprehensible to me that there is tuition supporters on the political left in the U.S”.

”Having grown up in the US, Italy and Germany and gone to university in Germany -(for FREE) I very well understand – that there are tuition supporters on the so called political left in the U.S. –
as firstly – if you ever have grown up in a family where most of the members have such a emotional -(and funny) attachment to ”their schools” -(and universities) – as ”them Anglo-Saxons” you very well understand that:

2. –
how far the so called ”left” in the U.S. is – concerning ”being progressive” – so ”many moons” behind the European Left –
which get’s illustrated by this… what did Nia Psaka write:

”one of those supposedly-left-but-actually-right arguments that I get so tired of.”

53

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 6:36 am

– but on the other hand for everybody who is looking for an argument NOT to fight ”climate change” – I think CT found it?

”The rich will profit from it”!

Right?

54

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 6:53 am

@
”if you’re interested in increasing the education level of the population or rendering that level less unequal, you’d spend it on prek-12”.

If you’re interested in increasing the education level of the population or rendering that level less unequal, you don’t spend it just on the least expensive level – on the level which turns millions of Americans into ”debt slaves” – and as there are all these ”reports” of students who – with their families had to file for bankruptcy because they couldn’t service their student debt anymore – and bankrupt Americans tend to be quite poor – helping them would ”render that level less unequal – progressively”

Right?

55

steven t johnson 05.07.19 at 7:05 am

Harry@36 “Complaining that the benefits to poor people are too low is the same as complaining that rich people pay too much in tax. Ok.” No, it’s not okay, because you’re playing percentages. Complaining that rich people pay too much because they pay a higher percentage of the total tax revenue (ignoring state and local sales, property and income taxes) is like complaining that poor people are getting ripped off because they don’t receive a higher percentage of the tuition rebates (or whatever they would be called.)
Percentages are tricky. The real benefit to the poor is greater than the weakest link in the OP wants to admit.

56

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 7:15 am

– and as education starts with birth why not – putting all of this dough somebody wants to put in prek-12 – into prekindergarten?
-(but let’s not forget the debt relief BE-cause young Americans with a lot of student debt can’t even afford to have children – and that’s mighty ”unequal”!)

So all the dough for Prekindergarten?
(and NO tuitions in university) – Now that would be really ”progressive”.

Right?

57

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 8:48 am

– and thinking about it far, faaaar more ”deeply” -(”deep-state-wise) –

WE finally understand – that all of this great… ”stuff” –
(like ”free education” – ”universal health care” – ”living wages” – and especially (still) affordable housing) – the ”Great European Social Democracies” offer –
is nothing else than ”an evil plot to subsidise the rich” – as they profit from all of the social goodies in the most un-progressive way…

-(as probably a Baron von Clownstick would twitter?)

58

Harry 05.07.19 at 12:13 pm

bad Jim’s exactly right. The really bizarre feature of the proposal, and of this discussion, is that higher ed continues the work of pre-k-12. We all know that investing in education earlier, on average, pays off more than investing later. If you want to improve the educational level of the population, or reduce inequalities, you do it by investing much earlier. As I said upthread, the funds involved would could completely transform prek-12: in particular in urban and rural areas.

Why not privatize public higher education? Because I am basically conservative; I don’t think that would improve anything, and I don’t believe that in the long term the saved funds would find their way into prek-12. Warren is proposing new funding, and sending it to higher ed where, even if well-distributed, it would achieve less, and is proposing to maldistribute it.

steve: you seem to assume that a degree from a comprehensive regional university is worth as much as a degree from a public flagship. The evidence to the contrary is far from conclusive. But I wouldn’t use the assumption as a guide to what to do with my own children, let alone with children who are less privileged than mine. For the one kid of Warren’s that I have information about apparently even a state flagship wasn’t good enough.

J-D: sorry, I actually didn’t understand your question. In fact, no, I’m not aware of any appealing higher education funding proposal from an actual candidate, though I confess that I haven’t trawled through all 300 candidates’ platforms. Nor am I aware of any good prek-12 proposal. Warren’s higher ed proposal is the most ambitious education proposal I’m aware of, and it is deeply flawed (though, as I insisted in the OP, progressive on the technically correct definition of progressive that implies that transfers from billionaires to mere millionaires are progressive.). The worst flaw is the one bad Jim articulates. And, there’s the problem, from a policy point of view, but not necessarily a political point of view. ‘Free college’ sounds great to people who think they are left wing and went to college, and presumably those are the votes that Warren and Sanders are competing over: its bad policy in itself, and it overlooks the part of the education system which affects the prospects of the bottom half of the income distribution, and which could be much more easily and efficiently improved, with the kinds of sums they are talking about. Bad, not in the sense of being worse than the status quo (I don’t think it is that, though I’m not sure), but in the sense that there are big opportunity costs.

Nia: thanks for gracing us with your presence and wisdom. I’m sorry that we can’t always confirm your priors the way you’d like.

Why give this proposal a hard time? Not to try and harm the candidate (I never like any potential nominees much, and generally think that the more I like them the less suitable they are for the nomination, but among the existing nominees she is among my favorites, and I suspect she’d be a good President, as Presidents go, though am not so confident she’d be a good candidate as candidates go, my main piece of evidence for that lack of confidence being that she’s among my favorites). But, this is early in the process, and I’d like to help shift attention to prek-12; and I hope that criticisms like mine and Baum and Turner’s will lead to her revising and improving the proposal.

59

Cian 05.07.19 at 12:16 pm

Isn’t this argument ‘whataboutery’ for progressives? As various people have pointed out the middle classes benefit far from most programs (roads, courts, schools, transport, internet subsidies, research spending, airports). There are really very few programs that predominantly benefit the poor.

And yes funding of schools in the US is a disgrace, but it’s also (at a federal level) a huge political problem that makes healthcare reform look trivial. Moving from local to federal funding would be a huge change, and you’d get loads of states (including my own) who’d probably refuse to participate.

At the same time there are a range of very significant problems in the US (including economic ones) caused by the explosion in college debt. One might criticize the solution, but there is a very real problem here and I’m not hugely impressed by people who benefited from free education criticizing any solution to the problem because it fails some moral purity test.

60

Cian 05.07.19 at 12:30 pm

Harry: bad Jim’s exactly right. The really bizarre feature of the proposal, and of this discussion, is that higher ed continues the work of pre-k-12. We all know that investing in education earlier, on average, pays off more than investing later. If you want to improve the educational level of the population, or reduce inequalities, you do it by investing much earlier. As I said upthread, the funds involved would could completely transform prek-12: in particular in urban and rural areas.

How do you propose to do this, because unless you plan to completely federalize educational spending (a HUGE political underaking) what would happen in Republican (and I suspect most Democrat) states is that you’ll be giving even more money to ludicrously over funded wealthy districts, while poorer districts will just cut local funding of education.

Fixes to college education in the US are relatively straightforward, and the problem is a relatively recent one. Now I wouldn’t argue there may be better ways to fix the problem (controlling college spending would be a good idea), and that US higher education is also a mess and that probably the last thing the US needs is more students doing business degrees. But student debt is a big and growing problem – fixing it will buy the Democratic party a lot of political capital that they can use to do other things.

61

Harry 05.07.19 at 12:58 pm

“How do you propose to do this, because unless you plan to completely federalize educational spending (a HUGE political underaking) what would happen in Republican (and I suspect most Democrat) states is that you’ll be giving even more money to ludicrously over funded wealthy districts, while poorer districts will just cut local funding of education”.

I don’t massively admire the overall policy direction of the Obama administration on k-12 (CCSS good, but most places were getting there anyway, promotion of charter schools not so good) but what Arne Duncan proved was that the Federal government can exert very considerable influence over the behavior of States and districts. As things stand, Federal money in k-12 is distributed in an extremely progressive manner, and I don’t see why that would change if were massively increased. There’s a reason why abolishing the DofE is a persistent theme in Republican circles.

62

Z 05.07.19 at 1:01 pm

If you want to improve the educational level of the population, or reduce inequalities, you do it by investing much earlier. As I said upthread, the funds involved would could completely transform prek-12: in particular in urban and rural areas.

If you want to move towards improving the educational level of the population and reducing inequalities, it is clear and well-known what should be done. If you want to specifically improve access to higher education, it is relatively clear and quite well-known what should be done. When politicians repeatedly don’t do this, then, at some point, it is necessary to accept the significance of the if.

I’m sure Warren is a decent person, but I’m equally sure that her campaign considers it a top objective to get the votes of the educated professionals in dynamic areas that will constitute the bulk of the Democratic primary voters. If she were to move strongly against educative inequalities, she would weaken one key factor in the social position of this group, and would risk losing their votes (or enough of them to lose). Hence, she doesn’t.

Imagine a Democratic Party candidate were proposing to inject large amounts of federal funds—enough, let’s say, to raise the salary of every teacher in the country by $40k if applied across the board—but distributed it in a way that roughly tracked the affluence of the student population, but excluded the lowest achieving 15% of students, and provided nothing or almost nothing for a large swathe of other low income students.

That’s a great analogy, but I fear that imagination is not really needed: what is for instance, the average federal funding that an American White child in a public school gets compared to the federal funding an American Black child gets? (In France, the relevant comparable data is easily accessible and poor children get far less national fund than middle-class or rich children, mostly through the mechanism you imagine, that is to say their teachers are paid much more.)

63

Harry 05.07.19 at 1:22 pm

The average American white child attracts considerably more public money than the average American black child (because of their different average) class locations, though nowhere near as much more as, say, thirty years ago. The average Black child attracts more Federal money (again because of their different class locations). Its harder to figure out which class locations attract more Federal money in higher ed, because the money comes through programs that target lower-income students (Pell), that non-accidentally benefit lower income students (GI Bill), and that target higher income students (tax credits, the benefits from 529s etc). My wild guess is that, currently, Federal funding for undergraduate education is more progressive than it would be under Warren’s plan. I’ll ask some experts.

Of course, you’re right about everything else!! (as so often!)

64

hix 05.07.19 at 2:06 pm

” Elizabeth Warren’s college plan really is progressive, because it is funded by taxation that comes exclusively from a wealth tax on those with more than $50 million in assets. “
So what about introducing a wealth tax without a college plan? The one has nothing to do with the other……

Just fealt like pointing out the obvious, since it is a common rethorical bs move of politicans arround the globle.

65

Ben 2 05.07.19 at 2:56 pm

“Opportunity cost” is bearing a huge load in the argument, and it can’t take the weight

Is there an opportunity cost in the sense that the US can’t afford to do Warren’s plan and also spend the same amount on prek-12 ? No.

Is there an opportunity cost politically? Also no. An administration that can create a new wealth tax ex nihilio to free wage slaves from debt bondage – for this what this is – is also an administration that can spend huge sums on prek-12 at the same time

We’re left with an opportunity cost for airing policy ideas during a campaign. Here there *are* actual trade offs involved; attention / time is limited etc.

But, uh, a quarter of that wealth tax which pays the college plan goes toward establishing universal pre-k.

What we’re left with is an argument that “Warren’s proposal for universal prek and writing down college debt / cheap state college is crowding out talk during the campaign for increased k-12 spending”

Which rests on the assumptions 1) “a campaign which talks about universal prek / fixing college debt won’t increase k-12 spending on the same scale once in power unless it’s talked about during the campaign”

and

2) “the best way to get k-12 spending talked about during the campaign is to denigrate the fixing college debt proposal”

Neither of which, at least to me, is obvious or that coherent.

Contrast this with a shrewd political calculation for *not* mentioning massive k-12 funding increases during the campaign. It’s a charged issue which cuts across usual infra-coalition groups, so the effect of bringing it up is complex and the positives are mitigated more than prek / college. And, as explored above, an admin which can do prek / college can also do k-12. (The Arne Duncan example cuts both ways; the 08 campaign wasn’t caught over massive changes in fed education policy, but it still happened.)

Lastly, prek/fixing college debt are *overwhelmingly popular*. It’s *tremendous political terrain to occupy*. It gets people used to spending huge sums of money on education, and it does so in a way that even non-brain-worked Republicans have to nod in agreement makes good fiscal sense.

Muddying those waters based on the dubious assumptions above, and ignoring the other political dynamics, seems unwise.

66

Harry 05.07.19 at 3:11 pm

I take one value of having permanent campaigns to be that it helps candidates to get feedback on and improve their policy proposals. Pretty much the only value if you ask me.

I agree that less egalitarian policy proposals are generally more popular than more egalitarian policy proposals, and that’s a good reason to include them in a platform. I say something to that effect upthread (that’s not a jibe, you’d be nuts to read the whole thread). I do understand the politics, but would prefer better policies, that’s all. As usual, of course, I’ll fall into line and support for whoever the Democratic party chooses to be its nominee.

67

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 3:15 pm

@
”Why not privatize public higher education? Because I am basically conservative”

Me too – that’s why I wrote already @2 – ”Who cares if Warren’s college plan is progressive – as long as this plan -(and hopefully an even more extended plan) puts an end to a big part of the insanity of the (stupid and greedy) US education system – and as I also agree that I’m my homeland ”in the long term the saved funds would find their way into prek-12” -(or even better into Prekindergarten) – we NOW – perhaps could focus on Warren’s most ”progressive” idea behind her plan?

How do WE (”conservatives”) solve the ”student debt” – which is – as other commenters already have identified ”a big and growing problem”?

68

nastywoman 05.07.19 at 3:41 pm

and @the commenter who is –
according to@63
(as so often!) -right about everything else!!

Was he really ”right”? about the following:

”I’m sure Warren is a decent person, but I’m equally sure that her campaign considers it a top objective to get the votes of the educated professionals in dynamic areas that will constitute the bulk of the Democratic primary voters. If she were to move strongly against educative inequalities, she would weaken one key factor in the social position of this group, and would risk losing their votes (or enough of them to lose). Hence, she doesn’t”.

BE-cause I once met Mrs. Warren –
and I even had a chance talking to her –
and I really could promise you guys – that she seems not only to be a ”decent person” – but she also deeply cares about the (poor) young Americans she wants to make debt free – without thinking as much as the votes of ”educated professionals” as for sure somebody in France – or an American Conservative might think.

69

steven t johnson 05.07.19 at 3:46 pm

Somehow I thought the main topic of the OP was how Warren’s plan would increase inequality, which still strikes me as highly dubious, especially as argued in the link. Apparently the real topic is supposed to be how funding public college tuition for all students increases inequality by diverting funds from primary education (and maybe secondary?)

I’m not convinced the implicit premise that a poor education is the main generator of inequality. I rather think lack of high-paying jobs, unemployment, inordinate rewards to owners of property, a multitude of secondary forms of exploitation such as higher prices for necessities in poor neighborhoods and so on, endlessly, have much more to do with that. Improvements to primary and secondary education like Warren’s improvements to tertiary education, are a reform, of minor effect in the end as regards to reducing inequality.

Insofar as some colleges and universities graduate credentials more acceptable to the bosses, credentialism is not to be reformed by increasing funding to preK12 schooling. The fact that you can’t say “a degree from a comprehensive regional university is worth as much as a degree from a public flagship” also reduces all benefit of education to simple monetary returns. Further, it abstracts from the benefits to social mobility in the lower ranks of society. Personally I think economic anxiety fuels status anxiety, that the prospect of no change or even descent goads people into seeking scapegoats…who will be the historical ones.

In short, I tend to think the primary inequality in other words is in property.

Further the massive funding increases imagined as the alternative excluded by Warren will still have their effects undercut but a multitude of structural deficits. The lesser revenues from the poor districts are bad enough. Any reform that could help that would be desirable. But in the long run the suburbs need to be reintegrated into urban life, the elite need to be reintegrated into common life and those areas where social decay has rotted the fabric of society need to be rebuilt. And by the way, those rotted areas also include rural ones and deindustrialized ones as well as inner cities.

70

Ben 2 05.07.19 at 3:50 pm

I’m in wholehearted agreement that campaigns are places to push for better policy, etc, but the argument you’re advancing is an argument about the politics: opportunity cost (implying if one gets done the other won’t), relative salience in a campaign, etc

I’m disagreeing with your assessment that trashing a prek / college proposal using those arguments advances the cause of increasing k-12, for the reasons I outlined above. They’re bad arguments.

A better path, it seems to me, is to “yes, and” the pre-k/college proposal in public forums. Similar in the way some Medicare for all folks talk about plans to lower the start of Medicare to 55 and raising SCHIP (or an equivalent universal program) eligibility to the late 20s, saying “Warren’s plan does necessary things, but the most important is to create the political space for the real prize, which is massive k-12 increases. This is the real goal because [all the reasons you articulate well]”

Couple that public “yes, and” ing with targeting the bureaucrats, staffers and lawyers that are likely to be in the rooms when educational policy is drafted, and scream like hell to them that in order to cure the disease and not just treat the symptoms k-12 has to be massively increased.

This 1) doesn’t use the arguments which are shaky as outlined in my comment above
2) Lets people who like the Warren plan actually listen instead of tune out
3) Accomplishes everything we want: gets k-12 funding out there, makes it more likely to happen
4) This is clearly where Warren’s rhetoric is leading anyway; the pre-k proposal could find / replace “eighth grade” for “pre-k” and it would make a good policy paper for massively increasing grade school funding. Piggy-backing off of that rhetoric to make the case for k-12 makes better rhetorical and political sense than denigrating the proposal.

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Harry 05.07.19 at 4:34 pm

“I’m not convinced the implicit premise that a poor education is the main generator of inequality.”

This isn’t an implicit premise, and I’m surprised you read it into anything I or Baum and Turner have written. The causes of inequality that you cite are, indeed, the main ones. We’re arguing about education because we know that nobody in this or the next few election cycles is going to fundamentally address those causes, and because education is valuable in very substantial part because it insulates people some from the bad effects of inequality.

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Ben 2 05.07.19 at 4:36 pm

@ steven t johnson (then I’ll stop dominating the thread):

robust and effective k-12 education also helps reduce inequality by giving people more tools to resist, as Al Swearengin called them, “the bosses and their Pinkerton shitheels”

agree that k-12 not the primary driver of inequality tho

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nastywoman 05.07.19 at 8:17 pm

@69
…”I rather think lack of high-paying jobs, unemployment, inordinate rewards to owners of property, a multitude of secondary forms of exploitation such as higher prices for necessities in poor neighborhoods and so on, endlessly, have much more to do with that”. (inequality)

Yes! –
and so – any policies in order to create ”high-paying jobs”, reduce ”unemployment”, reduces ”inordinate rewards to owners of property” and reduce a ”multitude of secondary forms of exploitation such as higher prices for necessities in poor neighborhoods and so on, endlessly, – reduce inequality –

And it is a fact – that ”free education for all” – from the lowest level – up to university – reduces inequality as it creates ”high-paying jobs”, reduce ”unemployment”, reduces ”inordinate rewards to owners of property” and reduce a ”multitude of secondary forms of exploitation such as higher prices for necessities in poor neighborhoods and so on, endlessly…

But WE -(Americans) can’t have that –
BE-cause we are… ”conservative” – and we much rather like to discuss ”how funding public college tuition for all students increases inequality by diverting funds from primary education (and maybe secondary?”)

Which is quite an interesting discussion – for sure –
and I especially enjoyed your point about ”the suburbs need to be reintegrated into urban life – and the elite need to be reintegrated into common life” –
the way it happened -(for me) – when I changed from a (private) US education system to a ”FREE” European system – where the elite couldn’t avoid to be ”integrated” – as there was no (private-payed) education in sight.
-(not even in the suburbs)

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Matt 05.07.19 at 8:49 pm

The break in the pipeline comes well before college. Poor neighborhoods have bad schools and rich neighborhoods have good schools, because they’re locally funded. This is not to say that the cost of education from a state college is not a problem, but rather that there is a bigger problem which might be easily solved with a lot of money.

I think it’s even harder than equalizing funding. According to Ballotpedia’s analysis of spending in America’s largest school districts, the Baltimore City Public School System actually spends more per student than the Palo Alto Unified School District. But it has a lower graduation rate and I suspect that their graduates would not fare well against the Palo Alto graduates on measures of academic skills. Comparisons like this are a right-wing favorite for showing that the “real” problem is not insufficient spending on students but actually unions, or bureaucracy, or big city corruption…

I think that the problem is that some school districts have much harder jobs than others, because some students live desperate lives outside of school. Desperation among students is not uniformly distributed across school districts.

Some students start the school year prepared to acquire and apply academic knowledge from day 1. Some students start with a raft of unmet basic needs. Like food, shelter, and safety.

You can deliver more education-per-dollar if the schools just focus on education and medical services/psychological counseling/basic nutrition/law enforcement are well-handled elsewhere. That seems to me the greatest advantage of affluent school districts, charter schools, and schools in other developed nations: they don’t have to compensate as often for overwhelming problems in their students’ lives that come from outside the campus. Affluent districts also having newer books, more electives, and less crowded classrooms is just the icing on the cake.

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steven t johnson 05.07.19 at 9:12 pm

Ben2@72 writes of “tools to resist…” This would be one of the nonmonetary benefits to Warren’s college reform excluded from Baum and Turner’s presentation. It’s one reason why I think the benefit of the college education to the lower income families isn’t measured by the extra $7 700 higher (not highest, though,) income families would receive. But even solely in money terms, I still fancy that most under $35 000 families will find $2 300 makes a bigger difference in meeting necessities than the over $120 000 families will get from $11 000.

To quote from the link, again:
““‘Free tuition’ is the opposite of progressive policymaking
It’s presented as leveling the playing field. It would worsen economic inequality.”

Baum and Turner’s essential criticism is about the money payments, discussed in a misleading way. Two working parents, both with an income about $60 000, would get maybe, at most, $11 000 in a year. IN US politics this is supposed to be middle class, but I think real middle class people own property (not a mortgage.) No, I don’t think we’re talking about Warren making the world more unequal.

Most of the other thrown in criticisms, like the different monetary values of credentials from regional comprehensive vs. public flagship, do indeed implicitly assume that educational inequality is a prime cause, if not the cause, of inequality. I still haven’t followed the logic of how Warren’s college reform makes this worse.

Warren’s plan is a school voucher plan for that part of the school system that isn’t free. Extra subsidies to some parents when there is a publicly provided alternative, as in primary and secondary education, does actually have the regressive effects wrongly claimed by Baum and Turner. Doing away with this bug in Warren’s proposed college system could be resolved by price controls to equalize college tuitions, which requires public provision of schools in the long run to keep the system from collapsing, which to be effective would probably require in the long run some sort of industrial policy giving a better idea of labor needs. And that might end up giving students stipends to go into areas where anticipated needs are highest. Etc. Etc.

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nastywoman 05.07.19 at 11:39 pm

– and finally about:

”Free tuition’ is the opposite of progressive policymaking
It’s presented as leveling the playing field. It would worsen economic inequality.”

As in Germany right now –
because a lot of schoolchildren in K-12 are struggling with German -(the language) – because they are children of immigrants and refugees –
and because of their struggle – they supposedly hold their classes back – some parents . and even parents who are ”politically” far less conservative than for example the commenters on CT – started to look for… an ”alternative education” for their kids –
AND as the only alternative offered – (as there is no ”home schooling” in Germany) – are
the very few ”private schools” which opened – even in a country which always had FREE education – some German parents now pay for the education of their children.

With the result:

Paying tuition is the opposite of progressive policymaking
It’s presented as the only way ”not to get stuck with the ”Know-Nothings” – and it PROVEN is NOT leveling the playing field.
It just worsen economic inequality.”

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J-D 05.07.19 at 11:56 pm

Z

I’m sure Warren is a decent person, but I’m equally sure that her campaign considers it a top objective to get the votes of the educated professionals in dynamic areas that will constitute the bulk of the Democratic primary voters. If she were to move strongly against educative inequalities, she would weaken one key factor in the social position of this group, and would risk losing their votes (or enough of them to lose). Hence, she doesn’t.

Is there evidence to support the conclusion that a candidate who proposed a major expansion of Federal funding for schools would lose support among educated professionals?

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Yan 05.08.19 at 1:47 am

“Is there evidence to support the conclusion that a candidate who proposed a major expansion of Federal funding for schools would lose support among professionals?”

Does the existence of this thread on this blog count?

bianca steele @30:
“Bob, I would be surprised if Sanders has the first idea that schools aren’t what they were in the 1930s when he was a child, even for people who don’t belong to what he probably still thinks of as “disadvantaged” groups where parents don’t make their kids do their homework.”

They never miss a chance for a cheap shot at Sanders, even when this guy is their current frontrunner:

“Explaining why schools in Iowa are performing better than those in Washington, D.C., Biden told the Post, “There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with. When you have children coming from dysfunctional homes, when you have children coming from homes where there’s no books, where the mother from the time they’re born doesn’t talk to them — as opposed to the mother in Iowa who’s sitting out there and talks to them, the kid starts out with a 300 word larger vocabulary at age three. Half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom.”

//politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2007/10/25/biden-stumbles-over-education-question/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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Chris (merian) W. 05.08.19 at 1:51 am

I think one of the reasons this policy proposal isn’t discussed in these terms, and comes across as progressive, is that it is being framed not as higher education funding, but as debt relief.

And I think that the levels of debt that people get themselves into just for wanting an education in line with their interests and talents (even leaving aside the whole aspects of preparing for certain types of jobs) is, to me, a problem. As a first generation higher education graduate (from Europe, now living in the US) with no family money this sort of situation would have put me into even more of a state of permanent anxiety. College graduates of not even very long ago talk of times where you could finance a year of tuition at a solid state school by working through the summer. This time is very far from the realities of today, even in places where in-state tuition is considered “affordable” (as in the institution I consider my home).

As a matter of principle, an egalitarian society of the future that I’d want to help building would in fact contain free or inexpensive access to any level of education, at a high base standard of quality. Like, every school is a good school, there is a mechanism for tackling exceptions, and everyone can access whatever level of basic education or fundamental vocational training without having to pay for it in major financial hardship. (There are of course many ways to implement such a system.)

I’m not really fundamentally feeling much in conflict with Harry’s argument, though, because OF COURSE PreK-12 has the bigger impact for fighting inequality. So we’d disagree about priorities, mostly. (I hope, because I hope that inexpensive access to tertiary and non-tertiary post-secondary education is also something Harry subscribes to.)

A twist, though, is that I’m not sure it’s only money that K-12 is missing. Sure, there are means-starved districts that first and foremost need MONEY. But others have, at least on an international scale, a lot of funding, but it doesn’t lead to good educational outcomes. The reasons for this are myriad: For good outcome, you also need high-quality curricula, teaching being a valued profession, and students who are psychologically and physically in a position to focus on learning. Schools alone can’t heal traumatized communities. So much as I will always join the cries for more funds for education, it would be a mistake to think you can just throw money at the problem, at least not through the channels that money has been used traditionally.

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J-D 05.08.19 at 3:23 am

Yan

“Is there evidence to support the conclusion that a candidate who proposed a major expansion of Federal funding for schools would lose support among professionals?”

Does the existence of this thread on this blog count?

No, it does not. There is no comment here indicating that the commenter (professional or not) would not support a candidate who proposed a major expansion of Federal funding for schools.

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faustusnotes 05.08.19 at 5:09 am

I’m surprised at the number of people on this thread who seem to think the purpose of free university education is to help lift people out of poverty. How many times do you have to be shown that this upward mobility thing is a ponzi scheme? The goal of free education is to ensure that poor people can get access to the same things rich people can, so that everyone is able to live a fulfilling life.

Also I’m surprised at the number of people who, after the last 30 years of vicious anti-poor rhetoric from the right and from “centrists” (i.e. crypto-rightists), still think it’s a good idea to propose programs that target only the very poor through tight means testing. Yes, they are ultimately more “progressive” since they definitely help the poor more than those on middle incomes. They are also extremely vulnerable to political attack because the majority of the population doesn’t benefit from them.

I mean, does anyone on here seriously think that if the UK National Health Service (NHS) were designed only to benefit people on welfare, it would still be around now after Thatcher? The only thing that stopped her from completely killing it was the fact that her own constituency depended on it.

Also, imagine someone in the Labour left in 1944, talking like Harry (and others) about the NHS: saying that this universal health coverage thing is not progressive because middle class people would also benefit. They would be laughed out of the party room. It’s madness to talk this way. If something – education, healthcare, transportation, environmental protection – is a public good you fund it publicly so everyone can afford it and access it, and then no matter how much the rich and their centrist shills may hate it, they’ll never be able to cancel it.

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nastywoman 05.08.19 at 7:14 am

– but as there seems to be a bit of confusion about the creation of ”inequality” let me -(as a ”nasty conservative”) – explain how most successfully ”inequality” is created.

As already mentioned – WE got to start as early as possible – like in Kindergarten -(as K-12 already is to late) -. and so BE-fore we -(”conservatives”) put our children in Kindergarten we have to make sure – absolutely sure – that our children don’t play with the ”Schmuddlekinder” -(of the ”Poor”) and as Mr. Johnson hinted – we make sure by moving to one of our wonderful segregated Burbs – or any are where ”Schmuddelkinder” don’t exist.
And if they show amp at our Gardens anyway we make our Kindergarten so expensive that they can’t afford them.

And with this great system of charging for any type of education we make sure – from Kindergarten for University that WE – the elite are always amongst ourselves – which is pretty cool – because who wants in University to see any ”Schmuddelkinder”.

And the GREAT think this GREAZ system of creating ”inequality” works nowhere better than in my homeland the GREAT US of A –
and that’s why I luuve this country so much –
(and especially that it ultimately loves so much to self destruct with – at least some of it’s money making – schemes) – as did you guys read that it takes just six and a half million dollars to get into Stanford?

That’s peanuts – and what a great concept to fight inequality between millionaires and billionaires – and as every American is a millionaire -(or soon will be one!) – no better system in creating such a wonderful system of ”inequality incentives”!

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Harry 05.08.19 at 12:42 pm

If someone had proposed that the NHS be established for everyone except the people who are least well its just possible that someone objecting might have been taken seriously. I can’t really imagine the Labour Party of 1945 proposing that, though.

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Mrmister 05.08.19 at 1:32 pm

Harry @82–my understanding is that while the NHS has improved health outcomes for everyone, it has also (counter-intuitively) increased health inequality. More affluent people are better able to take advantage of healthcare. The interventions which tend to reduce health inequality are things like clean water and closing the sewers, not universal access to care.

This is also part of why I think an absolute prioritarian/progressivism is misguided. Beyond the working poor who were helped by the NHS, just less than the middle and upper classes were, the genuinely worst off people are another group entirely: the mentally ill, homeless, addicted, those trapped in domestic violence and sex trafficking, etc. They will often fail to benefit from even generally downward distribution programs because the problems with reaching and helping them are technical and complex. But we should not wait on the problems resolution or, worse yet, political resolution before pursuing other moderate forms of downward distribution aimed at helping eg the working poor.

With respect to Warren’s proposal, it is not maximally progressive but is more progressive than the status quo and additionally strikes me as an excellent way to convince lower middle through upper class people that they, too, are part of the Great Society, which is important given that their political influence is considerable. People still wax nostalgic about the days that a tradesman’s kid could go to a flagship state school on summer job money and enter into the professional world—despite the fact that a tradesman’s kid, and presumably bright, is far from the worst off, that still seems worth bringing back.

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TM 05.08.19 at 1:45 pm

Isn’t it true that the wealthy can get substantial tax reductions by deducting educational expenses, and those deductions are higher the wealthier the parents and the more expenses their education? If I understand correctly, those tax savings need to be counted against the benefits that would accrue to the wealthy.

I studied at University in Germany on a means tested benefit (for living expenses – remember there was and is no tuition) which unfortunately was converted to a repayable grant in the 1980s and later to 50% repayable. Wealthy parents of students could actually get higher benefits from tax deductions than the poor students could get from this program. I wouldn’t have begrudged the affluent kids the same benefit that I enjoyed – in fact I felt it was unfair that they had to depend on their parents while I was entitled to my own money (*). But I think it exceedingly unfair that their parents could get those tax deductions. Best would be to raise the taxes and fund a living wage for all.

(*) Under German law, students can sue their parents if they have the means but refuse to fund an adequate education. But of course you would rather not sue your parents.

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nastywoman 05.08.19 at 2:20 pm

@
”The goal of free education is to ensure that poor people can get access to the same things rich people can, so that everyone is able to live a fulfilling life”.

And why does somebody – who lives – supposedly – in Japan – and it seems to be – that nearly all my fellow ”Homelandanders” on this blog are not aware of it?!

And when will the explanation how this ”inequality thing gets created” be posted?

After a dude from the Fidschi Inseln will have explained it? –
(too)

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Faustusnotes 05.08.19 at 2:21 pm

Mrmister is wrong, the NHS helped all people in Britain including the very poor.

Harry, I don’t get your response. Are you trying to say that free education only helps the most educated? This is true in the trivial sense that it only helps people who can qualify for university. Similarly free cancer care only helps those with cancer! What of it? Unless you think anyone who wants to go to university should be allowed in, this is irrelevant. Perhaps you’re trying to imply that warrens proposal only helps the wealthy because only the wealthy get good high school? Well yes, and the nhs gave better health outcomes to wealthier people and non-smokers, so what? That’s not an argument against making it universal, it’s an argument for banning smoking. You shouldn’t conflate the problems in high school funding with university funding, because the upshot of that is that the few poor kids (of whom I am one) who manage to fight free of our shit high school education have done it for nothing because we can’t get into uni because it’s too expensive. Yes it’s better to do both! But as people above have observed it’s hard for the federal govt to fix secondary education (fuck, they can’t even stop school shootings!) So fix what you can and come back to the next stages later. America has sooooo many problems that it’s madness to oppose fixing the ones you can because some people who are benefiting from an inequality the federal govt can’t fix will benefit a little more from its efforts to fix the ones it can fix.

Poor children should be able to go to university. That’s a simple statement of what is right. Warrens offering a fix for ONE of the two big barriers to doing that. Her fix also helps middle class kids. Lucky them! Why should a poor kid care?

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Harry 05.08.19 at 2:32 pm

“Isn’t it true that the wealthy can get substantial tax reductions by deducting educational expenses, and those deductions are higher the wealthier the parents and the more expenses their education? If I understand correctly, those tax savings need to be counted against the benefits that would accrue to the wealthy.”

Yes. That’s true and it’s a good point. I don’t know how Baum and Turner would respond. Its quite a complicated point, and I think I have something semi-useful to say about it, but I’m under time pressure with other things, and I haven’t thought it out fully, so anything I would say now would be rambly. But thanks for making the observation.

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Harry 05.08.19 at 2:37 pm

“Are you trying to say that free education only helps the most educated?”

We’re talking about tuition-free higher education here, not free education. Tuition-free higher education excludes the least educated; in the US this means somewhere between 15-20% (maybe more, if graduation rates are being inflated as they may be) are simply not eligible for any of the subsidies going to higher education. Another 10% or so in the lower end hated school, often with good reason, and we can predict that they will not use higher education, whatever it costs, and we don’t have a clue how to change that. (Just to be clear, they are not like, say, Christian Scientists whose non-use of health care we might just shrug off).

K-12 should be free, and should be much better and better funded. Higher education (public, or private if that’s what they want) should be free for students from lower income families and, in fact, substantial grants for living expenses. If its not obvious from the thread and from everything else you’ve read by me here that’s what I think I’m surprised, but apologize.

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Cian 05.08.19 at 3:27 pm

I think focusing on high income parents is a bit misleading. Yes the very poorest don’t go to college, but plenty of kids from median income, and sub-median income, households do. And plenty of kids are graduating from college and getting jobs that don’t pay particularly well, and probably will never pay brilliantly.

Secondly there is the way that college has increased very rapidly in the past 10 years, mostly at the state level. There are a range of reasons for this, but a generation of students have been forced to pay more money than previous generations for higher education, during a period when college education is becoming necessary for a wider range of jobs.

Thirdly there is the debt element. Not only is student debt becoming a more and more significant problem (affecting career choices and the economy), but the way that students are unable to escape it even into bankruptcy is an outrage.

I don’t particularly care if wealthier parents also benefit from this. The solution would seem to be to tax them more. And one could also craft this in ways which would be less helpful to them (for example focus solely on state colleges and remove tax savings for education).

I also think we should spend more on K-12 schooling, preschool and a range of other things. I don’t see these two things as particularly incompatible. The advantage of this policy is (like healthcare) is that it is good politics as it would have a quick and measurable impact, which would build political credibility (which could then be used for tougher fights, like increased taxation for education, infrastructure, transport, etc). There was an interesting interview with one of Corbyn’s ex-advisors recently, who pointed out that you can’t just raise taxes immediately. Instead you have to build people’s trust that taxes will be used in ways that benefit them, and that will then change the way people think about taxes. This is one way to change that conversation.

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nastywoman 05.08.19 at 5:02 pm

@
”K-12 should be free, and should be much better and better funded. Higher education (public, or private if that’s what they want) should be free for students from lower income families and, in fact, substantial grants for living expenses”.

What a great start for ending with Warrens plan.
There is hope for the homeland!

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nastywoman 05.08.19 at 5:55 pm

– but now after I gave the plan that K-12 ”should be free, and should be much better and better funded” -(but not University) – the thought what do we do with all these K-12 girls and boys who finally got that much ”financed” and thusly much better education – so much better that they would want to get into University afterwards – but then they find out that University is going to cost them – AND that it is going to cost them so much money that all of this better -(and free) education 12-K was kind for… for… nothing?

And pardon me if I#m kind of a… pain in the whatever… but this is really important for me – and for sure all of these 12-Llers who would want to go tho University and then they find out that they can’t afford what WE have.

And wouldn’t that be kind of… very, very… ”unequal”?

And aren’t WE’re trying to figh ”inequality” here?

I know this Faust-and Johnson-commenter are…?

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Trader Joe 05.08.19 at 7:37 pm

@84 TM re Tax deductions

There are some tax breaks available, but these income out for a couple at earned income of around $230,000, with one exception which is 529 savings plans. With a 529 savings plan there isn’t a deduction, but there is avoided tax on investment income.

So to take an example if someone used 100% 529 plan funds to pay for a reasonably expensive 4 year education – say $200k of total cost, their benefit would be how many dollars they had to deposit to get fund the 200k. Say they deposited 50k when a kid was born and another 50k 5 years later (there are max annual limits but you can pre-fund). Its plausible the 100k would have doubled to 200k and that would have avoided around 40k of federal taxes and maybe another 5-10k from state. The net being – roughly 4 years of education for the price of 3.

Naturally actual mileage varies. The data says the average value of a 529 plan is less than $100k so while there is a benefit – it works best for what I would call 2-3% ers (say those making 250k-500k) rather than someone who is a 1% who frankly would just write the checks and not fool around with paperwork associated with all of the above.

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ascholl 05.08.19 at 8:15 pm

I think you’ve convincingly established that the plan, relative to the status quo, isn’t particularly progressive in its individual distribution of benefits. I don’t think that you’ve established that it’s regressive, apart from the important observation that it mostly ignores the bottom 20% of the wealth distribution. And so it seems to me that support or opposition should be based on features apart from its effectiveness as a wealth redistribution scheme. Other posters have identified enough of these features that I find it hard to take opposition purely on the basis of insufficient progressivity at face value.

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Harry 05.08.19 at 9:41 pm

Thanks ascholl,

Yes, I’ve a number of other reasons for rejecting free-tuition for public college, and the many reasons are all interrelated. I don’t think the fact that wealthier students benefit considerably more from it is sufficient reason to reject it; other (absent) features could redeem it. And, somewhere upthread I acknowledge (as I thought of doing in the OP but decided not to) the role of bad planks in coalition building for good overall platforms.

I really didn’t mean this to be a full defense of opposition to Warren’s plan (or other free-tuition plans) – I’ll do that some other time: I was objecting to Sitaraman’s peculiar defense of it as progressive, and trying to highlight Baum’s and Turner’s observation that once you look at the actual details of how financing currently works, and the actual details of each plan, they tend to look a lot less progressive than people who don’t know much about financial aid as it currently works tend to think. That said, an important factor in my opposition to it is that, unlike many people on this thread, I really am very skeptical that Warren or any other President in the near future is going to do more than one big thing altogether, let alone in education, and I want people to take seriously the opportunity cost of this being the one big thing in education. Many of my interlocutors talk as if they were living in a country with a large and powerful social-democratic movement that is getting close to power and can do a hundred great things when in office. I just don’t think that’s where we are.

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Mrmister 05.08.19 at 10:56 pm

Faustusnotes, I didn’t say that the NHS did not benefit the poor at all, I said it benefited them less than it benefited the better off. I was thinking of a particular large cohort study I was taught, which showed improvements for all classes but larger absolute improvements for the more affluent–though I cannot find it with google on the fly, now. But here is one representative passage from a different paper I did turn up:

“On the basis of an analysis of studies of NHS services, Anna Dixon and colleagues concluded that there is strong evidence that lower socioeconomic groups use services less in relation to need than higher groups. They cite many supporting studies in cardiac care, elective surgery, cancer care, and preventive services.3 A typical example reports that socioeconomically deprived patients were less likely to be investigated and offered surgery once coronary heart disease had developed. In addition, these patients may have been further disadvantaged by having to wait longer for surgery because of being given lower priority.4”

It is a predictable and general feature of class that people with more personal and social resources and knowledge will be better positioned to take advantage of ‘universal’ knowledge and services; also, that such services will often treat them better for reasons both cultural and prudential. Hence the recent focus on the ‘social determinants of health’ in the public health literature as opposed to acute care services, and the common metaphor of acute care as being like ‘the ambulance waiting at the bottom of a cliff’–the expensive, inefficient, and often inefficacious corrective to underlying structurally dangerous situations.

Nationalized provision of acute care services is less progressive than investment in public health and poverty relief, which both can yield extreme health dividends for the very poor. I happen to think that nationalized provision of acute care services is still very worthwhile, for reasons that have to do with both market corrections independently of redistribution, redistribution that is good without being perfect, and cultural factors. The parallel to education may not be perfect, but I think it’s clear enough to make out anyway.

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nastywoman 05.08.19 at 11:03 pm

– but it’s for sure NOT ”progressive” –

to think that ”Warren or any other President in the near future is going to do more than one big thing altogether, let alone in education” –

That’s very, very much like one of these American ”Conservatives” who thinks – that ”interlocutors talk as if they were living in a country with a large and powerful social-democratic movement that is getting close to power and can do a hundred great things when in office – or Barack Obama thinking – ”A black President”?

That’s NOT where we are…

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Faustusnotes 05.09.19 at 12:40 am

Harry from your latest reply I infer you think those 15-20% should go to uni? You think everyone in a society should go to uni and be able to qualify for uni? That’s not possible (some people are simply not able or won’t want to), for starters. Some of that proportion aren’t poor – yes it’s true that in the us idiot failsons can buy their way into uni and that’s not fair but we have also seen from recent scandals that some of that 15-30% are very wealthy but can’t buy their kids a way in without committing crime. That’s good! Those kids shouldn’t be at uni dragging others down! But also: Even if you think every kid in America should be eligible for university entry that’s not something warren could fix (I think), and if it did become possible warrens plan would help those kids too! Yes the wealth distribution of those 15-20% should be fairer but again k12 education is outside warrens power to fix! She’s proposing a fix for what she can fix.

Next, this process of defining inequality based on ability rather than wealth: it’s not left wing. It’s a right wing trap! Don’t fall into it!

I note you haven’t addressed the means testing issue. If you (or other commenters here) want a policy that affects only the genuinely poor, you have to propose a means testing method that ensures poor people get the benefits but is somehow simple enough and transparent enough to not catch poor people. In medical terms, what’s its sensitivity and specificity? Because designing good means testing procedures is hard and wealthy people are good at gaming them, while poor people are bad at negotiating them. I spent 11 weeks in high school living on food stamps because I failed to negotiate those means testing rules even though my parents were bankrupt, unemployed and had abandoned me to live on the other side of the world. I was eating hand me down minced lamb from drought- stricken farmers because I couldn’t prove my parents weren’t gaming the system to get me an extra $100 a week and I needed help from a social worker to escape that trap. Do you have a system that won’t afflict people like 17 year old me with those challenges? If not why not just make it available to everyone? You live in the richest country on earth, what’s the biggie?

Maybe it’s because I’m Australian, not American; maybe it’s because I benefited from schemes like this (maybe 10% of my community made it to uni and most of us were working class) but the objections I see raised here don’t make any sense to me. They’re politically toxic for working class communities (at least in sensible countries), they’re based on principles that have nothing to do with inequality; they’re trapped on issues the legislative body in question can’t fix; and ultimately they’re simply not left wing.

Finally, education is a public good. We need to identify the most talented people at all income levels and get them to university. Not because we need to use education to lift poor people out of uni (social mobility is a Ponzi scheme!) but because we need to maximize the available talent for all highly skilled industries and ensure that all members of our society can become the best person they’re able to be. Public goods should be publicly funded. I know this is a hard point to make clear to people from a society where poor people get hookworm, whole communities have poisoned water, you don’t have universal health coverage, and the only public good your leaders recognize is ownership of AR15s; but it’s a fact. Every policy you implement that spreads and upholds that idea makes your society a better place and pushes all members of society to accept that idea. So don’t quibble over whether a few undeserving failsons will get debt free education. Just fund it and lie back and enjoy the benefits!

99

faustusnotes 05.09.19 at 2:24 am

Harry I think you missed a large reply of mine that is in moderation and hasn’t gone up yet.

Mrmister, I was actually involved in an analysis of NHS data that showed that lower income people are less likely to get referred to essential care (or take longer to get to care) than wealthy people. This is surely a thing! But it is a thing in all health care systems all over the globe, it is a fundamental problem of health care, and it is to do with social determinants of health, not the design of the system per se. You can be sure it would have been worse if the NHS were not there. We have to be careful not to conflate the outcomes we see under a specific end-stage policy (which is what universal health coverage is) with the consequences of all the basic inequalities which drive the entrants to that system.

In the UK women particularly have benefited from the NHS. Maternal mortality rates plummeted after its introduction, and women’s life expectancy gap (between poorest and wealthiest) has remained about 6 years even as life expectancy has increased (i.e. as a proportion it has declined). Men’s has widened but this is likely to do with smoking.

You also need to be careful interpreting recent studies like those by Dixon et al (I used to work with Anna and I know the context of her studies). The NHS has gone backward since the end of the Labour government, and a lot of studies published in the last 10 years are actually showing the consequence of Tory attacks on the system, not the long-term outcomes of the NHS as a whole. Also the NHS was massively underfunded relative to European systems during the Thatcher era, and that has long-term implications for the structure of the system and its effects on inequality, which New Labour was not in power long enough to reverse.

Harry I think this is important:

Warren or any other President in the near future is going to do more than one big thing altogether, let alone in education, and I want people to take seriously the opportunity cost of this being the one big thing in education.

But I think you’re underestimating how transformative the end of student debt will be for a lot of poor people. And given that a lot of the other strategies you identify are not feasible for the federal government (due to the states), I think you overstate this issue in this case.

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Z 05.09.19 at 4:32 am

J-D Is there evidence to support the conclusion that a candidate who proposed a major expansion of Federal funding for schools would lose support among educated professionals?

A good question, but one quite unrelated to my claim. I claimed that a candidate whose policies were strongly against educative inequalities would weaken the social position of educated professionals, and would hence probably loose (some of) their support. Policies strongly against educative inequalities do not logically require major expansions of Federal funding, and more saliently, major expansions of Federal funding for schools can very well increase educative inequalities.

That crucial precision aside, I think there is a lot a evidence for my claim, but mostly in the reverse direction, that is to say, I think there is a lot of evidence that policies which increase educative inequalities attract the support of educated professionals over the opposition of other social groups, and there is ton of evidence that politicians counting on the support of educated professionals do not implement certain policies which are considered obvious in the relevant circle if the objective of decreasing educative inequalities were really the objective, even when pressed to do so by social movements or expert advice (raising the obvious question as why this happens).

Harry himself discussed a number of examples in the North American context in a post entitled Dream Hoarders here about 2 years ago, and in the French context I could refer you to the current Lycée international/Vocational schools reform combo currently under discussion (in which the rightwing senate is trying to mitigate the inegalitarian tendencies of the liberal Macron side, probably the current politicians with the most chemically pure support among the educated professional class). If you’d rather want a personal example, for 8 years now I have been part of a local campaign to increase the number of helpers in public municipal preschools. Our (very educated professionals dependent) town council heading a very affluent city never gave an inch, including through a reelection cycle (it went on to win in the first round), and the reason when pressed why considering local revenue is steadily growing has consistently been that the town council would rather lower the rate of local taxes. Then a small part of the national law changed with the consequence that municipalities now had to pay helpers for private preschools as well (a perfect example of an expansion of funding for schools which is nevertheless increasing educative inequalities, and by the way, want to venture a guess which side of the society elected the MP who voted this law?). In between the vote of this law and the signing of its application decree (making it effective), we asked the town council what the impact would be for our local budget a couple of months from now, and the answer was that there would be no impact in this time-frame, because the town council had preemptively started paying the helpers in private schools as soon as the President had announced the law (so even before it was even discussed in the Parliament and more than a year and a half before it was mandatory to do so) under the presumption that it would happen eventually. 8 years of campaign for a measure with a proven track record against educative inequalities, no result. The exact same measure, with the exact same cost, but in the reverse direction? A year and a half in advance. Are they mad, stupid, or do they understand what their electorate want?

101

roger gathmann 05.09.19 at 8:23 am

Hmm, Harry, unless I am misreading you, your analysis seems to go off the track from the moment that you forget that these are loans. Loans – interest and principle – are neither coming out of the pocket of working class people, initially, nor going back into their pockets, with a profit, at the end of the cycle. Take away my copy of Das Kapital if I’m wrong, but any account that leaves out of the picture the players on the other end of the loan deal, i.e. capital (banks, loan agencies, and all the privatized minions of the numerous state and federal programs) is leaving out of the picture the whole class situation.
As for who is on the hook for those loans – it seems pretty clear that the discussion was moved by an erroneous report by the Urban institute that 49 percent of the loans were owed by the children of the highest income quartile. That was a “coding error”, as Jordan Weisman at Slate found out – roll over Rogoff and Reinhart and tell mamma the news! Turns out that 34 percent is owed by the highest quartile, and the rest is owed by the other quartiles. The poorest quartiles, one could also say, owe that money even though their likelihood of making it through 4 years of college is also the lowest.

From the class perspective, it is easy to find ways to incorporate this kind of information into a tuition argument that would distinguish between the debt owed by pseudo-Trump jr. for four years at NYU or Harvard and the debt owed by Sally Counterperson at Cal State Santa Barbara.

Which gets us to a third way in which the class system is not being considered in this argument. Harvard, Yale, etc., are all “non-profits” – in other words, poor working class people are supporting their asses. Which is evident when you go to Ivy League towns and see the disparity between the poor disrupted public space – which a town like New Haven can’t afford to keep up – and the spiffy, grandiose private college space.

So those making the argument that free tuition isn’t progressive better start making the argument that we should tax the shit out of those private schools with the sky high endowments. Otherwise, perhaps this is all cover for preserving education as the reserve for plutocratic pups.

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Harry 05.09.19 at 12:22 pm

“Harry from your latest reply I infer you think those 15-20% should go to uni? You think everyone in a society should go to uni and be able to qualify for uni?”
No I don’t think that, and don’t see how it is in any way implied by anything I’ve said. I think that the #1 priority in an education policy should be improving the education of the least well educated 30ish%. Since they don’t go to college, spending on college won’t do much for them. Sending them to college would be silly. I’m skeptical of any expansion to be honest while we do such a lamentable job with the students who do go.

Roger. What are loans? Warren is proposing free tuition. Also, can we all just cut it out on the insults. I’ve trashed a couple of comments that accused me, or others, of being paid lackeys of the ruling class, and I’ve let through comments which otherwise have interesting (or odd) things in them but imply insults (as your last line does). I just don’t have the patience for it any more. Just make the arguments, and cut the crap.

Faustus: is 98 the one you think I missed? If not, I don’t know what is. On means-testing: Warren proposes to maintain exactly the means-testing equipment we have, because she is organizing her aid proposals around existing aid, as do all the free-tuition policies that have been adopted. I agree — removal of means-testing would be a count in favor of a policy, but that’s not part of the actual debate about actual policies here.

I’m entering a few days of non-stop meetings, so chat among yourselves and I’ll read when I can but won’t comment.

103

roger gathmann 05.09.19 at 1:11 pm

Harry, I didn’t think my last line applied to you at all! I wasn’t insulting you, and I’m rather hurt that you think I was. You are no plutocratic pup, and I don’t really think it is a fair reading to say that I say, and here I have to start panting indignantly and get all red, that you are one. I disagree with your analysis, but I am not making any comment on you personally. I’m making a jokey reference to the upper class that does go to Harvard or Yale or etc, and thinks that it is all off the public nickel, when those tax sheltered places cost us plenty. I’m thinking here of the likes of Pete Buttigieg, who doesn’t seem to have realized that Harvard is not paying its share of taxes at all (although it graciously condescends, now and then, to shoot out a couple million to the community).
However, after you go through 100 comments, I can see that the reading might blut, and you might just pick out my pups line. Sorry.

I’m not sure I understand your reply about loans. Of course, if loans are replaced by free tuition, we are replacing a system in which 1.5 trillion dollars of loaned money is out there. This is fairly relevant to changes to the system of payment. Free tuition, of course, is not something Warren can decree for private universities, but even so, it would certainly diminish if not destroy any future loan amount, which has to do with the gross progressivity of the proposal.

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Harry 05.09.19 at 1:26 pm

Roger — I am sorry, and really, really appreciate the nice way you have responded to that. I think there’s an accumulation of pissy comments, and then I just get irritable. It was totally unfair and unreasonable to pick out your comment, and, again, really appreciate your kind response.

On tax shelters: I’m fully in agreement. There might be good reasons not to tax endowments, but whatever those reasons are, it is irritating that beneficiaries seem not to understand the extent to which they are in receipt of public largesse. Somewhere upthread I mention that, contrary to the impression most people have, public funding of higher ed on a per student basis has not declined: it looks as if it has, because tax credits and other tax benefits, which have increased massively, are rarely included in the analyses. And that, I think, is without accounting for the benefits of not taxing endownments (which are small, because we are actually talking about a small number of colleges, but which are concentrated almost entirely on the institutions which enroll very wealthy students).

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Harry 05.09.19 at 1:27 pm

Now, the meetings begin…

106

nastywoman 05.09.19 at 1:46 pm

”so chat among yourselves”

Oh – thank you – as I’m dying to ask my friend from France ”Z” – how he would define it – if the French government would come up with the opposite of Warrens plan – like charging tuition for ALL education and for University Education – let’s say the amount private US Universities are charging?

And would that be ”progressive” or ”not so progressive”?

And I ask that because – I just couldn’t understand – what

”…a candidate -(in the US?) – whose policies were strongly against educative inequalities would weaken the social position of educated professionals, and would hence probably loose (some of) their support” –

– has to do with the GREAT plan of a US candidate for President – to forgive student debt and make a big part of the US education system ”FREE”?

Or – perhaps I understood it?

Did that remark –
”that a candidate -(in the US?) – whose policies were strongly against educative inequalities would weaken the social position of educated professionals, and would hence probably loose (some of) their support” – is NOT ”progressive”
(THE word of this OP)
– and was this the way of a French Dude trying to discredit a very, very ”progressive” US Candidate for the US Presidency? – or was it just some kind of expression about ”TEH bad, bad candidates/politicians in general?

107

steven t johnson 05.09.19 at 2:43 pm

“…trying to highlight Baum’s and Turner’s observation that once you look at the actual details of how financing currently works, and the actual details of each plan, they tend to look a lot less progressive than people who don’t know much about financial aid as it currently works tend to think.”

They didn’t say it was less progressive than it looked, they said it was regressive and would increase inequality. I am still convinced their demonstration is unsound.

108

Leo Casey 05.09.19 at 3:12 pm

As someone who has made the opposition to K-12 school vouchers a central focus of my professional life, I am not convinced that Warren’s plan is not kosher, simply by Harry’s and others application of the term ‘voucher’ to it. By this logic, the GI Bill was a voucher plan. Was it, too, not progressive, despite the fact that it opened up post-secondary education to all manner of working class students who otherwise would have been unable to access it?

The key questions here are contextual: what is the market in which the ‘vouchers’ will be used, and to what end. Progressive economists such as Richard Rothstein have advocated something akin to a housing vouchers for purposes of race and class integration. From where I sit, and how I understand the housing market, this is a reasonable proposal that can not be dismissed simply by calling it a voucher.

A ‘voucher’ that can only be used in public institutions of higher learning is most certainly not a ‘voucher’ in the sense in which it is used in K-12 education, where its entire purpose is to support schooling in private schools. If anything, this is akin to a system of ‘public school choice’ in a K-12 system.

109

J-D 05.10.19 at 12:23 am

Z

Harry wrote:

bad Jim’s exactly right. The really bizarre feature of the proposal, and of this discussion, is that higher ed continues the work of pre-k-12. We all know that investing in education earlier, on average, pays off more than investing later. If you want to improve the educational level of the population, or reduce inequalities, you do it by investing much earlier. As I said upthread, the funds involved would could completely transform prek-12: in particular in urban and rural areas.

Harry also wrote:

I don’t massively admire the overall policy direction of the Obama administration on k-12 (CCSS good, but most places were getting there anyway, promotion of charter schools not so good) but what Arne Duncan proved was that the Federal government can exert very considerable influence over the behavior of States and districts. As things stand, Federal money in k-12 is distributed in an extremely progressive manner, and I don’t see why that would change if were massively increased. There’s a reason why abolishing the DofE is a persistent theme in Republican circles.

These remarks of Harry’s were the context for my earlier comment. Evidently, Harry thinks that (in the US) a major expansion of existing Federal school funding programs is something that would reduce educational inequality.

It’s not clear to me whether you would:
(1) take the view that proposing a major expansion of existing Federal school funding programs is something that (in the US) would result in a loss of support from educated professionals; or
(2) disagree with Harry’s view that (in the US) a major expansion of existing Federal school funding programs is something that would reduce educational inequality; or
(3) acknowledge that there is (in the US) at least one possible major policy initiative which would reduce educational inequality and which would not result in a loss of support from educated professionals; or
(4) feel that you don’t have enough information to commit to any of (1), (2), or (3).

I know you did write—

major expansions of Federal funding for schools can very well increase educative inequalities

—and this does point in the direction of (2), but not conclusively, because your statement about what could very well happen isn’t strictly logically incompatible with Harry’s stated position that there’s no reason to expect it would happen.

110

Faustusnotes 05.10.19 at 2:03 am

Harry writes:

No I don’t think that, and don’t see how it is in any way implied by anything I’ve said. I think that the #1 priority in an education policy should be improving the education of the least well educated 30ish%. Since they don’t go to college, spending on college won’t do much for them. Sending them to college would be silly. I’m skeptical of any expansion to be honest while we do such a lamentable job with the students who do go.

Do you remember when the ACA hearings were held and some right-wing jockstain was going on about how he doesn’t think his insurance should be required to cover women’s healthcare since he won’t benefit from it? This is a fundamentally right-wing position you’re advocating for here: it won’t benefit a certain group of people so it shouldn’t be a universal program. We don’t take this approach to cervical cancer screening, why would we take it to education? And once again: the federal government has limited control over the quality of education of that 30% before they get to university, so why should they stop doing a program they can do because they can’t do some other program that would be better? It doesn’t help anyone.

You also seem to have skipped the means testing issue. Your complaint (and others’ complaint about Warren’s proposal) is that it will benefit some middle class people who maybe don’t really mean it. Now you’re saying that it’s already means tested. So is your issue that you want it to be more tightly means tested so it’s more progressive? This raises the problems I mentioned about designing good means testing systems and positions higher education as a private, not a public good. This latter position is also a strongly right wing theory: that people should pay for their own higher education because only they benefit.

Your criticisms seem to hinge on two fundamentally right wing objections: social programs shouldn’t be implemented if some people won’t benefit from them, because my taxes shouldn’t pay for someone else’s gain; and education is a private, not a public good so the only programs we fund to support access to education should target the extremely poor, who definitely can’t access the service.

You can go part way down this path and still have a broadly egalitarian education policy (Australia partly has done this). But I can’t see it happening in America. This policy perspective in America will simply entrench higher education as the domain of the wealthy.

111

David J. Littleboy 05.10.19 at 6:38 am

The problem with “vouchers” in a K-12 context is that they are used to steal funding from public schools and give it to private and/or religious schools. They’re a scam. If you are doing vouchers for public college, they don’t have that problem. (Leo Casey has this right.)

Also, on means testing. I think that means testing is largely a bad idea. If you are funding things from a progressive income tax, then the very rich are getting much less back than they are putting in, and that’s fine. Also, it’s easy for means testing to be made demeaning to recipients of the aid. If everyone gets and has to use vouchers*, that can’t happen. Also, implementing means testing isn’t free, and a lot of the time, it’ll cost as much as it saves. And finally, if you can force rich folks to declare the benefit as income, you can tame much of it back in taxes (this works great for the sort of childbearing encouragement programs the Japanese ought to be implementing, i.e. direct, generous, flat rate (same amount for any child) child support payments to everyone who has a child.)

*: In my fantasy world here, the vouchers are more of payments to the schools for educating people than benefits to the students. Sort of like how Obamacare only pays insurers if they actually pay for medical care. (Obamacare is way more wonderful than you think.)

112

nastywoman 05.10.19 at 9:21 am

– and about finally ”decreasing inequality in education” –
every single imaginable experiment already has been done –
(by all the so called ”Advanced Economies) – and the results have been IN –
for quite some time -(just like the results how to create an acceptable workable and payable health care system) –
and guess where ”informed” US Candidates for President – get their ideas for their plans from –
and still – such a lot of Americans -(and Non Americans) – insists to come up with the utmost crazy experiments -(”vouchers” anybody?) –
in order NOT to have to consider that just emulating one of the already well working systems is our best option?

So – as now the ”conservative” – who thinks that a totally absolutely FREE education system in the US is impossible – couldn’t it be time to ponder which one of the already well working FREE education systems would be easiest to install in our homeland – and as I am for the French System – let’s not call it
”The French System” –
Let’s just call it:
”The best system of all already existing systems – and WE are all aware it is NOT entirely perfect – but perfect enough in order to decrease inequality in the US” – dramatically?
-(and Drama we enjoy…)

113

TM 05.10.19 at 9:52 am

TJ 93: “There are some tax breaks available, but these income out for a couple at earned income of around $230,000”

Can you tell us how much in annual college cost an affluent family could at the most deduct? And is it restricted to tuition? Until what age do the parents get a dependent deduction for a child in college and how much does it save them in taxes?

I don’t know the details of the plan discussed here but if it is true that the parents can save taxes by having a child in college/uni (as is the case in Germany) then it would seem fair to me to publicly fund the college expenses for everybody while at the same time denying affluent parents the deduction (as is not the case in Germany).

114

steven t johnson 05.10.19 at 4:43 pm

Leo Casey@108 To be as fair as possible to Harry, I think it was me who called Warren’s plan a voucher plan. But I think K-12 vouchers are indeed regressive because they aren’t expanding service to parents. And unlike Harry’s mystifying insistence that Warren means rejecting K-12 reform, as Leo Casey says, the voucher system almost always means diverting from free primary and secondary education available to the poor, to subsidize higher income classes’ private education. Now that I think really does fit Baum and Turner’s supposed objections to a regressive program that will increase inequality.

115

Trader Joe 05.10.19 at 6:51 pm

@112 TM – tax credits for education

The credit is income dependent and not really that much compared to the cost of education. The max amount in a year is $2,500 of the cost of tuition, fees and course materials (no room and board) and this is per eligible student.

A couple with less than $160K of annual income (80k single) can claim the entire credit with a graduated phase-out up to $180k of income. If your income is above that the education tax deduction is ZERO. Everyone has their own view of what is wealthy, but I don’t think of a family with $160k of annual income is not my classic definition of “rich” they are certainly doing better than most but a two-earner middle-management kind of family can easily bring that much income. Its probably top 10% to top 20% of income.

Trump’s new tax law eliminated the dependent deduction so that no loner applies (it used to). A couple can take a standard deduction of up to $24,000 whether they have zero, two or ten kids. If their actual itemized deductions are more than $24,000 (things like mortgage interest, local and property taxes, certain medical and certain other items) then they can deduct more than $24,000. The statistics say that in 2018 about 90% of all tax filers took the standard deduction – one can safely assume that among those that didn’t probably fell at least in the top 20% of income.

This is why the 529 plan I described @93 is the more valuable tax dodge for education. Money in those plans was always eligible for College study but with the Trump tax bill is now also allowed for private schools. So one can set aside money starting when a kid is born and fund a private school education without paying any tax on the income the money earns while it is invested (you don’t get a deduction for what you deposit into the fund, you can just take the money out tax free as long as its used for education).

Also the 529 plan isn’t limited to tuition, fees and books – you can use it for room and board up to a school’s published “cost to attend” amount. For most schools this amount is somewhere in the $8-12K range which isn’t high living, but in most markets its enough to fund a shared apartment and a university meal plan. For families that make more than $180K per year, this is really the only available tax benefit for education – I’m surprised more don’t utilize (some states have additional incentives if the money is used for in-state tuition).

116

Harry 05.10.19 at 11:02 pm

“This is a fundamentally right-wing position you’re advocating for here: it won’t benefit a certain group of people so it shouldn’t be a universal program.”

Maybe. Or it might be a fundamentally right-wing position to defend a program that doesn’t benefit the bottom 30% at all, and mainly benefits people in the upper part of the income distribution. Opposing a program that benefits the poor seems more like defending, than criticizing, one that doesn’t. Many interesting and good points have been made here, but, really…

117

Collin Street 05.11.19 at 12:04 am

Also, on means testing. I think that means testing is largely a bad idea.

Means testing for education specifically is a problem because basically nobody has “means” when they’re twenty. [and absolutely nobody has means when they’re fifteen]. Practically when people say means-testing here they mean — although they may not recognise it or admit it — parental means testing, and…

Remember: the core of opposition to welfare is that it weakens dependence on rich relatives and other patronage networks, and thus reduces the ability of abusers to find people willing to subject themselves to abuse. Because education and student means-testing effectively means parental means-testing, a means-testing framework basically eliminates the children-of-the-rich — a-fortiori the children-of-rich-abusers — from protection. Of course the abusers are OK with means-tested welfare here, it leaves their targets unprotected. [see slavery: more expensive and lower productivity than free labour, but you can rape people and beat them to death, which some find more attractive than money, enough to fight a war over.]

[which is to say: if you make a model of right-wing thinking that supposes the sole motivation of right-wingers is to emotionally and physically abuse people and to create spaces and situations where that can happen, you get something that’s like 90% accurate to what the actual right actually propose and implement. I mean, slavery! Free workers are more productive and cost about the same or less [lower overheads through savings in chains] but you can’t rape them or beat them to death and that was worth fighting a war over.]

[I did once consider an education voucher that was structured with a taper like some welfare payments: for every extra dollar put in by the parents/holder, the voucher goes down fifty cents… ]

[vouchers rely on individual selection, of course, and there are well-known problems with quality guarantees here with education, given the long timeframes and &c]

[the thought just struck me that the education and professional-development elements of employment — which have to be hugely important if we’re not doing lifetime jobs — are also underserved by market self-regulation…]

118

Faustusnotes 05.11.19 at 1:32 am

Harry, what is this? You say it’s means tested and you also say it doesn’t help the poor. Are you saying warrens plan is means tested to ensure it only goes to the wealthy? Because that doesn’t seem likely to me.

Also once again: we target income inequality, not variation. We don’t oppose a program because 30% of the population won’t use it. If you’re going to make that your yardstick for public investment then you should at least try to address the consequences for public funding of women’s health, childcare, and indeed universal health coverage!

119

Harry 05.11.19 at 11:55 am

Of course, inaccessability to some substantial part of the population is not in itself an objection to a program. Obviously. It strikes me, though, that when you are implying someone is either being duped by right wing ideas or is trying to dupe others with them it makes a difference which 30% of the population the program is inaccessible to.

120

faustusnotes 05.11.19 at 12:57 pm

To be clear Harry I don’t think you’re being duped or trying to dupe anyone. I think you’re wrong, and the nature of your error is an error that leads to a right wing ideological result.

It is absolutely not important which 30% of the population a program is inaccessible to if the program is a public good. To use the example of universal health coverage, it really doesn’t matter if the 30% of the population who don’t use it are rich – they still need to pay into it and be covered by it. I don’t support UHC systems that force or encourage the rich to leave the system and in principle (though often not in practice) I support the idea of preventing rich people from buying out. The best way to make a system strong and sustainable is to force the people who have all the political power to be part of it – that is part of the NHS’s enduring success. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if 50% of the population (men) aren’t going to benefit from a health system – they should still be forced to pay for it (or if it’s being paid from the taxes of the rich, they should still not be able to get access to that % of the taxes which cover the program they can’t use). This is a fundamental, core part of things like k12 education (I have no children but am happy to pay taxes that support k12 education because I want *your* children to be educated to the same standard I was), vaccinations (I can’t get measles but I still want your children to be vaccinated), women’s health care, even health care for the fat and the smokers who are at a higher risk for lifestyle reasons – we need to keep all this shit shared in our community because it’s a public good.

There is no logical explanation for why k12 education should be publicly funded and paid for from my taxes, but higher education should be paid for by individuals incurring massive loans. None at all. It’s ridiculous. Higher education is a public good and as someone from a background that absolutely would not support me in going to higher education, I am 100% certain that without public support poor people would not be able to get that education. But also: if a rich kid has a choice between medicine and science and that kid is better suited to science, I want them to be able to choose the degree they take on the basis of what they want, not what will pay off the loans best, because I want the most talented kids taking the course they’re most suited for. This is how our society will move forward.

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Harry 05.11.19 at 2:18 pm

“leads to a right wing ideological result”. I don’t really know what this means.

“There is no logical explanation for why k12 education should be publicly funded and paid for from my taxes, but higher education should be paid for by individuals incurring massive loans”

Well, there is an explanation for why one would be fully funded through taxation and the other wouldn’t. One is a universal program the other isn’t. And the one that isn’t isn’t partly because the one that is is dramatically under-supported and mal-distributed. Another is that the extent to which the benefits of education are public reduces, on average, the higher the education level. k-6 really is a public good, Masters education is mainly a private good. (Something doesn’t get to be a public good just because the public pays for it, otherwise the monarchy would be a public good).

“I want the most talented kids taking the course they’re most suited for.” The rich kids who become doctors and vets are not the most talented kids. They’re the ones whose human capital society has invested the most in, and who have had additional investment from their unnecessarily wealthy families.

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nastywoman 05.11.19 at 3:06 pm

@
“I want the most talented kids taking the course they’re most suited for.”

Me too – and as ”Free Public Education” in ”Civilised Western Democracies” wants exactly the same thing – there is no reason – for anybody – to support any kind of educational system which depends on ”privatized” – aka ”privately financed” education” – as it allows ”Rich kids –
even if they are NOT the most talented –
to become doctors and vets”.

So ”the most talented kids” should become doctors and vets –
Right? –
And they only can become doctors and vets – if they don’t have to buy themselves into becoming doctors and vets.

Right?

As buying yourself -(without talent) into ”better education” –
(of whatever level) –
is only possible in a society where school kids and students have to pay for their education.

Right?

It’s like currently trying to get a Green Card for my homeland -(or a permit to reside in the UK)
You can buy it with absolutely NO talent.

Or in other words:
That’s why (civilised and social) countries like France -(or Germany) never will go back to any type of education where – YOUR -(or your families) dough matters MORE – than your talent.

One of the major (”policies”?) in fighting inequality!

And could this comment please be posted?

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steven t johnson 05.11.19 at 3:22 pm

“And the one that isn’t isn’t partly because the one that is is dramatically under-supported and mal-distributed.”

I think this says: College isn’t publicly funded because, for one thing, primary and secondary education, which is publicly funded, is dramatically under-supported and mal-distributed.

I don’t think this is true at all, nor was it true historically. Colleges began as religious training, and continued as generalized class training and now are private investment in socialization and sometimes higher skills. As I recall, the role of religious dissenters expanding the curriculum in tertiary education was very much about their position in what was called “trade.” The role of the state in expanding colleges wasn’t about starving primary and secondary but about needs for skills in administration and competition with other nations.

From the other side, primary and secondary education was initially in Christian countries about being able to read the Bible. And the drive to make it a public good had everything to do with the popular element of democracy. The rulers are not so into the popular element of democracy as they used to be. And the primary and secondary schools thus are being run as a business, even if this makes no sense (who is the customer for this business?) Not putting money into things that don’t make money is one of the wonderful things about free market economies according to economics.

And I still think the supposed demonstration of the regressiveness, which increases inequality, of Warren’s program failed.

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Harry 05.11.19 at 4:09 pm

“College isn’t publicly funded because, for one thing, primary and secondary education, which is publicly funded, is dramatically under-supported and mal-distributed”

No, you misread the passage. It says that college isn’t a universal program (partly) because primary and secondary education are dramatically under-supported and mal-distributed. College is, in fact, heavily publicly funded, it just isn’t free at the point of delivery. Its hard to calculate exactly because budgets are opaque (as is financial aid), but public funding on a per-year per-student basis for the students who attend the better public flagships in their own states (like mine, and the one my daughter attended) probably exceeds public funding on a per-year per-student basis in those same states for k-12. Warren’s proposal would increase that disparity for more affluent students.

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steven t johnson 05.11.19 at 9:49 pm

I’m still not clear on how the funding of colleges as it is leads to dramatically under-supported and mal-distributed public education. Public funding for them came from different places, for different purposes. At this point, the claim seems to be that the GI Bill was massively regressive and dramatically raised inequality, which isn’t clear to me either. The old National Defense Education Grants seem meant to enlarge the population being educated (as in, larger talent pool improving results,) rather than a way to siphon money from the poor to the rich.

Personally, I think it’s bogus to rely on socioeconomic status as defining class. The old middle class were midway between the aristocracy and the commoners. They weren’t nobles because they didn’t own landed property and didn’t have titles with privileges such as reserved ranks and officers. And they weren’t common because they did own income generating property of some sort, instead of relying on the their wage labor, much less the wages of their wives or even children. By this rather basic standard, most people today are not middle class at all, never were and never will be. But my basic standard is very much rejected by everyone here. The thing here is, if college education makes you middle-class, increasing it is decreasing inequality. Again, the argument has always been that Warren is regressive, increasing inequality.

Nor do I see how the argument changes by looking at the public funding college already have. Private endowments might be the best measure for identifying a university as an elite institution. Private investments in policy institutes play a huge role in elite training. And then are universities profit seeking in their sports programs as well as patents. Taxing endowments would do more for increasing equality. Regulating policy institutes as the lobbying groups they are would do more for increasing equality. Reformation of patent laws would do more for increasing equality. Keeping colleges out of professional sports (especially football, where they are basically the minors for the NFL,) would do more increasing equality.

As for the non-college population, here assumed to be largely those who can’t get the credential, i.e., pass, keeping the poorer college students under a debt burden won’t help their inequality one bit. And, again, I’m not seeing the evidence that college tuition is squeezing out equality for them. It seems to me that a full employment economy, jobs, would a lot more for reducing this inequality. Integrated housing at a reasonable price would do more good for reducing this inequality.

Again, the point is that although one may argue (I think correctly) that a jobs guarantee will do more than Warren’s program, the issue has always been the claim that Warren’s program, and it will increase inequality. Again, I don’t think it’s true. I suppose you could revise this to the complaint that Warren’s reform is a tiny reform. But if it’s so tiny, how can it do so much damage?

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Grimmar 05.11.19 at 10:15 pm

A good investment is one that gives us constant returns, that does not expire or is damaged, and that does not generate additional expenses. Excellent analysis on how to protect our savings intelligently in the long term and invest in things without risk, Fernando Martínez Gómez Tejedor in his article: https://inbestia.com/analisis/proteger-nuestros-ahorros-inteligentemente.
I invite you to read the articles that Fernando Martínez Gómez-Tejedor has been writing these days in Inbestia, I am sure that his experiences and his advice will be of much use, so I leave you the link: https://inbestia.com / users / fernandomartinez / articles

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Harry 05.11.19 at 11:40 pm

I think the standard view about the GI Bill is not that it worsened inequality, which it didn’t, but that it was racially unjust, because of segregation in the armed forces and the fact that combat troops got advantages (and were white). And, because the GI Bill did that, various continuing features of admissions to selective institution (such as legacy preferences, which are very widespread even in public institutions) exacerbate that effect. I don’t know whether the claim is that the GI Bill worsened racial inequality relative to if it hadn’t been there at all (but, it may well have).

Taxing endowments would have some effects on the Ivys etc, but not much, and very few colleges, even selective colleges, have much in the way of endowments. (the main effect of taxing endowments would be to increase the amount that colleges with large endowments spend — on their relatively privileged students — right now). Abolishing 529s would do more, and would yield significant revenues. But that would result in upper middle class students having less to spend on college and college expenses.

On definitions of class — ok, well that really has to wait for another day!

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Faustusnotes 05.12.19 at 1:33 am

Harry, when you get to the point where you say training doctors and nurses or scientists is not a public good you’re on the wrong track.

I note you refuse to engage with the universal health coverage consequences of the equity principles you’re putting forward here, though you will consider their implications for the GI bill. Why? It’s really dangerous to say something is a universal program if and only if everyone will access it. It basically undermines any arguments for maternity leave, child care, many public health programs, public transportation, much scientific research, and a lot of environmental regulation. It’s close to libertarian in its implications.

I also note you consistently refuse to engage with the jurisdictional problem and the fact that the president can’t have much influence on k12 education.

There could be many ways to improve warrens policy but this argument is a terrible one.

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Harry 05.12.19 at 4:52 am

Honestly. Universal coverage is universal. Non-universal coverage isn’t. Universal health coverage is a form of insurance, and covers everyone.

Doctors etc do contribute to the public good (well, some of them do). I didn’t say otherwise, merely pointed out your error in assuming that the children whose human capital has been invested in the most are the most talented (I actually think our inner cities and rural areas are replete with unrealized talent, which is why I am so insistent on targeting social resources to be used on education to actual universal programs that will benefit those kids as well as everyone else). But most of the benefits of higher education flow to the people who get it. Which is why people are willing to pay so much for it. Not so true in countries that have less income inequality. But we don’t have less, and won’t have much less for a long time, and reducing the amount that high-earners have to pay for higher ed by more than we reduce the amount that lower-earners have to pay for higher ed will add to, not reduce, inequality (putting aside the fact this is supposed to be paid for by a tax on a very small number of high wealth holders).

Simply not being universal doesn’t make a program bad. Excluding the worst off is a strong count against a program. You persistently equate excluding the poor as being just like excluding men, or non-parents, or non-cancer-sufferers, or whatever. Maybe that’s right. It seems different to me.

The President has just as much or as little capacity to have influence on k-12 as higher ed. Arne Duncan and Obama demonstrated that the Feds can have much more influence over k-12 than one would have thought. IN fact, historically, the Feds have, actually, had considerable influence over k-12 and have left HE alone largely, except that over the past 25 years the Feds have increased funding by about the same amount per-student as the states have decreased funding. I’ve pointed this out before, upthread, but you must have missed it.

You’ve made some interesting points, as have I. I’m sorry you think the argument is terrible, but you haven’t convinced me that it’s even bad. I think we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

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Faustusnotes 05.12.19 at 12:40 pm

Up above, Harry, you went to great pains to explain that the excluded 30% are not financially poor but the ones who aren’t going to use the system and they cover all income levels. Now you say the system doesn’t cover “the poor”. I really think you’re being unclear in your critique and shifting a lot of ground. In my first comment here I suggested you should see the plan as a reform bolted onto other existing plans but you shifted to talking about people who won’t use the system regardless of income. Its a really unclear argument.

Also you completely misunderstood my point about the rich kid choosing between science and medicine. Sorry about that but I think it’s not worth clarifying at this late stage.

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bianca steele 05.12.19 at 5:17 pm

This is a strange discussion. College affordability and college debt brought out a large number of voters in 2016. It’s possible to doubt those voters’ usefulness and their interest in progressive policies more generally—I do—but they seem right up this blog’s alley (unless I’m missing something big) and it might be true that they can help win some states for 2020 (and on a progressive platform).

But the opposition to calling Warren’s plan progressive only makes sense to me on the lines of Sitaraman’s argument, that it’s more progressive to force the broad middle class, including the better paid members of the working class, to stand on their own two feet. The discomfort with worrying about the problems of people who aren’t extremely marginal isn’t unheard of.

Otherwise, there are a number of possible reasons:

1) Preference for focusing on earlier grades irrespective of arguments for doing otherwise (for whatever reason).

2) Anti-intellectualism (a belief that college is overrated, anti-progressive, or some other reason).

3) A belief that the people behind the free college movement, if they gain power, will oppose other programs that the progressive movement has been supporting. (In particular, that they’ll oppose race and gender related justice programs, or will oppose the rise on the left of political leaders who aren’t white men, or that they’re too middle class, or simply that they aren’t knowledgeable about progressive politics.)

4) A belief that the program includes “free college,” instead of some other variant, for political, rather than practical and well thought out, one’s (i.e. it’s intended to appeal to a specific group of voters who will only accept this variant).

5) Belief that the system already works very well for pretty much everyone: there’s means-tested financial aid, with universities appropriate to each social class/academic ability (and possibly the ancient social practice of occasional free rides for the most talented among the poor, to elite social institutions), and the only problem is that the most marginal populations have children who cannot succeed in this excellent system, due to lack of resources at the preK-12 level.

6) Belief that there’s no progressive case to be made for helping citizens except the most marginal (everybody else is presumably to be asked, in the nicest and most progressive way, to stand on their own two feet).

7) Belief that it’s inappropriate to expect education to be a means of social mobility.

8) Belief that there’s so little interest, among Americans, in even centrist liberalism, that anything short of Tea Party advocacy should doubt it will meet with less than the force of the police state.

It seems difficult to see how all those can be reconciled, especially the first four. They seem random.

On the pro side, there’s the belief that there’s a crisis that should overwhelm those other arguments, a crisis that’s both economic and political. Following the suggestion of an early comment that we should shrug and say “well let the conservatives have free college” arguably in effect takes Sanders voters and tells them to vote for Trump, besides being a little weird in a US context.

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anon/portly 05.12.19 at 7:43 pm

I can think of three “public goods” involved here: more education, greater (or fairer) access to education, and less inequality.

Consider for example a family whose child, Kevin, was going to attend Wassamatta U. (where Bullwinkle went) and receive a degree in Education and become a teacher, and this would happen both with and without’s Warren’s plan being in place. Clearly there’s no additional “education” public good or “access” public good being realized (or consumed by the rest of us) here.

However, there’s very obviously a large private good being conferred – either Kevin’s parents or Kevin or both, depending on how Kevin’s education was to be paid for, are going to be much better off under Warren’s plan.

Now that private good is also a public good, in that it will affect inequality overall. This of course depends on the place of Kevin and/or Kevin’s parents in the ultimate income distribution, with and without Warren’s plan. If the great majority of the Kevins are in the upper half of the income distribution either way, it’s hard to see a reduction in inequality as an important feature of Warren’s plan.

Of course you might also have another student, Pat, who under Warren’s plan acquires a greater amount of college education. To the extent this doesn’t squeeze out other students and this extra education is actually socially beneficial, now you get the “education” public good, for sure. And you might get quite a bit of “access” or fairness public goods and inequality public goods also.

It seems like you need a certain ratio of Pats to Kevins to justify Warren’s plan under the “public good” framework. I haven’t seen anything to suggest Harry’s skepticism that this ratio will be too low is off track.

Obviously, we’re already doing quite a bit to target at least some of the Pats, but you could argue we need to do more. Here I think Comment 44 is the most useful one – if anything, make two-year programs free. I don’t think everyone realizes how many jobs (and good jobs) there are that are based on two years of community college – both because of training and signaling. Community colleges serve a lower income demographic. Community college education involves much less consumption of “lifestyle” goods. Community college education (to some extent) serves older students, who may have been very poor students when they were 18, but are now 28 or 38 (or even 48 or 58), have been in the labor force, and are now much better students. Etc.

Comment 44 points out that “[p]rogressivity looks much better;” meaning I think comparing a two-year plan to no plan, but I’d add that I wonder if Warren’s plan wouldn’t look even worse, maybe even much worse, if you compare her plan to a two-year plan.

I guess the one hope for Warren’s plan (and its “public good” justification) would be some sort of a “Field of Dreams” thing – if you build it, they will come. Maybe if college is free for everyone, then over time K-12 will re-orient itself over the long run to producing enough Pats….

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nastywoman 05.12.19 at 9:54 pm

@
”I guess the one hope for Warren’s plan (and its “public good” justification) would be some sort of a “Field of Dreams” thing – if you build it, they will come. Maybe if college is free for everyone, then over time K-12 will re-orient itself over the long run to producing enough Pats….”

And we Ex-Pats guess – that this type of… how should we call it? –
”discussion”? – will go on for how many years in our homeland?

10? – 15? – 20? – or even 50? – or just after enough Americans have been bankrupted by US cost of education – that there will be no other conclusion anymore than to cry ”FREE” – and follow the example of ”FREE education – (from Kindergarten to University) of the more ”civilised democracies” –
BE-cause as you guys (obviously) haven’t noticed (yet) – that actually ”the not getting enough funds” -(or ”vouchers”?) – starts in your homeland with childcare?

So we – the EX-Pats would suggest – if anybody is worried about 12-K – he or she might be a little late to the party – and after reading this thread – and having realised that most ”homelands” who are commenting here have not even touched ”the basics” yet – I sadly have to go with 50 years –
(or the same kind of debt-drama for childcare as for College) before the ”Nationwide US Debate Club” might come to it’s senses and starts focusing on ”stuff” – somehow – somebody like Mrs. Warren is already focusing on?

And as this blog obviously loves ”Science Fiction” and in another thread a sister of mine is asking what we are daydreaming about – some of US really would move like to move back to the homeland and even would like to produce children there -(preferable in CA) BUT NOT if you guys slowly start… may I call it? –

”Focusing”?

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Jake Gibson 05.12.19 at 10:51 pm

This seems like a really stupid semantic argument. Does Warren’s plan benefit
a wide section of the populace? If it does then it is a good plan. If it doesn’t it is not.
Hello moderation.

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J-D 05.13.19 at 1:00 am

In my mind I’m making a tactical comparison of two different lines of argument. I’m aware that neither of these things has been said in exactly these words by anybody here, and therefore maybe nobody would agree exactly withe either of them, but this is what I’m comparing in my mind (as a result of trying to follow this discussion):

A. Warren’s proposals for higher education are unlikely to reduce inequality and could easily increase it.
B. The next Democratic Administration is unlikely to be able to achieve more than one major change in education, and that being so should give priority to school education over post-school education: there’s a lot of scope to reduce inequality simply by increasing the levels of funding for Federal programs for schools of the kind that already exist.

When I say I’m comparing them tactically, what I mean is without consideration of their validity or, putting it another way, I’m thinking about somebody (hypothetical) who agrees with both these lines of argument and speculating about which of the two is likely to be more effective in influencing others.

It seems to me that, from the point of view of somebody who agrees with both A and B, B is likely to be more tactically effective, for two reasons:

1. I am somebody with little of the specific knowledge that would be useful to evaluating these arguments. I figure there’s probably a significant number of people (even in the US) who are like me in not having this specific knowledge and therefore having to rely mostly on general considerations in weighing up the arguments: and on general principles, B has more background plausibility than A.
2. A is more likely to come across as a negative argument, likely to provoke the potentially hostile response, ‘Well, what do you suggest, then?’ (that is, if it’s not combined with a specific alternative proposal for post-school education). B automatically comes packaged with an alternative proposal, which makes it seem more positive.

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Harry 05.13.19 at 2:00 am

J-D. Thanks, that’s very helpful.

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nastywoman 05.13.19 at 9:38 am

Or if these… who are so displeased with Mrs. Warrens plan can’t we just come up with AOC and repeat after her:

”Our first step is to define the problem and define the scope of the solution and so we’re here to say that small incremental solutions are not enough”!

And could please everybody on-here –
repeat that every morning –
(after getting up) –
and then… stop being really, REALLY… con-
fused?

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Trader Joe 05.13.19 at 12:26 pm

@127 re: abolishing 529s
“Abolishing 529s would do more, and would yield significant revenues. But that would result in upper middle class students having less to spend on college and college expenses.”

The GAO scores 529 plans as a $3 billion per year charge (i.e. $30B per 10 years) in the Federal budget. I can agree that there are better ways than 529 plans to provide education benefits – but relative to the size of Warren’s program, 529s aren’t even a decimal point.

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