The Democratic Party has quite a few rising stars in the Senate. One of them is Brian Schatz of Hawaii. He’s been tremendously impressive. Part of this is that he has boosted a lot of progressive legislation, part of it is that he has no patience for DLC types, and part of it is that he is very good on social media, making him a leading messenger. I love not only his ideas about free college, one that takes a big step further than Bernie Sanders’ proposal, but also his attitude about it.
Last week, the senior senator from Hawaii introduced the Debt-Free College Act of 2018, which aims to make it possible for any college-ready American to pursue a bachelor’s degree — secure in the knowledge that he or she will be able to graduate without taking on a penny in debt.
The plan is structured as a voluntary partnership between Uncle Sam and state governments. The federal government would offer to match any participating state’s higher-education funding, dollar for dollar, if said state commits to providing need-based grants that enable all public-university students to shoulder the full costs of a college education without taking on debt. Such a program would cost $80.1 billion during its first year of operation — when, just by matching states’ current levels of higher-education spending, the program should enable ten states to immediately provide debt-free college, according to Schatz’s calculations. If all states choose to opt-in — and make the spending increases necessary to make their public colleges debt-free — the program’s price tag will rise to $95.4 billion.
Good idea! But check this out:
I’m very sympathetic to that argument. But ultimately, Republicans did have to phase out their tax cut to pass it through budget reconciliation (a procedure that allows the Senate majority to pass bills with 51 votes, if said bills don’t increase the deficit a decade after they’re passed). And it seems unlikely that there will be 60 liberal Democratic votes in the Senate anytime soon. So, eventually — barring the abolition of the filibuster — you’re gonna need a pay-for, right?
A couple of things: First, this program is scalable, so we can make down payments and climb the hill to get all the way to where we want to go, eventually. And second of all, if there’s a conversation about revenue in the future, it’s not that I’m unwilling to negotiate. It’s just that Republicans are tactically skillful about never talking about paying for what they want, and Democrats are always very earnestly trying to satisfy the 13 people who are still doing Third Way work on K Street, and it’s a game that disadvantages Democrats, and I don’t want to play it anymore.
Read that again:
Republicans are tactically skillful about never talking about paying for what they want, and Democrats are always very earnestly trying to satisfy the 13 people who are still doing Third Way work on K Street, and it’s a game that disadvantages Democrats, and I don’t want to play it anymore.
Now this is a Democrat who understands what is important and how to play politics. This is the kind of attitude many of us have urged from Democrats for a long time. I simply don’t care about DLC or Third Way types and what they think. They have no constituency except on newspaper editorial pages. They are the Democratic version of Never Trump conservatives. They are irrelevant and Democrats should ignore them.
Also, Schatz absolutely owned Chait the other day on Twitter. As per usual, Chait was whining about college activists being mean. This is an issue which he is just about the only person thinks is that important. But that won’t stop him. He’s a ridiculous absurdity on this. It’s arguably even worse than his hackish propaganda for charter schools. So Schatz just called him own publicly.
I guess my question is where this problem ranks, say, in the top 50 problems facing America. I don’t think it makes the list.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) March 20, 2018
I’m not asking you to stop talking about it, I’m asking how big of a problem you think this is, because that seems like important context.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) March 20, 2018
Of course Chait is immune to shame, but I like this guy more and more! We could use more sitting senators calling out stupid arguments from liberal pundits. Like the Third Way/DLC types, there should be no room for Chait’s ridiculous concern trolling about college activists in the modern Democratic Party.