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June 15, 2019

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Several reasons why this is being proposed now. I'd link to the writing of Katherine Mangan in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but it's behind a paywall. However...

Student loan debt is out of control and affordability is a big problem. Federal banking policies facilitated the predatory lending. Bank lobbying and conflicts of interest at the Regent level in many states makes it difficult to enact needed reform. These Debt-Free College plans are end runs designed to get past the lobbyist obstructions and regulatory capture keeping the predatory practices in place.

I note that discussions of college affordability always center on the cost of a college education and not on the horrible state of student employment. Students still have the same types of jobs that we had when we went to college, but those jobs have not kept up with the cost of education, housing, or healthcare. And the effect of these things is disproportionately falling on low-income and first-generation students. I have kids in my classes that work half time and go to school more than full time (20+ credits a quarter plus summer classes) and still have to go to the campus food bank in order to have something to eat. By and large, they get lower grades than the well-off students just because they can't afford the study time they need to get their school work done.

Free college is also an attempt to cut short all these horrible and exploitative for-profit universities.

I'm for something like free college because it would get rid of the nonsense that drives students into readily-monetizable majors and away from the courses they need to be taking - ethics, history, literature, poltical science - that might help us make better decisions about how society should work. Representative democracies need citizens who think more broadly about their world. Financial desperation forecloses that opportunity. Which is sad, because my students are hungry for that sort of learning, but don't think they can afford to give it their attention as they rush through.

Anything we choose to do for higher education will be compromised by the hash that high-stakes testing has made of public education policy. Everything I said about that pressure for the practical and monetizable starts in elementary school with the drive to teach quantifiable skills and avoid anything too abstract to measure. It prioritizes calculation over critical thinking. That is killing us at all levels.

Sorry for the scattershot here. Still have to upload final grades.

As an aside, I have a staff position at an "elite" university. When I started, the department was basically run by several middle-aged black women from the surrounding communities, some with only high school diplomas. About 15 years ago, the university started pretty much requiring an undergraduate degree for low level administrative positions. The most recent position posted for an entry-level administrator in our department required a Masters degree, and (as with all recent administrative positions) was offered with a fixed 8 or 12 month appointment with the dangled possibility of renewals. Unlike the older administrators, several of whom are still working after 45 or 50 years, the new ones mostly last a year or two and before disappearing to a higher paying gig. Basically, the university has taken a solid career path for working class women from the surrounding lower income areas, and turned it into a temporary gig for mostly white, Asian (and often male), recent graduates from second-tier universities. I can't say that this wasn't what was intended.

My prediction is that a masters will quickly become the new norm for most jobs, as soon as "anyone" can get a bachelors. It's a feel-good issue, but I'm not sure it solves anything.

free community college seems like a reasonable idea, to me. after all, we already provide 13 years of (tuition) free public schools in the US. extending that model two more years - for students who want to do it - shouldn't be too difficult.

and i agree with wj, it makes more sense as a state/local project - maybe with federal assistance.

Warren's proposal is close to that - she proposes free 2 and 4 year tuition at all public colleges, paid for in part with federal money. Sanders proposes it for all 2-year and partial 4-year (based on income).

Obama proposed something similar, in 2015.

The details (such as they are) of what cleek is saying about Warren's plan:

The federal government will partner with states to split the costs of tuition and fees and ensure that states maintain their current levels of funding on need-based financial aid and academic instruction.

"a href="https://medium.com/@teamwarren/im-calling-for-something-truly-transformational-universal-free-public-college-and-cancellation-of-a246cd0f910f">You can see it here.

If you want to get back to reasonably priced college - and we should - you don't open with your desired ending position. You say "free", they say a reluctant okay to reasonably priced. Then you be sure to leave the room before you chuckle.

Ack...tag fail.

If people aren't going to be able to find jobs that will support them without at least some higher education, then it is arguably in the broad public interest to make it feasible for most folks to get that.

I, too, wore an onion on my belt in my youth, which was the fashion at the time, and attended an outstanding public university. Full tuition, fees, and room and board at that time - 1978 through 1981 - was $900 a semester.

A lot of what made that possible was state money, and in particular the state of New York deciding that they weren't going to let California out-do them in the area of public education. But part of it was federal money, in the form of Pell grants and other programs.

The question I always have about things like this, when people ask "why is this a federal thing?", is why isn't it? What makes it *not* a federal thing?

I think the "free college for all" thing needs some qualification, also. Proposals I've heard are mostly along the lines of free *public* colleges. Variants include free *public community* colleges, and free *public community college up to associates degree*.

If it's socialism, it's socialism-lite.

tuition is already a federal thing, in that the fed provides lot of grants, loans and other assistance, as well as tax breaks for parents who pay their kids' tuition.

just make that a lot bigger - problem solved.

what always makes me shake my head is the sheer number of things that were a normal part of plain old American daily life when I was coming up, that are now seen as some kind of evil socialist plot.

cheap public college is just the tip of the iceberg.

Trumpies want "their America back". Well, I want *my* America the hell back. And I'll bet you I'm a lot more pissed off about it than your average "heartland" Trumpie is. I'm just not interested in being a jerk about it.

The question I always have about things like this, when people ask "why is this a federal thing?", is why isn't it? What makes it *not* a federal thing?

The default is "not a Federal thing."

To argue that something is Federal, you need to be able to point to something in the Constitution which authorized the Feds to be involved. Granted there's been a lot of stretching and twisting over the years, to justify various actions. But you still have to have a clause to hang on to.

I confess I also like the point you mention about New York, back in the day, competing with California on the subject of supporting higher education. I wouldn't mind terribly seeing more of that. Possibly because the states who would refuse to compete would be those with the strongest political support for stuff I dislike. Small minded of me, no doubt, to wish them to live with their beliefs. (See Kansas under Brownback.) It might be a learning experience for them.

what always makes me shake my head is the sheer number of things that were a normal part of plain old American daily life when I was coming up, that are now seen as some kind of evil socialist plot.

And somehow they are all things that the return-to-the-golden-era-of-the-50s folks seem blithely ignorant of the fact were normal. And not part of the collection of things they long to restore, either.

I have to say (as a straight, white, male in his 70s) that overall I definitely wouldn't want go back to the 50s. But that doesn't mean that we haven't lost a few things which we would do well to regain. Prioritizing education, including higher education, being one of them.

Pell grants are good, but they don't help the overall problem of student debt if the universities are calculating their aid packages on last-dollar models that leave student financial support too short on the back end. If expected student contributions are too high to manage, then the only answers are either to drop out or to take the ridiculous loans on offer.

Well-off students always have a safety net. Low-income students not only lack a safety net, but their struggles affect the prospects of their extended families as well.

Higher Ed tuition are no longer set by "what it costs to provide the education", but rather "what the market will bear".

Don't believe me? Compare the % increase in faculty salary over the past 30 years to the % increase in tuition.

Being nonprofits, the institutions can't pay dividends to their shareholders, or even sock much of the cash into their endowments, so instead they hire boatloads of highly paid deanlets and assistant adjunct vice presidents for leveraging the buzzwords.

Want to fix college costs? Have the IRS pull the nonprofit status of any higher-ed institution that doesn't spend at least 50% of it's tuition income on 'instruction', and furthermore if they fall out of non-profit status, are subjected to a punitive tax rate for both the institution and their top admin people.

The whining would be audible from the Oort Cloud. Worth it, though.

To argue that something is Federal, you need to be able to point to something in the Constitution which authorized the Feds to be involved.

The first of the enumerated powers of the Congress, from Article 1, Section 8:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States

So, what does "general welfare" mean?

Given the historical and cultural context of the writing of the Constitution, it seems to me that "general welfare" is more or less "the public good". Or "the common good". Or, the "common weal", a phrase familiar to the founders, although less so to us.

If access to education needed to make a sufficient living is a national problem, then I don't see a problem with national public policy to address it.

The feds are not required to do so, neither are they excluded from doing so. Whatever makes sense. And, whatever we, as a self-governing and sovereign polity, want to do.

I definitely wouldn't want go back to the 50s.

I was born in '56, so I have no particular memories one way or the other about the 50's.

The stuff I'm talking about all has to do with a sense of common purpose, and a belief that government is a proper instrument for implementing that common purpose.

We no longer have a sense of common purpose, and there is no longer anything like a consensus that government is a proper instrument for implementing one even if we did have one.

The American people's fundamental trust in government as a beneficial institution has been undermined by 40 years of people telling them the government is their adversary. Reagan's nine scariest words, etc.

Now people amass personal arsenals so they can be ready to go to war with their own government and their own neighbors. There is no sound future for a nation where that is seen as anything other than clinical paranoia, deserving of medical intervention.

Here, it is applauded.

Nowadays, we debate whether we should even have public libraries. Not whether they fit in the budget, but whether they should even exist.

There is no sense, whatsoever, of there being such a thing as a public, civic, common good, and no sense that it is something worth investing in and protecting.

That is what is different from when I was coming up. Exactly that.

If you want to know what happened to it, I point you to the (R) party.

On the topic of things that make me "shake my head", I will also include the fact that the first three enumerated powers of Congress are:

1. To raise money for the common defense and the general welfare through taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.
2. To borrow money
3. To regulate commerce

1, 2, and 3. Exactly the thing that (R)'s have been citing as evil incarnate for the last 40 years.

First, second, and third enumerated powers of Congress. In the Constitution. In plain, unambiguous English. No mysterious unexplained extra commas, simple enough for a 3rd grader to understand.

In the immortal words of the great Casey Stengel, you could look it up.

Originalists can kiss my keister.

What does "general welfare" mean?

Welfare for the Generals.

What does "general welfare" mean?

Welfare for the Generals.

Morrill Act - constitutional, or no?

IPad just frisbeed across the room. Mart(y.

Read this:

https://www.amazon.com/Second-Creation-American-Constitution-Founding/dp/0674185048

There were matters that came up weeks and months after the new Constitution was ratified that stymied the very office holders and legislators, ya know the same personalities who authored the founding document, and stumped the band.

Well, what does the Constitution say we should do?

Fuck all, was the answer.

Well, what were our intentions?

As it happens, the big names, in many cases. took the opposite convenient sides from their original intentions expressed in the source materials in the matters at hand.

Thus the endless debates.

As Homer Simpson remarked about Jazz, which James Monroe invented, it sounds like they were making it up as they went along.

Some of those guys could improvise scat singing better than Ella Fitzgerald, if it meant getting their way with the immediate issue, regardless of their immortal words in the Federalist Papers.

The Originalists are the main grift. They are the real improvisational bullshitters.

My keister, too.


There is no sense, whatsoever, of there being such a thing as a public, civic, common good, and no sense that it is something worth investing in and protecting.

That is what is different from when I was coming up. Exactly that.

If you want to know what happened to it, I point you to the (R) party.

Although I would phrase it as "I point you to the rise of libertarians in the (R) party."

I do take your point about Article 1, Section 8. Although it would seem that it would authorize damn near anything. Seriously open ended.

The Originalists are the main grift. They are the real improvisational bullshitters.

In practice, "Originalism" means "Here's how I rationalize, when convenient, doing what I want to do anyway."

It might be interesting to see what a real Originalist would say on various Constitutional issues. But that has yet to happen. It's been strictly rationalization, rather than honest philosophy.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/6/15/1865039/-Trump-orders-all-agencies-to-cut-scientific-advisory-boards-by-at-least-one-third

It doesn't take a weather scientist to tell you who blows, and who will be butchered in the coming savage violence.

The originalist debate seems, in most cases, an exercise in picking your bible verse. Some read "general welfare" as encompassing anything the government decides is important. I read the 10th amendment as making it clear that isnt true.

The most powerful words in the Constitution are the three words in the 10th amendment "or the people".

It is the simplest reminder that the founders thought that the people should run their own lives whenever possible and, after all the argument, they agreed to reiterate that notion.

Most of the things we argue about are varying sets of people deeming their opinion as being in the "general welfare" thus overriding the individuals rights.

Also too, Socialism, as defined in our current debates, isn't about anything except the Democrats notion that it is incumbent upon the federal government to solve every individual's problems at any cost. That somehow the state has assumed the power and responsibility to ensure essentially equal outcomes for all persons.

In the 50s people got "cheap" secondary education because very few people needed it. But the notion it was generally attainable is just not reality. In my family I was the first person to be able to go to college, in 1974, and I went on VA benefits. The minimum wage was $1.60 in 1974, no one went to college on that. As much as the GOP is wanting an America that never existed, the discussion of cheap college degrees seems the same


That somehow the state has assumed the power and responsibility to ensure essentially equal outcomes for all persons.

this isn't true, and you know it.

liberals: hey, we should add two more, optional, years to the public school system that we've had in this country for a century.

"conservatives": NO CONSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT! SOCIALISM!

cleek: did i stutter ?

Except we aren't talking about "anything the government deems important", we're talking about secondary education.

The last four words of the 10th A are "or to the people". The first phrase in the 10th A is:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution

Article I Section 8 enumerates the powers delegated to the United States, and specifically to Congress. Raising money and spending it on public defense and the general welfare are powers *specifically* given to Congress, by the Constitution, in clear language. More than that, it is the *first* power explicitly granted to Congress.

I agree with wj's observation that the language there is very broad. I have to assume that that was intentional, because the language of the subsequent powers enumerated in Article 1 Section 8 is extremely specific. I assume they said "general welfare" because they meant "general welfare". I assume they weren't more specific because they did not mean to be.

I've presented an understanding of what "general welfare" means that is rooted in, and consistent with, political and social thought at the time the Constitution was written. If you would like to present another reading of what that phrase means, have at it.

Nobody here or anywhere is talking about "solv(ing) every individual's problem at any cost". The topic under discussion is making secondary education accessible to the public at large. Nobody here or anywhere is talking about ensuring equal outcomes for everyone, nor has anyone talked about that, ever, at least in this country.

When I went to public university in NY, minimum wage was more or less $3.00. Full boat for a year was $1800, let's make it $2100 with books etc.

You could cover 100% of the cost of attending an excellent public college for 700 hours of work. Work full time in the summer is 400 hours, including a week or two off to go goof off at the beach. Work another 300 hours over the other nine months of the year and you're good. If Mom and Dad can kick in a few hundred bucks a year, even better.

All of that excludes federal programs like Pell Grants, state programs like Regents scholarships (in NY), and whatever other scholarships you could get.

And that's the plain math of the situation.

I mentioned the Morrill Act in an earlier comment because wj mentioned land grant schools in his original post. Land grant schools exist because of the Morrill Act, which was federal legislation passed in the 19th C to give some of the proceeds of federal land sales to states for the specific purpose of establishing colleges.

Because the feds recognized a broad-based need to improve the skill set of the public at large in a variety of professions. The land grant program has been recognized as being responsible for the US advancing to the head of the class in economic development in the 19th C.

How access to education overrides anyone's "individual rights" escapes me. Nobody's making anybody go to college.

The American people's fundamental trust in government as a beneficial institution has been undermined by 40 years of people telling them the government is their adversary. Reagan's nine scariest words, etc.

Now people amass personal arsenals so they can be ready to go to war with their own government and their own neighbors. There is no sound future for a nation where that is seen as anything other than clinical paranoia, deserving of medical intervention.

Here, it is applauded.

What russell said at 10.03 above, and particularly this part. The development of this phenomenon in the US is, I believe, horrifying to all thinking people worldwide of any rational political persuasion, but with the added wrinkle that we fear that if it could happen to you, it could happen to us (minus the guns of course) like a zombie apocalypse. Who would have thought it - the USA: a cautionary tale for the world.

As Homer Simpson remarked about Jazz, which James Monroe invented

And not for nothing, but James Monroe wasn't bringing anything. No time, always playing sharp, always with the corny warmed-over Harry James wanna-be noise. The man couldn't swing from a rope.

Franklin was the cat who was feeling it.

Let me put my old state budget analyst hat on and explain why I think it's impossible for states to solve the problem.

First, there is a political limit on state/local tax revenues in the narrow range of 9-12%. A bit less in poor states, a bit more in rich ones. Political in the sense that if taxes go above that range, the people in office are voted out and the incoming group cuts taxes. If taxes go below that range, the cuts in services are severe enough that the people in office are voted out and the incoming group raises taxes [1].

Second, the vast majority of contemporary state General Fund spending -- at least >90%, in some states >95% -- goes to the Big Six categories: K-12 education, Medicaid, other human services, transportation, prisons/courts, and higher ed. Our expectations for state support for higher ed where established in the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, Medicaid was a tiny thing and state-level funding [2] for K-12 education was just getting started.

Third, K-12 education and Medicaid expenses grow faster than state/local tax revenues. The "basket of goods" involved in those have a much higher inflation rate than the broad CPI. See also, for example, Baumol's Cost Disease. At some point, crowding out of something is going to happen.

Finally, look at the Big Six. Medicaid is fundamentally an all or nothing program; you either meet the standards or you drop out completely. No state seriously considers dropping out of traditional Medicaid. In many states, K-12 spending is protected in the state constitution. Other human services benefit from the "concentration of benefits" effect. In addition, there is so much federal matching money involved that in some programs, cutting $1 in state funds means the loss of another $9 in federal funds. Cutting prisons/courts is hard for various reasons.

We have reached a point where every time there's a recession, and state revenue either falls (or at least growth slows), the bulk of the pain will fall on transportation and higher ed because they lack the protection the other spending enjoys. If/when growth comes back, much of it is eaten up by K-12 and Medicaid. As a general rule for the past 20 years, higher ed never recovers to pre-recession levels, let alone gets increased.

There's no politically feasible way to significantly increase state spending on higher ed.

[1] Note that this works very different at the state level than it does at the federal level. If California's taxes get too high, California voters will vote in Democrats who are willing to cut them back. Recently, when services fell too far, Kansas voters voted in Republicans who were willing to raise taxes. There is a growing disconnect in both parties between how elected federal officials and elected state officials behave on budget matters.

[2] From about 1960, local property taxes couldn't be set high enough to pay for K-12 education. First in poor districts, so states created "equalization" funds. Then even for rich districts, and the equalization funds become broad state-level funding (mostly from income and sales taxes). Equalization still goes on. In my state, in some of the poorest school districts, >80% of the district budget is state funding.

Oops. 9-12% of state GDP.

"So the words general welfare must mean something other than a grant of power for Congress to do whatever it pleased. What exactly did the framers mean?

Two words in the clause hold the key. General and common. The phrase simply means that any tax collected must be collected to the benefit of the United States as a whole, not for partial or sectional (i.e. special) interests. The federal government may promote the general welfare, or common good, but it must do so within the scope of the powers delegated and without favoritism."
The General Welfare Clause is not about writing checks

That's a good article Charles. Thank you for sharing it.

So - "general welfare" cannot include anything not explicitly mentioned in any of the following clauses?

Higher education - not within the scope of federal power?

Morrill Act - therefore unconstitutional?

To follow up on Charles' article:

It actually is a very good piece, and I find it persuasive. I suspect there is more to what Madison, Hamilton, et al had to say than what is contained in the quotes included there, but what is cited there clearly points to a reading more like Charles', or Marty's, or wj's, than mine.

So, take a minute and think about what falls outside of the powers strictly enumerated in the clauses following the first in Article 1, section 8. Here's Section 8.

  • Anything to do with public health, whatsoever.
  • Anything to do with disaster or other emergency response, whatsoever.
  • Anything to do with education, whatsoever.
  • Any form of public assistance or "safety net", whatsoever.
  • Basic infrastructure - ports and navigational improvements, roads, airports, rail systems, communications and energy grids - other than what are required for national defense and a national postal system.
  • Any basic scientific research, whatsoever, outside of enforcing IP.
  • All legislation establishing standards for product or service quality and safety applies only to goods or services provided across state lines.

That's off the top of my head. And if we're going to apply the "first clause is just a caption for the specific clauses that follow", we need to apply that to the "common defense" part.

That being so, Congress has no power to raise money for:

  • A standing army
  • Intelligence collection and analysis other than what might apply to, strictly, military operations and planning
  • Support for co-operative military or intelligence operations with other nations

I'll stipulate the air force, I'm sure if we had airplanes in the 18th C. they would have included that.

If they need to be explicitly enumerated, then all of the above are out.

The minimum wage was $1.60 in 1974, no one went to college on that.

And yet, from 1966-1970 I went to college (UC Berkeley) and I paid for it washing dishes and doing low level clerical work -- the dish washing actually paid better, but the working conditions weren't as nice. I paid everything: tuition and fees, room and board, books, clothes, transportation (not that I needed much), etc.

Yeah, I heard people gripe about how you couldn't work your way thru school any more. But I did. No financial aid, no loans. And the only "family financial support" ran the other way: for a couple of those years, I was paying my Mom's tuition while she got her teaching credential.

In short, I'm not buying it.

Just to gild the lily a bit, I might mention that my mother before me worked her way thru college. In the mid-1930s. Yup, depths of the Depression. Again, doing low level clerical stuff -- department store accounting, in the days when accounts had to each be manually updated every evening. (By her senior year, she was the swing shift manager.)

It's a family tradition, I suppose. My younger brother and sister did it too.

I'm interested in comment from wj, Marty, or Charles on my 11:29, at your convenience, and also on the legitimacy of the Morrill Act.

If the very broad powers implied in the first clause of Article 1 Section 8 are limited to what is explicitly enumerated in the following clauses, and we want to be even in the same neighborhood as complying with that, a lot of stuff needs to go away. Stuff you don't like, and stuff you like.

No picking and choosing. It's in or it's out. If you're going to argue that as the reason that we cannot, as a national policy, provide support for secondary education, then you're going to have to own the whole thing.

In or out, that is my question.

We will surely balance the federal budget, anyway. So, upsides.

I'm interested in comment from wj, Marty, or Charles on my 11:29, at your convenience, and also on the legitimacy of the Morrill Act.

It may be an oddity, but my question (in the original post) about the Constitutional basis for Federal funding of higher education really was an honest request for information. Which you supplied. Simply put, I take your point. And thank you.

I think there are a fair number of areas (agricultural price supports come to mind) where the Federal government is currently involved but which can't reasonably be justified as promoting the general welfare. But I'd agree that higher education does (IMHO) fit the bill.

thanks, wj

the US is far past the point where the argument in that article matters. the concrete reality of what centuries of lawmaking has produced obliterates it. we're simply not going back there.

hell, Madison wouldn't even let the federal govt build roads. but that approach died with him.

I think a great deal of what the federal government does should be phased out to states, localities, the private sector or eliminate altogether. As to the Morrill Act, I don't it's any business of the government how many spouses a person has. :)

Regarding the spiralling cost of education, this is an interesting piece:
https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/05/the-baumol-effect.html

The Baumol Effect was described in the 60s, but is obviously of much greater significance in today’s economy:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baumol's_cost_disease

The concept of "specific enumeration" is the goulash of American constitutional history. Everything and nothing.

The Founders among themselves didn't agree, except in highly general terms, what the limitations were, are, and yet to be.

They agreed to not enumerate, other than the all else shall be left to the states verbiage, because they collectively thought it, first, an impossible task, and second, many believed it an egotistical one as well and an imposition on we, the people who came later.

Yes, there were those among them who believed that the federal government should never fund "flying machines", military or otherwise, because the literal words "flying machines", were not specifically enumerated in the document, just as some argued, like blockheads, that executive cabinet officers could not be removed for gross corruption in the carrying out of their duties, either by the President or Congress because where does it say that in the Constitution, hanh, even though the President Was accorded the power to appoint them in the first place.

It's Pa Kettle constitutional reasoning."Ma, You SAY I should bring in the hay, but can you point to anywhere it says that in writing?"

MA Kettle: "well, pa, you may have point there, which I will take into account when I decide to rely on written authority to cook you supper. KIDS," she'd rasp at the top of her lungs, "take yer Pa's rocking chair out to the barn, wouldja, since there's no hay bales taking up any room."

The Founders worked it out, because, to overwork the Jazz metaphor, Alexander Hamilton and others laid down such an insistent backbeat with his argumentation that the rest of them fell into line and improvised a solution.

The Founders preferred a written Constitution, unlike the unwritten English Constitution, but came quickly to conclude that it couldn't be overwritten and what could be written had to rely on general principles and terms.

Let's take healthcare policy as an example. Conservatives pontificate that it should be left to the States to decide, but they work overtime at the state level electing (by cheating) pols who believe even the states should have no say in healthcare policy AND they pass laws preventing the states from acting on the issue, and many other issues, hamstringing Democrats when they are in office and now hamstringing even the citizen initiative process because the people might contravene preciously absolute conservative principles, to which I have three words in response: Fucking Fort Sumter.

We make it up as we go along, and if now we are prevented from doing that in this 250-year national conversation, then the talking stops and the violence commences.

Besides, to the literal-minded blockheads out there, may I point you to the word "checks" in the Constitution.

Language is ambiguous and it is that way whether the constitution says so or not.

Otherwise, we could have killed all the lawyers in 1789 and been done with it and reveled in absolute certainty ever since.

Happily, many of the Founders had law degrees and felt making THAT explicit in the document would have put a crimp in their lifestyles.

Go ahead and stop all of the checks. You'll soon find out the fragility of the general welfare.


I have always found it historically interesting that as soon as the people who wrote the bits about enumerated powers were elected to Congress and the Presidency, they were all "Well, f*ck, that's not going to work," and started ignoring it.

Can an editor add the missing forward slash in Charles's comment?

wj: your wish is my command. ;-)

And it should be "I don't think it's..." :}

Marty, up above, provides a convenient juxtaposition when he repeats the old crap about Socialism and Democrats' demand that the Federal Government solve every individual's problems at any cost and then announces he went to college on the VA, which was an offshoot of the old GI Bill passed in 1944.

As it happens, the original GI Bill (see Wikipedia) was authored by conservative Republicans and was much more generous and expensive than the Great Satan FDR's proposal that these benefits be sharply circumscribed, means-tested, and allocated only to the very poorest former military.

Natch, the only bipartisan agreement was that Jim Crow should be observed as much as possible as pigfuckery was not exclusive to conservatives.

My ex-wife' about whom I have not a bad word to say, use to accuse me of NEVER doing some things and ALWAYS doing other things, when in reality it would be beyond belief that anyone would ever NEVER do some things, and ever ALWAYS do other things.

Point being, Wemake exceptions, ala Marty and his socialist satisfaction of his individual need for a college education, we pick and choose, and then we call it absolutism decreed by constitutional means.

The VA is not Socialism? Sez who?

JDT, it's really quite simple. If it benefits you, but not me, then it's "socialism"**. If it benefits me, then it's not. Clear?

** Obviously that's "socialism" in current political use. Not socialism in its economic organization sense.

I meant James Madison in my comments when I wrote James Monroe.

https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/presidents-constitution/james-madison-federal-power/

It's really not that hard. Ss, Medicare are paid for directly by my contributions, the VA I paid for with three pretty miserable years of my life. College assistance being a part of the contract I signed going in.

Free college is just free college, a pure redistribution of income. There are more, but the difference is simple. I am entirely in favor of college assistance for other forms of government service.

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/chris-stewart-foolish-not-accept-foreign-dirt

And

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-accuse-new-york-times-virtual-treason

And

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-president-obstruct-justice-can-run-the-country

So here's the deal. For any conservative and/or republican (let's confine it to the professionals for now) to receive my permission to talk in my face about the inviolability of the Constitution, you first will have to demonstrate your righteous bonafides by violently and savagely overthrowing the United States government as it exists on this day June 16, 2019, else, really, just STFU.

Interesting article I found when considering CharlesWT's comments above and pondering what a modern libertarian nation state would look like:
https://www.salon.com/2013/06/04/the_question_libertarians_just_cant_answer/

If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?

You will not have paid anything close in Medicare premiums to what the government will spend on your medical care should you live long enough, and by God, Marty I hope you will spend as much as you need.

But just in case, I hope you have the figure memorized that you have paid into the program over the decades and that figure is fed as an algorithm into the medical equipment and time-release medicinals you are provided and a bell goes off and all care halts at that second, and you rise from your sickbed, race down the hospital hallway, holding your in-patient gown shut at the back with one hand, and burst into the street into the clarifying, purifying sunshine and announce in the words of Martin Luther King "Free at Last! I am free at last!"

It might be worth mentioning that many countries provide their citizens with free (or near-free) college education. And, not surprisingly, the "state universities" in these countries tend to be excellent while privately funded institutions play a marginal role.

You will not have paid anything close in Medicare premiums to what the government will spend on your medical care should you live long enough,

Ditto Social Security, unless misadventure (medical or mechanical) cuts your life short. Certainly that was even more true in the early years, when recipients hadn't spent a working lifetime paying in.

As to free college, it will never happen.

As it does happen, I am at this moment sitting in a friend's living room not a mile from the private liberal arts college campus in the little college town I spent five years in some time in the 18th century, and we, including my now 90 year old philosophy professor, now retired, were speaking yesterday in awe regarding the tuition and room and board then and now ($4000 per annum then and something close to $70,000 per annum now) and wondering how DO they manage it, much like we used to sit around discussing in awe in 1972 how we could possibly manage the $4000 cost (where oh where are we going to find the spare bucks for booze and pot) when only 30 years earlier, my Dad spent maybe $300 per annum when he attended the same college and not even that amount, because he was On The GI Bill on account of having spent four years fighting the socialist Japanese army in the jungles of New Guinea to prevent the spread of free education to the American homeland.

Should free college at federal expense be in the offing, however, I agree with Marty that something in return should be expected from the recipients, most certainly some form of useful important government service for a specified time after the fact just as it is expected before the fact by military service.

And not just digging and refilling holes either, unless it's the holes in Larry Kudlow's noggin,

I'd agree with you both that "free" isn't the way to go. Work while you study. Work for the government for a few (3-4?) years after you study. Something doable anyway -- regardless of whether your family can afford to subsidize your education.

There's something to be said for the view that you will value more what you have to actually pay for. I definitely noticed that those of my fellow students who were on full mommy/daddy scholarships didn't seem to value college anywhere near as much as those of us who were having to put some sweat equity into the mix.

Also what novakant said, which is the nose on our faces, once again described to the noseless.

That the fully subsidized universities abroad are excellent seems to be a feature American conservatives find the most abhorrent.

Even Soviet scientists were pretty well damned educated, that is if they managed to avoid the free graduate school programs in Siberia.

Not sure about since.

I could keep track of SS, that should be a bit of a race likely resulting in me losing money. But I dont object. Medicare is insurance, I'm not sure what the accrued benefit should be but I expect to die, based on current prognosis, long before my premiums would run out.

Whether I, as an American, have struck a fair bargain with me as an individual may be questionable. But I stand behind my bargains.

As my late uncle, who could afford it, said when he learned what the meals alone were going to cost at the retirement community where he and my aunt spend their emeritus years: "I'm going to choke down every bite of food they provide and go back for thirds, dammit!"

Just so, Marty, and I expect you'll outlive all of us, but still, you should try to break your hips many times and contract various expensive chronic but not quite fatal diseases to get your money's worth.

&-6

Anyway, get a second opinion on that prognosis. I don't accept the first one.

The problem with the "Let the states do it" argument is simple - it won't work. It would be hopeless.

Look at the items Russell lists in his 6/16 11:29AM comment. Take away the federal role and what happens? Disaster is what happens.

So I don't really care about about all this federalist purity. The federalists can write all the articles they want claiming the federal government can't do this or that. Very nice from the confines of a law school faculty office or a well-funded gig at some right-wing institution. Doesn't carry much weight in the world we live in.

It's really not that hard.

SS and Medicare, clearly not in scope of any of the specifically enumerated powers in Article 1 Section 8.

In general the "is it constitutional" argument is a red herring. Most people who argue about "limited government" haven't read the Constitution since 8th grade civics, if they read it then.

Some people are okay with programs that help people who aren't them. Some people aren't.

Some people are okay with programs if the recipients have "earned" the benefit, whatever that means. Some aren't bothered by people getting stuff they haven't "earned".

Helping people get an education means increasing the likelihood that they will make whatever contribution to the world it is in their power to make. That isn't to denigrate the contribution or achievements of people who haven't had the opportunity to go to college, or to receive some kind of professional training beyond K-12. It's simply to note the difference between what people can achieve with, and without, a greater degree of education.

The benefits of that do not simply accrue to them. They accrue to everyone.

You can look at things like this as a "freebie" or a "handout". Or you can look at it as an investment. An investment in the people with whom you share a nation and a world.

IMO these discussions have damned little to do with "what the founders had in mind". They have to do with the individuals participating in the discussion, now, today. They have to do with people's differing understandings of what it means to be a human being, what things are good, and what obligations we have toward each other. Ultimately, what the purpose and meaning of life are.

I have no a priori suspicion of government, any more than I do of any other human institution. Some are good, some are not, most are mixed. I accept that people who live in a polity - which is basically everyone other than a handful of hunter-gatherer bands - are going to put up with some amount of government "bugging them". I am happy for the various governments I live under to do things that are generally useful and constructive and productive and good, even if I make no specific use of those things, and even if they create no actual direct benefit to me at all. I'm happy to contribute to that through taxes, fees, etc.

Because it's better for good and constructive and productive things to happen, than for them not to happen. Even if the people who benefit from those things haven't directly and personally "earned" them, whatever that means.

If the feds make two years of community college available to whoever wants it, or even four years of public college, then whoever takes advantage of that still has to get off of their ass and go. All anyone is talking about doing is making it available.

If that rubs you the wrong way, so be it. If it rubs enough people the wrong way, it won't happen, and some number of people who might otherwise been able to go to college, won't be able to.

Why that's a good idea is beyond me.

If you want to send it to the states, fine. Send it to the states. My state will get it done. If yours doesn't, too bad for you.

Not my preferred attitude, but if that's the attitude that is on offer, so be it. I'm happy to make some effort to persuade people that it's neither a useful nor a productive point of view, but at a certain point - most likely right about now - I'll shake the dust off my boots and give it up as a bad job.

You can look at things like this as a "freebie" or a "handout". Or you can look at it as an investment. An investment in the people with whom you share a nation and a world.

As usual, wrs in toto. But particularly this bit. I can never understand when people don't see it as an investment, it seems like wilful blindness.

I can never understand when people don't see it as an investment, it seems like wilful blindness.

Perhaps it stems from them personally having majored in something easy and useless. Well, useless except to check the "college degree" box on their resume. (The sort of "major" designed for athletes who couldn't get into college on academic merit. /snark) That would account for them not seeing it as a valuable investment.

wj: That would account for them not seeing it as a valuable investment.

I doubt that's what it is. It's more that they don't see that we're all in this together, and that an investment in other people's health and welfare is a benefit to them too.

To put it a different way, I took russell and GftNC's mention of "investment" as applying to our collective investment in our collective well-being...

And even as I write, I see that it amounts to the same thing: are we atomistic individuals, or members of each other?

I'm one of the most cussedly solitary and independent people alive; I live in lifelong and massive rebellion against all kinds of social norms and expectations. Weirdly enough, I am also an extreme collectivist in relation to sharing the wealth. It would be an impertinence I would probably go to jail to avoid for the government to tell me I had to wear a dress, but I see paying taxes as the most obvious duty I have to share my luck.

Perhaps. But I believe it is more that they cannot conceive of society (like Margaret Thatcher), so cannot conceive of an investment that pays out into the public weal (thanks to whoever reminded me of this phrase), as opposed to to themselves. If someone benefits, they think it will be the individual (who got "something for nothing"), not the wider population. It's such a mean (in the English sense of miserly and ignoble) concept of how the world works.

Janie and I cross-posted, but I see we have the same interpretation!

"cross-posted in response to wj" I should have said.

I can never understand when people don't see it as an investment, it seems like wilful blindness.

For some of us, it's due to a different point of view as articulated about 170 years ago.

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” ― Frederic Bastiat, The Law

It's possible that it might be some of both. They got degrees which were of no value. Plus, they can't see a direct, personal, benefit to themselves of someone else getting an education, and therefore cannot see that they are benefiting from the gain to society as a whole.

Something as indirect as "If you don't have more productive people coming into the workforce, there won't be any money to pay for your retirement benefits. No matter whether you think you paid in and therefore deserve them or not."? Just beyond their comprehension apparently.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education.

A distinction which is harder to see when they do, in fact, appear to disapprove of education. Whether the link is causal or not.

We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all.

well, i'm not trying to force my religion (or lack thereof) into any law.

on the other hand ...

Let me hone Bastiat's words to better reflect reality:

Socialism, as it expresses itself in America in 2019, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, holds that what human beings require can be supplied by society in many, but not all cases, and when there is a shortfall in that realm, government can ably step in and make up the shortfall in many cases. If society refuses to supply certain things to all, then step aside and let government do it. As a result, every time that we object to a thing being done by government, which we do in nearly all cases according to our druthers, the socialists conclude that we object to it being done for everyone, rather than merely for those who can pay individuals in society to do it for them. We disapprove of state education. Why, who knows, but then the socialists say that we are opposed to education for the many because we refuse to pay for it, but if the few can afford it, then good for them but stay out of our hair otherwise. We object to a state religion. Socialists nowadays, being accused of godlessness by conservatives, are just as bad as libertarians according to conservatives in the realm of refusing the imposition of a state imposition and the two of them, according to conservatives will burn in Hell and good riddance, though the libertarians believe they each get their very own bespoke flame in separate pits, while the socialists writhe in one great burning mass for their punishment. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then socialists accuse us of desiring state enforced inequality in medical treatment for example, with one guy getting the expensive concierge treatment and the other guy, standing four feet away across a state line, keeling over because insurance and treatment was beyond his means. And so on, well not really. It is a fact that we make little or no provision for people who don't have enough to eat, but whaddaya expect, the word "grain" is not in the Constitution so we are helpless beyond some totally self-congratutory charity to the needy.

I concede that reality is wordier than an inflexible ideology.

From JDT's TPM link: “A president can run the country,” Trump responded.

From CharlesWT's Bastiat quote: “Socialism ... confuses the distinction between government and society."

He, Trump would appear to be a Socialist under Bastiat's definition.

Alternatively, He, Trump is too stupid to know that the POTUS runs the executive branch of the federal government, not "the country". But He may have this excuse: lots of Americans are as stupid as He is, in that respect.

As for the general topic of what We The People choose to consider our "general welfare", all I can do is remind True Libertarians that neither they nor our long-dead Framers get the last word on the matter.

--TP

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society.

And Bastiat manufactures distinctions that don't exist in the real world.

Governments are artifacts of human societies. They are not some alien institution, they are a natural expression of human social behavior.

Government is, precisely, as natural and appropriate an instrument by which people may "do stuff" as market dynamics are.

If you think governments are any more coercive than markets are, try negotiating the world without your wallet.

are we atomistic individuals, or members of each other?

Exactly

Governments are artifacts of human societies. They are not some alien institution, they are a natural expression of human social behavior.

Amen.

But it made me chuckle, for a reason that indicates that I'm getting punchy.

Long ago, one of my housemates was waxing eloquent (and sanctimonious) about the difference between "natural" things like dancing, and artificial, odious things like math. I informed her that doing math was as natural and habitual to me as dancing was to her.

On my long car drives to Ohio I am incessantly recalculating in my head: mileage, hours to destination, etc. I am often to be found trying to think of math-based metaphors for human phenomena...

Sad to say, I don't dance. Maybe in another lifetime, when I reincarnate as Colin Dunne. (The drummer at about the two-minute mark is cool too.) Of course, that kind of dancing isn't really what my friend meant: too patterned for her. Not to say mathematical. Like life itself. ;-)

For me, singing is "unnatural". Not because I don't love to sing. But because my voice is terrible to the point that nobody wants to be in earshot. Sigh.

wj,

One of the few things George Will ever wrote that I could wholeheartedly endorse:

"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."

I keep telling myself that when called upon to dance, for instance.

--TP

Great quote, TP.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education.

It is certainly accurate to say that those opposed to state education are opposed to widespread education, as available to the children of the poor as to those of the rich.

So the complaint here is not clear to me. Tell us, Charles, do you think education should be entirely a privately funded affair, and too bad for those whose parents cannot pay?

..., do you think education should be entirely a privately funded affair, ...

Yes, with parents and guardians paying tuition with such things as education savings accounts and scholarships added to the mix. For people who couldn't afford the tuition, charitable scholarships, means-tested public vouchers, etc.

Of course, I'm just throwing dirt in the air. If private education had been around for some time, there would be all kinds of ways to facilitate it.

It would beat the current system where square and other oddly shaped pegs get hammered into round holes.

If private education had been around for some time....

News Flash: Private education has been around for centuries. You may have heard of places like Harvard and Stanfod, yes? Not to mention Oxford, Cambridge....

Private education has been around for centuries.

I was thinking about K-12 education.

As for "higher" education:

"Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education

"Despite being immensely popular--and immensely lucrative―education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity―in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy."
The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money

Private education has been around for centuries.

I was thinking about K-12 education.

The same applies.

The same applies.

Except that government schools have almost completely crowded out private and privately owned public schools. Charter schools are making some inroads though.

‘Crowded out’....

If private education had been around for some time, there would be all kinds of ways to facilitate it.

It would beat the current system where square and other oddly shaped pegs get hammered into round holes....

Hmmm.

Charles, we've been there before. We haven't always had publicly funded schools or mandatory attendance. And schools, public or otherwise, haven't always been organized along the lines of the Prussian reforms introduced by Mann and others.

There are good and bad things to say about public education, and in particular the way we've done it for the last 100 or so years. I don't see a return to a private academy system as an improvement.

For one thing, people with less money got less, or no, education. And private schools engage in at least as much social engineering - square pegs in round holes - as public ones.

According to Catholic tradition both math and dancing are fundamentally sinful and as such unnatural.
"Where there is a dance there is also the devil" (St.John Chrysostomos)
"Math is the base of all heresy" (a cardinal observing the Galilei trial in a latter to a colleague)

As for opposition to education, my mother personally knew some parents that hoped The Lord would come back before their kids are forced to attend school due to the inherent danger of public education to the soul.
And I know of some extremists that try to keep their kids analphabets in order to protect them (German courts were rather unsympathetic to that line of argument).
----
To give that cardinal the benefit of the doubt, at the time mathematician was synonymous with astrologer and there was no real disctinction between astronomy and astrology.

Giving a cardinal the benefit of the doubt seems overly generous to me, unless it might be, for purely frivolous reasons, the (possibly homaeopathically named) Cardinal Sin of the Phillipines.

also George Will:

The perspective comes after Will was asked to respond to a recent piece by New York Times columnist David Brooks that warned of a "coming GOP apocalypse" as younger adults leave the party.

“I think David Brooks is late to the apocalypse,” Will told CNBC's Kelly Evans. “I think it’s already happened. In fact, young people have made up their mind about the Republican Party, that it’s kind of the dumb party.”

duh

Private education has been around for centuries. You may have heard of places like Harvard and Stanford, yes? Not to mention Oxford, Cambridge...

Oxford and Cambridge universities are not private.

That a wordsmith like George Will would put aside the Thesaurus and settle on the descriptive "dumb" is a particularly ouchy kick in the family jewels.

I imagine William F Buckley would be so disdainful of this catastrophe that he would grab his crotch, make an tiny oval of his mouth and tell the party to bite him. Then flash those eyes and kiss Gore Vidal on the lips.

Still, a parent of this mess should be held responsible.

"Oxford and Cambridge are not private"

Don't wake Margaret Thatcher.

"Oxford and Cambridge are not private"

For now...
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/apr/17/oxford-cambridge-universities-private-raise-fees

The lout who shits the bed every night and shows it to us every morning doesn't like coughing or sneezing in his immaculate presence:

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/watch-trump-mulvaney-coughing-oval-office

His financial statement will look and smell like a landfill full of used baby diapers. He'd show it to us but we wouldn't be able to handle it.

Hold the coughing, for pity's sake.

Bannon, you lift that fat butt cheek and fart one more time, and I'll have you court-martialed. Now stifle, Edith.

The lout is Lewis Carroll's effing Queen of Hearts.

Mulvaney, for his part in all of this, will be executed by firing squad and his carcass dumped into the reflecting pond.

Redistribution is as redistribution was....

The Founders redistributed blacks from Africa to the Americas.
Then they redistributed the 13 colonies from the British to themselves.
This theme continued as the remainder of what is commonly called the USofA was redistributed from the indigenous peoples and Mexico.
Redistribution continued as the major asset of the Slave Power was redistributed (sort of) as a result of the Civil War.
But redistribution did not stop there as unions were declared to be unlawful conspiracies, and federal power was used rather nakedly to preserve the prerogratives of the financial class.
Even votes were 'redistributed' in 1919 as women obtained the vote.
More power was redistributed to "The People" (aka federal government-an instrument of The People, but you wouldn't know that from talking with some folks) during the New Deal and on into the Civil Rights, Great Society eras.

Since Reagan, the conservative movement is bent on one thing, and one thing only-redistributing power (financial and political) to themselves: (1.) Preserving private power in the workplace; (2.) enhancing the financial power of the already wealthy; (3.) changing the rules of the game to help them and their ilk.

So all this bullshit talk of 'redistribution' is pure political theater and projection.

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