Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite (AP)
It’s time to cast aside the political shorthand and ideological pigeonholing that distort our debates over health care in particular and government’s role in American life more broadly.
The way words such as centrist and bipartisan are now deployed turns the discussion away from useful arguments over how various proposals might work and toward arid talk about how ideas fit into prefabricated boxes.
The impact of this warping of reality, brought home daily in the health care fight, was dramatized in last week’s debate in the House of Representatives over a bill to expand federal aid to students by eliminating subsidies to bankers.
The bill, which passed 253-171, would allocate about $80 billion over the next decade for new loans, community colleges, school construction and early childhood programs without increasing taxes or adding to the deficit. How? Instead of paying bankers to provide loans for which they bear no real risk, the government would make the loans directly.
Liberals are always accused of spending money without worrying where it comes from, but in this case, costs are covered by making a government program more efficient—yes, at the expense of bankers.
“We were paying these exorbitant subsidies to bankers who were taking government money, loaning it to somebody else, getting government guarantees that the loans would be paid back, and then taking all these profits,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the bill’s champion. This, he told me, led Congress to ask itself: “Hey, chump, what is it you don’t get about what’s going on here?”...(Remainder.)