The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Art & Entertainment ... Politics ...

A friend with somewhat conservative political leanings recently sent me a link to an interesting political video critical of liberal Democrats (specifically Bernie Sanders), specifically their proposals to make college education free, forgive the college loan debts of recent graduates, and otherwise shower the public with a variety of free government benefits. What’s interesting and rather entertaining about this particular commentary is that its message is conveyed by song; specifically the rewording of an old Beatles classic (i.e., “All My Loving”). And on top of that, the song is performed by a mock-Beatles combo staged to imitate the Fab Four’s big American TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, way back on Feb. 9, 1964.

The video’s maker is a fellow named “Remy”, who has a series of conservative and libertarian-twinged commentary videos on You Tube. Many of his works have a twinge of humor to them despite their sharp acerbic edge. In “Bob’s Money” it appears that Mr. Remy himself plays all of the characters – John, Paul, George, Ringo — AND Bob. Only Bernie Sanders and Ed Sullivan get to make cameo appearances. In this rendition, the pseudo-Beatles are been renamed “The Candidates”, and “All My Loving” has become “All Bob’s Money”.

As a Beatles trivia footnote, “All My Loving” was the band’s opening song on the Ed Sullivan performance.

In his new video, Mr. Remy makes the point that a blanket pardon of student loan debt would not be fair to those who avoided or minimized college debt by commuting to college and not living on campus, and who worked while going to school. Especially since many of the students who borrowed a lot came from well-off families, or wound up after college doing quite well financially (or both, quite frequently!). What are the facts regarding student borrowers? Here’s what I came up with —

According to Pew Research, Americans of age 25 to 39 with at least a bachelor’s degree and outstanding student debt have higher family incomes (considering the individual’s income plus that of their spouse or partner) than those in this age range lacking a bachelor’s degree (regardless of loan status). About half of young college graduates with student loans (52%) live in families earning at least $75,000. About half of young adults without a bachelor’s degree (53%) live in families earning less than $40,000, compared with 21% of young college graduates with student loans. (By logic, 27% with degrees + debt live in households between 40 and 75K).

Next, the Urban Institute provides the following analysis:

According to our updated analysis of the Survey of Consumer Finances for 2016 (the best available data, though imperfect), the most affluent households—the top 25 percent of households with the highest earnings—held 34 percent of all outstanding education debt.

(I.e. about 1/3 of student debt was for students in households earning $105,500 or more per year in 2016).

Admittedly, some Democratic candidates propose to limit student debt forgiveness to lower-income borrowers. But Bernie Sanders is holding his ground regarding blanket debt forgiveness. In fact, a recent Salon article written by a Bernie advocate (Anis Shivani) criticized Elizabeth Warren for proposing “student debt forgiveness up to a certain amount and only for those below a certain income”. According to Mr. Shivani, Warren’s proposal exists “in the realm of neoliberal initiatives rather than the universal New Deal-type proposals yours [i.e., Bernie’s] always are”.

Obviously, Mr. Remy and Bob consider this more of a “raw deal” than a “New Deal”. Bob obviously would pay somewhat higher taxes under a President Sanders, so as to help forgive the debts of relatively rich college grads. And yet . . . it’s hard to get too upset about Bob. He is a white male (like me); and even though I don’t believe that being a white male automatically conveys all of the great benefits that the radical “white privilege” theorists say that it does, you still know that Bob is probably going to do OK in life. Partly because of his own talents and abilities, or perhaps MAINLY because of that. But yes, partly because white males usually get a fair chance from our society (which not everyone else gets to the same degree, admittedly).

What Mr. Remy does not point out, but which to me is very important, is that a LOT of people from more difficult circumstances (including lower-income people from communities of color) made their way through college exactly the way that Bob is doing it. And you do have to wonder if this is one reason why Bernie is so popular with young people but has gained only limited support from black voters.

At bottom, while I really enjoyed Mr. Remy’s innovative and humorous video effort, I don’t buy into its denouement (i.e., a short clip of Ed Sullivan disparaging “Communists”). My heart does not bleed for Bob. However, I believe that Mr. Remy unintentionally exposed a flaw in Bernie Sanders’ plan for the nation and in his political strategy. Bernie may be the political pied-piper of youth, especially youth with a lot of college debt. But despite their political idealism and inspiration, young voters have a rather weak record regarding voter turnout.

But there’s still plenty of political silliness out there awaiting parody, both on the left and on the right. I hope that Mr. Remy and others with different viewpoints will be treating us to further Beatles nostalgia revivals in the cause of political discussion!

P.S. / UPDATE, March 5, 2020: Back on March 26, 2019, just about 1 year ago, I posted a blog discussing the upcoming Democratic Presidential primary season, which we are now in the middle of. Although my essay was long winded and rambling as usual, it was based around a prediction. I predicted that despite all of the candidates who entered the field, the Democratic primaries would come down to a choice between two main themes represented by two main candidates. Here’s a quote:

On the Democratic side, there is a plethora of potential candidates at this point . . . However, it all really sums up to a digital choice: Bernie (or younger reasonable facsimile) or Joe (or younger reasonable facsimile).

Well, not bad, if I do say so myself! The only thing I got wrong was to leave open the possibility that some of the younger and fresher faces would break through and push the old geezers like Sanders and Biden aside. For whatever reason, the progressive Democratic Party decided that for 2020, old white male Baby Boomers still rule!

(Perhaps the best way to defeat a powerful and dangerous old while male Baby Boomer is with another one? We shall see!)

ALSO – I said above that Bernie’s reliance on turn-out by young voters may backfire. Well, guess what the pundits have been talking about with regard to Bernie’s performance in the primaries thus far? Yes, the lack of increased turnout, especially among youthful voters!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:27 pm      

  1. One of the several things that disturbs me about such proposals is that the proponents seldom if ever talk about extending the benefits to post-secondary vocational education. College isn’t for everyone nor should it be.

    Also, in the extent college tuition debt would be forgiven, the incentive for students (and their parents) to shop for value rather than prestige would be further diluted. Take out a huge loan instead. Perhaps there are details in Bernie’s and Warren’s proposals to counteract that type of misuse – I don’t know.

    Case in point – I went to Newark College of Engineering because you could get a decent education there and it was dirt-cheap at that time, (almost fifty years ago). I seem to recall it was around $400 per semester for 21 credits or more (books excluded).

    Comment by Allan Lacki — September 22, 2019 @ 11:50 am

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