Flat White

Student debt, the left’s next big campaign

16 February 2021

6:58 PM

16 February 2021

6:58 PM

There is barely anything original in Australian universities.  And by original, I don’t mean research, but rather how the university student and academic culture evolves.  They all take their cues from America.  Give it a little bit of time, and like a virus travelling over the Pacific Ocean, it will hit our shores.

From their prayers to the gods of wokeness, to their hostility to classical and western canon, to their affinity for socialism and communism, they take their lead from the radicalism of American campuses.  Ironic given their dislike for imperialist America yet they have all the symptoms.  De-platforming.  Identity politics.  Safe spaces.  You know the deal.

While this lack of originality is both corrosive and boorish, it is also predictable.  Equally corrosive and predictable is the lack of fundamental response from university leadership.  Yet any nonsense that starts on American campuses usually appears on Australian campuses within a year or two.  This is why that next big Australian university student thing will be student and graduate debt.  Mark my words.

Like many big government ideas, eliminating university fees and more importantly, waiving university debts would be nothing more than a government-mandated transfer from the poor to the wealthy.

In America, the people with the largest student debts are those who went to the most prestigious universities and who as a consequence of their high priced education are generally on fairly substantial incomes.  This is why they took on the debt to go to the most prestigious and expensive schools in the first place.  It was an investment decision to get higher incomes.  And this also why the most vocal political advocates for student debt waivers are representatives from the big money coastal centres – California and New York.  Think Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the impoverished state of California and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer from the equally impoverished city of New York.

What is being sought is that there be a diversion of public monies, either through higher taxes or through reduced spending on other government services so as to reduce the debt load of highly paid urban professionals who generally vote for and donate to the Democratic Party.  Change the names and locations and you get Australian middle-class welfare policies, bipartisan middle-class welfare policies.

The arguments presented in America for waiving student loan debts are the same ones already used in Australia to argue for other bad policy.  Graduates can’t afford to buy houses.  They are deferring having children.  They can’t afford their smashed avocado toast and this is adversely impacting the cafe economy.

Maybe, but what will be the result of waiving student loan debts is for people who have not gone to university and who live on lower incomes to defer their homeownership, family and cafe toast aspirations to pay higher taxes so that others can have a more comfortable life.  The new social justice.

The conditions are perfect for this virus to infect Australia.  The Commonwealth government loves it some middle-class welfare and there no longer seem any fiscal constraints.  There would also be a strong constituency in Canberra with politicians, their advisors and the bureaucrats who support them all being big beneficiaries.

Give it time. It’s gonna come. Just think of the children.

Stephen Spartacus blogs at Sparty’s Cast where a version of this piece also appears.

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