Apparently the gargantuan health care bill is not just about health care. Besides 2,700+ pages sporting trillions in new government expenditures on health care and supportive bureaucracy, the bill also contains components of "education reform" in the form of extensive student federal loan program changes. The congressional practice of piggybacking disparate pieces of legislation to push agenda is not new, but it is typically irksome and occasionally concerning. This particular effort is flat out troubling.
The health care bill process has become legendary. First it couldn't get passed using traditional lawmaking procedures. Then it ran into trouble as the "reconciliation" process end run stalled. Now, the U.S. House of Representatives is looking to completely subvert the process using a "deemed passed" approach that paves the way for the bill to become law without a direct vote by the House. If the Senate approves and the President signs, then it's law.
As evidenced in the chart below, there are several federal loan programs that offer low interest student loans designed to enhance access to higher education. Over $100 billion in federally subsidized student loans are slated for 2010.
All sizable amounts aside, the legislation under consideration suggests monumental changes in how the federal student loans are awarded. In the past, banks have helped process and award the loans. The new approach would remove the professional banking lenders and centralize loan awarding in the government's hands. This should raise several red flags:
- The government will not be more efficient or fair than professional lenders at banks.
- Natural diversification and equity of awards will be lost and centralized in the hands of a relative few bureaucrats with currently unknown and potentially agenda-driven selection criteria..
- If the home lending fiasco is any indicator of government largess, bad loan write-offs could markedly increase. The legislation should also be inspected for potential indentured servitude of loan recipients driven by broadening loan stipulations and "work it off with the government" options.
- New loan standards may assist in the current trend towards the "redistribution of wealth" as middle class needs erode in favor of the lower income sections of the populace. Agenda and mindset matters.
- In conjunction with other education reform proposals delivered by the administration on March 15, 2010, any activity picking winners and losers could lead to numerous intended and/or unintended consequences.
Looking back at history, first there was the "New Deal" (FDR) then it was the "Great Society" (Johnson) -- now what? Change is not always good and bigger is not always better -- and there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. The need to become and stay informed grows as never before.