Occupy Wall Street vs. the Tea Party: Comparing Two Higher Education Reform Proposals

There is a battle going on for the heart, soul, but mostly political devotion of the Millennial generation.  Because this group overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama both times, common wisdom suggests this group will turn into a loyal lifelong voting bloc for democrats.  According to this recent Pew study on the millennials, it looks like their allegiance is far from guaranteed at this point for any institution.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am in no way an expert on fashion, but this article in Millennial-centered Policymic caught my attention: Hipsters are Now Dressing Normal to be Cool.

I don’t know a lot about Hipsters, so I did a google image search of “hipster fashion.”  Whoa!  that was weird.  It was kind of like visiting Moab.  According to the Policymic article, hipster fashion is a way to strive for difference and authenticity in how you dress.  Yeah, there was plenty of difference and authenticity on that google image search.  However, it also looks like hipsters are abandoning this deliberate effort to make a statement through their clothes, in order to be normal by adopting a new fashion style they call “Normcore.”

Consider this quote from Jeremy Lewis, who writes this description of Normcore for some site called Garmento (which I have never heard of until now):

It’s a very flat look, conspicuously unpretentious, maybe even endearingly awkward. It’s a lot of cliché style taboos, but it’s not the irony I love, it’s rather practical and no-nonsense, which to me, right now, seems sexy. I like the idea that one doesn’t need their clothes to make a statement.


Now this might sound crazy at first, but what if the same generation that defined itself through difference and authenticity and made a statement by voting for Barack Obama now changes to embrace the practical, the no-nonsense, the endearingly awkward?  What is more taboo for a Millennial than supporting the Tea Party?  Can you get more Normcore than Tea Party Senator Rand Paul?



No! No you cannot get more Normcore than Rand Paul.  Add to this the sudden realization that Millennials are bailing on Obama, just when he needs them most to sign up for Obamacare, and we shouldn’t be surprised to see legislation like the bill Elizabeth Warren introduced this last week to lower student loan interest rates by taxing millionaires.

In theory, the millennials should love this, and she has been buttering them up too.  When the CBO released a report indicating that the federal government stands to make billions in profit on student loans over the next 10 years, she sent out this fiery statement:Democrats desperately need to pander to Millennials, and the Warren bill seems like a perfect fit.  Millennials have more student loan debt than any other generation in American history.  The Obama economy, has also been a hostile place for Millennials to find good jobs to start paying off their student loans.  In a classic move, right out of Occupy Wall Street, Warren enters the scene to offer to use the power of the state to confiscate wealth from millionaires and give it to the Millennials, so they can lower their interest rates and pay off their loans.

This is obscene. The government should not be making $66 billion in profits off the backs of our students. This report reinforces what we already knew — instead of investing in our children and their futures, the government is squeezing profits out of our young people and adding to the mountain of debt they will spend their lives struggling to repay.


Oh, that stupid evil government… Profiting off of our students… Wait a minute…  The government is the bad guy now?  I thought I was supposed to be vilifying the evil millionaires.  I am so confused.

While the government taking over and profiting from the student loan industry is a problem, these obscene profits have already been earmarked to pay for a really important government program that is designed to screw over really help Millenials: OBAMACARE!!!!!  This explains why Warren doesn’t just propose eliminating the government’s profits from this program, as obscene as they may be.

For some reason, Democrats, and Elizabeth Warren in particular, see no end in sight to Millennials’ unflagging support for their wealth redistribution schemes.  If you didn’t click on the link above to liberal reporter, Dana Millbank’s article, where he laments the fact that Millennials are bailing on Obama first and foremost because of Obamacare, you can read it here:


Elizabeth Warren and her supporters should click on it and read it too.  In fact, they should probably memorize this article.  Millennials launched Obama and his progressive vision of the government to the White House, not once but twice, and the signature achievement of his administration was a healthcare law that they would be asked to pay for, not once but twice: First when the government took over the student loan industry with plans to use the profits from this move to pay for Obamacare, and second when Obamacare was built on the assumption that young people would overpay for health insurance to subsidize those who are older, sicker, or simply more connected than them (I am looking at you K street regulatory consultants, crappy web developers in Canada, 1%er health care CEOs, etc.)

This young, starry-eyed, and hopelessly naive generation cut their teeth in American politics by electing a corrupt gang of Chicago thugs to the White House, and as a voting bloc they are learning how politicians reward mindless allegiance.  Just like organized labor, they are completely taken for granted, and when it comes time to divvy out the benefits, not only are they not in line, they are the ones who will foot the bill.  And now Elizabeth Warren thinks she can buy their votes by raiding the assets and income of a bunch of millionaires.

Warren’s messaging strategy for this endlessly recycled message (we all know liberals love recycling) is to ask this question: Do we invest in students or millionaires?  For the sake of disclosure, I will readily admit that I am not a millionaire.  It is entirely possible that I will never have an income of a million dollars a year.  So, it is also entirely unlikely that I will be directly affected by Warren’s proposal.  It is also entirely unlikely that this proposal will also affect any real millionaires without including a complete overhaul of the income tax evasion scheme that is generally referred to as the U.S. tax code.  In fact the only reason I even bother to defend this universally reviled group of wealth hoarders is because as soon as you decide to open up to the idea of government sponsored wealth distribution, you give legitimacy to the idea in general.  The next thing you know it you are caught holding the bag, and the bill for something like Obamacare all while thinking, “We’ll get you next time millionaires.  You just wait.”

At some point I think the millennials will catch on to the millionaire scapegoat charade.  Then, instead of asking unidentified millionaires to pay for their student loans, they might mobilize behind some better ideas.  Did you know that the Harvard Endowment is worth $32 billion dollars?  It also basically operates like a tax free hedge fund.  In fact, take a look at this list of the top University endowments in the U.S.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colleges_and_universities_in_the_United_States_by_endowment

Why are all these universities running multi-billion dollar, tax-exempt hedge funds while the current generation has racked up the most student loan debts in history?  Am I right, Elizabeth Warren?  I mean are we a country whose universities invest in students or do our universities invest in derivatives? Maybe instead of a blanket target of millionaires, we could eliminate the tax-exempt status for these hedge fund/endowments and the tax deductions for the millionaires and billionaires that donate to them.  The problem isn’t that millionaires aren’t investing in students.  The problem is that universities aren’t.

While it is painfully obvious that Warren’s proposal is blatantly pandering to the Millennials, I actually think that Senator Mike Lee’s Higher Education Reform Act is actually a better deal for them.  While more Millennials are on track to receive a college a college education than any other generation before them, a significant number of them will never attend college.  Senator Lee’s bill makes it so states can create alternate accreditation agencies to approve higher education programs.  This will make it so disruptive and innovative higher education programs can find their way to the market.  For an example of what the future would look like with Senator Lee’s proposal, think about this:

Hacker boot camps have sprung up across the world in recent years, offering crash courses in the art and science of computer programming. These schools are particularly prevalent in the San Francisco Bay Area, the heart of the tech world. And in a place where demand for coders just keeps going up, the schools are very popular […]

[…] With names like Dev Bootcamp, Hackbright, and Hack Reactor, these schools are a response to the growing demand for skilled programming across Silicon Valley and beyond. They offer short but intensive courses, usually lasting from nine to 12 weeks, with students often spending 12 to 16 hours a day on projects and course work.

They aren’t your traditional vocational schools. There are no grades, no degrees, and no diplomas. They’re usually staffed by professional coders, not licensed teachers. Many of the teachers are volunteers — even though the schools are usually private companies, not non-profit organizations. And many schools are backed by investments from big-name Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

This sounds pretty cool, huh?  I imagine you would end up with a lot less student loan debt from these 12 week boot camps.  I also bet you would have good paying job by the time you were done.  Hey, maybe you might even become a millionaire yourself instead of having to enlist opportunist politicians to raid millionaire’s bank accounts for you.  Unfortunately, hacker boot camps are too good to be true – for California at least:

Over the past month, California regulators sent cease and desist letters to many of these hacker boot camps, saying they run afoul of the state’s educational laws, as first reported by Venturebeat. “They’re not properly licensed, and the law requires them to be licensed to offer an educational service like they are,” says Russ Heimerich, a spokesperson for the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, or BPPE.

This is a pretty weak response by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.  Cease and desist letters?  They should consider garnishing the paychecks of all the newly minted coders for using their education and skills they received from unlicensed education providers to earn a living.  They could take this a step further and use the money that they garnish from their checks to help lower the student loan rates for those who got “real” educations from “licensed” and accredited institutions.

While Lee’s bill won’t fix California – we all know that is impossible – it would allow states like Utah to accredit things like hacker boot camps, and I suspect Utah might jump at the opportunity.  So on one hand we have a senator with a proposal to make higher education more accessible, affordable, and innovative, and on the other hand we have a senator who wants to keep the expensive, rigid, and exclusive system we have just as long as she can ensure that an arbitrary group that she has decided not to like has to foot the bill.  I am hopeful that at the end of the day, Millennials will be smart enough to choose reform over redistribution, even if this means giving the tea party a second look.

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