Something about Elizabeth Warren seems to bring out the dumbest in left-leaning commentators. A year or two ago it was some stupid GIF that people were posting on their Facebook with a stupid quote from her on it and her head tilted in that ‘concerned/caring’ manner and the quote was about as deep and as wide as saying ‘share the wealth mmkay?’. Was it a smart statement? Dumb statement? The truth is that it wasn’t even worth apprehending or wasting brain cells thinking about; it may as well have been your kid’s daycare worker telling him to share his Legos. You don’t reason with that or argue with that (or for that matter, agree with that), you just came to pick up your kid and get the heck home.
Who in the world made that GIF? And why? Who exactly read that quote from Elizabeth Warren and said ‘you know what? That quote’s so brilliant I’m going to make a GIF out of it”? How dumb does a mind have to have been to have been impressed by that quote? I dare not even speculate. I just ate.
Anyway, it worked, because the left swooned. Their brains shut down. And who can blame them? The background of the GIF was a nonthreatening gray. The woman, whoever she was, had a round soft haircut. Glasses bespoke intelligence. You felt like she was your college professor or perhaps more likely, some kind of administrator with vague responsibilities involving lots of Meetings. Hand in motion in front of her as if she was talking. Talking directly to them. Hey! I like ladies who talk with their hands! She must know what she’s talking about!
Culturally, that image was a knockout punch. That’s exactly who Smart People want running things. Round face round hair glasses-wearing pants-suit nonthreateningly-plain-looking white (but ‘diverse’!) daycare-center-coordinator type who vaguely wants to share the wealth. Say no more. You had them at ‘mmkay?’. It was the entire package. None of them knew the first thing about who this ‘Elizabeth Warren’ (also – a great name! she sounds like a serious person!) was but they all knew one thing, they wanted to make her be a Senator or whatever the heck it was she was running for, wherever the heck it was.
And so now she is, so we’re stuck paying attention to her. On the basis of the reasoning outlined above. That’s how our system works. That’s how Smart People make their decisions. GIFs on Facebook. They look at the GIF. And think ‘I don’t know anything about that person but she mouthed the right platitude and looks like the type of person I want to be in charge of everything’. Maybe she reminded SWPL-type White People of their (soccer) moms? Whatever the explanation, just remember the Warren-Facebook Phenomenon next time you’re tempted to think Smart People are actually smart.
Anyway, her latest utterance to have short-circuited the brains of and thereby captured the imagination of Smart People is some suggestion she apparently made to have the fedgov offer cheaper student loans. Last time we observed in this space that Noah Smith thought it was a good idea because student loans are riskless because he’s so smart he knows of the existence of portfolio theory, which no one else does, and only idiot non-economists like Megan McArdle don’t realize that portfolio theory makes all things riskless or something (I’m paraphrasing). And now (of course) Matthew Yglesias is here to chime in that even though it’s a gimmick it’s still a great idea.
If the problem with lowering the student loan rate to the discount window rate is that it’s too fiscally costly, then making it a one-year measure is the solution.
Logic: If making it a one-year measure is ‘the solution’ then wouldn’t it stand to reason that making it a zero-year measure is an even better solution? If the problem with eating two piles of shit is that it tastes bad, is ‘the solution’ to eat only one pile of shit?
But in the short term with unemployment more than 7 percent and the inflation rate running well below the Federal Reserve’s self-imposed 2.5 percent threshold, there’s nothing wrong with having the federal government lose money.
Got that? There’s ‘nothing wrong with’ having the federal government lose money. A nice little reminder that these are exactly the type of people we want to be in charge of everything. Smart People. To lose your money in Smart ways.
Seriously, how dumb is this going to get? I am afraid. Senators have 6-year terms; that’s a long time for the entire lefty commentariat to get continually, monotonically dumber.
Anyway, perhaps I missed it but when did we all decide that we need to send even more fricking people to college, to come out with a degree and nowhere to use it (and debt, albeit low interest debt – it’s still debt)? And, is college tuition somehow too low after decades of inflating tuition rates with easy-money student-loans that we want to inflate tuition even more by spraying even more (now, lower-interest!) federal money at all the universities’ loan offices? And of course when tuition climbs in response to sap up/rent-seek at this newly-Warren-inflated federal student-loan trough, and you give all these kids this debt, how exactly are you doing them a favor by charging them X% lower ‘interest’ if their (non-BK-dischargeable!) principal is actually 2X% higher? Or, where is the actual analysis that convinced all these Smart People that this isn’t what would happen?
Or do Smart People not even get that far in their reasoning? As happens all too often the reasoning indeed seems to be utterly first-order, stopping entirely at Step One: ‘college degrees good, so give more loans to get college degrees = good’. But come on. Usually the reasoning is at least better than this. It really just seems to be the case that Elizabeth Warren – whoever the heck she is – makes people dumber. Especially Smart People.