You may have seen that the President proposes to make community college free.  Estimated annual cost: $6 billion, about 1% of our military budget; double what Procter & Gamble spends on advertising.

Satirist Andy Borowitz:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—President Obama’s plan to offer Americans two years of college for free has come under fire from congressional Republicans, who are calling it a blatant plot to make Americans smarter.  The G.O.P., which has benefited from the support of so-called “low-information voters” in recent years, accused Obama of cynically trying to make people smarter as a way of chipping away at the Republican base.  “You take low-information voters and give them information, and pretty soon they’re Democrats,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. . . .

What the program would actually cost is disputed.  And just how much capacity the nation’s thousand-plus community colleges have to enroll millions more students all of a sudden is not clear — presumably, as with most things, it would ramp up over time.  But if Tennessee can do it, maybe there’s something to this.  And my pal Zac Bissonnette, author of Debt-Free U (whose forthcoming Beanie Babies book is already drawing raves), tells me, “Community college is actually already free or close to free for a ton of students — just through a dumb labyrinth of programs like refundable tax credits, Pell Grants, work study, etc.”  Making it entirely free, he figures, would cost a lot less than Republicans fear — but eliminate a load of paperwork.

And then, of course, there’s the all-but-impossible-to-estimate but presumably real revenue the proposal would generate for decades, if you buy the notion that a better educated work force will be more productive.  More productive workers earn more (and so pay more tax) or else make more profits for their employers (who then pay more tax).  Either way, that’s more revenue.  Plus: more pay and profits stimulate demand, which stimulates the economy, which generates more pay and profits and taxes . . . and so on.  The better-educated a nation’s workforce, the better it should be able to compete globally.

So really, whatever the program cost would not be spending, it would be investing.

Democrats believe in investing in the future, which is why the economy and stock market do so much better under their administrations.  (Invested in the S&P 500 only during Republican administrations since 1929, and excluding dividends, $10,000 would have grown to only about $12,000 . . . versus about $600,000 if invested only during Democratic administrations.  Here’s a different but similarly compelling representation of the contrast.)

And, yes, as Andy Borowitz points out, a better educated populous might make for smarter voters — which brings me, at last, at what was to be the beginning of this morning’s column:

I have thousands of wonderful readers, only one of whom, to my knowledge — though a nice guy, and not stupid — is an idiot.

He emailed me last week:

Happy New Year.  Harry Reid is no longer able to block bills from getting a vote.  Unfortunately, this still leaves the biggest obstructionist in the way of any decent legislation … President Obama.  So we’ll have to suffer another two years before we can hopefully remove that blockage and start getting the country on the right path again.

I emailed him:

Which right path?  The path back toward higher gas prices?  Higher unemployment?  Higher deficits?  Higher health care inflation?  More war?  Fewer people with health care security?  Fewer consumer protections?  Lower home prices?  Lower mileage standards?  Lower stock prices?  Lower corporate profits?  Lower consumer confidence?  (The index is up from 37.7 when Obama took office to 92.6 now.)  Slower economic growth?

If I seemed a little aggressive, it’s because this guy — call him Steven — has been emailing me for years and is certain I’m the idiot.  My inability to get through to him has become a little frustrating.  And scary, if not outright tragic, because we even have millions of bright people believing things that are not true.  And then voting on the basis of their misconceptions.

Steven replied:

Do you really believe what you type?  Or is the smoke and mirrors game the Democrats pull on people really just so ingrained in your daily routine it comes without thinking?  Bottom line is that the agenda of the Democrat party is one that lowers the highs and deepens the lows of the business cycle.

[No:  Democrats believe in investing in the future, especially when the economy is weak.  President Clinton got the economy moving after Bush 41 handed him a slump; President Obama brought us back from the brink of the global Depression that was handed him by Bush 43.  Democrats believe in a stronger, not a weaker, safety net — things like extended unemployment benefits in bad economic times — and that, too, cushions economic downturns.]

Gas prices….They would quite possibly be lower today if we had the pipeline but we’ll never know for sure because the Democrats blocked it from the President on down.

[No:  The Keystone Pipeline would have minimal effect on the giant global oil market, and thus the world price of oil.  There is even the view that it would raise U.S. gasoline prices, “especially in the Midwest . . . because the oil that would be transported is not intended for American consumers. Rather, the Canadian oil currently sent to refineries in Illinois, Ohio and elsewhere in the Midwest would end up being diverted to Keystone, chiefly for export to markets overseas.”]

What we do know for sure is that despite the efforts to block new production of oil through drilling and the pipeline, the supply has finally come online in a way to push prices down.  It was going to happen eventually as shale production increased and other countries continue to pump out oil as well.  Couple this with a drop in demand and you get what we have.  NOTHING the President or the Democrats have done has contributed to this other than they slowed it down from happening.

[No:  On the demand side, the Obama administration has done things like double the fuel efficiency targets that had not increased in 20 years.  That’s only begun to take effect, but “Make no mistake about it,” says Popular Mechanics: “The new regulations are hugely important. They will save consumers boatloads of money they would’ve spent on gas, drastically reduce American’s fuel consumption and carbon footprint and change the way cars are made.”  And on the supply side, yes, things like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill that dumped 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf Of Mexico did lead to heightened scrutiny in permitting — but a lot of people think that we have a collective interest in taking environmental risks into account.  As a practical matter, the Administration has obviously allowed private industry loads of room to grow production: as you note, production has boomed.]

Unemployment….the real rate is so much higher than the reported rate.  So many have stopped looking OR have taken jobs at less pay.  Underemployment is quite high today.

[Perhaps.  But when Mitt Romney told us that if elected he would get unemployment down to 6% by the end of his first term, these were the same Labor Department metrics he was using.  So when the rate falls further — to 5.6% — and in half the time — isn’t that good?]

The overall number of people working today is fewer.

[No:  There were 147,442,000 employed persons in December 2014.  That’s 11.2 million more private sector jobs than in early 2010, when the current record 58-consecutive-month streak began.  Surely you can’t blame Bush’s 2008 job losses on Obama — he hadn’t even taken office; nor for the continuing job loses the first few months of 2009 before anything he did had time to take effect.  Look at the famous chart.  Imagine how it would look if the Republicans had succeeded in blocking the stimulus bill.  (It zero Republican votes in the House; just three in the Senate.)  This past year’s 2.9 million new jobs was the best since 1999 — under Bill Clinton.  Isn’t a major reason today’s employment picture isn’t even better still — which it needs to be! — that the Republicans block the American Jobs Act, which would put so many people to work revitalizing our infrastructure?  And that they’ve insisted on laying off so many teachers and other government employees?]

The number of families on food stamps has grown.  This has everything to do with the policies of the Democrat party which make it more expensive to expand and employ.  We are finally growing again but it won’t be at the rate we should have because of gov’t intrusion on business.  Thanks Obama.

[No: The need for food stamps skyrocketed because Bush’s policies threw the country into a near Depression, creating massive unemployment; Republicans refused to raise the minimum wage, making it impossible for working people to feed their children without food stamps; and Republicans refused to pass the aforementioned Jobs Act — or the immigration reform –that economists agree would have stimulated the economy.  But for all that, the food stamp tide turned in 2013 and should continue to fall.  If Democratic policies are so bad for job creation, why were 8 or 10 times as many jobs created under Clinton and Obama than under Bush and Bush?]

Health Care is another problem.  No matter the system, there will always be those that have and those that don’t.  What Obamacare has done now is to just move the numbers around.  Still the same number of people without insurance but now you have those that do have it paying more into the system.  Overall, it has hurt our nation more than helped at a greater cost and much of the pain is still to come.

[No: Everyone now has access to affordable care, except in states where Republican governors have rejected Medicaid expansion, and no one can be denied coverage if they have, or develop, a pre-existing condition.  The percentage of uninsured Americans has fallen from about 18% to about 13% after just the first enrollment period — with the second enrollment period now underway.  It does not hurt our nation to have health care inflation slow or to have healthier families.  But you’re right: numbers have been moved around.  On each extra $100 million you make in dividends or capital gains this year (above a $250,000 threshold), you’ll have to move around an extra $3.8 million in taxes to help make health care affordable for the least among us.  Democrats — including many wealthy ones — see that as equitable, moving some wealth from the best off to the common man . . . though still at a lower rate than they paid on dividends and capital gains when Ronald Reagan left office.  Republicans have tried 52 times to repeal that redistribution — and, separately, would like to lower the estate tax on billionheirs to zero — because, they mistakenly believe concentrated wealth is a good thing.  (They didn’t used to believe that.  See Eisenhower’s thoughts on this, from Friday.)]

I only laughed at the rest of your assertions.  They are just silly.  All but the stock market and corporate profits.  I think you and I can agree here.  Obama’s policies have been so intrusive on businesses, they have figured out how to increase productivity with fewer people which of course lowers costs and increases profits.  This is certainly something Obama can take credit for!  So he’s good for your money and mine but at the expense of the public which is why so many people now are not earning what they used to or are sitting in the unemployment line.  Well done sir.

Misinformation is a dangerous thing.  If people are told often enough that the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change is a conspiracy — by, for example, the new Republican Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future — some are going to believe it.  If people are told often enough the President is not a citizen or that Iraq had a hand in attacking us on 9/11 or that (based on intelligence from a guy code-named Curveball whom U.S. intelligence never even interviewed) invading Iraq was absolutely necessary — some are going to believe it.  If people are told often enough that America is the great Satan or that they will be met by 72 virgins if they kill innocent people or that they are the Master Race or that masturbation causes blindness or that Obamacare is bad — but that kynect, which is Obamacare, is good — or that election day is Wednesday — some are going to believe it.

And when Mitch McConnell — who set as his first priority preventing Obama’s reelection — tells people, in prepared, considered remarks that, “By any standard, Barack Obama has been a disaster for our country”– some people, like Steven, are going to believe it.

For all his obvious intelligence and good intentions, which I truly don’t question, Steven — for now, at least — is an idiot.



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