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Reason Alert: Student Loans, Bias on Campus

January 19, 2007

Student Loan Sharks
In his nationally syndicated column, Reason's Jacob Sullum writes, "The Democrats' eagerness to cut interest rates on student loans reflects a time-honored Washington maxim: If it's good, it should be subsidized. In this case, as in most others, the truth is just the opposite: If it's good, there's no need to subsidize it. According to U.S. Census data, the average college graduate earns about $1 million more over his lifetime than the average high school graduate. That's a pretty good payoff for the investment in tuition, whether the money is borrowed at the rate promised by the Democrats (3.4 percent), at the current government-subsidized rate (6.8 percent), or even at the market rate (now ranging between 7 percent and 11 percent). Advocates of increased aid worry that the average college student carries a debt of almost $18,000 when he graduates. But owing the cost of a Hyundai Sonata for a loan that yields an extra $20,000 or so in earnings every year does not seem like a bad deal. It's certainly a better investment than the Hyundai." Sullum's full column is here.

New Campus Dissidents
Writing in today's The Wall Street Journal, Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward details ongoing efforts "to create scholarly centers on campuses around the country: These centers would be devoted to the great books of Western civilization and the study of the American Founding, and they would be conducted in a rigorous, pre-1960s classroom style...As worthy as such projects sound, setting up an quasi-independent institute devoted to the study of Western civilization can easily run afoul of university rules and regulations, not to mention university ideology." Mangu-Ward's column explains why some of these programs "are meeting resistance from the faculty and administration, some of whom worry about the supposed conservative political agenda of such programs" and how others are successfully navigating campus biases.

Did Bush Inadvertently Start a Stem Cell Revolution?
This week the House passed a bill to loosen federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. President Bush has promised to veto the bill. But Reason's Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey says that Bush's anti-stem cell stance may have actually spurred more research: "When Bush first restricted federal funding to embryonic stem lines derived before his nationally televised speech on the subject in 2001, researchers feared that such limits would send a signal that would strongly 'chill' research in the field...Instead, the research restrictions—real and proposed—provoked a strong pushback by researchers and eventually the public. States began big time funding of embryonic stem cell research, e.g., $3 billion in California and $270 million in New Jersey. And the floodgates of private funding opened, showering hundreds of millions on stem cell researchers. It is highly probable that far more embryos have been used for stem cell research than would have been the case had President Bush not imposed his restrictions." Bailey's full column is here.

Bush's Truman Show
"George Bush's Oval Office speech suggested it. And his 60 Minutes performance cinched it: The increased deployment of American troops to Iraq is principally about showing the world that George Bush is still in charge. Congress may have changed hands, but Bush has not changed his mind...And if critics see Bush bunkering down LBJ style circa 1968 or Richard Nixon taking a war next door via executive order, it is clear the Bush team draws inspiration not from the messy narrative of the Vietnam war, but from the righteously linear conflict in Korea. The bad guys attacked, the U.S. and its allies responded, had some initial success, then some setbacks, even some command troubles, but stayed the course and rallied for, if not victory, at least a respectable draw." - In his latest column, Reason's Jeff Taylor looks at the surge strategy and Somalia and finds President Bush looking like Harry Truman.

How to Untangle Gridlock
In an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, Reason's Ted Balaker and Sam Staley write, "Los Angeles should draw inspiration from other cities of the world and embrace the solutions that will allow us to escape our fatalistic view of congestion." Balaker and Staley detail how other countries are utilizing state-of-the-art road designs and the private sector to reduce gridlock: "That strikes many as unthinkable; everyone knows that greedy private companies wouldn't work together for the good of the whole system. Yet they've done just that in Santiago, Chile. Four private companies have just completed an integrated, 97-mile network of toll-financed roads. Tolls are collected electronically, and motorists need only sign up with one company to gain access to any and all of the tollways." The full column is here.

In a column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Reason's Geoffrey Segal says the possible lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is "part of a larger trend beginning to sweep across the nation, as global capital markets discover the potential of investing in highways and governments discover a new revenue source that can finance neglected transportation needs."

Schwarzenegger Might Turn the Uninsured Into Tax Criminals
In a column in today's Los Angeles Daily News, Reason's Shikha Dalmia writes, "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to reform the Golden State's health care system and offer universal coverage resembles his early movies: It is audacious, ambitious - and rather awful. The plan's biggest flaw is that instead of putting affordable health coverage within the grasp of the working poor, it penalizes them. Instead of rushing ahead, California ought to wait until July, when the preliminary results come out from an almost identical experiment in universal health coverage in Massachusetts. The centerpiece of both the Schwarzenegger and Massachusetts plans is a mandate requiring everyone in the state to purchase health coverage. But California mandates auto insurance for similar reasons, and 25 percent of the state's drivers still don't carry it. To prevent people from likewise skipping health insurance, Schwarzenegger proposes a set of subsidies backed by draconian enforcement methods that could turn the uninsured into tax criminals." Dalmia's full column is here.
Ronald Bailey: Arnold Care Is Better Than Kennedy's Plan, But Far From Ideal

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