Biden’s higher ed bullseye

7 02 2012

Joe Biden is sort of like the Ark of the Covenant in an Indiana Jones flick: on those rare occasions when he makes a public appearance, havoc–or at least hilarity–is virtually guaranteed. It’s no wonder the Obama Administration keeps him locked away in a giant warehouse somewhere below the Capital.

Guys? I'm pretty sure Cheney's "undisclosed location" at least had a hot tub. Guys? Anybody?

Still, when he does escape for long enough to give a speech (and he isn’t insulting other cultures or giving Bush’s butchered diction a run for its money) Biden sometimes manages to say something interesting or relevant.

Take his address to Florida State University earlier this week. When grilled about the impact of government intervention in the market for higher education, Biden gave a surprisingly spot-on answer:

“Government subsidies have impacted upon (sic) rising tuition costs, and it’s a conundrum.”

That might seem like common sense to you and I, but it’s not exactly in line with the liberal orthodoxy. Way to speak truth to power, Joe.

Of course, Biden subsequently warned against the application of free-market principles to higher education, arguing that the elimination of Pell grants and Perkins loans would result in fewer opportunities for potential students.

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the possibility that removing subsidies for higher education might spur real competition and lead to lower tuition costs for all in the long run.

Why should we trust that the feds are capable of solving the challenge of higher education affordability through a combination of grants, loans, and subsidies when even Biden readily admits that previous meddling has contributed directly to skyrocketing tuition rates? Big government doesn’t perform so well when it attempts to defy market forces–and the Obama Administration in particular has a pretty poor track record of picking winners and losers.

Perhaps we can ask Ol’ Joe a followup question or two next time he surfaces.

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