Why Kids Are Socialists and How to Start Fixing It

You may be happy with the state of the U.S. economy, but many young people aren't. And as a result, a lot of them are embracing political extremism.

You may be happy with the state of the U.S. economy, but many young people aren’t. And as a result, a lot of them are embracing political extremism.

A recent poll by YouGov finds that half of all millennials — and even more of the generation that follows them — distrust capitalism. Seventy percent of millennials say they’d be willing to vote for a socialist. If you’re not shocked by this, it’s only because you’ve seen it before. But it ought to scare you.

It’s taken us almost 250 years to build this country, and we could wreck it in a single generation. At this rate, we will. In order to prevent the looming disaster, we need to be clear on what has gone wrong.

You often hear it said that young people support socialism because they’ve been brainwashed by their professors. There’s some truth to that, of course, but it’s not the main problem. The main problem — the reason capitalism is increasingly discredited and socialism increasingly popular — is that for too many young people, our current system isn’t working.

“Go to college,” we tell them. “You’ll be successful if you do.” But too often, that advice is outdated, if not an utter lie. Many of our kids wind up impoverished by the experience, their dreams thwarted forever.

The reason is debt. Forty-five million Americans now labor under student loans. The average debt burden is $37,000. For professional degrees, it’s far more. The average law school grad carries more than $110,000 in student loan debt. For new doctors, the burden is nearly $200,000. Overall, 2 million Americans owe more than $100,000 each in student loans. Imagine starting your first job with that hanging over you.

Keep in mind, college debt isn’t like ordinary debt. Thanks to a well-funded lobbying campaign, student loans can’t be erased by bankruptcy. They last forever. Many of today’s college freshmen can expect to spend their working lives paying interest on loans that, in the end, didn’t help them at all.

No wonder young people aren’t getting married, buying homes or having children. They can’t afford to. No wonder so many support Bernie Sanders. If this is capitalism, they don’t want any part of it.

The irony, of course, is that the only people benefitting from this system are on the far left: college presidents with multimillion-dollar salaries, highly paid university administrators and tenured professors of non-binary feminist poetry and other perverse and pointless academic “disciplines.”

As a group, these are, without question, some of the least impressive people in our country. Yet they’re the only ones coming out ahead in the deal. They’re feasting on our children’s debt and on the generous subsidies taxpayers provide for higher education in America. An entire generation of Americans is enslaved to interest payments so that some left-wing academics can have lifetime employment making our country worse. That’s the arrangement. And for the rest of us, socialism. That’s what we’re going to get out of it.

There’s got to be a better way. Some on the left have proposed forgiving student debt entirely, which is to say sticking American taxpayers with the bill. If there’s one thing that could make this terrible situation worse, it’s that.

Taxpayers didn’t cause this problem. They shouldn’t be punished any more than they already have been. The corrupt higher education establishment concocted this scam. They spend tons of money lobbying in Washington to keep it going. They should now pay to fix it. Harvard’s endowment is $40 billion. Yale’s is $30 billion. Let’s start there.

These massive endowment funds are built tax-free, meaning they’re subsidized by average American taxpayers. To make matters worse, the universities often aren’t even using these endowments to help their students. They keep building larger and larger endowments, essentially for bragging rights. Most tax-free foundations are required to pay out 5% of their total funds each year for charitable activities. That’s how they justify the tax-free treatment.

And who’s exempt from this? Universities. They just grow the money with no requirement that they ever help a single student.

How can anyone justify this? How does this make sense? Congress could easily pass a law to make universities pay down 5% of their endowments per year like every other nonprofit foundation is required to. Who would be against that? Only the higher education lobbyists who spend millions every year protecting this insane system.

We need to move the crushing financial burden of student debt off the shoulders of middle-class families and 22-year-olds and back onto the people who’ve gotten rich from it. That’s an idea every sensible person can support. And there’s a political payoff for any politician wise enough to adopt it.

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