Judd Gregg (R-NH) hopes on the ignorant Francophobia bandwagon rather than dealing with the administration’s budget proposals on their merits:
The president’s budget also proposes to set us on a path to nationalize the health-care system at a huge cost, and, for good measure, it throws in nationalizing the ability of people to borrow to send their kids to college. It suggests that the best way to address climate change is to create a new national sales tax on everyone’s electric bills. And, at a time when millions of Americans are struggling to find jobs, it proposes taxing small businesses, our nation’s engine of job growth, at rate that could be seen as confiscatory.
In other words, the president’s proposal is a massive and breathtaking document, and it should not be called a budget. Rather, it should be called a blueprint for the France-ification of America, a notebook for nationalization, or a memo for massive debt creation. But a budget, by any sense of the word, it is not.
I’ve dealt with France comparisons in general elsewhere. On the specifics of student loans it should of course be noted that this isn’t really a policy concern in France since instead the universities receive more generous direct funding from the state and charge dramatically lower fees. And of course this is the typical system throughout the world, and hardly a unique aspect of the French social model. More broadly, Gregg’s being coy about his own policy preferences. Obama wants to have the government spend a certain amount of money doing direct loans to students. Gregg, by contrast, wants to preserve the status quo in which the same total amount of lending takes place, but the government spends more money because the government is spending it on subsidies to private lenders. I think it would be fine to have an honest debate between proponents of a truly free market approach to student loans, which would save the taxpayers money at the cost of worse-educated and more class-bound society, and between proponents of direct lending. It would even be fine to have an honest debate between proponents of direct lending and proponents of Gregg-style crony capitalism, in which costly subsidies are doled out to favored firms. But Gregg is trying to claim the mantle of the free market while also raking in the support from business that comes from a substantive position in favor of crony capitalism. It’s nonsense.
On the rest:
— What Obama thinks is that since carbon emissions are causing climate change, the best way to curb climate change is to charge the emitters for their emissions and use the funds to cut taxes on working- and middle-class people and on subsidies for clean energy. Does Gregg have a better idea?
— There’s no plan to “nationalize the health-care system at a huge cost” in Obama’s budget. There’s a plan to spend more money in the short-run on creating a more integrated, universally affordable system in which nobody will be forced out of private sector provision of either care or insurance, in order to better control costs in the long-run.
— Gregg is not enough of a liar to actually call Obama’s tax plans “confiscatory.” But he’s way too much of a liar to describe them honestly. There’s a plan to tax the richest Americans, including those very rich Americans who are very rich because of their small business income, but not including the overwhelming majority of small businessmen who aren’t rich, at the levels they were taxed at before George W. Bush came into office.
Long story short, he could have been a heck of a Commerce Secretary.