Discover more from The Bulwark
‘Never Again’ Happens Again (And Again)
Plus: Biden’s student loan fiasco.
Now that the Heard-Depp verdict is in, the “celebrity-industrial complex” will have to find something else to obsess about.
Meanwhile, in Tulsa, we had yet another shooting, which of course means that, in addition to up-armoring schools, we will now have a debate about how to make fortresses out of hospitals, churches, Wal-Marts, nightclubs, country music festivals, community centers, movie theaters, grocery stores, synagogues, and bars.
We will be told that we need more locked doors, higher walls, more barbed wire, armored backpacks, and metal detectors because, apparently, that is what American Greatness looks like.
And more guns in the hands of good guys (with the possible exception of the Uvalde police), right?
The new hotness on the right is the suggestion that middle school art teachers strap on some heat. But if the answer to mass murder is arming teachers, why think so narrowly?
Why not also nurses? Doctors? Why not give body armor to anesthesiologists, interns, and candy-stripers?
Because gun rights activists tell us that it is unreasonable to limit the access of demented teenagers to weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t we arm bartenders and box-store greeters with Glocks? Or, perhaps, AR-15s for rabbis and waitresses?
What, after all, is more manly and American than turning the country into Sparta 2022?
As Mona Charen notes in today’s Bulwark, the Onion’s headline is evergreen: “‘No Way to Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Occurs.”
Happy Thursday, and welcome to an especially cranky edition of Morning Shots.
The Student Loan Fiasco
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is about to step on an ideological rake.
White House officials are currently planning to cancel $10,000 in student debt per borrower, after months of internal deliberations over how to structure loan forgiveness for tens of millions of Americans, three people with knowledge of the matter said.
The White House’s latest plans called for limiting debt forgiveness to Americans who earned less than $150,000 in the previous year, or less than $300,000 for married couples filing jointly, two of the people said.
ICYMI, the Wapo’s James Hohmann and I wound each other up on the subject in yesterday’s podcast.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Here’s how it went:
James Hohmann: You just think about ... these people who've taken on student loans to become doctors and lawyers and get their MBAs — and their income trajectory. And all of a sudden, they're getting ... basically handouts from the government while a truck driver is ... working 50 hours a week, and they're not getting anything. I want a break on my mortgage...
Charlie Sykes: You want to focus on a certain kind of debt? How about people who ran up medical bills during the pandemic? But no.
James Hohmann: I think we're going through this once-in-a-generation realignment, we're ... seeing the tail end of the biggest political realignment since 1980, and Democrats ... they're becoming the party of the affluent, and they're becoming the party of the college-educated.
Charlie Sykes: And the entitled.
James Hohmann: And the entitled, and the woke — and that does not make a governing coalition. So, as we face this threat to democracy, you have one party that is just marginalizing itself, and becoming more and more dependent on voters on the coasts. And ... I just think about the town I grew up in, in Minnesota — Apple Valley — and just the people who probably voted for Joe Biden, maybe voted for Trump in '16, Biden in '20, who will just be so upset about this.
Charlie Sykes: How did they not get this? James, I'm sorry... How do they not get this? You look at the states — like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio — what percentage of the population has college degrees? And yet you are asking all of those people who are experiencing high anxiety to pay for this transfer of wealth…. And then I'm sorry, I know that Twitter is not real life ... but all of these folks saying, 'This is a betrayal. Only $10,000? I have $50,000 in college debt. If the Democrats are only going to forgive $10,000, well, then I'm not going to vote for them.' Suck it, Buttercup.
I mean, seriously, where does Joe Biden think this groundswell is going to come from, except for this small group of highly-entitled college graduates who dominate the staffing and the inner workings of the Democratic party?
James Hohmann: I've asked, I've repeatedly asked people. And I've asked a lot of people in the White House this question, and essentially the answer is that this is the fault of Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock.
Charlie Sykes: What?
James Hohmann: Stacey Abrams has been browbeating the White House on this, and says that this is the only way she could win — that this is going to be a base turnout election. This isn't about persuading people in the middle, it's about getting the base to turn out. And the base isn't going to turn out if they don't do this, and that they have all sorts of stats about how a lot of graduates from HBCUs have all this debt. And so there are a lot of people very close to the president who privately understand that this is a complete disaster for them. But the president is being pulled really hard by these woke leftists who ... believe it's all about the base. They just don't get it because they haven't spent time in the WOW counties or in Apple Valley, Minnesota.
You want some receipts?
Here’s Catherine Rampell on the non-progressiveness of this particular wealth transfer:
Such a policy [of loan forgiveness] would, perhaps counterintuitively, give the biggest benefits to those with high incomes. That’s partly because lower-income people are less likely to have gone to college. Additionally, many borrowers with the largest loan balances attended graduate and professional programs (medical, business and law school) that lead to higher earnings.
A recent study from economists Sylvain Catherine and Constantine Yannelis found that student-loan forgiveness of up to $50,000 for every borrower would work out to an average of $700 for people in the bottom income decile and nearly $5,000 for those in the top decile.
Supporters suggest that the loan forgiveness will jazz up its base, especially young voters. But the actual polls have some warning signs:
In a March poll of Americans ages 18-29, conducted by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, 38% of young adults said that the government should cancel student loan debt for everyone, 21% that debt should be canceled "only for those most in need," 27% that the government should not cancel debts but instead help with repayment options, and 13% that there should be no change in government policy on the issue…
[A] March 2021 poll from Grinnell College that asked Americans to pick between three policies, just 27% chose forgiving student loans for anyone with student debt, while 39% favored forgiving student loans "only for those in need" and 29% said such loans shouldn't be forgiven at all.
Plus, there are real questions about the legality of the move (so don’t be surprised if the courts nix the whole thing.)
Exit take: The proposed loan forgiveness doesn’t address the elephant in the room: the escalating cost of tuition for degrees of questionable value. (I wrote a whole book about this.) Until we wrestle with the question of cost, the problem of affordability is simply going to get worse.
Thoughts on the Michael Sussmann Verdict
I have spent an inordinate amount of time with the Michael Sussmann case over the last few weeks. I watched a fair bit of it in person. And I read the rest of the case in the thousands of pages of trial transcripts.
The experience of the trial left me with three main impressions: First, that the case against Sussmann was not just weak but was frankly beneath the standards of reasonable federal prosecution; second, that the case was only glancingly about Sussmann and his supposed lie at all; rather, third, the case was fundamentally about displacing the conventional worldview associated with the Trump scandals and establishing the respectability of the insurgent Trumpist counter-narrative. In that effort, as with the effort to convict Sussmann, Durham has failed.
1. What Makes a Republican a “RINO”?
Trump may well succeed in purging Cheney and other Reagan Republicans from his party. In 2020, he scrapped the drafting of a platform entirely. He could do so again in 2024. Through purges, capitulations, and retirements, he might complete the transformation of the GOP into a party that worships dictators, ignores Russian aggression, tramples the Constitution, scorns the rule of law, and substitutes presidential favoritism for free markets.
That party might manage to gain and hold power for many years. It might even do so by winning elections. But it wouldn’t resemble the “Republican” party any of us have known.
2. The New MAGA Establishment
[There] is no Trump “fever” that is going to break, because Trumpism is now not a fever. It is an entrenched, all-encompassing fact of Republican and conservative life; one that is likely to be with us for quite a while. Trump may personally fade, but Trumpism is here to stay, for the foreseeable future.
Which means that authoritarianism—with inflections, or at least overtones, of fascism—will be here for a while, too. With an infrastructure, with a popular base, and with elite enablers. In other words: With its own establishment.
3. Retire These Gun Myths
Of those 22 cases, there were just three that did not involve a legal sale to the killer: The Midland, Texas shooter purchased his rifle through a private sale before killing 7 strangers; the Santa Fe shooter, who killed 10 at his high school, used guns legally owned by his father; and the shooter who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut used guns bought by his mother.
Perhaps all of these killers would have been able to lay hands on guns already owned by individuals. Maybe. But it would have been much harder than walking into a gun store. In most cases, these killers are mentally unstable, impulsive, and socially maladroit. Purchasing a weapon via private sale would be more challenging.
So making it more difficult to purchase guns—say, by adding more complete background checks, increasing the minimum age to 21, requiring waiting periods, or adopting “red flag laws” that make it possible for family members or police to ask courts to have a person’s guns temporarily removed—would have inhibited the vast majority of the killers listed above.