Curt Schilling says that he intends to run for U.S. Senate in 2018, because he is so dismayed with Elizabeth Warren. Putting aside his controversial statements and entrepreneurial failure, the hurler wants us to view him as a person who understands public policy and can present his opinions as a legitimate contrast to Warren’s. So, is that the case, or is he an ignorant, puffed-ego imbecile who fancies himself a Suuuper-Genius?
Spoiler alert: it’s the latter.
After first declaring his interest in running back in August, which triggered a public poll of his chances in September, Schilling decided to demonstrate his policy chops on his blog:
Apparently someone decided to run a poll covering a hypothetical race between Senator Warren and I. I got 29%, which is a lot more than I expected considering I’ve never stated a public position on legislation except to state my opinions as a Christian, Conservative, Constitutionalist and American.
I’ll play along.
Elizabeth Warren wants free education at public universities in the United States.
In Massachusetts alone there are 29 public colleges and 191k students (numbers from ’14 and ’15 or last census data).
Remember as we go through this, every single dollar mentioned in this argument is a NEW TAX DOLLAR that does not exist today.
The average in state tuition (using a national average) we will put at $23,000.
So in 2017 this state alone needs to come up with 4.393 BILLION dollars for free college PER YEAR.
Better yet, 17,572 BILLION every 4 years for a college student. That’s 17.572 BILLION tax dollars we currently DO NOT PAY. Now that’s if the state alone could afford it, which is the ONLY way I’d be for something like this.
Nationally? Because that is what her and her colleagues want.
Research states that by 2018 there will be 15.6 million students enrolled at the 1700 or so 2-4 year public colleges.
That amounts to 358 BILLION dollars annually, in taxes that DO NOT CURRENTLY EXIST….
It goes on a bit, but that’s the basic argument: A) Elizabeth Warren advocates for free public university education for everybody; B) the math on that suggests a $358 billion price tag above what state and federal governments currently spend (“every single dollar mentioned in this argument is a NEW TAX DOLLAR”).
I don’t think it’s unfair to judge Schilling on this; it isn’t some offhand comment from his past, or gotcha question on a topic he was unprepared for. He chose this playing field, to present as his first substantive policy critique as a self-announced political figure.
So, in formulating this argument, did he consult subject-matter experts? Review Warren’s proposals? Read analyses of her bills? Maybe at least listen to a podcast?
Or did he sit in a basement and figure it all out with his own Suuuper-Genius brain?
Well, starting with part A of his argument, we find that… well, we find that his entire critique collapses into a fetid dungheap, because Senator Warren has never proposed or advocated free education at public universities.
Warren has been a leading proponent of plans for debt-free higher education — specifically, that every student should have at least one available option for getting a college education without accumulating personal debt to pay for it. That, as any reasonably sentient being can understand, is quite different from a plan to have all public college offered free of tuition.
Warren’s actual position on this topic is not difficult to ascertain. She has introduced legislation for it, she speaks publicly on it quite often, and it’s been much noted that her position is a sharp break from that of Bernie Sanders, who does call for free public college.
Warren has also taken lots of other very public, quite controversial, and easy-to-criticize positions on a variety of issues. So, it’s really quite remarkable that as Schilling, a self-professed great critic of hers, sat down to select a first position to criticize as a prospective opponent, he chose one that doesn’t exist.
So basically, Curt Schilling is the political equivalent of the dunderhead Sawx fan who calls into talk radio insisting that Curt Schilling’s problem is that he throws so many knuckleballs.
Part B of the argument is thus pretty much moot, but on the off-chance that Warren outs herself as a closet free-public-college advocate, let’s see if the Suuuper-Genius checked his math with anybody.
Unfortunately, he did not. Average in-state tuition for public college is not around $23,000 a year; it’s around $9,400 a year. There is not a single public college in the country, in fact, that charges as much as what Schilling claims is the national average. He may have accidentally used a recent figure for out-of-state tuition; or, he may have used a recent figure for average total cost (including room, board, supplies, transportation, and so forth) at four-year public colleges. Who knows?
Even had he snared the correct number, that would still be the wrong figure to use. Much of that $9,400 is already paid for by various types of grants; the relevant figure is estimated average net tuition. That has risen sharply in recent years, and is now just under $4,000 for in-state four-year public college. (Notably, Warren concentrates much of her policy work in this area on driving this figure down, but that’s another conversation.) For two-year public colleges, the estimated average net tuition is effectively zero, a result of aid being determined by total cost.
Schilling, tapping away at Google, did come up with a legitimate estimate for the number of public college students in 2018. However, in doing the math it’s important to break down the four-year from the two-year institutions; and to separate out the out-of-state students, who Schilling seems to imply would not be eligible for Warren’s non-existent “free tuition” plan.
Anyway, just doing the straightforward math as Schilling does, but with correct numbers, you get a cost of somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion nationally, or about one-ninth of what he came up with.
Or, you could look at actual data, which says that public colleges collect roughly $70 billion in tuition and fees, including from out-of-state students.
Or, you could look at Sanders’s proposal, which estimates a $75 billion annual price tag. And, you could look at analyses of that plan for discussions of that figure, including cost effects from changed behavior due to the policy change.
Or, of course, you can sit alone with your great big Suuuper-Genius brain and figure it out for yourself.