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To Win Over Millennials, Conservatives Must Fight Income Inequality

As Democratic hopefuls like Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris announce their candidacies for president, prediction site FiveThirtyEight recently listed Millennials [1] as one of the five key constituencies a successful Democratic candidate must court in order to win the nomination.

Millennials’ importance in the presidential primary reflects the fact that young people have become a core Democratic constituency over the past few years. In the 2018 midterm elections, 18-to-29-year-olds rose [2] as a share of the electorate. These voters supported House Democrats by a 35-point margin—the largest [3] among that demographic in several decades. Furthermore, high youth turnout swung [4] close Senate races in Montana and Nevada.

So it’s clear that as Millennials get older and vote at higher rates, they’ll become more of a problem for the Republican Party. The GOP needs to do something to win them over.

So what do young voters want? Conservatives might prefer to dismiss those who largely favored [5] income inequality crusader Bernie Sanders. Instead, they should appeal to them by addressing their concerns over rising economic disparities. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is particularly popular [6] among Millennials, said [7] that her successful campaign was all about “health care, education, housing, and justice.” The GOP needs to come up with its own solutions to those problems, rather than just shooting down the socialists’ proposals.

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That doesn’t mean abandoning free markets: if anything, it means unleashing them to solve everyday issues.

For instance, Millennials largely prefer living in cities [8], yet skyrocketing [9] housing prices have made that financially difficult. This has driven economic inequality [10], as increasing home values benefit well-off homeowners at the expense of low-income people, who spend larger shares of their income on rent. The blame for this lies at the feet of the same progressive politicians young people often support.

Republicans could solve this crisis—and appeal to Millennials—by attacking the root of the problem: onerous local zoning restrictions [11], imposed by predominantly progressive [12] governments. Unnecessary regulations [13] limiting building heights and land use drastically limit the supply of housing by preventing new construction. When an ever-increasing number of people want to purchase a limited amount of housing in the city, prices are inevitably sent soaring. Current homeowners back [14] these regulations primarily to increase their own home values. In the end, Millennials lose out, paying higher rents and struggling to purchase their own homes.

The GOP should start fielding pro-zoning reform candidates in local elections, because right now, it often doesn’t even attempt to compete [15] in cities. But conservatives can also advance meaningful zoning reform from within the federal government. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson has a smart proposal [16] to reform existing [17], inefficient [18] federal grants by tying them to upzoning—basically requiring cities to allow new housing before receiving federal dollars. This idea has bipartisan support, as Senator Elizabeth Warren included a similar provision [19] in her own housing bill. If conservatives were to make these solutions a part of the Republican brand, Millennials might take a second look at the GOP.

Younger generations are also concerned with the cost of college. The GOP should campaign on a fiscally conservative approach to cutting higher education costs. College tuition has risen [20] almost 200 percent [20] over the past two decades, and the federal loan subsidies Democrats favor have been largely ineffective [21], further inflating prices rather than benefitting disadvantaged students. The failure of government action offers an opportunity for conservatives to step in.

Purdue University under the leadership of Mitch Daniels [22] is an example Republicans should champion. Since becoming university president six years ago, the former Republican governor has frozen tuition rates and the student body’s total loan debt has fallen by 30 percent [23]. Daniels has shown how to make higher education more affordable: streamlining [24] the college experience by offering a path to graduate in three years, reducing administrative spending, and expanding technical education.

Young people trust [25] Democrats over Republicans by 32 points when it comes to health care, so conservatives must espouse a positive message on this subject, too. When it comes to health care solutions, the GOP needs to do more than attack [26] single-payer and fail to repeal Obamacare. Curbing the high cost of health care is key [27] to reducing income inequality and increasing wages. Rising health care costs have canceled out the real value of wage increases and disproportionately impacted middle- and lower-income workers.

Conservatives can appeal to young people by advocating for incremental reforms to make health care more affordable. There are numerous options on the table, but there is one in particular that should be at the top of the GOP’s agenda: increasing price transparency.

As many scholars have noted [28], American health care is not a free market system, but a complex array of government programs, private insurance companies, regulations, and tax benefits. Free markets rely on easily available prices, but right now large hospitals and insurance companies often obscure [29] procedure pricing, leading to dramatic variation [30] in price for the same procedure with the same quality. Increased price transparency has been effective when applied: areas [31] of health care in which patients can access this information have become much cheaper and better over the past few decades.

By focusing on issues like lowering the costs of health care, housing, and education, the conservative movement can guarantee itself a future. The GOP has a real shot at winning over Millennials; instead they’ve largely chalked them up as a lost cause. This is a mistake: the next generation, like everyone else, is just looking for practical ways to fix the problems they face in everyday life. Conservative solutions can help make their lives better and can offer the GOP a lifeline with the next generation of voters.

Alex Muresianu is a writer for Young Voices and a student at Tufts University. His writing has been featured in The American Conservative, the Washington Examiner, and The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter @ahardtospell [32].

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "To Win Over Millennials, Conservatives Must Fight Income Inequality"

#1 Comment By Youknowho On February 5, 2019 @ 1:50 pm

These ideas have merit, but how to get past the litmus test of “free market worship”? It is free market worship that led the effort to repeal Obamacare while offering nothing in return.

For too long the GOP has coasted on a platform of cutting taxes and cutting regulations with the enthusiasm of those who have never heard of the law of diminshing returns not limiting factors. They do not stop to ask where the bottlenecks are, only repeat their mantras.

So, basically Mr. Murisianu, you are shouting in the desert. Try talking to moderate or centrist Democrats and you might have better luck

#2 Comment By Rabiner On February 5, 2019 @ 2:31 pm

Zoning is a start and we’re starting to see efforts on this done in California at the state level (by Democrats).

Higher Education needs to look at the drivers of cost (administrative overhead) to control it better.

Price Transparency only helps for part of healthcare. It doesn’t help when dealing with emergency situations (you aren’t going to look up prices when you’re having a heart attack). So again, look at where the cost is coming from.

#3 Comment By joshua On February 5, 2019 @ 2:41 pm

Break up large corporations. They cause tax avoidance, lower wages, corruption in politics and society generally. They stifle innovation and promote cronyism. They are the antithesis of what capitalism is meant to be.

Offer a universal payer system for the basic care and allow a private insurance market for everything else as a start. Also force price transparency. It’s going to cost me $10,000 to have a second child and I have insurance. This is one reason why we have a falling birth rate.

Require public state universities to have a professor to administrator ratio below a threshold and limit what courses can be offered. Subsidize the student instead of the university.

Make it illegal for states to give tax incentives to corporations. These practices drive up the cost of housing in cities and sap good employment opportunities from other areas in the country. Not everyone wants to live on the coasts and I guarantee no one wants to live through a polar vortex. People go to New York and Chicago for jobs not to become human popsicles.

The silent majority exists in the millennial generation just as it did in prior generations. I hate some of the crazy stuff that comes out of AOC but on economics she’s closer to where I am then republicans and that $10,000 is going to hurt.

#4 Comment By BradleyD On February 5, 2019 @ 3:08 pm

New platform idea: Medicare for None

Health insurance does not equate to healthcare. With the broad array of confusing co-pays, out of pocket expenses, network options, and a bewildering number of rules and regulations health insurance just isn’t worth it anymore. With doctor’s offices passing paperwork back and forth with insurance companies and playing a game of double bluff it is leaving the consumer in the lurch. The doctor’s office wants compensation; the company wants a profit; the consumer is stuck in the middle.

I propose a two fold plan: an increase if not mandatory contribution to tax free health savings accounts and a complete ban on non-catastrophic health insurance plans.

Some figure, say 5% of income, will go into a privately managed, tax free HSA. This money will be refunded at the end of the year if not used. Of course this money should be used first toward health expenses to include doctors and self care.

Health insurance will now fall in line with home owners and car insurance. You don’t call your car insurance to change your oil or put gas in your tank, you call them when you have an accident. Health insurance will now be the same; for the flu you pay out of pocket, for cancer health insurance kicks in.

The goal is to deflate the medical bubble for healthcare. A doctor’s office visit for a check up, the flu, or for regular medicine refills will have fewer, hopefully no, hidden fees. Insurance will now be insurance, guarding against catastrophic events that no one can plan for.

#5 Comment By Nelson On February 5, 2019 @ 3:10 pm

Good ideas, but every time Republicans are in power they ignore them. There’s a reason the GOP can’t be trusted to solve problems.

#6 Comment By Collin On February 5, 2019 @ 3:13 pm

These are good ideas but frankly will have minimal impact here.

1) Zoning and deregulation is the hardest because it is local control and the primary issue local citizens have are traffic. (That and potential building has a limited how much it falls. Nobody builds on land fallen 20%.)

2) I would suggest that state schools really should promote quicker graduation and it would be smart for to do so.

3) Price transparency – Have fun with that one and this is the reality for most clinics and hospitals.

#7 Comment By Jones On February 5, 2019 @ 3:33 pm

Start with candidates with no ideological baggage whatsoever.

Then, instead of starting with abstract dogma and working your way down, start with a practical solution to a genuine and disturbing problem. Do not ever utter the words “unleash the free market.” I guarantee that your entire effort will be stillborn if you do. Millenials may be confused about a lot of things, but they are certain (and correct) that talk of free market solutions is garbage, and in most cases responsible for the depredation of the country that none of us can ignore any longer.

If overly restrictive zoning regulations are preventing supply of affordable housing from meeting demand in major urban areas, then say that. And say it without ritually prostrating before the altar of the free market. Helpfully, that latter step is useless anyway.

If Republicans have good ideas that would help control the costs of health care, by all means lets hear them. At present, there is zero evidence that Republicans have any good-faith interest in actually solving any policy problems. So fixing that well-deserved reputation would be a good start.

#8 Comment By Cornel Lencar On February 5, 2019 @ 3:34 pm

The suggestion on Health care reform sits on rotten legs. Price transparency doesn’t preclude collusion behind the doors between various providers and/or insurers. Also, given the level of concentration in the market, shopping for cheaper costs would involve crossing many a time state lines, which is not realistic. Also, some insurers might pigeonhole services to certain providers…

What everyone else in this world has done is instituting cost controls on insurers and on providers. The Beveridge type of countries are also throttling on the supply side of things (but that is also a bit in collusion with medical professions) and as such one gets insufficient number of working doctors and long queues for everything outside the visit to the GP.

As a side note here, Americans should remember how their legislators have legally prohibited big players like Medicare to negotiate down drug costs… talk about cost transparency here…

The ones considered more red in tooth and claw, outside US (the Swiss, the Dutch), also look at the profits, which are kind of capped. Not something Wall Street would ever permit.

The US has an ethical, moral problem to solve first and foremost. When Taiwan set up its own healthcare scheme in the late ’80s, a US academic of Chinese heritage was invited to provide help. And the first question, before starting the work, that needed to be addressed, was: “Do we want everyone to have access to healthcare?” And the answer was yes.

While Americans, overwhelmingly respond similarly to this question, over and over again, the legislators kind of oppose it (including subversively by ACTA) over and over again, responding to the sponsorship and lobbying. Basically being sell-outs. As was confirmed by research done at Princeton I believe in 2014.

So there will never be found a solution in the US concerning Health Care. It is a too big source of money that cannot be allowed to be taken outside of the hands of Wall Street. Wall Street wanted to take care of Social Security money, when Bush Jr. came in power…So my money is that Americans are thoroughly screwed in this respect. Only a situation like the 1930 Depression would be conducive to a change in how the healthcare system works.
But there is hope since the tide is changing at AMA too, by the same Millennials…
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So the conservatives (this is more than GOP) would need to accept certain facts if they really want to offer something constructive. My bet is that their effort will be directed (via lots of testing on focus groups, payed by various health industries) into finding clever words and monikers to scare the population away from the idea of single payer systems (which would be an easy territory to fight since it will be reduced to -you don’t want the government to choose your doctor, and forgetting to mention that there is a difference between the government owning and manning a health facility, and government paying for said service (as they do with VA, Medicare and the other one covering for very poor).

#9 Comment By Lert345 On February 5, 2019 @ 3:54 pm

Millennials prefer to live in cities until they start families. Then they want to go to the suburbs. However, the same housing issues still apply.

Free college? Whoa. Not until costs are cut. Most of the rise in tuition came from the explosive growth in administrators, there by a corresponding growth in government mandates. Reduce the mandates. Also students want more services, particularly mental health services. These must be paid for. Let’s also consider restructuring college. Most programs don’t need to be four years long. Most can be cut to 2 ½ to 3 years. A chemistry student should only need chemistry courses for a chemistry degree. Any other courses should be optional.

Medical care: Yes, this is a problem for all of us. Again, we need to cut costs. On an individual level, Americans need to take better care of themselves. Over half the population is overweight to some degree. On a collective level, let’s revisit end of life care. Most of the lifetime medical expenses occur during the last six months of life. Sparing no expense to keep someone alive with no regard to quality of life is a wasteful and costly cultural attitude.

#10 Comment By prodigalson On February 5, 2019 @ 4:16 pm

I stopped reading at “That doesn’t mean abandoning free markets: if anything, it means unleashing them to solve everyday issues.”

The fruits of “unleashing” the free market is exactly what’s bringing about socialism as our future construct.

The 80’s decision that “greed was good”, the wholesale abandonment of Christian principles in favor of god money, and the related atheistic principles of antichrists like Ayn Rand being elevated to sacred cows within conservative circles is now bearing bitter fruit.

As a society we made the twin idols of love-of-self and love-of-money as our golden calves and in doing so turned into a nation of self-serving pirates and swindlers. How did we turn into a nation that makes people like the Kardashians? Love of money and self, that’s how. The Kardashians are the living embodiment of our hyper capitalist society, they care only for themselves and making more money.

Count me out. Likewise, when Tucker Carlson is questioning the free market that’s a pretty good sign our little Randroid experiment of “unleashing the free market” is coming to an end.

If conservativism is to survive it needs to embrace God, the family, the local, the nation, the need for self-sacrifice and service to our fellow man in Christ-like service.

Ideology based on economic theories always has been, and always will be, hot garbage. Just as “pure” socialism and communism failed, so too is capitalism failing.

This article is no different than a communist arguing that the USSR failed because it wasn’t even more communist.

#11 Comment By Neil On February 5, 2019 @ 4:18 pm

Whatever solutions conservatives come up with, they will call socialist in 20 year.

Early 1990s, Democrats proposed major revisions to health care policy. Republicans responded with their own plan that would be market based and require that everyone get insurance. The word “socialist” is not used to describe the plan.

The Republican plan is implemented by a Republican governor. The word “socialist” is not used to describe the plan.

The plan is proposed by President Obama and signed into law. SOCIALISM!!!

#12 Comment By Scott in MD On February 5, 2019 @ 4:44 pm

“Rising health care costs have canceled out the real value of wage increases…”

What value of wage increases would that be? Wages have been flat since the 80’s. Salaries are up for some, but wages were, are, and will be stagnant. That’s pretty much how capitalism works.

#13 Comment By blackhorse On February 5, 2019 @ 5:03 pm

Want to fight income inequality? Raise taxes.

#14 Comment By Mark B. On February 5, 2019 @ 5:27 pm

It’s truly a shame that in the US and Europe the entitlements of baby boomers are well protected politically but there is hardly an eye for the problems milennials face on issues like education and housing. This is abound to change, as milennials become an ever greater share of the electorat. This article has it right, conservatives must rethink their ideological red lines. Social policies to help people forward (start families for example) are not equal to socialism, but just common sense. Like being pro family and pro worker rights over a solely corporate ruled 24-hour gig economy is.

#15 Comment By wmwa On February 5, 2019 @ 5:38 pm

LoL you don’t get it.

Housing affordability couldn’t possibly have *anything* to do with wages could it?

You want to win Millenials? Make the likes of Wal-Mart, Purdue Pharma/Sackler, and DuPont PAY for the costs they impose on taxpayers and for the ills they cause to our society.

Wal-Mart fails to pay a living wage, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill with foodstamps. (Meanwhile the Waltons are worth how much?)

Purdue and its ilk vastly exacerbated, if not outright initiated, the opioid crisis, and were enabled by the FDA. The costs don’t even need to be listed, they are so dire and obvious.

DuPont has poisoned and caused cancer in thousands yet continues to “admit no wrongdoing” and develop and near-identical copies of the offending compounds. Oh, and one of their heirs raped his infant daughter *twice,* and served no jail time.

McDonalds and Pepsi and their ilk exploit corn and other farm subsidies to artificially lower the cost of their inflammation- and obesity-causing “food” and “beverages.” (Protect farmers, yes, and people are welcome to eat and buy whatever the hell they want, but don’t use my tax money to make the food cheap for no reason other than profits, please.)

Voters, especially Millenials, are furious about *these types* of injustices. THAT’S why we like Bernie.

Tweaking zoning laws will never fire up a majority of us when there is so much plain-as-day grift and corruption right in front of our eyes. Such tweaks are like pointing out mosquito bites on a patient riddled with cancer.

What we’re sick of are politicians allowing the wealthy to invest in our tax dollars, tax code, regulation, and public infrastructure to enrich themselves.

MAKE. THEM. PAY. Or we will do it for you.

#16 Comment By Kafkaesque On February 5, 2019 @ 6:57 pm

High rent costs are due to restrictions made by progressive politicians? I read the article and did not see anything as audacious as penalizing landlords for having vacant lots.

There are plenty of progressive and highly restrictive policies that lefties throw around and I guarantee you, places like NYC and and San Fran aren’t doing them. The people that run those cities are greedy and never ones to hold cash back from landlords. Places like San Fran run exactly as they would in any overheated free-market. If you can parse out a RINO and a tea partier, you can do the same for the other side.

Also, this commentary really doesn’t hit at the crux of the issue which is wages + cost of living. When Trump doled out his tax breaks, what happened? A small bump in employment here and there, a few measly bonuses, and corporations bought back millions of stocks.

80s trickle down economics should be relegated to the same trash bin of history that communism was. Until conservatives start pitching innovative ideas you can guarantee there is going to be even more political upheaval in the future.

#17 Comment By Callinectes sapidus On February 5, 2019 @ 8:17 pm

Someone needs to explain why we can’t seem to move forward until (unless) we solve the great income inequality puzzle? Let’s see, we have made it through a revolutionary war, a civil war, an Indian war, a Spanish-American war, two world wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam war, assorted wars in the Middle East and even Watergate! Throughout it all no one ever solved the dreaded income equality dilemma.

So along comes a bunch of kooky young people, who don’t even know how to open cans of tuna fish, and our politicians will not be able to count on their votes unless we figure out how to make the income inequality gap disappear!

Perplexing, to say the least. Exasperating!!!

Who among us, except the well-to-do, have ever been happy with our earning power. I mean, it always seemed that at least 95% of the people in the world were making more than most of us (except the people that pumped gas in Mississippi, and the men who shined shoes on the street corner back in the 1950’s)!! So why do these whiners deserve to be the reason to vote for someone in Washington DC?

#18 Comment By Fl Transplant On February 5, 2019 @ 8:29 pm

Dental care in this country should be conservative’s dream and the results something they can point to with pride as a desired solution for all of medical care, right? Prices are fully transparent, and there’s little insurance coverage so it’s almost all out-of-pocket expenses which should incentivize people to price shop and let the free market work its magic.

And yet dental care is unaffordable for tens of millions. Every time Remote Area Medical hosts one of its clinics with free dental care provided by volunteer dentists and dental assistants–fillings, extractions, and the the like–people start lining up days in advance. Dental care for those who crack a tooth and can’t afford $2K for a crown or $3K for an implant is essentially unavailable in this country.

So, why isn’t transparency, personal payment instead of insurance coverage, and free market competition solving the problems of dental care in this country?

No, insurance doesn’t equal care. But insurance does usually equal payment for care, which is a necessary condition.

But kudos to Mr Muresianu for addressing the problems and attempting to offer up solutions. He’s far surpassed the Republicans in Congress or the current Administration with what he’s written here.

#19 Comment By Socrates On February 5, 2019 @ 8:38 pm

The G.O.P. has the same amount of interest in solving income inequality as does an arsonist in “solving” crimes of arson.

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#20 Comment By Creme Fraiche On February 5, 2019 @ 9:12 pm

@Lert345 the idea that millennials like to live in suburbs when they have kids is the oldest myth ever. Many terrible corporate oligarchs use the same crappy logic (they bought it, they must like it) to justify all types of things. Of course, the reality is that parents have no choice but to move, as the public education systems in cities have been neglected and defunded over the past 40 years. Everyone knows that our local schools are funded by property taxes, the best thing is to move closest to the rich as you can. If you changed zoning laws as suggested by the author, and funded schools equally, where would people live? Hard to say.

#21 Comment By JLF On February 5, 2019 @ 9:20 pm

Want a true market reform for health care? Pass a health care equivalent of the Most Favored Nation provision in international trade agreements. No health care provider should charge more to one customer/patient than he charges to another (pro bono provisions always excluded.) Merely posting charges, even if they must disclose discounts to insurance companies and the like, merely serve as advertisements for those who have negotiated the biggest discounts. With respect to the insurance companies, it’s the same logic behind Right to Work laws and labor unions.

#22 Comment By Michael On February 5, 2019 @ 10:34 pm

This article is written by someone who is very naive. People vote first and foremost for someone like themselves and someone who has their values. In other words, social and moral issues are like “gatekeepers”. If my social and moral views do not line up with the candidates, I am not going to give them the time of day as it relates to their economic policies.

Most millenials believe in equality for LGBTs, gay marriage, climate change, some form of gun control, etc. Most Republicans do not. So, how does this writer expect to get past the “gate” if Millenials recognize off the bat that the GOP does not have the same values as they do. Having all the economic answers (and they don’t and frankly are way off) won’t do the GOP any good if they can’t connect with Millenials on moral and social values first. As long they can’t/won’t/refuse to even try, this article is merely spilled ink.

#23 Comment By Uncle Billy On February 6, 2019 @ 8:54 am

The Republicans need to focus on the principle of the common good. This being infrastructure, public education and health care. The GOP used to advocate this, years ago, but since Reagan appear to only care about tax cuts for the rich.

The GOP must be for something other than tax cuts for the rich.

#24 Comment By S On February 6, 2019 @ 9:28 am

Yes- politicians actually need to start working for the people rather than for their rich sponsors. I am not sure basing your ideology on ‘free markets’ has anything to do with being conservative as opposed to merely being right wing. The free market ideology is immoral, sinful and anti-religious. Basing ones life choices on any economic theory based ideology is the behaviour of the intellectually challenged.

#25 Comment By ICommentedOnTAC On February 6, 2019 @ 12:30 pm

I fall solidly within the millennial group, and while I don’t care to label myself politically and don’t strongly identify as anything, my views taken as a whole clearly place me somewhere on the left on a traditional one-dimensional scale.

I’m generally somewhat moderate economically, likely due to a lack of strong preferences for specific economic policies in favor of trusting economic research to guide and shape policy. I also think capitalism is a generally good thing, though I don’t trust unfettered capitalism to produce outcomes that are useful for society. Income inequality definitely matters to me because it creates instability and general destitution, which undercut the legitimate role (responsibility, really) of the state in providing stability and prosperity to the nation it oversees.

Having said that, the GOP could champion income inequality all they want and it would still never make me budge. I have no loyalty to the Democrats per se and feel they’re often too quick to carelessly regulate in the name of good intentions. However, the social platform of the GOP is utterly unpalatable, from the way they often pooh-pooh any suggestion that racism or sexism are still problems to their attacks on the value of expertise in academic subjects to their loyalty to punitive measures over effective measures when it comes to the criminal justice system. Having been raised Catholic by conservative parents on the border between a large metropolitan area and the surrounding farmland, there are many ways in which I’m fairly conservative on a personal level, but I’m simply not interested in a political party that wants to micromanage people’s personal lives, that is willing to attack the very notion of objective reality for political gain, or that encourages sycophantic devotion to authority.

If the GOP ever wants a shot at my vote, they need to spend less time doing things like attacking gay and transgender people on behalf of their fundamentalist Christian base and more time defending my constitutional rights, especially by defending the constitutional rights of people they or their voters may dislike.

#26 Comment By cka2nd On February 9, 2019 @ 3:14 am

“the federal loan subsidies Democrats favor”

It was a thrice-damned, rock-ribbed, Reaganite Republican Congressman, Gerald “Jerry” Solomon, who led the charge in Congress to convert most federal student financial aid from grants to loans after his election to Congress in 1978. I remember it very well, and he succeeded in converting federal financial aid from 75% grants to 75% loans.

I am ALL TOO HAPPY to blame Democrats for many things, but that SOB Solomon was at the birth of the current student loan crisis, may he rot in Hell.