Krystal Ball hits Buttigieg over free college ad

Opinion by: Krystal Ball

Well, I didn't really want to do this, but he left me no choice. Mayor Pete just won't stop with the misleading, condescending, destructive talking points on free college so here we go. First, it's worth noting that for a guy who talks all about how he's a uniter and that we're all fighting too much blah blah blah, he sure loves to pick a fight. Remember when he decided for no discernible reason to beat up on Beto. Then of course he went all in on the health insurance industry talking points on Medicare for All. I have to admit that was somewhat successful since Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE almost immediately caved releasing a transition plan that is basically Pete's plan. But now he's got another progressive policy goal in his sights, free college.

So, he started by releasing one of his lame ads in which he said he couldn’t fund the college of children of millionaires and billionaires. Of course, he fails to mention that he also won't fund the college of the middle class. In Pete's plan free tuition ends when your family hits $100k in income. So, basically if mom and dad are making as much or more than two teachers you're done.

But even more galling than the ad was his response to an NBC reporter when asked to explain his opposition to free college for all.

“I’m also concerned about a narrative emerging that ignores the fact that not everyone goes to college. This is not the same thing as K-12, this is not the same thing as social security. Because college is not for everybody. Now, I want everybody who wants to go to college to have the chance. I want to make sure cost is never a barrier. But, where I come from, three out of four people don’t have a college degree. And if the message we’re sending to them is you need a college degree in order to get by in life, in order to prosper, in order to succeed, we’re leaving most Americans out.”

Let’s be clear, this is a slimy disingenuous argument. First of all, let's talk about his folksy "Where I come from three out of four people don't have a college degree." Yeah, you know what else? Where you come from 79% of students who decide not to go to college do so because of financial constraints. Or at least that was the case in nearby Illinois according to a survey of low income high school seniors and their college counselors.

Second of all, he misleadingly implies that Sanders and Warren's free college plans only apply to fancy four year degrees. They don't. They would also cover community college and trade school. And this is the part that is so extra galling. Pete's plan does not cover trade school so Mr. Trying to pretend like he's down with his blue collar brothers and sisters isn't going to help you out one bit if you decide you want to enter the trades.

And also, in terms of leaving most Americans out, Pete doesn't come anywhere close to the federal jobs guarantee or aggressive pro-union policies of Sanders and Warren that emphatically bring every American in.

But there's a whole insinuation here that infuriates me. It's there when Pete says: College is not for everybody.

Here's a guy, raised with every privilege and advantage. Going to private schools in wealthy enclaves. Parent's professors at Notre Dame.

College was always for a kid like Peter. He and the other special flowers who get tracked onto the smart kid path, which so often just happens to coincide with being white and being affluent. People like Peter get put on the worthy of being treated like a human being track. College was for peter. And not just any college of course, Harvard. A Rhodes Scholar of course. McKinsey. Learning about neighborhood and school segregation on the fly as a young mayor when such things had apparently never occurred to you. I guess those prep schools don't teach you everything.

I know that not everyone wants to go to college. That's absolutely fine. But what people like Peter who say that it's not "for everybody" really mean, is that working class people and blue collar people are too dumb for college. They don't belong. And that attitude absolutely disgusts me.

But that's the natural conclusion when you buy into the bs fairytale of the American meritocracy. Where your only goal is to make sure every little boy and girl has the ability to ascend to their rightful rung on the meritocracy ladder. That if you are a billionaire you are somehow a more worthy human being than if you are struggling paycheck to paycheck. Peter has of course decided that he belongs at the top of that meritocracy ladder, a benevolent technocrat to analyse the country like the consultant mercenary he was trained as. But of course, those upper heights aren't "for everybody."

Bernie SandersBernie SandersEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE team and AOC appear to have been as outraged as I am. AOC called Pete's ad "bad faith." Sanders senior advisor Jeff Weaver went even further saying: The truth of the matter is the type of the attitude that Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegFormer insurance executive: 'Medicare for all' would eliminate jobs that are 'not needed' Buttigieg says he's proud to be a part of US system amid UK royal family drama Buttigieg asked about 'Mayo Pete' memes by New York Times ed board MORE is exhibiting here is in fact elitist in itself."

Pete's campaign manager Lis Smith responded but it was just more of the same bs so let's skip it lest my head explode.

There's another really, really important principle here though too which is that for social programs to work and to avoid creating even more of a class divide than we already have in this country, they must be universal. First of all, it's dehumanizing and degrading to constantly prove your poverty to the federal government.

But second of all, there's a reason that social security is insanely popular and welfare was destroyed. It's because everyone has buy in to social security. Everyone with very few exceptions, is included. The moment you means test something you kill it. It becomes for "those people." Rightwingers and neoliberal corporate shills like Joe BidenJoe BidenLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Ex-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Parnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine MORE and Pete Buttigieg cut it to pieces because the fact that it benefits poor people or working class people alone means that it benefits unworthy people. Because if they were worthy than according to the myth of the American meritocracy, they would be making more money.

And when you are talking about a good like college, universality is even more important. Just think about it in the public school context. What impact would it have on our schools if they were only free to those making less than $100k? First you would have complete class division as no one who had to pay for public school would actually go to public school. Then, once it was only poor and middle class kids at the schools they would be starved to death even more than they already are. Just look at the neglect of schools in poor neighborhoods. The unsafe facilities, the 30 year old books, the stuffed to the gills classrooms. That would become every school in America.

And that's exactly what would happen if you made a public college system that was only for the poor and middle class or a health care system for that matter. It would be ghettoized, starved, demonized, radicalized and the degrees coming out of it would end up being yet another flashing sign that you were born into the American underclass.

That is why free college for all must be for all. Surely Pete and his degrees and his languages and his McKinsey training could figure that out. But of course his own self-concept as rightful ruling class elite depends on him not understanding it. Turns out there's plenty they don't teach you at Harvard.