Financial Freedom for Everyone

Earlier this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren published her audacious higher education plan, which includes universal free public college and cancellation of student loan debt. It would change millions of people's lives for the better.

And yet, I have seen so many perplexingly bitter responses from people who have indebted themselves to attend college, rejecting Warren's proposal outright. Their argument is essentially: Why should someone else get for free what I had to pay for?

It's a familiar line of thinking, of course. It's conservatives' central grievance with the social safety net and their gripe with robustly funding government welfare of any sort.

To see self-identified progressives regurgitating this ungenerous, parsimonious rap is truly disappointing.

I will tell you why I think someone else should get for free what I did not: Because it's the right thing to do. Because there is no moral value in having to struggle. Because it does not build character; it just makes life harder and limits opportunities.

Financial freedom is an indescribable gift. Most of us will never have total financial freedom — we will work for a living and have mortgage or rental payments and the need to pay for transportation, whether a car payment or lease or a public transportation card, and so forth. But if we are very lucky, we will spend some time in our lives where we can manage to pay for the things we need, and maybe some extra things that we want, without the relentless stress of worrying from where the next dollar will come.

That is psychological freedom. It is the difference between the feeling of constantly drowning in a sea of anxiety and feeling like you can relax once in awhile, because you are not being haunted by the threat of falling off the edge.

I want to have that. I want every human being to have that. To live precariously is torture.

And even if it merely makes the difference between being comfortable and even more comfortable, fine. I want maximum comfort for everyone, too.

It's possible, so let's do it.

It's possible to give everyone free public college and student debt forgiveness. It's possible to give everyone access to free healthcare. It's possible to give everyone who menstruates free pads and tampons and cups. It's possible to give everyone free childcare. All of these things, and more, are possible.

And I cannot imagine why, just because you didn't have them, you wouldn't want anyone else to have them, too.

Especially because, even if you can't make use of free college and student loan forgiveness now, if we can successfully make that happen, and the value becomes evident, trust that there will be some stuff of which you can make use coming down the road. Like socialized healthcare or a universal basic income.

Support it out of self-interest, if you can't be generous.

And naturally I know that none of this is "free." It is paid for with taxes, and I would happily see my taxes go to send young people to school, instead of sending them to war.

We have decisions to make about our national priorities, and those decisions start with a commitment to generosity. We can't leave the world better than we found it if we are too stingy to allow the next generation to have anything we didn't.

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