Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) cast his impending retirement as an expression of disgust with Congress to do the people's business. So now that he's liberated from the obligations of raising money and similar grimy political considerations, we can expect Bayh to spend his remaining months in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body working with apolitical, high-minded intentions to do the people's business.
We will be disappointed. Bayh has instead joined the corporate-tool caucus on the subject of student lending. Ben Smith:
Sen. Evan Bayh is throwing a wrench in the works of a signature administration initiative, expressing reservations about the plan for the government to eliminate private-sector middlemen and make student loans directly.
"I ... have concerns about the short-term impact reform efforts could have on employment in Indiana," Bayh wrote in a letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin and ranking Republican Mike Enzi today. "I will not support any proposal that does not strike the right balance."
Sallie Mae, a large employer in the Indiana communities of Muncie and Fishers, has cast the bill locally as a threat to Indiana jobs. And the lender has been on the front lines battling Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
As Jonathan Alter, Jonathan Chait, and the smartest education wonks have explained, the proposal to eliminate a wasteful subsidy to banks for doing something the government does more efficiently—lend money to college students for tuition—and redirect the savings to increasing Pell Grants for low-income students is good, non-ideological policy. It is being pitted against greedy corporations and their servants in Congress and whether it succeeds is about as good a test case as to whether our system of government functions as any other. Evan Bayh's position is that poor students should subsidize his constituents. Is this the sort of good national governance that Bayh thinks is no longer possible in Washington?
Don't worry Evan, robbing Peter to pay for pork, and that's what this position is, even though it's technically corporate welfare and not an earmark as such, is alive and well in the Senate. Just ask Ben Nelson or Richard Shelby.