Why would someone who wants to lead a political party praise its competitor? Nicholas Sarwark, the head of the Libertarian Party from 2014 to 2020, recently peddled the idea that “what the Democratic Party is doing” is “generally good.” But if that’s true, why doesn’t he aspire to lead the Democratic Party, rather than the Libertarian Party?
According to the media, the Libertarian Party is now split into two factions — the “bad,” alt-right libertarians who now control the Libertarian National Committee, and the “good” libertarians like Sarwark who hope to unseat them. But the “good” libertarians like Sarwark are rather bad at following traditional libertarian precepts such as fiscal conservatism. They like government handouts.
Sarwark defended Joe Biden’s student loan bailout, which would cost taxpayers at least $427 billion, and perhaps well over $1 trillion. It was blocked by the Supreme Court as illegal, but Biden is trying to do it again using a different legal pretext. Democratic Party leaders used to admit that Biden lacks the power to forgive student loans, the very ones who denounced the Supreme Court decision, such as Nancy Pelosi.
All libertarian and conservative economists think the bailout is a bad idea. So do even many Democratic economists, such as Jason Furman, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, who called Biden’s plan “reckless.” Furman says “Pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless.” Biden’s plan will increase inflation, inequality, tuition, and the national debt. Even the liberal Washington Post calls Biden’s student-loan bailout “a regressive, expensive mistake.”
The libertarian education scholar Neal McCluskey points out that Biden’s “massive debt cancellation will encourage even greater college price increases as schools and future borrowers will both expect more cancellation in the future,” and Biden’s action is “grossly unconstitutional.” Writing off student loans will encourage colleges to jack up tuition, by making it more attractive to take out big loans to cover college tuition. When students are willing to borrow more to go to college, colleges respond by raising tuition. The Daily Caller reports that “each additional dollar in government financial aid translated to a tuition hike of about 65 cents,” according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
But Sarwark is a big fan of canceling student loans at taxpayers’ expense. He amplified and repeated attacks on opponents of the bailout, such as Megan McArdle, a libertarian-leaning Washington Post columnist, and Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, using his Twitter account.
Sarwark mocks opponents of welfare and government handouts as tools of the wealthy and powerful. He approvingly retweeted a progressive attacking a conservative for opposing spending trillions of taxpayer dollars to write off student loans, including for wealthy professionals. The conservative correctly said, “Forgiving student debt is a massive windfall to the rich, to the college educated, and most of all to the corrupt university administrators of America. No bailouts for a corrupt system. Republicans must fight this with every ounce of our energy and power.” The Sarwark-approved response claimed without any evidence that opponents of canceling student loans “represent the interests of wealth” trying “to blunt support for a popular thing.”
In reality, canceling student loan debt is “regressive and unfair,” notes Katherine Abraham, the former head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who was an economic adviser to President Obama. As Greg Price points out, “Only 37% of Americans have a 4-yr college degree, only 13% have graduate degrees, and a full 56% of student loan debt is held by people who went to grad school. Biden’s plan to cancel it would be like taking money from a plumber to pay the debt of a lawyer.”
Sarwark likes government handouts, approvingly retweeting a leftist who claims that Christians can’t be Republicans because Republicans support cutting welfare spending. Left-wing activist Chris Potter had written, “I genuinely don’t understand how Christians are Republicans. The GOP is fighting to take Medicaid benefits and food benefits away from poor people. Can a Christian Republican please tell me how this even remotely aligns with the gospel”? Republicans aren’t trying to abolish Medicaid or food stamps, but some Republicans in Potter’s state are trying to require some able-bodied people to work if they are able to do so, if they want to receive Medicaid and food stamps. Sarwark approvingly retweeted that deceptive lefty tweet.
Sarwark has also said stupid things like claiming that people have to prove they acted in self-defense “beyond a reasonable doubt” to avoid being convicted. In fact, the prosecution bears the burden of proving someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sarwark and his allies are frequently wrong about the law, especially as it relates to self-defense. In 2020, the national Libertarian Party, which Sarwark headed at the time, listed “Michael Brown” and his death as an example of “systemic” racism and “extrajudicial killings, and blatant violence toward black communities” by police. After a police officer killed Brown in self-defense, a misinformation campaign made the false claim that Brown was murdered after saying “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” That false claim triggered rioting, looting, and arson in cities such as Ferguson. But in 2015 the Obama Justice Department issued a report debunking that claim, noting on page 82 that “the shots fired” by the police officer “were in self-defense.” As The Washington Post reported in 2015, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson “was justified in shooting Brown,” according to the Civil Rights Division of the Obama Justice Department. “It was reasonable for police Officer Darren Wilson to be afraid of Michael Brown in their encounter last summer, a Justice Department investigation concluded,” admitted the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But five years later, Sarwark’s underlings were still promoting inflammatory misinformation about the Michael Brown case that had been debunked by the Justice Department.