One apparent loser in the internal Democratic tug-of-war over just how big to make government is something of a surprise: the idea of so-called free community college.

Why a surprise? Because it’s a rare day when a politician or party walks away from showering free gifts on a growing constituency. But here, the math and the politics simply didn’t add up. That doesn’t mean the issue is dead. It may return, which is a deep cause for concern. As Frederick Hess writes:

College leaders and public colleges that have long pocketed staggering public subsidies would do well to be wary. “Free” college would open the door to lawmakers and federal officials enjoying the same kinds of influence over higher education costs, operations, practices, and reporting that Medicare affords them over participating physicians and hospitals. Colleges should appreciate that entrepreneurial GOP senators could have a field day targeting the bloat, sloth, and ideological bias that too often pass for academic culture.

While there’s truth in this assertion, let’s not forget these same “entrepreneurial” pols would be eager to enforce their own version of “blot, sloth, and ideological bias.”

That’s the problem when political dilettantes of any stripe are given the power – and the incentive – to micromanage that which they do not understand, but are eager to demagogue.

And let’s not forget the worst part of the free community college plan. There is no such thing as a “free” government program. Someone always gets stuck with the bill. Or, as is far more the case these days, the interest payments on the IOU government issues to “pay” for its largesse.