In recent months, the for-profit higher education industry has come under attack by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin for using sleazy tactics to enroll weak students, pocket federal subsidies, and often leave the hapless students with loan debts they can’t afford to repay. The tale sounds bad and with Democrats desperate for some villain these days, Harkin and friends have tried to make as much as they can of this.

As usual, there is much more than meets the eye, and Tim Carney, one of the best journalists around, digs into it here.

In a nutshell, some of the schools are sleazy and they’re all “subsidy sucklers” as Carney puts it. In the absence of federal money, they might not exist at all and if they did, they’d have to operate in a vastly different fashion. On the other hand, the politicians and their allies have greatly overstated the case in order to reap political and monetary profits. Carney’s conclusion is right on the mark: “When you inject government into an industry, you get some pretty unsavory results.”