Freedom loving Americans beware, President Obama is crafting a plan to turn “kids into debt zombies working for Big Government and various liberal causes.” You read that correctly, op-ed writer Aurther Herman is concerned that Obama is taking advantage of the growing student debt load to create an army of mindless Obama-drones. Herman cites a plan by the Obama administration that would limit debt payment for student loan borrowers to 10% of their income after taxes and expenses. After ten years of making these payments, the student debt would be forgiven for grads working in certain public or private fields. Specifically, that looks like graduates who teach in a public school or work for a 501c(3) charity—not any of the 501c(4)s that have been “targeted” in the IRS scandal as Herman tries to suggest. Also conveniently left out by Herman is the fact that military vets also qualify—further “shooting holes” in Herman’s theory.
It’s hard to know what Herman is referring to exactly, since like so many other conservative conspiracy theorists, Herman fails to cite any actual data or writing, but he may be referring to a recent suggestion by Obama to extend a law created in 2007 under the Bush Administration that allows borrowers to limit student loan repayments to 15% of their income for 25 years. Currently, only borrowers with loans taken out after 2007 can utilize this plan. Obama is proposing enabling borrowers with loans taken prior to 2007 to utilize this plan as well.
Herman asserts that the solution is to get the federal government out of the student loan business. Why? Because the US Government made $51 Billion profit last year? No, it’s because back in 2009, Obama engineered a law change that took private companies out of the federal student loan business. Prior to this law going into effect, private banks were making $15 billion a year by simply handing out the government’s money. The change was projected to save the US Government $87 billion over 10 years. Seems like a no-brainer right? Wrong. See, what Herman and his other conservative cronies want is to be able to make money off the tax-payer and student loan borrower. Herman cries that the government will lose out on $300 million by 2020 due to the forgiveness program, yet mentions nothing of the $87 billion saved, and rather proposes the program be done away with. Like other fiscal conservatives, Herman likes to talk the talk of “reining in government spending” and “saving taxpayer dollars,” but in reality is all about making the Benjamin’s for himself.
The constant bashing of higher education by conservatives is frankly a bit confusing, since most of the time the common refrain is that the private industry can do things better and cheaper than government can. Yet, strangely enough, private education is vastly more expensive than public college. So, it leaves me to wonder what conservatives have against college education in general. Yes, there is the tired charge that college is a breeding ground for liberal indoctrination, but then again, these are the same folks who reject the teaching of critical thinking skills in public schools. Maybe it’s that the fact that since the majority of post-recession jobs pay less than $14 an hour, a less educated workforce will be cheaper to pay.
One thing for sure, I find it all too hypocritical that the folks decrying the federal student loan program never actually had to take out student loans themselves to pay for their education. Sorry Mitt Romney, but not all of us have parents rich enough to borrow money from. Sorry, not all of us had parents who earned enough to pay for our education. Sorry, not all of us got handed great-paying jobs while in college to finance that education. Why is it that the US Congress, which has a median net worth of over $1 million, gets to decide how much my student loan interest rates should be? Especially when the federal government is handing out interest free loans to many of the same banks that crashed our economy. Oh, maybe it’s because banks are getting an $83 billion a year federal subsidy that in turn boosts profits and lines the pockets of investors, which my friend Author Herman most likely benefits from.
Is college expensive? Absolutely. Has the cost of college rise dramatically? You bet. But how is reducing taxpayer funding to higher ed going to help that? How is reducing student loans and Pell grant availability going to bring the costs of college down? The common conservative prescription of eliminating government programs simply pretends problems go away when the program is eliminated. College is an extremely important part of growing up, and while it may not be essential for all—it is important for many. Whether it be learning new ideas, meeting new people, growing up to become your own person, or meeting that future significant other college is an essential rite of passage in our culture. So to critics like Herman who can do nothing but complain rather than offering decent solutions to make college more affordable, I suggest the old adage, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.