Of course, we know this is all political. Team Obama saw an opportunity to divert, distract and distort; and his political opponents did not want to stray from their larger message, which is the ailing economy and this President’s failures. Few, if any, political strategists would advise a different approach.
What frustrates Americans, though, is that for all the hot air, students will be no better off. In part, that is because the economy will remain stagnant (and get worse if President Obama successfully implements a new tax on S corporations). But more to the point, no one is taking on what is really driving up the cost of college.
When the government took over the student loan industry in 2010, as part of the reconciliation package used to pass Obamacare, it reduced choices for students looking for loans. With interest rates at historic lows, it is quite reasonable to expect a market-based loan industry could produce loan rates below 3.4%.
The real problem is that after adjusting for inflation, the cost of college has increased nearly five-fold since 1982. A few decades of increased government intervention and subsidization has done nothing to make college more affordable, and neither will this absurd fight over a 3.4% interest rate.
This fight over student loans highlights a generation of failed policy and the current lack of leadership at the federal level. Given this context, the Pew results should seem self-evident.
What may be less obvious, though, is that state and local governments receive significantly higher marks in the Pew survey. 52% of respondents held a favorable view of their state government and 61% held a favorable view of their local government, with predictable partisan differences. The old adage that government closest to the people governs best rings true with those surveyed by Pew.
It all raises an interesting question for federal lawmakers: if you cannot do the job and the American people don’t like the job you’re doing, then should you be the ones doing the job?
From transportation to education and Medicaid, it is time Washington began turning power back to the states. Real leadership is about recognizing the limits of your power and abilities.