Editor's note: This column was originally published in THE DAILY BEAST.
Does it make sense for the government to take taxes from the big majority of Americans who never managed to win college degrees in order to subsidize the pricey education of the fortunate few who get to attend top universities?
Why is it fair to increase burdens on stressed-out working families so the feds can reduce future interest payments on student loans for members of the elite?
Isn’t President Obama’s current push to spend a $6 billion on college-loan relief precisely the sort of rob-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich outrage that any conscientious progressive ought to oppose?
These are questions that even Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans refuse to pose, as they retreat or temporize concerning the president’s shameless student-loan scam. The big duel in Congress concerns the best way to pay for continuing the subsidized loans, with no real debate about the wisdom of the subsidy itself.
Republicans and Democrats alike feel so intimidated by the brute political power of college students and their families that no one will point out it’s the beneficiaries themselves who ought to cough up the extra money. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that they do so when interest rates revert to their normal, pre-2007 level on July 1st—especially since those students aren’t obligated to begin making those interest payments or retiring their principal until they’ve completed their education or dropped out of school. In effect, our leaders suggest that future millionaire attorneys who graduate from Harvard Law School (as both Obama and Romney did) ought to get reduced payments on their student loans at the ultimate expense of all taxpayers—including janitors who toil away at the very Ivy League campus where the two presidential candidates once matriculated.
The lies surrounding this proposed ripoff ought to embarrass everyone who dutifully recycles them, but prominent reporters, perhaps recalling their own student-loan experiences, repeat the nonsense without blushing. For instance, the notion of crushing student-loan debt hobbling millions of U.S. families counts as an urban legend or deliberate distortion. According to figures from the New York Fed, a full two-thirds of the total student-loan debt is held by people under 30, suggesting that the great majority of borrowing is quickly repaid. President Obama’s example of repaying his debts only at age 43 (when he was already a state senator) would count as atypical.