Just when you thought they had all the various groups of vulnerable citizens adequately disenfranchised, the Republican Party decides to stick it to students as well (now, they are attempting to stick it to women and children instead. I’ll explain in a minute). How can these guys and gals possibly get re-elected? It’s a mystery to many thinking folks. I mean, they are anti-immigration (read: xenophobic and bigoted); most of them condemn gayness (that is a word!) as a social and un-Godly abomination; they want to slash Medicare and other safety net programs that are vital to the elderly, working class and poor; they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act which will provide healthcare coverage for tens of million Americans; they are engaged in a long-standing battle with the women of this country when it comes to sexuality, reproductive rights, healthcare and equality etc…; they routinely vote against unemployment benefits, increases in the minimum wage and workers’ rights; they are militaristic hawks but are always on the wrong side of providing decent benefits to veterans; Southern Republicans often times glorify the Confederacy, its motives and its flag… and the list goes on. It is very clear. The GOP caters to only two constituencies: Rich white men and corporations (who are just groups of rich white men). So, I rhetorically ask, How the hell can they get elected at all?? Perhaps I’ll address that in my next post. For now, back to the student loans…
Last week, the GOP was wholly content with the idea of allowing a law to expire that would result in the doubling of student loan interest rates from 3.2% to 6.4%. The rate hike would apply to an aggregate of one trillion dollars of student loan principal that exists out there among approximately 7 million borrowers (me included). That’s a lot of interest! When the President got word of this, he embarked on a whirlwind tour, speaking at colleges and universities in various swing states condemning the Republicans for their inaction. The President and the Dems proposed a plan that would extend the low interest rates, paying for it by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.
Not to be outdone, House Republicans quickly sprung into action with their own plan that would also extend low interest rates for students; however, when addressing the issue of paying for it, it seems they asked themselves, “Well, let’s see…who else can we screw that has at least a reasonable propensity of not being able to afford it?” Some Republican, apparently thinking to himself WWJD?, replied, “Um, duh! Children and women of course!” The caucus erupted in cheers and whoops! OK, I imagined that. But the House GOP answer was to raid the Prevention and Public Health Fund, funds earmarked for healthcare reform that would provide cancer screenings for women and immunizations for children, among other things. Not to be disingenuously shocked, but WTF are they thinking?? Of course, considering that they exclusively protect wealthy white men and groups of wealthy white men, it makes perfect sense.
I’ll leave you with this thought: It seems to me that both the Republicans, and many Democrats (not all), are missing the forest for the trees. It’s not about the interest on the student debt, it’s about the debt itself. Higher education should be free in this country for anyone who has the aptitude for it. We couldn’t make a better investment in the future of America. And it could be done for a relatively paltry sum. When considering a U.S. Defense Budget approaching $700 billion annually, we could provide free college tuition for anyone who qualified academically for approximately one tenth of that, or roughly $70 billion annually. As you can see from the chart below, attending college will soon be an exclusive privilege of the wealthy. When considering that as well as the ripple effects that free tuition would have throughout our culture and economy, it’s a no-brainer.