Yesterday on Twitter, when people weren’t laughing about Marjorie Traitor Greene trying to make a federal case about getting a prank phone call, they were laughing at her incessant whining about Biden forgiving a small amount of student loan debt. What many people pointed out is that Greene’s statements about how forgiving any loan debt is “unfair,” don’t jive with her applying for and getting $183,504 in PPP loan forgiveness for her own business back in Georgia. Nor was Traitor Greene the only Republican who fell into the GOP hypocrisy trap.
Early this morning HuffPo reported that “The White House hit back at Republicans in an uncharacteristic manner Thursday by using its Twitter account to go after GOP lawmakers who are bashing President Joe Biden's move to cancel some student debt after they personally benefited from having Paycheck Protection Program loans forgiven during the Covid pandemic… Conservatives have been up in arms about the Biden administration’s plan to help dig low- and middle-income earners out from under the enormous costs of an American college education. Many Republican politicians have painted it as an unfair handout to wealthy people who chose to attend college.”
Among the Republicans called out by the White House, besides Traitor Greene, were Florida sex trafficker Matt Gaetz, Mike Kelly (R-PA), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). Gym Jordan, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, also tweeted yesterday, though I don’t think he had Traitor Greene, Gaetz, the Oklahomans, etc in mind:
As Jim Tankersley reported for the NY Times yesterday, the student loan plan squarely targets the middle class (not wealthy crooks in Congress). He wrote that the big winner’s from the White House “plan to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans are not rich graduates of Harvard and Yale” or the elites the Republicans are pretending to be concerned about. The benefits of the Biden plan “will largely go to the middle class. According to independent analyses, the people eligible for debt relief are disproportionately young and Black. And they are concentrated in the middle band of Americans by income, defined as households earning between $51,000 and $82,000 a year. The Education Department estimates that nearly 90 percent of affected borrowers earn $75,000 a year or less. Ivy League graduates make up less than 1 percent of federal student borrowers nationwide.”
Yesterday Time Magazine noted that critics of the plan “often older people who had gone to college before the 1980s, called the policy a giveaway to the college educated, and unfair to those who had paid their way through school… Many of the older conservatives who are angry at the idea that taxpayers might pay for student loan forgiveness went to school at a time when the government was heavily subsidizing higher education, and therefore tuition was far less expensive. For them, working their way through school without debt was feasible; for modern millennials and Gen Z, it’s often financially impossible.”
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell called Biden’s loan forgiveness plan “student loan socialism” and said it was a “slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college.” But when McConnell graduated from the University of Louisville in 1964, annual tuition cost $330 (or roughly $2,500 when adjusted for inflation); today, it costs more than $12,000, a 380% increase. When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who called the policy a “debt transfer scam,” graduated from California State University, Bakersfield in 1989, tuition was less than $800; today it’s more than $7,500, a 400% increase when adjusted for inflation. Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a moderate Democrat who is running for re-election this year, told Axios she disagreed with the policy because “it doesn’t address the root problems” of college affordability; when Cortez Masto graduated from the University of Nevada in 1986, tuition was a little more than $1,000— today’s it’s roughly three times as expensive.
And don’t forget Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who called the policy “UNFAIR” on Twitter. He graduated from the university of Northern Iowa in 1855, when annual tuition cost roughly $159, or between $40 and $53 per quarter. Today, it costs more than $8,300, a nearly 500% increase even when adjusted for inflation.
The cost of college has continued to rise partly because state governments slashed higher education funding in the 1980s and 1990s, at exactly the moment when college was becoming a prerequisite for a well-paying job and participation in the global economy. Colorado lawmakers cut state funding for education 70% between 1980 and 2011, according to a report from the American Council on Education; South Carolina cut more than 66% of education funding during that same time, and Arizona cut 62%. More than half of Michigan State’s revenue came from state funding in 1987— by 2012, less than 20% did.
…Younger generations might say what’s really “unfair” is that many Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation had access to highly subsidized higher education with affordable tuition, while some millennials and Gen Z get just $10,000 of student loan forgiveness. Those calling Biden’s new policy “socialism” would do well to remember this: In 1987, a student at the University of Kansas could pay her tuition with a part-time minimum wage job and still have some left over for books and food. In 2016, a student working a minimum wage job would come up $38,000 short.