Barack Obama, Education, Mitt Romney, President Obama — April 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Mitt Romney: Pander bear to young Americans – Romney v. Obama on controlling student loan debt


You’re not fooling anyone, Mitt. Remember: we have the internet.

It’s not just Latinos that Mitt Romney is pandering to lately. His latest pander target is young people. Namely students.

During a news conference this week with Marco Rubio (his first since mid-March, by the way), Romney had to jump back in after it was nearly over when he remembered to throw in the fact that he suddenly agreed with President Obama on extending low interest rates on student loans, something that Republicans seem ready NOT to do.

“There’s one thing that I wanted to mention, that I forgot to mention at the very beginning, and that was that particularly with the number of college graduates that can’t find work or that can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans,” Romney said at the end of a seven-minute joint news conference with Rubio.

Here’s the thing: Romney has totally flipped on this topic. Unlike President Obama who has been talking about this from the beginning, Romney has told students that “the best thing” he can suggest is that they “shop around”.

He also supports the Ryan budget which would have student loan interest rates climb and cuts billions from Stafford loans, one the most common forms of student loans available.

Here’s a video put out by the Obama campaign highlighting Romney’s duplicity:

Republicans like John Boehner are, of course, trying to spin this against Democrats. Boehner himself tweeted “Student loan rates set to double because a Democratic-controlled Congress voted to double them”. As Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog so beautifully points out, this is utter hypocrisy:

Mr. Speaker, you really should have thought this one through a little more.

First, voting to cut interest rates in half is the opposite of voting to double interest rates. Second, when the law passed in 2007, it enjoyed strong bipartisan support. This wasn’t a Democratic bill; it was a bipartisan effort to give students and their families a break.

And third, and arguably more important, is the fact the Bush tax cuts included an expiration provision that placed a looming tax increase in 2010 — an election year. Thanks to a Republican plan, they were extended until 2012 — another election year.

In other words, by Speaker Boehner’s logic, taxes are set to go up for practically every American worker because Republicans voted for a massive tax increase.

Is there no one in Boehner’s press office who considered this, or has logic been deemed altogether irrelevant?

Update: This apparently wasn’t a fluke. Boehner’s spokesperson said yesterday, “The rising cost of tuition is a serious problem for students and their families, so it’s unfortunate that Washington Democrats put in place a law that would double student loan rates.”

It would be every bit as accurate for me to say, “It’s unfortunate that Washington Republicans put in place a law that would increase federal taxes by trillions of dollars over the next decade.” If one is true, the other true.

Speaking to the press today, Press Secretary Jay Carney put it this way:

It should not be that way. This is the kind of thing… that should allow us to find bipartisan agreement so we can move forward. Even though it’s an election year, there are a number of areas that we should be able to get things done on behalf of the American people and the American economy. I saw some strange remarks yesterday, someone suggesting, a Republican suggesting, that the president should stop talking about the student loan issue and focus instead on the economy. I was just stunned by how narrow-minded those remarks were because this is absolutely about our economy

In his Weekly Address last Saturday, President Obama talked in-depth about this topic, including the fact that, if Congress doesn’t act, 7.4 million students will have an average of $1,000 added to their debt. You can read about how the President has kept his promises on this HERE and you can calculate how big the impact will be on you as a student by going to OFA’s handy website. His positions on this are also clearly spelled out HERE (pdf).

Here’s the thing: President Obama doesn’t have to pander to young people in this country. He’s already wildly popular with them. Just yesterday he appeared at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 8,000 people, mostly students, were there to greet him:

The reason for his popularity is clear: young people know whose side he’s on. In fact, he’s been there himself as has the First Lady, Michelle Obama. From his speech at UNC:

And this is something Michelle and I know about firsthand. I just wanted everybody here to understand this is not — I didn’t just read about this. I didn’t just get some talking points about this. I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this. Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes. Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families.

So when we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poorer together. We added up our assets and there were no assets. And we added up our liabilities and there were a lot of liabilities, basically in the form of student loans. We paid more in student loans than we paid on our mortgage when we finally did buy a condo. For the first eight years of our marriage, we were paying more in student loans than what we were paying for our mortgage. So we know what this is about.

And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income. But we only finished paying off our student loans — check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States — we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago. That wasn’t that long ago. And that wasn’t easy, especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we’re supposed to be saving up for their college educations, and we’re still paying off our college educations.

For Mitt Romney, student debt is, indeed “something he just read about”, “something he got some talking points about”.

Mitt Romney: Pander Bear.

By the way, if you didn’t see the President “slow jam the news” last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, take a moment to enjoy this:

[Pander bear image credit: Chris Savage | Eclectablog (from CC image from Wikimedia Commons.) UNC photo credit: Obama for America]

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