Political Animal


October 28, 2011 2:55 PM GOP hostility towards student aid intensifies

By Steve Benen

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate the federal student loan program. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich believes student loans are a “Ponzi scheme,” which really doesn’t make any sense at all.

And Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain added his name to the list of GOP leaders who no longer want the federal government to help young people pay for higher education.

Speaking by satellite to a New York education forum sponsored by The College Board, a membership association of colleges that administers standardized tests like the SAT, Cain proposed local avenues to replace existing federal tuition aid structure.

“I believe that if a state wants to help with college education, that they should do that,” he said from Arkansas, where he is on a campaign swing. “Secondly, you have people living within communities within states that are willing to help fund those kinds of programs. So I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to help fund a college education because herein, our resources are limited and I believe that the best solution is the one closest to the problem. The people within the state, the people within the communities, ultimately, I believe, are the ones who have that responsibility.”

It’s not just presidential candidates. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week told voters the Pell Grant program is “unsustainable” (it’s actually sustainable with some sensible reforms, making Paul’s drive to gut the program unnecessary*) and that he was outraged that the Obama administration “confiscated the private student loan industry” (that never happened).

As a factual matter, Ryan has no idea what he’s talking about, and Cain’s idea about shifting all college aid responsibilities to states won’t work. But even putting these pesky details aside, why is it Republicans are so eager to make it harder for young people to further their education?

College tuition costs are soaring to the point of being “out of control.” Young people are entering the workforce shouldering $1 trillion in student-loan debt. Given global competition and the need for the most educated workforce the nation can muster, policymakers should be making every effort to make higher ed more accessible, not less, at costs that are more affordable, not less.

And yet, here we are, with national Republican figures cutting funding for student loans, pushing for the elimination of student grants, and in the case of some GOP presidential candidates, calling for the end of federal student assistance altogether.

Talk about losing the future….

* edited for clarity

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Gummitch on October 28, 2011 2:59 PM:

    College-educated young people tend to lean to the Left? It's a potential voting bloc that the Repubs really don't like.

  • DavidNOE on October 28, 2011 3:03 PM:

    Steve, you keep being too easy on the Repigs. Ryan knows perfectly well what he's talking about; he's just lying in his teeth the way they've learned they can do without consequences, except maybe fooling a few more low-information voters. And the plutocrats who dictate to them have no interest in seeing an educated populace - in fact, it's keeping them ignorant that lets them stay in control. They can hire all the educated people they need in India or China or elsewhere where they can't vote in US elections.

  • just bill on October 28, 2011 3:05 PM:

    why are they making it harder for people to further their education? that's obvious. the more intelligent a person is, the less apt they are to be fooled into voting for a republican. it's to their advantage to keep people stupid.

  • DRF on October 28, 2011 3:05 PM:

    I understand why conservatives believe that there are a number of activities that are best left to the states and the Federal Government should stay out of these areas. However, I completely fail to understand why Cain thinks that financing of college education should be a state responsibility rather than a federal one (or a combination of state and federal action). This is merely a funding issue, not an issue of government "activity" in any meaningful sense of the word. Why shouldn't the Federal Government provide funding for college? Why would we expect a patchwork of 50 different states (and D.C.) to do this better?

  • Mark-NC on October 28, 2011 3:09 PM:

    As DavidNOE says, they're not stupid - they're liars.

    And they hate anything, anywhere that helps anybody!

  • Texas Aggie on October 28, 2011 3:18 PM:

    It isn't so much that they are worried about losing the future but that, deep in the dark recesses of their slimy souls, they hate everything that America stands for.

  • yellowdog on October 28, 2011 3:19 PM:

    How many of these people, or their family members, went to college with the help of Federal student aid programs? A show of hands please. If there are any real journalists left, perhaps they could find out the answer. Who paid for the college attendance of these policy makers?

  • Rich on October 28, 2011 3:22 PM:

    "Ponzi scheme" just seem slike their word of the moment like socilist or civility (remember when they cared about that). Ryan obviously benefited from federal largesse in getting an education, I wonder about the others.

  • jjm on October 28, 2011 3:23 PM:

    @TexasAggie: you said it. How long will their miserly, mean-spiritedness be treated as political assets?

    I've never seen a bigger bunch of lemmings than the current GOP, running headlong over the cliff as they run away from what the people want.

  • DAY on October 28, 2011 3:27 PM:

    Well, I agree; abolish the Department of Education! AND the Department of Defense- give the money to the states, and let them create their OWN militia forces for self defense. Starting right at the border; keeping out of staters from sneaking across, and stealing edumacations. . .

  • bdop4 on October 28, 2011 3:45 PM:

    ". . . you have people living within communities within states that are willing to help fund those kinds of programs. So I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to help fund a college education . . ."

    I'de like to see a journalist with the guts to ask Cain if he can name any private person or organization willing to issue low interest student loans without federal government guarantees.


    That would probably get him/her kicked off the campaign bus, but at least it would help expose this snake oil salesman he is.

  • patrick II on October 28, 2011 3:52 PM:

    Like many words, "Ponzi scheme" has unique meanings between subcultures. When spoken by Repulicans, "Ponzi scheme" is a pejorative meaning "I didn't get my cut".

  • berttheclock on October 28, 2011 3:52 PM:

    Herman Cain went to Morehouse College in Atlanta from 1963 to 1967. MC is an all male, private institution which receives federal funds to sustain operations. Herman Cain's father was a driver for the President of Coca-Cola and his mother was a domestic. So, how did Cain pay for his tuition at a private college? Little is ever mentioned about his time at Morehouse College except for listing his degree in math with a minor in physics. However, when he studied for his Master's at Purdue, he served as a USN officer. Morehouse College did have the Navy ROTC program, which is federally funded, so, did Cain pay for his way through college by way of federal funds? It could well explain why he never took part in the Civil Rights movement, as well.

  • Momikatz on October 28, 2011 3:59 PM:

    There isn't enough money in it for the private sector. You've got the private, for-profit mills like Phoenix, but curbing student loans as Obama did kind of kills that. And the vast majority of the federal money goes to either public colleges and universities or pinko ones like the Ivies or Stanford.

    And, of course, educated people tend to vote Democratic. Besides, why do we need to plan for the future if it's all under God's control?

  • MonkeyBoy on October 28, 2011 4:10 PM:

    If education is necessary for success and only the wealthy can afford a good education for their children then the wealthy can become a self-perpetuating class - an aristocracy.

    At least the Rs have not yet gone as far as trying to make illegal to educate certain classes of people as was done during the slave era.

  • SYSPROG on October 28, 2011 4:16 PM:

    THANK YOU yellowdog and others. YES! I want to slap these hypocritical ahole upside the HEAD! Not too long ago I wrote here about Rehberg (MT) who wants to stop subsidizing education. He went to school (Montana) at a time that tuition was subsidized 85%...but runs his rotten mouth that 'he did it all himself'. NO HE DIDN'T. Hermain Cain? NO HE DIDN'T. Ron Paul? NO HE DIDN'T...even that snarky btard RYAN...NO HE DIDN'T. If WE know this why can't the 'JOURNALISTS' ask about it???

  • berttheclock on October 28, 2011 4:51 PM:

    Actually, Denny Rehberg's college time was split between attending Montana State University and Washington State University. It appears he attended those schools between 1969 and 1973. At that time, in-state students did not pay tuition at Wazzou, however, out of state students were charged. Sharpies have learned how to become "residents" to get around the 3 times higher tuition. However, from reading his bio, it did not look as though the Rehberg family had financial problems.

  • Kathryn on October 28, 2011 4:52 PM:

    You folks are on to something, some enterprising young reporter, if one exists, should research how Cain, Ryan and the rest funded their college educations. How many students has Herman Cain funded other than any children he may have? Wonder why his family is so under wraps, haven't read a word about them. There's something very fishy about Cain and I bet it's not far under the surface.

  • Schtick on October 28, 2011 4:53 PM:

    Anything that benefits working class Americans is a "Ponzi Scheme" while all the illegal shit they pull on Wall Street with everyone's life savings and pensions, thanks to the tealiban, so people have nothing left, is ok because it makes the rich richer.
    And Cain and Ryan, "I" don't believe the federal government should pay people for doing nothing either. Like the people we elect that spend all their time campaigning. They should get an hourly wage that only pays them for the time they spend doing actual legislative work in their offices or on the floor of Congress. And seeing that they actually work less than part time, (less than two days a week), they shouldn't get medical benefits for themselves and their family. That should free up some money for education.

    crapcha....emerges tinsen....ok

  • rikryah on October 28, 2011 5:02 PM:

    The Democratic Party should be making this into a pamphlet and passing it out, along with voter registration card ON EVERY CAMPUS IN AMERICA.


  • Peter C on October 28, 2011 5:53 PM:

    Tuition costs and health-care costs have both been rising at an out-of-control rate to the point that they are both crushing the middle class. The current system is completely broken. Without her scholarship, my daughter's annual tuition bill is more than half my annual salary (and thus more than a quarter of the annual family income). Her scholarship covers a quarter of the total, but her federal financial aid is a joke; it covers only another tenth.

    Our society tolerates our obscene disparity of wealth because of the myth that there is class mobility and a safety net. The Republicans have done their best to destroy both and the myth is becoming more and more hollow. Frustratingly, as the Republican attack public education and college financial aid, they not only diminish class mobility, but they also undermine our country's future prosperity.

    Greed and gluttony - they are both deadly sins and fatal to a just, stable and prosperous society.

  • Vince on October 28, 2011 5:55 PM:


    You summed up my thoughts quite well. I would only add that I think that the Republicans' (or certainly their paymasters, at least) really don't like the middle class. We get all upity and demand things like a decent and safe work environment, time off, benefits, etc. They truly don't see to like that sort of thing.

  • exlibra on October 28, 2011 6:50 PM:

    If 95% of Americans were not college educated, the "job creators" (the remaining 5%) wouldn't have to go to the trouble of outsourcing the jobs to China and India. A high school dropout is more likely to take a job that pays $10 a day, w/o any "benefits" like pension, vacation and health care. A college educated kid, OTOH, is apt to aim higher (as people above have said "gets uppity") than that.

  • DS on October 28, 2011 9:29 PM:

    College education leads to more independent thinking which can be seen as advancing "secular humanism" . Ignorance is much more advantageous for Republicanism.

  • bob h on October 29, 2011 6:55 AM:

    Republicans will defend, however, the demand of college Presidents to make $600K a year or more.