Political Animal


October 24, 2011 2:40 PM Paul Ryan and how to lose the future

By Steve Benen

Congressional Republicans have made an aggressive effort this year to slash Pell Grants, and severely restrict eligibility, after the Obama administration boosted the program in 2009 and 2010. At a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin last week, a college student asked House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to explain why he’d hurt “middle- and lower-class people that need it the most.”

The right-wing lawmaker responded:

“…Pell Grants have become unsustainable. It’s all borrowed money…. Look, I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, and we need to have a system of viable student loans to be able to do this.

“The second concern I have is, in the health care bill — people don’t know this — for budgetary gimmickry reasons, the administration and Congress at the time, took over the student loan industry. So they had the federal government, the Department of Education, basically confiscate the private student loan industry.”

Let’s unpack this because I think it’s important.

When it comes to the student-loan reform measure that was approved in 2010, Ryan is either deeply ignorant or he’s shamelessly lying. The reform measure didn’t “confiscate the private student loan industry”; that’s idiotic. Under Ryan’s preferred model, before reform, the student-loan industry received taxpayer subsidies to provide a service the government could perform for less. Democrats removed the middleman, streamlined the process, saved taxpayers a lot money, and helped more young people get college degrees. No one “confiscated” anything — the “private student loan industry” still exists — and the officials simply stopped giving money to banks for no reason as part of the federal student-loan system.

If Ryan wants to return to an inefficient and needlessly expensive model, he’s welcome to make the case, but he shouldn’t lie about the existing policy.

The Budget Committee chairman would also have us believe that the Pell Grant system is “unsustainable” because of growing costs, but that’s misleading, too. As ThinkProgress noted, “[T]he GOP’s budget provides huge tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations which dwarf the cost of preserving the grants.” It’s simply a matter of priorities, and for congressional Republicans, sending kids from working-class families to college isn’t high on the list.

And that leads to the larger concern: Ryan’s vision for America’s future is just bleak. Given global competition and the need for the most educated workforce the nation can muster, the leading Republican voice on the budget believes the United States will be stronger and better off if we send fewer working-class kids to college. We should, in his mind, make it much more difficult for these young people to get a degree. Let’s discourage these students, Ryan believes, since the alternative might lead to (cue scary music) public investments and slightly higher taxes on people who can afford to pay them.

Ryan’s comfortable with these families taking on crushing debts, but student-loan debt nationwide is already nearing the $1 trillion mark — even more than Americans owe on credit cards — which very likely undermines the economy as young workers with disposable income inject less money into the economy and more into banks. It’s also getting worse, not better — consumers are paying down their credit cards and home loans, but outstanding student loan debt has doubled in the past five years.

Ryan’s plan, in other words, is a recipe for how the country loses the future.

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.


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  • Arlington BigFish on October 24, 2011 2:55 PM:

    Ryan's lying about the student loan program is even more egregious than you're portraying it. There wasn't any "private student loan program" for the feds to "confiscate": there was a public loan program which was run by the private sector & subsidized by the feds. Congress just eliminated the middle man & is using the subsidy money to make more loans.

  • zandru on October 24, 2011 2:59 PM:

    "I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, "

    Does anyone know whether or not this is true? It sounds unlikely.

    Then again, if true, that may be how Ryan has ended up totally bought'n'paid for by The One Percent.

  • Ron Byers on October 24, 2011 3:02 PM:

    The Republican vision of the future is bleak. I feel like we are entering the last days of America, Republican officeholders know the truth but just aren't telling the rest of us.

  • Another Steve on October 24, 2011 3:02 PM:

    "deeply ignorant" and "shamelessly lying" are not mutually exclusive categories when the person doing the talking is one of the leading intellectual lights of the new, improved GOP.

  • kevo on October 24, 2011 3:04 PM:

    It may just be me, but has anyone else noticed Ryan and his fellow Republican travelers tend to speak out of their asses, as their ideas of what ought to be begin to be seen as poppycock?

    Ryan should stand by his legislative offering, and see where that gets him. But instead, he comes out with his program and then spends all his time knocking down the straw men of President Obama's ACA and other policies.

    Ryan's plan is a hoax, and that is exactly why he spends zero time explaining how it works, and only uses it as a prop to bash the President! -Kevo

  • exlibra on October 24, 2011 3:05 PM:

    I only wish "the administration and Congress at the time" had pulled the same "gimmick" in regard to the healthcare. We'd be in a much better shape if we had given the boot to the middlemen there, too. Whenever I think of what we had achieved with Pell Grants and missed with the healthcare, I dream of closing my hands on Lieberman's scrawny, wattled neck.

  • Gretchen on October 24, 2011 3:09 PM:

    Didn't Ryan get through college on Social Security survivor's benefits, another ladder he'd like to pull up behind himself?

  • jjm on October 24, 2011 3:11 PM:

    The GOP's 'trigger words' -- government takeover, higher taxes, too much regulation, shrinking government -- are rapidly losing their effect.

    I never knew quite why they boosted the lying GOP so much in the past (they advertised that they themselves were not doing what they were most prone to do --Reagan raising taxes, Bush expanding government, GOP congresses attempting to force people to follow their sexual moral dictates, etc.).

    Still, I believe that they can no longer catch fire with the public's imagination using these stale, mendacious concepts.

  • Josef K on October 24, 2011 3:12 PM:

    Ryan is either deeply ignorant or he’s shamelessly lying.

    I echo Another Steve at 3:02pm, and vote "He's both!"

    Worse, it has yet to occur to anyone to ask Ryan "why did you need to work three jobs to pay for college?" Hell, why should anyone have to work that many?

  • dalloway on October 24, 2011 3:16 PM:

    Notice a pattern here? It's all about short-term gain for Republicans: I want what I want right now and screw everyone else. From Wall Street to Congress, from student loans to tax cuts to climate change denial, they don't give a damn about the future. Why would anybody who has or loves children ever consider voting for them?

  • T2 on October 24, 2011 3:18 PM:

    it seems to boil down to this: Anything that could help a minority, or lower income class person get educated and have a better future, the GOP is dead against it.

  • Anonymous on October 24, 2011 3:24 PM:

    I hate this little dweeb for a variety of reasons but...

    Ryan's dad died when he was 16. Ryan began collecting his Social Security survivor's benefits until age eighteen, which he saved for college tuition and expenses (I question this...he probably got it all the way thru college). He worked a couple of PT gigs for Bob Kasten. Tuition at Miami U. was $2448 (It is now $10427) per year. Tuition was HEAVILY subsidized by the state legislation to ensure that all children had access to education.

    I am so sick of his crap. 'I did it all myself!' No you did not! He is not a stupid man. He is not 'deeply ignorant'...he is a LIAR and daring you to call him out on it.

  • SYSPROG on October 24, 2011 3:34 PM:

    OK Anon was me and I stand corrected. SS benefits for college students ended in 1985. If you weren't enrolled by 1982 you didn't get them. So Paul Ryan rec'd SS for two years until he turned 18. Interestingly enough, the reason Reagan pushed to have this program end was because it was rife with fraud and they had BETTER federal education programs that they could control more effectively.

  • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© on October 24, 2011 3:37 PM:

    Anonymous on October 24, 2011 3:24 PM:

    Thank you. Facts are like kryptonite to these wh0res.

  • June on October 24, 2011 3:47 PM:

    @Anonymous -- "I hate this little dweeb for a variety of reasons..."

    I second that emotion. Ryan's chief talent seems to be tying up enormous amounts of everyone's time (and the taxpayers' dime) on completely useless busywork, yet, the press still has him down as some kind of "serious" pol.

  • Brenna on October 24, 2011 3:52 PM:

    Ron Byers on October 24, 2011 3:02 PM:

    The Republican vision of the future is bleak. I feel like we are entering the last days of America, Republican officeholders know the truth but just aren't telling the rest of us.

    I totally agree, yet my husband's republican buddies truly believe getting Obama out of the white house will save the country. I wonder if they are even listening to what the candidates are saying, or if they are just letting Fox spoon feed them info.

  • Trollop on October 24, 2011 3:56 PM:

    If this guy's face doesn't already say shamelessly lying then I'm sleeping with Yurtle the Self-hating gay turtle and Candy Cow-ley is an honest to gawd investigative journalist! Please say it isn't so..

  • LL on October 24, 2011 4:09 PM:

    Please forgive my crude language, but is Ryan an asshole or what? His mother and father should be ashamed for being responsible for such an ignorant, dishonest, greedy boy.

  • c u n d gulag on October 24, 2011 4:21 PM:

    You got your ignorance in my lying!

    You got your lying in my ignorance!

    Ryan's Ignorant/Iying Rancid Cups!

    Two bad policies, mixed in one!!!

  • Rick B on October 24, 2011 4:49 PM:

    Ron Byers [3:02 PM] describes the conservative view of the future quite well. This is the nature of conservatism and always has been. They know the world is going to Hell [See Pat Buchanan] and their strategy is to retreat into their gated communities and hunker down while the world collapses around them. They damned sure don't intend to spend any of their own money helping other avoid the (to them) clear on-rushing disaster.

    Frankly I think we are going to have to see a Jubilee on student loans. Simply cancel the damned things. The result will be a massive increase in both consumption spending with the increase in GDP that should be expected, and an increase in the number of students getting the education they need to work at their highest personal potential instead of the majors that best allow you to pay the damned loans off.

    Since banks are rent-collectors instead of producers of goods and services a jubilee will not damage the economy in any way. A jubilee will simply match debits and credits and remove them from the bank's books. Since the banks use money they themselves create to issue the loans no one gets hurt.

    Personally I am going back to school again, but this time in what I love. No more computer science and accounting. Computer science is OK, but accounting is a purposeless struggle. This time it's Social Work and Sociology, both of which are fascinating and allow me to be around people who aren't always grumpy and isolated.

  • Rick B on October 24, 2011 5:29 PM:

    Since Ryan graduated from college in 1992 he would have been eligible to receive social security survivor's benefits until his 23rd birthday as long as he was in school.

  • emjayay on October 24, 2011 6:07 PM:

    To be fair, Ryan's tuition in 1988 of $2448 would be $4452 in 2010. So tuition hasn't quadrupled. Just doubled.

    He's still a dick.

    I went to SFSU (second tier of California state U's) in 1990, and if I remember correctly tuition was around $600 a semester (including fees?). Now it's $2,736 a semester. Plus fees = $3,138, or $6,276 a year. I guess that's a deal these days. Tuition at UC Berkeley is $5610 a semester, $7250 including fees. So, about 15K a year, at a public state supported institution.

  • bigtuna on October 24, 2011 7:22 PM:

    unpack it a bit more, and translating, with some baseness:

    Ryan's answer is:

    Look, you little peckerhead. I was not a lazy grant-sucking dweeb like you. I got federal benefits, fair and square, went to a highly subsidized public university, had federally subidized loans, and worked part time, including in a public job. I did jack shit in the private sector, got elected, and have a family and kids and staff all on the public medical system, with expenses for my office that you taxpayers pay for. Now that I am here, I am pulling up the ladder, and pathetic little losers and your Pell grants can go to hell. I am part of the haves now, baby. Power to the job creators. game has changed. Screw you.

  • Catzmaw on October 24, 2011 8:18 PM:

    Ryan is lying, just plain lying. His father died when he was 16. Mine died when I was 17 so I know what I'm talking about. As the survivor of someone who paid into the social security system Ryan was eligible for and no doubt received social security benefits through his 21st year. That's how it worked for me. I got something like $240 or $260 per month (in the mid-70s), and back in those days when school was a lot cheaper that was significant money. I've seen reports elsewhere that he got the benefits until he was 18, but they actually went (if I recall correctly) until the 22nd birthday if one was in college full time. This makes Ryan a lying sack of hypocrisy seeking to deny to other students what he and countless others (like me) were entitled to as a result of the loss of a parent.

  • Salt on October 24, 2011 8:59 PM:

    I was also a 'survivor' and my benefits continued until my college graduation just before my 22nd birthday--including through a year-abroad program. I'm saddened if they now drop survivors at 18. I don't know if I would have been in any financial shape to pursue a master's five years later.

    America's self-hatred is now epic: who would deny a bereaved child a few shekels to support his education?

    BTW, thank you TaxPayers--and I honestly don't mind paying my share now (flips my conservative cow orker out.)

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  • idon't know on October 25, 2011 3:00 PM:

    From Wikipedia. I guess he liked big government then re social security benefits.

    "The youngest child of Betty and Paul Murray Ryan, a lawyer, Ryan was born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin.[5][6][7] Ryan's mother is an outdoors enthusiast who led her husband and four kids (a sister, Janet, and two brothers, Tobin and Stan) on regular trips to hike and ski in the Colorado Rockies.[6][8] He is a fifth-generation Wisconsin and Janesville native and a great-grandson of Patrick W. Ryan, who founded the Ryan Incorporated Central construction business in 1884.[9]

    Ryan attended Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville and was sixteen years old when he found his father in bed, dead of a heart attack at age 55. Ryan's grandfather had also died of a heart attack at age 57, as had his great-grandfather also similarly died of a heart attack at age 59.[10] Ryan began collecting his Social Security survivor's benefits until age eighteen, which he saved for college tuition and expenses.[11]

    Ryan briefly worked during college for the Oscar Mayer meat and cold cut production company as a Wienermobile driver.[12] He went on to graduate from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a B.A. in economics and political science in 1992. Ryan also studied at the Washington Semester program at American University.[13] Ryan was a member of the Delta Tau Delta social fraternity.

    Ryan worked within the private sector as a marketing consultant to an earth-moving company run by a branch of his family after he returned to Wisconsin from Washington, D.C. .[8][14]"