The unserious nature of Washington, Exhibit A: The student loan debate

posted at 9:36 pm on April 27, 2012 by Dustin Siggins

Over the last week, President Obama made a series of speeches at colleges around the country in which he decried the coming rise of student loan interest rates on July 1. Obama, joined by Mitt RomneySenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  and House Republicans, has said he refuses to let rates rise from 3.4% to 6.8%. Following his lead, as Morgen Richmond noted yesterday, Democrats immediately jumped on the chance to raise taxes on upper earners. Republicans, meanwhile, pushed a bill through the House today that takes $5.9 billion from what Speaker Boehner called an “ObamaCare slush fund” to pay for the extension.

Unwittingly, this student loan debate highlights the debacle that is politics in Washington. To wit:

1. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the House legislation was part of the “war on women” because it took from a women’s health program. I must say, she’s good at staying on message. Good at solving the nation’s problems, or leading her caucus to do so? Not so much.

2. Pelosi also denounced “robbing from Paula to pay Peter.” This from the same women who wants to tax the wealthy because they are wealthy. And while I actually agree with her that we should get rid of oil subsidies, tax credits, etc., a) I support eliminating all such subsidies and credits, not just for companies I personally or professionally dislike, and b) Pelosi is being intellectually dishonest in pretending many of the oil industry’s “subsidies” are specifically targeted to them. Jazz Shaw nicely pointed this out last year.

3. Much like they did with the payroll tax holiday extension, Republicans let themselves get suckered into a media game. The fact is that federal subsidies to higher education institutions and/or students increase the tuition students pay, and helps increase the size of the college bubble that is likely to come crashing down soon. Republicans would better serve the public in highlighting this fact instead of playing to the voters’ lack of economic knowledge.

4. The Republican National Committee has stepped up to challenge Obama’s travels to various states under the auspices of “official events,” despite the obvious campaign style and intention of the tour. (For the record, I am aware that President Bush did the same thing. That was just as wrong.) However, the fact that it took ABC News’ Jake Tapper to really bring this issue to the public’s attention says a lot about the willingness of Congress to do its duty and challenge the President on this and other issues of the public trust and corruption, since the RNC’s challenge has no actual legislative power or authority.

5. How many more “temporary” patches to subsidies, tax breaks, pay cuts and like can the federal government afford? The Alternative Minimum Tax, the Bush tax policies, the Doc Fix, the payroll tax holiday, etc. have all been temporarily patched to prevent angering this constituency or that demographic. Once again, elections take priority over effective policy on taxes, spending and other critical issues.

As the two parties head into formal election mode – Romney is about to be the GOP nominee for President, and President Obama just announced his first “official” campaign rally will be May 5 – the voters should note the unserious nature of Washington and give a bipartisan reminder in November that we want real solutions. After all, there are 1.2 million abortions annually in this country. We have the federal government violating the First Amendment with various mandates. Debt is skyrocketing, the economy stinks, Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt fast, we refuse to solve our immigration problems, major tax hikes are on the horizon and we’re still sacrificing troops for Karzai despite no discernible national interest…and the primary focus of Washington is on student loans.

Of course, the people may not want real solutions. In that case, I’d say it’s time to start packing; America’s decline may soon be steepening.

Dustin Siggins is an associate producer with The Laura Ingraham Show and co-author with William Beach of The Heritage Foundation on a forthcoming book about the national debt. The opinions expressed are his own.

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