When a politician on the campaign trail claims, “I’m just quoting, I’m just quoting” something from the opposition, you can bet your bottom dollar they probably aren’t. Barack Obama insisted in his North Carolina speech on Tuesday that he was just quoting an unnamed Republican Congresswoman who supposedly attacked students for running up debt:
She said she had ‘very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there’s no reason for that.’ I’m just quoting here, I’m just quoting.
She said students who rack up student loan debt are just ‘sitting on their butts having opportunity dumped in your lap.’ I’m reading it here. So I didn’t make this up.
Well, actually, Obama wasn’t quoting Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), at least not accurately, and so he did make up his assertion. As Katrina Trinko reported for National Review, Foxx wasn’t claiming that she couldn’t tolerate any students who took out student loans. What she did say was that she had no tolerance for students who take out $80,000 or more in debt to get overly expensive education and then later claim poverty when it comes time to pay:
“I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that,” Foxx continued. “We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ You don’t sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap.”
How many of those who owe student-loan debt rise to that level? Trinko did a little research:
According to a recent study by the New York Fed, 94 percent of student-loan debtors owe $75,000 or less. (Forty-three percent owe $10,000 or less.) So, Foxx was talking about a very small percentage — 6 percent! — of the student-loan debtor population, not all students.
But by omitting that crucial phrase — and Obama did not acknowledge he had omitted any of the quote — the president made Foxx appear to to be lambasting all students who graduate with debt, not the small percentage who graduate with $80,000 or more.
And actually, Foxx’s advice is a lot more helpful than Obama’s to these students. Does Obama want young adults to get out of college with $200,000 in debt that they likely will never fully retire, leaving them financially crippled and unable to buy a house even if they get a decent-paying job? Why does Obama hate students?
As Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Tribune wrote during the last campaign, Obama worked his way through college and law school – including jobs selling trinkets, making sandwiches at a deli in Hawaii and working as a telemarketer pitching subscriptions to The New York Times. Michelle’s early jobs included work as a camp counselor and a typist/assistant for the American Medical Association. In the early years, nobody would call the Obamas rich.
But according to their tax returns, which are available on the White House website, the Obamas had a healthy, six-figure income by the year 2000 (the earliest return available). And for at least two years before his loans were paid off, Obama, by his own definition, made so much they were wealthy enough to pay higher taxes.
Here’s a rundown of the president’s income, according to his tax returns, in the years before he paid off his student loans:
In 2001 and 2002, the Obamas would have met the $250,000 standard the president has set for those wealthy enough to afford to pay more taxes.
It’s also notable that the Obamas didn’t claim deductions for student loans on any of those years, most likely because they made too much money to qualify for the student loan deduction.
So even when he was “rich,” Obama couldn’t quite retire the student loans — and most of those students who fall into the high-debt category won’t win public office and write memoirs for extra income. Wasn’t that Foxx’s actual point?
Of course, this is the same President who wants to force all of these young adults to buy expensive comprehensive health insurance that they don’t need in order to subsidize premiums for 45-64 year olds, too. Pushing young adults into indentured servitude seems to be a habit of his.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
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