It seems like Democrat and Republican politicians never see eye-to-eye on anything. But this week, President Obama and Mitt Romney both agreed that the rate for Stafford student loans should not go up. But Congress may still not be buying it, at the expense of the nation’s young people.
Romney gets heat from conservatives
Mitt Romney, while expressing his solidarity with President Obama in regard to the Stafford loan rate issue, never fails to blame the president’s economic policies for new grads being unable to find work. Even so, he is taking heat from some conservative Republicans, who see the stand as pandering to Obama’s position.
Conservative blogger Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote:
“Mitt Romney is going to sell out conservatives in his party.”
Congress drags feet over funding
Congress is still dragging its feet on the loan rate issue. Though many lawmakers say they support an extension of the rate cut, the sticking point is, of course, the cost.
The White House wants to pay for the $6 billion loan extension by closing a legal loophole that allows S Corporations — those that pass earnings, losses and tax debts on to shareholders — to skirt paying some Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said:
“I don’t think the temporary interest rate cut should expire this year. But the way to prevent that is not by raiding Social Security and Medicare while making it more difficult for small businesses to hire college students already struggling in the Obama economy.”
Some conservative politicians, however, have expressed much less support for an extension of the Stafford rate discount.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), said in an interview:
“I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt.”
Courting the college vote
Obama also took his appeal to the airwaves Tuesday night, appearing on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” a show that rates well with college demographics. That segment is posted below.
In 2008, President Obama handily carried voters between ages 19 and 29 by a 34-point margin. But high unemployment rates and a sluggish economic recovery have caused many young people to question their support of the president and the political process in general
A recent survey by the Harvard University Institute of Politics found that young people today, though still overwhelmingly supportive of the president, are more discouraged about politics and the economy and less likely to vote.
Romney played on that perhaps-weakening support at an event in Pennsylvania recently:
“I think this is a time when young people are questioning the support they gave to President Obama three and a half years ago.”
However, according to Hodding Carter, the Public Policy Professor at the University of North Carolina, Obama still may have some pull with the nation’s youth, even if not in the numbers he commanded in 2008.
“It’s not too late for Obama to relight some fires,” Carter said.
The time to speak is now
Obama’s push for the Stafford loan rate extension may just be what he needs to recapture some of those young supporters. But more importantly for those carrying a student loan, his plea for Americans to speak out is a timely one. The loan rates may double anyway, despite any grass-roots efforts, but without speaking up soon, an individual’s voice will never be heard on the matter.
President Obama on NBC’s ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.’