Student loans: Do Republicans really think program is socialist?
President Obama said Friday that Republicans in Congress are calling federal student loans socialism. Republicans reject the charge. But the issue is highlighting political differences.
President Obama repeated his drumbeat for student-loan relief on Friday, telling an audience of Virginia high school students that Congress must act soon to prevent a doubling of federal-loan interest rates.Skip to next paragraph
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With the cost of subsidized Stafford loans set to double for borrowing that occurs after July 1, the issue has become a major theme for the president in the past couple of weeks.
Republican lawmakers show an openness to preventing the interest rate from jumping to 6.8 percent. But they and Mr. Obama are also using the issue as an election-year opportunity to underscore their political differences.
In no small measure, this year's campaigns for control of the White House and Congress could boil down to a fight over government's proper role in the economy. Obama wants to paint the Republicans as outside the mainstream in their antipathy toward government programs, while Republicans are labeling him as an extremist in his advocacy of big government.
Obama used his address at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., to return to the fray.
One GOP congressman, he said, likened the government's student-loan activity to socialism. Is it socialism, Obama implied, to build a better-skilled work force?
"America is not just about protecting a few people who are doing well. America is about giving everybody a chance to do well," Obama said, giving his own take on rugged individualism and drawing applause. "Everybody here, you're only here, you're only succeeding because somebody, somewhere, felt a responsibility not just to themselves, not even just to their own families, but to the country as a whole."
Some Republicans, however, say Obama's focus on government-subsidized loans for students represents a weak effort to cover himself for the poor performance of the economy on his watch.
On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the US created just 115,000 jobs in April, a cooler pace than earlier in the year. The unemployment rate edged down, but mainly because many working-age Americans have dropped out of the labor force. And the jobless rate, at 8.1 percent nationwide, is even higher for young Americans like the ones Obama addressed in Virginia.
The socialism charge, in the context of student loans, arose recently from Rep. Todd Akin (R) of Missouri, who is now running for the US Senate. He criticized a government move to "take it all over" and said, "The government needs to get its nose out of the education business."
Democrats say the private student-loan business is alive and well, and that Obama merely removed a costly role for banks as middlemen in some federal loans.