Brown bags it

How the Senator screwed college students. Plus, Obama and gay marriage.
By EDITORIAL  |  May 9, 2012

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Republican Senator Scott Brown's vote to allow the interest on college loans to double illustrates perfectly why Brown is a clever politician, but a rotten senator.

Brown's vote puts the screws to the nation's 7 million college students who rely on the 3.4 percent Stafford loans to finance their increasingly expensive educations.

One hundred and seventy seven thousand of those students are in Massachusetts. When the federal subsidies on those loans expire on July 1, the interest rates will jump to 6.8 percent.

Studies show that Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation in terms of the debt graduating college seniors carry, with an average obligation of $25,541.

In better times, that's a hefty burden with which to start on a career path. In the middle of the worst economic crisis in more than a generation, it is cruel and unusual punishment.

Unless a graduate has a specialized degree (in, say, engineering, computer science, or nursing) the odds of a finding a job are long. Even those lucky enough to get work are often underemployed — pulling espresso or working part-time.

Brown, together with his Republican colleagues, voted to make a bad situation even worse.

Why?

Because the Democrats' plan to pay for extending the loan subsidies would have closed a tax loophole often exploited by well-off investors.

In other words, Brown sold out the interests of the poor, the working class, and middle-income families in order to lick the boots of Wall Street, which contributes mightily to his re-election campaign.

But along the way, Brown manufactured some interesting political cover for himself. In order to burnish his questionable credentials as a moderate, he proposed an alternative way of extending the loan subsidies: tap into the existing $115 billion pool of misdirected federal funds — money that was sent to the wrong recipients and returned or cash that was mistaken dispersed and then recouped.

There is no doubt that this was a novel idea, a good example of thinking outside the box.

The problem is that, for the time being, it is not an idea with any broad political support. It's an interesting idea that is going nowhere.

There was nothing inherent to Brown's proposal that should have kept him from voting to help ease the crushing debt that college graduates and dropouts must carry. He could've supported the bill, and then worked to gather the necessary political support to implement his way of paying for it.

Brown had a black-and-white choice: help college students and their families or help investors with high incomes.

Brown chose to screw the many and help the few. It's as simple as that. Remember this in November.

DOING THE RIGHT THING

The unexpected endorsement of same-sex marriage rights by Vice-President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan highlights the increasingly fatuous and embarrassing position on the issue that is held by President Barack Obama.

Obama favors civil unions, not gay marriage.

Obama's apologists explain that the president's position is "evolving." The suggestion being that, if Obama is re-elected, then he can safely say what must surely be in his heart: that he favors same-sex marriage rights.

There is no doubt that Obama faces what polls say will be an extremely tight vote. Political calculation, not idealism, is what Obama must follow, this argument goes.

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