Rep. Gil Gutknecht and House Majority Leader John Boehner would probably receive a better reception at a Chamber of Commerce meeting than at Minnesota State University Mankato, but MSU Mankato is where they’re planning to hold a rally on Thursday, Oct. 12.
One wonders why.
Both have long held public education in much lower esteem than, say, tax breaks for millionaires, for they vote against the former but in favor of the latter. The last time I looked on the MSU Mankato campus I didn’t find one millionaire, though there were a lot of students paying more for their education than certainly their parents did, and about 50% more than their older brothers and sisters only five years ago.
Today’s students are racking up debt much faster and will have to pay higher interest rates to boot. Built into those rates is a guaranteed profit to giant student loan lender Sallie Mae, once a part of the federal government, now semi-privatized, which means its investors are guaranteed a profit and its executives a fat salary while the U.S. taxpayers take the risk.
John Boehner, former Chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education & the Workforce, is one man students can thank for this. Isn’t it convenient that he’ll be on MSU’s campus Oct. 12 so students can deliver the message personally?
Boehner’s antipathy for education goes back a long way, at least to 1995 when he co-authored legislation to do in the Department of Education. Fortunately, it failed.
Ten years later, along with Gutknecht, he supported the so-called Deficit Reduction Act, which,
According to United States Student Association Legislative Director Jasmine Harris, …would create $5,800 in additional debt through interest and taxes for the average student borrower.
A portion of the cuts would be met by tacking on $5.46 billion in additional charges to student borrowers upon consolidation of student loans; new taxes on student loans totaling $1.82 billion; and $505 million in charges that would occur due to the repeal of a cap on the maximum interest rate for student loans (UW Badger Herald).
Both Boehner and Gutknecht have sterling records for supporting public education. Both, for example, can point to a zero rating from the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and both boast a rating of 25 from the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Yet Boehner benefits well from his association with the folks that issue student loans. For example, according to Ralph Nader,
He has been wined and dined with over $200,000 in campaign contributions to his PAC from individuals affiliated with the private student-loan industry in the 2003-2004 election cycle.
In December 2005, Mr. Boehner reassured a group of Sallie Mae types who wanted reassurance that their cushy deals would continue: “Know that I have all of you in my two trusted hands.”
And, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “the student loan companies Sallie Mae and NelNet have provided jets for Boehner.”
If House Speaker Dennis Hastert resigns over the Foley scandal — or is “deposed” as some would say — then Boehner stands at the front of the line to take over what is arguably the second most powerful position in the country. In this sense his visit is an honor to MSU Mankato.
But in another sense it’s a slap in the face. For no matter how he’ll try to spin his votes and positions on higher education, the fact remains that neither he nor Gutknecht have been friends to today’s college students.