Readers may remember my last, shall we say, dialogue with the great Republican thinker Todd Akin. Akin is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Republicans because he articulates the party's true positioning on issues so well. He has been back in the news recently with this gem of a quote about student loans: "America has the equivalent of the stage-three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in." While Mitt "Etch A Sketch" Romney and other Republicans are back-pedaling as fast as they can on the student loan issue to make it sound like they don't want student loan interest rates to go up, Todd Akin and the other right wingers who control the Republican party are digging in, questioning the whole idea of whether the government should even be involved in student loans.
Please, keep speaking out, Congressman. Your country, your Party, and my Party especially all need you to keep making clear the true Republican position on student loans.
There couldn't be a clearer distinction between Republicans and Democrats, between conservatives and progressives than on this issue. What Democrats, progressives, and incidentally the American people believe is that one of the best ways to rebuild the great American middle class is to invest in our young people's education through both high-quality K-12 public education and through grants and loans for college students. Thomas Jefferson's dream of public education for all, Abraham Lincoln's idea of a land grant university system, FDR's plan for a GI Bill for our country's soldiers so they could get a college education after serving their country, and Claiborne Pell's bill that gave grant money for college students in need helped create the legacy of a strong middle class in this country. We created a way for poor and working class kids to get a good education and make a better life for themselves than their parents had, and that made us a stronger country.
The American middle class, the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, was not built by accident. It was built brick-by-brick by the generations that came before. It was built by raising our wages through the power of the labor movement and the minimum wage; it was built by providing incomes, health care, and a safety net for our senior citizens and those with disabilities and those who had hard times; it was built by protecting us from financial speculation and the specter of bank runs; it was built by investing in roads, bridges, highways, and rural electrification; it was built by investing in the kind of R&D that created the transistor chip and the Internet; it was built by encouraging entrepreneurship and small business strength through vigorous anti-trust enforcement; and it was built by investing in the education of our young people. Education was one of the cornerstones.
Other than the honest ones like Akin, conservatives generally only want to talk about this in "quiet rooms" (as Romney would put it). They want to dismantle this infrastructure that created the middle class. They want to take it apart brick-by-brick just like our grandparents and parents built it for us brick-by-brick. They have been doing a pretty good job of it, too -- steadily cutting back on money for one program after another, pushing to dismantle even the biggest and most popular cornerstones like Social Security, Medicare, and public education. They believe that the market will just take care of everything, and that those who deserve to have success will get it without the help of anyone else. If the government invests in a working class kid who couldn't afford to go to college on their own, according to them it is socialism and should not be done.
Fortunately, the American people firmly believe in that middle class earlier generations strived so hard to build for us. They are with us on issue after issue. The right, though, has an incredibly well-funded media machine that is working overtime to convince Americans not to invest in each other, and never to trust government (especially when Democrats are in charge) to ever do anything right. They will blame all our country's economic problems, which were created by their own ideology, on government, and will distract people from focusing on the issues. It is the job of progressives to tell our story the way it should be told, and to keep people focused on the fact that conservatives believe that things like Social Security, Medicare, public education, and student loans are socialism.