For families all across the country with students in college or preparing to go to college, rising tuition costs and debt is a major factor in their choice of school and budgeting, among other crucial decisions. This was no exception when I enrolled at Marquette University over a year ago and it is no surprise that it is becoming a point of contention in Washington D.C. and a trend over the social media waves.
The latter facet has recently been summed up by #DontDoubleMyRate, the hashtag made popular by the president’s twitter page to pressure Congress into keeping rates on Stafford student loans at 3.4 percent for one more year. On Tuesday, the Senate reached a compromise on this issue, adding even more pressure on the House to do what the hashtag insists. However, the entire campaign is not nearly as just as conventional wisdom would suggest and is instead a fairly obvious ploy to capture young voters.
While Keynesian economists continue to not have any reservations about the access to easy money or the possibility of a ‘higher education bubble’ bursting similar to the housing bubble, the Obama campaign and the left are using the issue to try to keep young voters in their grasp.
A petition now circulating by the Obama campaign is headlined ‘Keep College Affordable’ regardless of the fact that college is becoming increasingly less and less affordable with or without loans. Never mind that student loans are not in place to combat the rapid inflation of college tuition, but rather fuel it by giving institutions more incentive to raise fees. Never mind, for a moment, that free market solutions could both increase the quality of education and decrease its cost. These economic arguments can and should be made, but the fact is that students and their families are not focused on the battle of free market versus Keynesian economics. They are concerned about costs and right or wrong #DontDoubleMyRate speaks to them, hence the Obama camp’s excessive use of the hashtag.
Since the Obama campaign took the president’s rhetoric to the web and launched #DontDoubleMyRate, the hashtag has been used by many college students day in and day out who are worried by the prospect of seeing their rates jump. Even if the president is genuine about the issue, it does not mean he is not politicizing the issue for the benefit of securing a demographic of voters.
A separate twitter account, @DntDubleMyRates, had this tweet last month:
“Every tweet counts #DontDoubleMyRates Act Now to help POTUS win.”
Help POTUS win? It is unclear if this twitter account is associated with the campaign, but it does not do anything to make Obama look like he is politicizing the issue any less and it summarizes pretty well what Obama is possibly hoping for by making an argument like this. Victory in November.
The president’s account has basically been counting down the days until the July 1 deadline for congress to act, showing us that social media has become a tool for the presidency to go public with an issue and further play politics. If the president was not so clearly demagoguing the issue by urging us to ‘Keep College Affordable’ when costs are always inflating and by being so economically off key, it would not be as obvious of a pure political move. Whether it is this issue or his immigration policies targeting Hispanic voters or the ‘war on women’ rhetoric that has developed, the underlining theme for Obama in this election year has been to target groups of voters. This is not to suggest that Gov. Romney is completely innocent of this tactic, but unlike the president, Romney is not constantly demonizing and placing blame on the other side for ‘playing politics’ like the president does constantly, especially on social media.
When Obama claims that ‘women are not an interest group,’ he really means the opposite, as he is obviously trying hard to get their votes with a group mentality. When there are campaigns like ‘Women for Obama’ and ‘Latinos for Obama’ that are started within the Obama camp, it is hard to find validity in #DontDoubleMyRate as something more than an election year tool. Students are worried about costs and not surprisingly are using this hashtag. But with one in two young college graduates either jobless or underemployed and mountains of debt saddled on their backs, results should carry more weight than recycled rhetoric and social media trends.
Again, Gov. Romney is not immune to the guilt of pandering, but Romney is also running on results, or lack thereof, from the current administration. Obama is trying to find an argument that works for him moving forward to November, but so far he only appears to be acting as a demagogue.
Students are not an interest group. Ideally, policies appeal to people as individuals and not just groups, but that is obviously not what the political landscape is conducive to. Obama may think it is a good strategy to play Russian Roulette with the future, while also hoping that that metaphorical gun shoots his opposition in the foot, but it really does not seem to be a very strong plan for a reelection, or an honest one to hundreds of thousands of American families.