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Dems finally (relatively) muscle up for student debt relief. Artwork by Ed's Jam/hxdbzxy via Shutterstock

This You? Everyone's Had It With GOP Silver-Spoon-and-Foot-In-the-Mouth Hypocrisy

Abby Zimet

We're still trying to wrap our wee brain around the right's lunatic firestorm - communism! losers! bootstraps! - in response to Biden's entirely sensible plan to forgive some student debt, and its underlying notion that education, much like health care, is a fundamental good in society, at least a minimally rational one. The three-part plan seeks to alleviate a punishing $1.6 trillion in student debts now facing about 43 million borrowers, mostly young, women and people of color - debts that since 1980 have nearly tripled along with similarly skyrocketing college costs. At the same time, says a White House Fact Sheet, Pell Grants that once covered nearly 80% of those costs for working families now cover barely a third. The plan would forgive up to $20,000 for Pell recipients and up to $10,000 for other federal loans; both have a $125,000 income cap, and almost 90% of benefits will reportedly go to those making under $75,000. Ultimately about half the 43 million will see their entire debt wiped out, half will see part erased, and a total of $550 billion in debts will be eliminated. Biden carefully stressed the plan is aimed at low-to-middle-income families - he specifies "no one in the top 5%" will benefit - so it's natural the moneyed right instantly erupted in a new culture war delirium of head-spinning hypocrisy about lazy stoned baristas, "lesbian dance theory" and "gifts to the rich" so bizarre you'd think they'd be knocked over by the force of their own dazzling cognitive dissonance.

Thus do we have the corrosive Charles Koch intoning about "shameless handouts" - which he certainly never got on his way to acquiring his $57.6 billion net worth - and The Federalist shrieking, "After destroying your livelihoods with COVID mandates, Biden wants you subsidizing rich college grads," and a vile Marcia Blackburn harumphing about "another gift to the rich" (who make  $75-$125,000 a year) as she sniffed, "Tennesseans should not be forced to pay for coastal elites to get their PhD in gender studies." Intriguingly, her snide, fake, touch of class war outrage echoes what The Intercept notes is the 50-year-old origin of our massive student debt: The Reagan-era antipathy to public colleges at the forefront of protests against the Vietnam War, and fears it was creating "an educated proletariat" that constituted political "dynamite." Long hostile to California's public college system, Reagan had vowed to "clean up the mess" at Berkeley and other campuses rife with "communist influence"; at the same time, silver-spoon-born  conservatives worried free higher education could produce "a positively dangerous class situation.” The solution, from The National Review: Let them eat $1.6 billion in boot straps, aka “a system of full tuition charges supplemented by loans which students must pay out of their future income."

Enter the derisive rhetoric of today's brouhaha, part of a frenzied, frightened right's ongoing culture war against education as "elitist"  'cause knowing how to spell or think just gets you in good trouble. In their warped worldview, Biden's simple choice to "help those who need it most" becomes "completely unfair," "irresponsible," a clueless clown's "handout" in which downtrodden farmers, waitresses and other hard-working Americans are "paying for other people's mistakes," "paying the debts of Ivy League lawyers and doctors," and, from the sneering, deeply contemptible Ted Cruz, gifting "20 grand to  stoner baristas who studied useless things in college and now can't get a job" - and who might then, gasp, go vote for a party based on its values or actions. Those immersed in this smug phantasmagoria even get to be not just classist, but racist too! From right-wing pundit Steven Crowder: “Student loan forgiveness sounds really nice to illegal immigrants, people with no life experience, people who don’t have families yet, and people who use preferred pronouns.” Weirdly, their snide messaging seems to overlook one hard, sticky fact: A colossal 43 million Americans, whatever pronoun they use, have federal student debt, and welcome relief. Says one sage,"If Republicans want to keep insulting 43 million people, I won't get in their way." 

Their contempt and sanctimony, however, pale before the mind-boggling hypocrisy that is millionaires suddenly, magically claiming to be on the side of the fictional little guys and whining about "handouts" to those legitimately in need. Mitch McConnell, who's worth over $30 million, blasted "a wildly unfair redistribution of wealth toward higher-earning people" he dubbed "student loan socialism"; zombie Rick Scott, the richest member of Congress with over $200 million, ripped a "Socialist handout" that puts "hard-working Americans on the hook (to) pay other people's bills," something the rich would never do; job-killer Mitt Romney ($85 million) thought it was "sad to see what's being done to bribe the voters; uber-grifter Ron Johnson (up to $78.3 million) charged "grossly unfair" Democrats "have become the party of the elite." Fox News eagerly joined the righteous fray: They blared the term "handout" for days, asked guests if they felt "swindled," and dismissed Biden when he once punched back with, "He went off on this - waves hand in air - billionaires' thing." That rancor toward Biden - who's "been living off taxpayer dollars for fifty years" - has reached fever pitch, with one churlish critic dubbing him "a clown": "I feel like we've reached the Joker phase...He's riding a parade float down Pennsylvania Avenue just tossing money."

The ugly animus toward Biden in the face of his recent successes is heightened by his new willingness to call out their two-faced malarkey: Sleepy Joe becomes Dark Brandon! The dissonance dates to 2017, when all these charlatans voted for Trump's $2 trillion tax cut to the rich - a tax cut that, because trickle-down is bullshit, did much less and cost much more than promised, and  "racked up this enormous deficit." More recent freebies were $700 billion in federal PPP loans to help businesses weather the pandemic. They were forgiven too, and lots of handout-whining pols got them, and the new Dark Brandon, armed with a feisty new PR hire - "The White House is not fucking around" - began throwing serious shade on Twitter by naming and shaming every hypocritical one of them. When MTG screeched student debt relief was "completely unfair," the White House helpfully noted she "had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven." For others who'd blathered on: "Congressman Markwayne Mullin had over $1.4 million in PPP loans forgiven." Kevin Hern had over $1 million. Matt Gaetz had  $482,321. Vern Buchanan had over $2.3 million. Mike Kelly had  $987,237. Etc. Bernie also rebuffed the "squawking" with Trump's 6 bankruptcies and $287 million in forgiven loans: "The GOP l-o-v-e-s socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the rest."

Many others piled on, identifying scores of self-righteous debt forgiveness critics - Daily Caller, Prager U, Crowder of the preferred pronouns - unearthing their hefty and yes forgiven PPP loans, and wryly asking, "This you?" Alexandra Petri took to heavy-duty sarcasm to mock those bewailing "the nightmare in which someone else is being spared a small hint of the suffering I endured...I have just received word that life is getting marginally better for some people, and I am white-hot with fury! We must keep everything just as bad as ever..." And still, the repellent whiners, grifters and culture warriors keep coming. The latest is Donnie Jr. paramour and grotesquerie Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was secretly paid $180,000 a year by Trump, made $60,000 for a three-minute speech before the insurrection, and just offered an unhinged rant on Newsmax about Biden's "communist approach" to education hurting working people like herself. (Best on-line exchange: "What does she do again?" "Fredo, mostly.") Biden is "paying off loans for people they wanna have some bizarre basket-weaving degree, you know?" she railed. "And they want all of us...hard-working men and women to subsidize their laziness...I mean, enough of this nonsense." Right? In 1822, James Madison applauded "the liberal appropriations (for) a general system of Education" that meant "enlightened patriotism embracing every class of Citizens...Knowledge will forever govern ignorance." Clearly, James Madison never met these cretins.

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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