Senators Versus Students

By David Swanson

As long as we’re going to dump most of our money into wars and the military and Wall Street and health insurance bailouts, students are going to have to go into debt to afford college. But it would cost the students less and the government less, if private companies were not permitted to act as middlemen profiting off public loans to students.

One of the companies so profiting, Sallie Mae, is based here in Virginia and funnels millions of dollars from its profits into lobbying to make sure the free money keeps flowing. Senators Warner and Webb have chosen to side with the parasites rather than the students, but disguised their choice as one of concern for jobs, the jobs of the loan sharks who could find respectable work in a better educated society. I grew up in Reston, where Sallie Mae’s jobs are, and I know there are people there who will find a way to publicly say thank you for Sallie Mae’s help in driving our nation deeper into ignorance and debt.

But our representatives are in Washington, not Reston, and they represent their donors, the media, and the president, not us. Student lending is an issue on which the White House officially supports good legislation. But no congress members are getting hounded with promises or threats the way they do when it comes to funding wars. Clearly the corporate media couldn’t care less. Educated students, after all, are statistically the least likely to watch the crap we call television news. And the legalized bribes always weigh against public needs, not for them.

While I would choose to end the wars and make college free, or — as a distant second choice — to make Webb and Warner pay off students’ loans by cleaning Virginia’s highways in orange jumpsuits for $0.25 an hour, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act is admirable for its sensible approach to keeping student debt as low as the military will tolerate. It’s also admirable for the remarkable irony that — were it not for the corruption of Webb (202-224-4024) and Warner (202-224-2023) and a few other senators — this legislation might be included in a health insurance bill that takes the exact opposite approach.

I recall watching a performance at the White House several months back at which the president answered pre-approved questions from the public about healthcare and the economy and student loans. His argument for cutting out the student-loan middleman and saving money was direct and coherent, just as his support for single-payer healthcare had been when he served as a state senator in Illinois. Now his approach to healthcare is to empower the parasitical middlemen, the insurance companies, and require us to hand our money to them.

Yet, rarely is the excuse used that our society could not find respectable jobs for former employees of the Sickness Industry. Instead, the claim is repeated so many times that it begins to sound plausible, that we, the customers, are actually too comfortable with our victimizers to give them up. If it becomes necessary, you’ll begin to hear about the public’s affection for student loan companies too. That may sound crazy now, but that’s only because you haven’t heard it 10,000 times yet. Our trepidation about parting with HMOs would have sounded like lunacy before the “health insurance reform” debate got going.

And let’s not imagine that the health insurance corporations will succeed in passing a public mandate to buy their useless and murderous products without every other industry noticing. We may soon learn about the public’s deep attachment to all sorts of crap that just won’t sell. “Education reform,” anyone?

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