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Obama’s Education Fear-Mongering

The Obama campaign’s theme this week is education. President Obama wants voters to believe that as president, Mitt Romney would be bad for education in every context: in public schools, in colleges, and for teachers.

So far, he’s not having nearly as easy a time convincing voters he’s the better candidate as he had in 2008. The Huffington Post tries to explain why:

Despite the attacks, a new poll finds Romney trails Obama by a small margin on education and holds a slight edge on the issue among independents.

The annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the “public’s attitudes toward the public schools” asked registered independents to choose a candidate if they “were voting solely on the basis of a desire to strengthen public schools.” Overall, 49 percent supported Obama, compared with 44 percent for Romney. But Romney had 46 percent of independent voters’ support, compared with Obama’s 41 percent.

The findings make sense because Romney “was governor of an educationally successful state” that transitioned from mediocre performance to star status, said Chester Finn, who presides over the right-leaning Washington think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and who worked in President Ronald Reagan’s administration. Finn noted that in 2008, Obama led John McCain in education by 17 percentage points, which “suggests that Romney is far better positioned on this issue.”

While HuffPo may be onto something with Romney’s previous success in Massachusetts, I suspect that the vast majority of Americans are unaware of any successes (or failures) Romney may have faced during his time as governor. Romney’s campaign has been playing on a theme in its opposition to ObamaCare that may be resonating with Americans outside of the debate over healthcare policy.

This morning Conn Carroll discussed the war on “free stuff” that the Romney campaign has been waging, with Romney explaining to Americans,

When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare [at the NAACP] they weren’t happy… That’s OK, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more free stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy. But don’t forget nothing is really free.

The Romney campaign is out with a new ad on the topic that is sure to resonate with anyone whose parents told them that money doesn’t grow on trees (that was one of my mother’s favorite lines). The Obama campaign is trying to stir outrage against Romney following these remarks made March 5 in Youngstown, Ohio during a question-and-answer portion of his appearance:

QUESTION: I’m a senior in high school right now. I’m going to be going to college next year and it’s not very cheap. I was curious, if elected, what would you do to, um, with regards to college tuition, whether making it easier for me and my classmates, in regards to that?

GOV. ROMNEY: The best thing I can do for you, is to tell you to shop around. And to compare tuitions in different places and make sure you are getting the education you want for the cost you want.  Make sure you can get your degree in four years. Or less…. Recognize that college is expensive; you don’t want to have huge debts. And I’m not, and I know that it would be popular for me to stand here and tell you that I’m going to give you government money, to make sure to pay for your college but I’m not going to promise that. What I’m going to tell you is to shop around, get a good price and I do feel this, if you’re willing to serve your country in the military, for instance, that’s a place where we’re going to say “yeah were going to give you help.” In my state, the legislator and I came together, in my state, to say that anyone who has served in the national guard, we will provide for tuition and fees for four years of college to make sure that you will get that start. So if you’re willing to serve we can be of more help. But my best advice is; find a great institution of higher learning, find one that has the right price, shop around. In America this idea of competition, it works and don’t just go to the one that has the highest price, go to the one that has a little lower price where you can get an education and hopefully you’ll find that and don’t take on too much debt and don’t expect the government to forgive the debt you take on. And, I want to make sure that every kid in this country that wants to go to college gets the change to go to college. If you can’t afford it, scholarships are available, shop around for loans, make sure that you go to a place that’s reasonably priced and if you can, think about serving the country because that’s away to get all the education for free. Thank you.

From that speech, President Obama tweeted this last night:

I wonder what President Obama finds so offensive about “shopping around.” Americans never pay full sticker price for comparably sized purchases like cars or homes. Why would students take out on average over $20,000 in loans before first making sure they are getting the best price a school can offer with the most financial aid possible? Governor Romney’s advice, even when taken out of context by the Obama campaign, is sound financial counsel.

Obama added a dose of fear-mongering, by telling young voters about the possibility that they will pay more on their loans and receive less in Pell Grants. With his rhetoric on college education costs, it seems Obama is attempting to shore up youth support that, while all but guaranteed last election, seems very much more precarious this time around. What President Obama seems to misunderstand is what young people in the beginning stages of their careers need from his administration. Most Americans don’t need free bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts. They want a way to pay back their student loans; they want jobs. They want an economy that is ready, willing and able to absorb them post-graduation so that they can become independent adults in need of no governmental or parental handouts. They’ll take a job as a fisherman before settling for a free fish.

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