Opinion

Congress staffers, federal employees shielded from student loan hike

The doubling of the interest rate on student loans that took effect July 1 because will hit millions of Americans who are still paying off their higher education.

Unless they work for Congress or some other part of the federal government. In that case, you’re paying the bills for them.

congressstaffersAccording to USA Today, Congress – the House and Senate – spent about $20 million in 2010 under a federal program that covers the student-loan payments of its staff members. In 2011, the program spent $72 million paying the student loans of more than 11,000 workers in 36 federal agencies outside of Congress, according to the report.

The student-loan payment program was designed, according to USA Today,  “to make government jobs more  appealing to job candidates who could earn more in the private sector.”

More appealing.

Federal career bureaucrats work for an employer  that will never go bankrupt,  has an almost institutional inability to fire incompetents, and sets the gold standard for paid days off in a year. (You know, federal holidays?)

So to tempt them into this sweatshop of a career, we have to cover the student-loan payments that are grinding down millions of their less-fortunate fellow Americans?

Forbes staff writer John Tammy published a commentary piece Sunday, “Student Loan Debt: Now for the Bad News,”  describing how Congress is protecting its own from the higher interest rates that will be hitting the hoi polloi, thanks to an inability of those very congressmen to come to an agreement on how the rate hikes could be avoided.

But better, Tammy writes how thoroughly wrong that is.

“…  The Constitution only authorizes a very limited government to do the most basic of things …. [T]here’s an implicit view that only the average need apply for federal work. The ambitious would logically want very little to do with government work created to serve the truly important doings in a private sector that makes government jobs possible to begin with …

“It’s bad enough news that student loan debt provided by taxpayers is rising. But truly bothersome is that politicians … have in typical fashion ensured that a national problem won’t impact their own, let alone their ability to attract workers to increasingly serve their needs, as opposed to those of the U.S. taxpayer.”

He’s dead on, of course, but it’s even worse than that.

Congressional staff work does more than make life easier for our federal representatives. It seems to pose a very real danger of destroying the souls of the people who engage in it, and all they touch.

For an excellent look at this, see “How to Win in Washington” in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Times staff writer Mark Leibovich describes the rise and fall and rise again of one such staffer, and in the process paints an ugly picture of the species:

In a good light, they’re probably generally well-educated, ambitious, smart kids on the rise, out to do well by doing good. In a less-flattering light  (which is what Leibovich describes), they’re parasitically, self-destructively ambitious — as coddled a group of young adults the country has known outside the plantation aristocrats of the antebellum South. And now they’re shielded from rate increases that are hitting the country’s other people of all ages who tried, with whatever degree of success, to improve their lives through education.

Is this a great country, or what?

Congress staffers, fed employees shielded from student loan hike

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