Rep. Gohmert Suggests Being "In Government Service" Made Him Too Poor To Afford His Kids' Colleges

October 25, 2011 12:13 pm ET — Kate Conway

Last night on Fox Business, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) rushed to assume the worst about President Obama's upcoming student loan initiative announcement, speculating that the proposal will be an attempt to "buy students' votes." Seeing no value in making it easier for students to pay back their loans, Gohmert complained bitterly about federal funding for higher education, and tried to dismiss the difficulties many students face by explaining that his family "had to do student loans because I've been in government service."

GOHMERT: If you look at the debt ceiling bill like I did, not many others apparently did, it increased the amount of Pell Grants from $3 billion to $13 billion. My kids, my youngest just graduated from college, and we had to do student loans because I've been in government service and that's— I didn't want them to have to worry about it. We still owe them those. It would benefit me greatly.

But that is not a stimulus, what the president's talking about, in forgiving the student loans. That is a stimulus of his voters to come out a year from now and vote for him. That's all it is. It's buying votes with federal money that we don't have. We'll have to borrow 42 cents of every dollar that he uses to buy students' votes so they'll come out again for him as they did in 2008, hoping that buying those votes they'll come back in 2012.

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With the cost of higher education rising and the American incomes stagnating, college is becoming less affordable for many American families, and student loans are an unavoidable hardship for many of those pursuing higher degrees. Gohmert and his family may have had to make some sacrifices to educate their children, but it's absurd for Gohmert to suggest that his experience, with his congressman's salary of $174,000, gives him any real understanding of the financial difficulties faced by average American families, whose median income is less than a third of Gohmert's. (Even before he took office in 2005, Gohmert's "government service" was as a district judge, a position with an average salary of $169,300.)

And even if Gohmert is feeling the pinch, he's adamantly against changing the system to make it easier for him — or for the thousands of less-fortunate families who are struggling even harder to give their children a shot at higher education. Gohmert clings to the conservative argument that federal higher education funding — like Pell Grants — has driven up the cost of attending college, and suggests that we should just "stop" throwing money at college tuition. But researchers explain that "[r]ising college costs are an important byproduct of broad economic forces that have reshaped the entire economy," and it turns out that college costs have risen far faster than the maximum amount available for a Pell Grant.

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