Out-of-control’? Not even close

Next month Congress is supposed to debate the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The proposal on the table, which cleared the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee by a 21-17 vote on Nov. 3, would cut more than $14 billion from federal student loan programs.

In addition, the bill would add $5.46 billion in charges to those who choose to consolidate student loans, $1.82 billion in new taxes on student loans. As if the outlook for student borrowers weren’t bleak enough, repealing the cap on the maximum interest rate for student loans will tack on an additional $505 million dollars in charges.

These so-called reforms are part of a larger package known as the Deficit Reduction Act. Supporters of these cuts argue that they reflect a commitment to fiscal responsibility and eliminate government waste. U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a press release that the “bill provides the best possible policy given the budget constraints facing the nation.”

His release also refers to “out-of-control government spending.”

Yet the war in Iraq costs an estimated $1 billion per week. Congress passed a quick $62 billion in relief after the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Don’t forget the four tax cuts Bush pushed through to relieve the financial suffering of billionaires.

And now, it’s “out-of-control spending” that must be reined in. Where does Congress go to inflict these cruel and myopic cuts? Medicare, food stamps and student loans.

A great deal of our national treasure is being siphoned off to finance the war in Iraq.

Set aside for the moment any doubts as to whether the war is making the country safer, as well as any questions about the wisdom of embarking upon a costly invasion of a sovereign country while simultaneously cutting taxes.

Ask instead: What kind of country are we trying to defend?

Is it one in which students must risk bankruptcy to get an education? How does that help the economy?

Or is it a country in which the lower and middle classes must simply abandon the ideas of higher education, health care and proper nutrition as prohibitively expensive?

These cuts hurt schools across the country. They threaten the education of students who must borrow an average of $17,500 to finish college. They hurt all of us.