Our View: More congressional impotence

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:29 PM

Editorial Board

When it comes to the follies of the U.S. Congress, dysfunction to describe the body isn’t strong enough. We prefer impotence to describe its affairs. Like weak rulers who are easily pushed around by numerous subjects, on far too many issues, they fail to make tough decisions and then whine about how hard it is to reach tough decisions.

The latest comedy/tragedy is over the student loan issue. On Monday, the student loan rate doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent when Congress, after dithering for several months, failed to do anything definitive on the issue. Republicans want to tie the student loan rate to financial markets. Democrats want to simply maintain the artificially low Stafford loan rates for students. Surprisingly, President Barack Obama seems more sympathetic to the Republican position. In any event, both sides bickered as time ran out to do anything.

Frankly, we’d like to see the Stafford loan rate raised to its proper 6.8 percent rate. Keeping the rates artificially low has harmed the deficit. We understand that student loans have caused tough times for many Americans, particularly those who have used the loans to go to school and then failed to get a good job. However, 6.8 percent is not an unfair rate to pay, and those receiving 3.4 percent rates for several years have already received a fiscal break on their loans.

But the larger issue is Congress once again failed to reach a legislative deal on a significant U.S. issue. Is it any wonder why fewer than 10 percent of Americans have a positive viewpoint of Congress? Listen to this comment on the issue from one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s flaks: “There is no deal on student loans that can pass the Senate because Republicans continue to insist that we reduce the deficit on the backs of students and middle-class families, instead of closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations.”

That’s not a substantive argument, it’s whiny campaign rhetoric.

But this is a bipartisan failure. Both sides are so afraid of losing to the other side that compromise appears impossible. The latest talk is Congress may plan to put off this dilemma by restoring the 3.4 percent rate for a year. But Republicans won’t agree to that, and Democrats won’t agree to this, so the sad, dysfunctional, impotence game goes on.

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