President Obama blasted a congresswoman recently in a way that demonstrated both dishonesty and a casual disregard for the severity of the problem of massive student debt.
Here is what Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., actually said on a radio show, as reported by the liberal Huffington Post: "I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt, because there's no reason for that. We live in an opportunity society, and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' You don't sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap."
Those are sound sentiments with which virtually everyone across the political spectrum ought to agree. It is beyond absurd that high numbers of college students needlessly are racking up debt loads that will take them many years, if not decades, to repay -- making it harder for them to save for a home or for their own children's education. Even the most frivolous academic programs can cost many tens of thousands of dollars per year at a lot of elite colleges and universities.
How weighty a problem has student debt become? Well, just last year it exceeded $1 trillion for the first time in our nation's history. And student loan debt now is greater than all that Americans owe on their credit cards.
Is taking out a loan to pursue a college degree more worthwhile than spending carelessly on a credit card? Certainly, but debt is still debt. And when a huge debt is accumulated for a degree that offers its holder few prospects for a good job, that is not a wise investment.
But the president does not seem to sense the gravity of the problem.
While claiming to be "just quoting" Rep. Foxx, Obama deleted inconvenient parts of what she said.
Remember: Foxx said she had "little tolerance" for those who accumulate $80,000 to $200,000 in student debt.
But in Obama's version -- given in a speech in North Carolina -- Foxx "said she had very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there's no reason for that. I'm just quoting here. I'm just quoting."
That's quite an editing job! It's as if Foxx had expressed disgust for anyone who takes out a student loan in any amount.
In fact, as Katrina Trinko of National Review Online pointed out, Foxx's comments referred only to the 6 percent or so of students who owe $80,000 or more -- certainly not to every student who borrows any amount of money.
But those facts were lost on Obama. And that is not surprising. He seems as unconcerned about student loan debt as he is about the roughly $16 trillion national debt, which has grown at a dizzying pace since he took office.
Whatever merits anyone may ascribe to the president, a reasonable understanding of the perils of big debt isn't one of them.