Republican Tom Cotton said during an Arkansas U.S. Senate debate on Tuesday that "Obamacare nationalized the student loan industry." The first-term congressman added, "That's right, Obamacare grabbed money to pay for its own programs and took that choice away from you."
In a wide variety of states, U.S. Senate candidates have held quite a few debates recently, and if the national media is to be believed, the most important takeaway from the discussions is what the candidates are saying about President Obama. That's a shame, because this kind of coverage obscures more meaningful revelations about policy.
On Monday, for example, the Beltway's interest in Alison Lundergan Grimes' 2012 vote overshadowed more alarming and consequential rhetoric about health care policy from Mitch McConnell. Yesterday in Arkansas, the Mark Pryor/Tom Cotton debate generated more headlines about the president, which obscured the latest evidence that the right-wing congressman makes a lot of claims that aren't true.
Tom Cotton may be many things. Truth-oriented isn't one of them.
The right-wing Arkansan recently said voters in his state should worry about ISIS terrorists joining forces with Mexican drug cartels, which really doesn't make any sense. The congressman was also recently caught brazenly lying about Congress' farm bill, and when confronted with reality, Cotton said he didn't care and would repeat the falsehoods anyway.
And now the Republican wants Arkansans to believe "Obamacare nationalized the student loan industry," which suggests Cotton either doesn't understand the policy he's whining about, or he does understand it and is deliberately telling voters something that isn't true.
Let's recap in case anyone is tempted to believe Cotton's new argument.
Under the old system, the government wanted to make loans available to college students, but instead of giving loans directly to students, federal funds instead went to banks, which in turn gave the money to students. Students then paid interest on the loans, which the banks kept, and if students defaulted, the government would pay the banks back.
In other words, the United States paid banks billions of dollars for no reason, creating a middleman, on purpose, to empower banks to make guaranteed, no-risk loans with our money.
President Obama and congressional Democrats concluded that this was stupid -- they were right -- and made a change. Under the new policy, approved in 2010, Dems removed the middleman, streamlined the process, saved taxpayers a ton of money, and helped more young people get college degrees.
Republicans, apparently including Tom Cotton, want to return to the old system, which would cost tens of billions of dollars more -- again, that's our money -- while reducing the number of students receiving assistance.
In other words, the right-wing Arkansas congressman isn't entirely clear on what "nationalization" means -- taxpayers were already footing the bill before -- and he longs for the days in which Washington sent billions of dollars to banks as part of a costly and inefficient system.
Part of Tom Cotton's platform, of course, is his commitment to fiscal responsibility.