Cain on Student Loans: “I Don’t Have a Position”

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain discussed student loan reform at the National Press Club on Monday. Well, not really.Courtesy of <a href="http://www.c-span.org/Events/Herman-Cain-Visits-Washington/10737425093/">C-Span</a>

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain just finished up a 30-minute press conference at the National Press Club in DC by singing, at the request of the moderator, “Amazing Grace.” That came just a few hours after Cain was aked at the American Enterprise Institute what fellow presidential candidate he’d dress up as for Halloween (answer: Ron Paul). But, on a day he’s been accused of possibly breaking federal campaign finance laws, and forced to respond to reports of sexual harassment, Cain was asked some nuts-and-bolts policy questions, too.

Specifically, the former talk radio host and Godfather’s pizza CEO was asked what he would do to control the rising cost of attending college—and what actions he might take to make student loans more manageable. Cain’s answers were revealing:

“The issue of addressing the expense of higher education, I happen to believe that, here again, let the free market sort it out. You have more expensive colleges and universities. You have less expensive colleges and universities. And people have a choice. Colleges and universities are competing for students… I didn’t say it was just fine. There could be some other factors, but I don’t believe that we should artificially start to tamper with the free-market system.”

Pressed in a follow-up on how he might address the ballooning costs of students loans, he answered: “I don’t have a position on what we ought to do about all of the student debt that some of the students have run up. I don’t have a position on that right now. It’s unfortunate, but it is obviously something that we are going to have to deal with.” It’s a question of immense importance, and not just for the We Are the 99 Percent folks either. Last week, President Obama announced a plan to attempt to lower the student loan burden on recent college grads. Obama’s plan might not make much of a difference, but considering student loan debts have increased 511 percent since 1999—totaling nearly a trillion dollars—it’s clearly the kind of problem that’s badly in need of a fix. Just take a look at the chart on the left, from our college guide.

It also suggests Cain hasn’t given much thought, ever, to higher education policy. There is a market when it comes to college tuition—it just so happens it’s totally dominated by the producers and not the consumers. Even as the cost of teaching has gone down, the cost of tuition has risen across the board, at a rate that far outpaces inflation, as well as (in the case of public universities) budget cuts. Rather than driving down the cost of college, the higher education market has for the last few decades been driving costs higher and higher.

This is, incidentally, the kind of question we should see more of at events like this, as well as at debates. Student loan reform is a serious topic, with a ton of money at stake (not to mention the livelihood of a lot of people in my generation), and one that candidates for the presidency should be expected to have put at least some thought into. But it’s not the kind of thing anyone in the GOP field will bring up unprompted. So kudos to the moderator for at least asking the question.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.