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GOP determined to move backwards on student loans

When it comes to President Obama's accomplishments, I tend to think one of the more overlooked breakthroughs was reform of the student-loan system -- an effort that was decades in the making, but had been blocked by Republicans and bank lobbyists until 2010.

Under the old system, the student-loan industry received billions in taxpayer subsidies to provide a service the government could perform for less. As Rachel explained on the show last night, in 2010, Democrats removed the middleman, streamlined the process, saved taxpayers a ton of money, and helped more young people get college degrees.

Republicans have condemned the move, usually for ideological reasons (they tend to call it a "government takeover" of the student-loan system). Yesterday, however, the Romney campaign tried to make a practical argument about the more efficient system.

[College Republican National Committee Chairman Alex Schriver] suggested the reason tuition costs are going up is because "this president decided to take over the student loan market."

Think about that for a moment. Schriver, acting in his capacity as an official surrogate of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, argued on the record to reporters that tuition costs are higher because the government is no longer paying banks billions of tax dollars to serve as needless middlemen in the student-loan system.

Does anyone, anywhere, seriously believe this argument makes any sense at all? Either way, it suggests Romney, if elected, intends to bring back the old system and undo the cost-saving 2010 reforms.

That is, if Republicans don't scrap the federal student-loan program altogether.

Greg Sargent flagged this remarkable quote from Rep. Todd Akin (R), who's currently running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri.

Akin said the government should be out of the student loan market altogether. "America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in," he said.

The GOP's presumptive presidential candidate, meanwhile, believes students who get accepted to college but can't afford the tuition should simply "shop around" to find some cheaper college -- because a Romney administration has no intention of helping that student afford the costs.

It's against this backdrop that Republican lawmakers are prepared to let student loan interest rates double. And the GOP wonders why it struggles with younger voters.