IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Sympathy Gap

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) appeared on G. Gordon Liddy's radio show the other day, and shared her thoughts on Americans burdened with student-loan debt.

For those who can't watch or listen to clips online, here's the part of Foxx's comments that stood out:

"I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money.... 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."

There are a few relevant angles to comments like Foxx's. For one thing, House Republicans made Foxx the chair of the House panel on higher education, which make her comments that much more disconcerting. For another, she went to a state school four decades ago, when tuition was far more affordable, and students and their families didn't need to take out exorbitant loans.

There's also the matter of Foxx's party's presumptive presidential nominee, who put himself through school thanks to money from family stock sales, and who now wants to scrap college aid for millions of American students, on purpose, for ideological reasons.

But what also stood out for me is Foxx's choice of words: she lacks "tolerance" for families burdened by massive debts, because they had the nerve to want more education.

It's not just that conservative Republicans are indifferent to those who are struggling; the larger truth appears to be that these GOP policymakers seem to have disdain for these Americans, even during difficult economic times.

This goes well beyond education aid.

We also learned this week, for example, that House Republicans are scrambling to pay for additional Pentagon spending that the Pentagon says it doesn't want. How does the GOP intend to finance the additional spending? By cutting food stamps.

From food stamps to child tax credits and Social Service block grants, House Republicans began rolling out a new wave of domestic budget cuts Monday but less for debt reduction -- and more to sustain future Pentagon spending without relying on new taxes. [...]

At one level, the pro-Pentagon, anti-tax stance fits traditional Republican doctrine. And the whole goal is to come up with enough savings to forestall automatic spending cuts that will fall most heavily on the Defense Department in January.

But what's also driving the latest cuts is a newer narrative, voiced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), that the social safety net is at risk of becoming a "hammock."

Got that? Republicans want to spend money on defense that the Defense Department doesn't want, and it wants to pay for the spending by slashing aid to struggling families -- because they have it way too easy right now.

Say hello to The Sympathy Gap.

It's also why Republican policymakers have opposed extended unemployment aid -- the problem in 2012, the GOP argues, is that life has just become too comfortable for those Americans who just barely getting by. Congress should make conditions considerably more difficult for them, while giving tax breaks (and protecting tax loopholes) for millionaires.

It may seem like a ridiculous message for a major political party to push in the wake of the most devastating economic disaster since the Great Depression, but Republicans apparently assume most low-income voters won't show up on Election Day anyway, and those voters who do participate can be scared by talk about "socialism."