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Public Statements

Student Loans

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. RYAN of Ohio. I thank the gentlelady, who is also a graduate of the University of New Hampshire Law School--two proud graduates.

I would just like to chime in and talk a little bit because Ohio is a State that, since the inception of the State into the Union, we have always, in Ohio, made investments into our schools, our colleges, our universities through the land grant system and whatnot, because there was always this deep appreciation for education, knowing that as we move, as this country moved throughout the industrial age into the information age now, how essential it is for our kids to be able to go to school and to be able to go to community college and to be able to go to college and to be able to take a loan out, which many, many years ago they really didn't have to do because the Pell Grant was at a level that they didn't really necessarily need a loan. You could get a part-time job or a summer job or work back in your community throughout the year, over the holidays, and be able to supplement. Your parents could help out a little bit, and you would be able to get an education.

Today, because of the explosion in education costs, many of us believe that there is a responsibility for all of us collectively as a society to do something that we can't do on our own, and that's make investments in education and allow every citizen in this country, if they want to, to go to college. But knowing that not everyone wants to go to college, maybe they want to go to community college, which is fine, but it's about ramping up the education level in the United States of America, and it's about making sure that it's affordable.

This is kind of a divisive issue here in Congress. Today, it came to a head right here on the House floor, where there was one side of the aisle that said we want to make these investments and make sure that the student loan rates don't double to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent because that will be a burden on middle class families and that will be a further burden on parents who are cosigning or paying these student loans, or more of a burden for the student who wants to graduate from college and then maybe go out and have a decent start in life without a $20,000 or $30,000 or $40,000-a-year debt hanging over their head. That would do a lot to stimulate the economy. And we have the other side who said, well, we don't want to do that, but the political pressure got so hot that we're going to do that, and we're going to take it out of screenings for poor and middle class women to get cancer screenings.

Now, what I really dislike about what's happened in this country in the last few years, it's come down to either screw the little guy or screw the little guy. We can't do one or the other. We can't ask for the Buffett rule. We can't ask for a little bit more money from Warren Buffett so that we can invest into these kinds of things. We certainly can't ask the oil and gas industry to pay a little bit more and close a loophole so that we can afford to pay for education for all of our citizens. We can't restructure the Tax Code and make investments that are going to yield a huge benefit for early childhood, for example. So what are we doing?

This doesn't make any sense because America hasn't become successful because we failed to invest. We became successful because America always invested. We always put money into education. We always put money into research and development. We always made sure that our education level was to the level of the technology of its time.

And that's what we're talking about here. And in Ohio, we need these investments because the middle class in Ohio has been squeezed, consistently squeezed. For 30 years, wages have been stagnant.

So now, if you're sitting in Ohio, and you're a member of the building and construction trades, plumbers and pipe fitters, or cement masons or electrical workers, now in Ohio, they're trying to pass a right-to-work-for-less legislation too, which means that the average worker in a State that has right-to-work-for-less laws, makes about $1,500 a year less than a State that doesn't have it. Their health insurance is 2.6 percentage points lower in right-to-work States. Your pensions are lower.

So imagine you're this person who's trying to make ends meet in Ohio, and your wages have been stagnant for 30 years. And now they're going to say--the Republican Party is pushing--we'll do right-to-work. So you'll see lower wages, lower health care benefits, and worse pensions.

Then the Republicans in Congress, in the House, are passing a bill saying, oh, by the way, you're only going to make $1,500 a year less. But if you have a student loan that you signed on to for your son or daughter, you're going to have to pay double that interest rate. Or if you get a student loan, you're going to have to pay double the interest rate that it is now.

If you have health care, and maybe your kid was going to stay on it because he's under 26, or she's under 26 years old, the Republicans want to repeal that. So now your kid's got to go out and get health care and pay more on a student loan, while you're making $1,500 a year less, and your pension's going to be less, and your health care's going to be less.

What are we doing? This is not the kind of America that we all believe in. And the student loan issue, I think, cuts right to the heart of it.

Then you have this compounding assault on the American worker, whether it's right-to-work-for-less, or whether it's destroy collective bargaining, as they tried to do in Ohio last year. And now it's the student loans. And now we can't even ask Warren Buffett to help out.

I think it's time for us to all wake up as Americans and say, wait a minute, where's the balance? Where's the fairness? Where's the investments into our future?

Many of us are either sons and daughters or grandsons and granddaughters or great grandsons and great granddaughters of immigrants. And the value placed upon education in those families is because that was the way out. That was the way out. That was the way to have success in America.

And what scares me about this is that this is not the kind of America many of us believe in. This is not the kind of America many of us want, and this is the kind of America that is very, very shortsighted and where we're going to end up.

Let me just say, lastly, and I'll yield back to the gentlelady, do we really think, with 300 million to 400 million people in America, do we really think that we're going to be competitive with 1.3 billion or 1.4 billion people in China, 1.2, 3 or 4 or 5 billion people in India, if we're not making the adequate investments into education?

And so these folks at home who will have to deal with right-to-work, student loans, less pensions, less health care, less this, less that, at the same time the tax burden is going to be pushed onto them. They'll be forced to vote on the local property tax for police and fire. They'll be forced to vote on a local property tax for their local school levies, mental health, the whole nine yards. And it's getting continuously squeezed for the middle class. And this student loan issue, and what's happening with the rates here and the cuts that are being made here are a major part of that.

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Mr. RYAN of Ohio. I think when you're looking at a State like Ohio, and like many States, like Maryland, like Pennsylvania, where you're retooling your economy, you've got to grow scientists, engineers, people involved in technology, in math, and you've got to grow that field so that we can generate the new generation of jobs necessary.

And you've also got to educate the workforce. So no more high school diplomas. Not even a year. But get into these apprenticeship programs that the unions have. Get into the community college so we start lifting up.

If we want to do advanced manufacturing, if we want to sell products globally to the world, and wind and solar and the new renewables, whatever the case may be, batteries, whatever, those workers on the factory floor have to have skills that they're not going to get in high school, and this is all part of that program.

So I want to thank the gentlelady for taking the time to do this Special Order and look forward to continuing to support her and the Democrats as we try to bring some sanity to this place.

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