MADISON, Wis. — After his latest embarrassing gaffes, including calling for teachers to be replaced by “tapes” of documentaries of filmmaker Ken Burns, Sen. Ron Johnson has taken to right-wing radio to lash out about questions being raised about his votes against allowing student loan borrowers to refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage, and opposition to federal financial aid for eligible college students.
“Sen. Johnson has certainly earned his Ph.D. in Washington D.C. doublespeak with his outburst this week. But that doesn’t translates into any help for nearly one million Wisconsin student loan borrowers with over $19 billion in debt,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “Sen. Johnson may claim he’s asking ‘tough questions,’ but the fact is he’s refused time and again to get behind common sense reform.”
When asked recently about television ads citing Sen. Johnson’s own words about federal financial aid programs and his votes in the Senate against allowing the refinancing of federal student loans, he launched into a lengthy tirade accusing people of, “…completely lying about my record on this. Listen before I became a United States Senator, I was volunteering close to 40-50 percent of my time in education in Oshkosh.”
Sen. Johnson went on to tout his vote to allow for interest rate increases on federal student loans as supporting “interest rate stabilization,” and that, despite his votes prohibiting the federal government from allowing borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, it was the government that does not, “run these programs effectively.”
Perhaps most laughable were Johnson’s comments complaining about a “19th century model of education” after himself offering last month that “If you wanna teach the Civil War across the country, are you better having tens of thousands of history teachers who kinda know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape…”
After Sen. Johnson’s unhinged radio rant, the program’s co-host commented, “I guess you struck a chord…” The reply from Johnson’s interviewer was, “You can see the veins popping out of his neck.”
As a member of the U.S. Senate, Johnson has cast multiple votes against legislation authored by fellow Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren to allow borrowers to refinance their federal student loans. According to federal government statistics, 515,000 state student loan borrowers could have lowered their interest rates if they were allowed to refinance.
In other public comments, Sen. Johnson has displayed a stunning lack of understanding and empathy for the real life impacts of the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis. He consistently says that the federal government should not be involved in helping students with low interest loans or other means to help fund students’ higher education and declared that more private for-profit colleges would somehow help resolve a student loan debt crisis. The multi-millionaire Sen.Johnson has even pointed to students themselves as causes of the crises of student loan debt and college affordability, based on his experience in the mid-1970s, when his $663 tuition at the University of Minnesota was 1,700 percent lower than it is today.
Ross concluded, “The hard questions to answer are: what is Sen. Johnson thinking when he opposes common sense reforms, like allowing student loan borrowers who took on the personal responsibility to pay for their to refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage? Or why wouldn’t you want to help a hard-working student who’s eligible for financial aid stay in college?”