CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michelle Obama connected with voters during her moving opening night speech of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday. She was smart, extremely likable and the perfect spokeswoman for the American president as she talked about “the unflinching sacrifice” her parents and husband’s family made so their kids could have the “chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves.”
As I listened to the first lady talk about what her family did to make sure she got a first-class education and how she and her husband struggled to pay off their hefty student loans, I couldn’t help but think that Barack and Michelle Obama would not be the fine people they are today if they hadn’t had to stretch themselves to get ahead.
So why do they seem to think the government should hand out more taxpayer-backed grants and loans to today’s college and graduate students? If someone else had handed the Obamas’ college and law school educations to them, they’d be Mitt Romney.
Yet they bash Romney for not having to work as hard as they had to in order to get where they are today.
The Obamas frequently talk about their student loans. “And believe it or not,” Mrs. O told the convention, “when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage.”
In April, the president told University of North Carolina students that he and Michelle did not pay off their student loans until “about eight years ago.” He complained that it wasn’t easy, because while they were supposed to be saving for Malia’s and Sasha’s educations, they still were paying off their own college educations.
Citing their student loan debt, the first lady told the convention, “Barack knows what it means when a family struggles.” Struggles? He graduated from Columbia and then Harvard Law School. She graduated from Princeton and then Harvard Law School. They borrowed a lot of money; then they stood to make a lot of money.
In fact, because the Obamas worked hard, they earned a combined income that exceeded $200,000 in 2004, the year when they presumably paid off their loans. In 2005, the couple paid $1.65 million for their current home. Such was the Obamas’ struggle to pay off “a mountain of debt.”
Unfortunately, the president’s high-priced education did not lead to enlightenment. The president has increased federal Pell Grants and other student aid — in the name of “making college more affordable.” He doesn’t seem to have noticed that when federal aid grows, college tuition follows.
It’s a tuition trap. More student aid leads to higher tuition; higher tuition leads to record college debt. Now, Ivy League law school grads like the Obamas can afford to shoulder the burden of big-digit student loans — but not the American people. If they shouldn’t have to pay for their education, who should?
Email Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.