April 17, 2024

Joe Biden vs. Mike Rowe: Two Different Perspectives on Student Loans and the Workforce

“America is lending money it doesn’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist.”

By Kathy Athearn

Most Americans acutely feel the effects of our struggling economy since Joe Biden became president over three years ago. Many are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, “a 2023 Forbes Advisor survey revealed that nearly 70% of respondents either identified as living paycheck to paycheck (40%) or — even more concerning — reported that their income doesn’t even cover their standard expenses (29%).”

Recently, television personality and host of “Dirty Jobs,” Mike Rowe, appeared on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” to discuss the state of the economy. He said that he talked to the president of Dollar General recently who described how many of their customers reach the checkout lane and realize how much more expensive their day-to-day items have become and have to decide which ones to put back. In addition, most homeowners can’t afford to pay for a $500 home repair emergency, and many have skipped needed repairs. In fact, a recent poll by Data for Progress found that for the 51% of those surveyed who said inflation was their primary concern, the cost of food was the top concern for 68% of them, followed by housing (17%), utilities (8%), and gas (3%).

Imposing Student Loan Debt onto Others vs. Awarding Scholarships to Hard Workers

On top of these expenses, sadly, many Americans are struggling to pay off their student loan debt. Policymakers want to address this national problem and alleviate student loan debt, and President Biden and Mike Rowe represent two very different approaches to solving this problem.

President Biden has once again announced that he will “cancel” student loan debt for over 25 million Americans — even after the United States Supreme Court ruled last June that he doesn’t have the authority to do so. However, rather than “cancelling” these loans, Biden is transferring this debt onto the 87% of American workers who have already paid off their student loans or who never took them out in the first place. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said that the cost of transferring student debt to taxpayers could be as much as $559 billion over the next 10 years.

A better approach to alleviating student debt is to make college more affordable, transparent, and accountable. For example, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) introduced the College Cost Reduction Act in January. It is divided into three parts that focus on accountability and student success, transparency, and access and affordability.

Another way to avoid student loan debt is to pursue a career that doesn’t require a four-year college degree. Mike Rowe has been working over the past 20 years to help high school students realize that a four-year degree is not their only option after they graduate, and many trade jobs pay just as much or more than jobs requiring a four-year degree. As he put it, “America is lending money it doesn’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”

Thankfully, in large part due to Rowe encouraging students to consider trade schools or apprenticeships, many Gen Zers are not taking out student loans but are instead becoming skilled trade workers such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and welders. The Wall Street Journal calls them the “toolbelt generation.” Rowe also helps more students be able to attend trade schools through his mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which offers $2 million per year through his Work Ethic Scholarship Program.

Divided ‘Affinity Groups’ vs. United Students and Workers

It’s interesting to note the contrast between the way Mike Rowe approaches Gen Z verses the way the Biden administration and leftist college administrators approach them. As mentioned earlier this week, Harvard has created segregated commencement ceremonies called “affinity celebrations” which include a “‘Disability Celebration,’ a ‘Global Indigenous Celebration,’ an ‘Asian American, Pacific Islander, Desi-American (APIDA) Celebration,’ a ‘First Generation-Low Income Celebration,’ a ‘Jewish Celebration,’ a ‘Latinx Celebration,’ a ‘Lavender Celebration’ — which refers to LGBT students — a ‘Black Celebration,’ a ‘Veterans Celebration,’ and an ‘Arab Celebration.’”

Mike Rowe addressed these “affinity celebrations” by Harvard’s Office of Diversity Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in a Facebook post that has received wide attention:

“This year, Harvard is once again permitting its students to observe graduation day with a series of ‘affinity celebrations.’ These celebrations allow students to separate themselves from each other based on their racial and ethnic identities, and then, celebrate graduation with their own kind. I’m old enough to remember when this was called "segregation.” At Harvard, they call it ‘affinity.’ 

He went on to say:

“What better way to celebrate Harvard’s rich commitment to diversity, then by encouraging diverse groups to celebrate separately?

"At mikeroweWORKS, we couldn’t care less about the color of your skin, the country of your origin, or the number of Y chromosomes you were born with. We are likewise utterly disinterested in your star sign, your blood type, your eye color, or any other characteristic out of your control. We do however, care about your thoughts on personal responsibility, work ethic, delayed gratification, a positive attitude, and various other virtues we still believe can lead to a successful life and career. For that reason, we award work ethic scholarships to men and women who wish to attend a trade school. A trade school, where students are encouraged to work together, celebrate their accomplishments together, and then, put their skills to use in a country filled with people who don’t necessarily look like them.

"One million dollars in scholarship money is currently available at mikeroweWORKS.org/scholarship. All are welcome to apply.”

Rather than unjustly burdening taxpayers with others’ student loan debt, elected officials should support bills such as the College Cost Reduction Act. And rather than dividing the country by race or income, they should seek ways to unify the country across racial and economic lines through shared values such as hard work, generosity, and financial stability.

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