A Wall Street Journal editorial dismissed the student loan relief plan outlined by President Obama as a distraction from the so-called Bowe Bergdahl “scandal,” even though conservative media had previously declared Bergdahl's release a distraction from other alleged “scandals.”
In a June 9 editorial, the Journal's editorial board attacked Obama's plan to extend income-contingent loan repayment options to all recipients of federal student loans. The Journal chided Obama's decision to extend through executive action reduced payment options to 5 million previously unqualified borrowers who had taken out loans before October 2007. The Journal also invoked myths that college loans are driving up attendance costs and represent taxpayer handouts to college graduates.
The Journal concluded its anti-loan relief tirade by claiming that the president's announcement, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) proposal to lower student loan interest rates, amount to little more than “attempts to change the subject” from alleged “scandals” and “government failures.” From the editorial:
The Warren bill has no chance to pass the House, as Democrats know. The Warren bill and the Obama debt-forgiveness-by-fiat are attempts to change the subject from the cascading examples of government failure -- the VA scandal (see nearby), the Taliban prisoner swap, the rising cost of health insurance under ObamaCare. In the Obama era, government failure is never a failure. It's another political opportunity to call for more of the same.
The Journal's claim that proposals to relieve millions of student loan borrowers buried under more than $1 trillion in outstanding debt are a distraction from “the Taliban prisoner swap” is just the latest in a series of right-wing media outlets obsessing over the notion that each policy proposal or news development from the White House is a “distraction” from something else:
- Just last week, conservative personalities declared the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners a distraction from the administrative backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
- On May 12, Fox contributor Allen West claimed that the White House's involvement in searching for hundreds of children kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram militants was a distraction from the announcement of a Benghazi Select Committee. Days before, Fox hosts Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum wondered if the scheduled release of a legally mandated climate report might also be a distraction from “multiple scandals swirling around the administration.”
- In March, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that the administration's decision to review its deportation practices was a distraction from Obamacare. The next day, Fox host Jon Scott and Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt questioned proposals to stimulate the economy by increasing the minimum wage and reforming overtime rules, claiming that such proposals distracted Americans' attention away from the weak economy. Fox's Scott had previously claimed that President Obama voicing support for a minimum wage increase distracted from issues with Obamacare.
- In November 2013, Senate Democrats voting to reform the confirmation process of executive nominees and the State Department engaging in diplomatic relations with Iran were denounced as “distractions” of the hour in right-wing media circles.
The Journal's decision to force the “distraction” talking point into the student loan debate proves that no news item is safe from being uncritically dismissed by right-wing media outlets bent on turning every issue into a political scandal.