On College, Why Rick Santorum is Really “Fake”

On College, Why Rick Santorum is Really “Fake”

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Rick Santorum is getting heat over comments this past weekend he made criticizing President’s Obama goal to put every American child in college. “Snob!” Santorum retorted at the suggestion during a campaign stop in Michigan.

There’s a lot of hypocrisy in that statement. Not just because Santorum himself has three degrees including a MBA and law degree. Not even because he probably wants all of his kids to attend college (five of which were educated by Pennsylvania taxpayers’ Penn Hills district cyber school before the state education board determined in 1994 the kids weren’t residents and forced Santorum to pay for their schooling.)

Perhaps, what is more striking, is that in 2006 Santorum’s own website indicated statements that  “he is equally committed to ensuring the every Pennsylvanian has access to higher education” and “has supported legislative solutions that provide loans, grants, and tax incentives to make higher education more accessible and affordable.”

But, what should worry us most is more evidence of the targeted pandering that has taken place throughout the election cycle.

Is there any wonder that Ron Paul called him “a fake” during last week’s GOP debate in Arizona, then?

It is politics as usual – really. Saying whatever it is you think the people in front of you want to hear.

At this particular event, Santorum was speaking before a group called Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party affiliate in Troy, Michigan.

“Not all folks are gifted in the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands!” Santorum followed up to a cheering crowd. “There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”

He backed up his words on the Sunday talk shows.  When pressed by George Stephonopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Santorum called colleges “indoctrination mills”, calling them “liberal” places that single out and ridicule conservative children, backing it up with the claim that kids who go to college with religion come out less religious.

This is part of the continuing political portrait of Obama as an out-of-touch “elitist,” something that has worked for Republicans and conservatives in the past. Never mind that the President made those statements when addressing the rising cost of college education for those who want to attend, all while touting the benefits of 2-year community colleges and trade schools.

It is a talking point that has stickiness and it works, ergo the emphatic response of his audience.

The fact remains that only 24% of Americans have a Bachelor’s degree.

So Santorum wasn’t off at all in implying that not everyone will go to college. Ten years ago, 63% of high school graduates went to college immediately after graduation.  That was an 11% increase from 1970, the height of the military draft, when 52% of high school graduates, partially trying to avoid going to war, headed to college.

Still, something about the indignant and passionate response to the suggestion that children aim for college seems antithetical to conservative principals and interests for several reasons.

First: studies indicate that teens who aspire to college are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of high school and veer into a life of crime. Given that, even if they don’t make the grade and can’t get accepted, the journey to getting in should be applauded because the effort it takes to get into college builds work ethic.

Also, if there is one thing conservatives are against and that is bearing the tax burden of social costs from crime, welfare and government-dependent children born-out-of-wedlock.

Those who aspire to “American Exceptionalism” and adhere to family values would ideally embrace ideals that would encourage more people to finish their schooling before starting a family, no?

And no one can deny that those with higher education or at least technical training can command higher salaries and skills to launch entrepreneurial ventures –all which go towards stimulating the economy.  And that also lessens the tax payer burden from supporting those social programs and entitlements Republicans are screaming foul about, including Social Security and Medicare.

Both programs are fueled by the current money earned by high income earners, many of which hold college degrees. Thus, while it is true everyone won’t attend college, the fact remains that those without degrees earn, on average, lower income than those with degrees.  When wage earners retire and start collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits, they will be relying on coffers filled by higher income earners, which would not be sustainable if limited to the input of lower wage earners.  Interesting, because on the campaign trail, Santorum has more than once railed against the drying up of Social Security reserves.

This may be a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Or is it? Some have said he was deliberate and calculated and the statements were “race-related” dog whistle statements uttered to incense his predominantly White working class audiences. Others have said the spirited partisan politician is just being his usual blunt and aggressive self.

Whichever Rick came through is winning.

He has stayed atop the national polls for several consecutive weeks.  While his delegate count may be low, pundits still talk of the possibility of Santorum winning the GOP nomination.

Now if winning ends up contradictory to his own biography, his record or true beliefs is beside the point.

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