The Washington Post Is Now Publishing Republican Press Releases As News

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Is the Washington Post publishing Republican press releases as news now, without factchecking?

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Monday evening, Jenna Johnson published a blog post on the student loan crisis that read eerily like the statement John Boehner’s office put out today. It opened in a similar fashion, “House Republican leaders gathered with dozens of well-dressed college students on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday afternoon to blast Senate Democrats for not yet passing a student loan bill, allowing the interest rate on one type of federal loan to double last week.”

No, it wasn’t plagiarized; it just managed to follow Boehner’s narrative and pass it off as news, with a bit of extra detail thrown in for substance. Boehner’s press release today read:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican leaders joined college students from across the nation today in a rally at the U.S. Capitol urging Senate Democrats to follow the House’s lead and take action on student loan interest rates, which doubled one week ago.

Then we got Boehner’s statements, which translate into the entire arc of the WaPo article.

“You know, Republicans have acted to stop student loan interest rates from doubling and to make college more affordable for students across the country, including these students that are right here behind me. The White House and Senate Democrats have let these students down. And frankly, I think they deserve better. It’s time for the president to lead, it’s time for him to bring Senate Democrat leaders together and develop a solution.

“The House has done its job, it’s time for the Senate and the White House to do its job. And if you look at what the House passed, it’s very close to what the president offered in his own budget earlier this year.

From the Post:

The Republican-led House passed a bill in late May that establishes a variable interest rate for Stafford loans that’s tied to the government’s cost of borrowing, a concept that President Obama has supported. For the coming school year, that would likely mean a rate of less than 5 percent. In future years, the rate could go as high as 8.5 percent.

Also, there were the usual tells of a Republican talking: “Democrat-led Senate” instead of “Democratic-led Senate”, and then the writer informs us inaccurately that President Obama supported the concept behind the House Republicans’ student loan bill. That, of course, is not true, because while there was some cross over, there were huge differences that caused Obama to threaten to veto the House bill, but Boehner suggests the same thing in his press release.

And then Ms. Johnson informs us that Boehner blasted the President for not doing enough to make Senate Democrats pass something. Where was the “other side” on that? No quotes from Democrats. No fact checking. No “balance” with even presenting the alternative argument. Oh, Republican spin world, how pretty things are in your teeny tiny corner of the propaganda world!

On May 31, President Obama stood up for students when he threatened to VETO the House Republicans’ attempt to stick students with paying down the deficit through the variable rate Ms. Johnson tells us Obama supported. So, Obama supported it except when he threatened to veto it on May 31.

He explained that while he’s glad House Republicans did something, their plan is not smart or fair, “I’m glad that they took action, but their bill does not meet that test. It fails to lock in low rates for students next year. The House bill isn’t smart, and it’s not fair. I’m glad that the House is paying attention to it, but they didn’t do it in the right way.” The President is saying that it’s not fair to force students to pay down the deficit, especially when Republicans won’t even close tax loopholes for the wealthy.

So that’s a big fat public NO to Obama supporting the House plan.

Boehner’s statement today suggesting that the President can’t lead:

“Listen, the failure to lead on student loans is part of the president’s larger issue, and that is the failure to lead on the biggest issues facing our country: jobs and the economy. Every American deserves better than this new normal of slow economic growth, not enough jobs, and no increase in wages.”

Ms. Johnson writes, “Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized Obama for not pushing the Democrat-led Senate to take action before July 1. Stafford loans have annual borrowing limits and account for only a portion of all student loan debt, which currently totals more than $1 trillion.” Well, okay, but Obama’s May 31 speech is but one of many times Obama used the bully pulpit to try to get this historically lazy Congress to do SOMETHING for the people of this country, specifically to pass a student loan bill that would continue allowing students and their families to have some assurance that their rates would not spike in the future to unsustainable levels.

Obama can’t be blamed by rational people for Boehner’s record setting failure of a House of Representatives, but it’s sweet that he has such advocates in the political world.

Ms. Johnson then repeated Boehner’s criticism, noting that other Republicans joined in (shocking!). And she closed with this, “The hashtag again came to life, with both parties using it to push their ideas for finding funds to continue a lower interest rate.” Um, no, actually, Republicans have argued that we can’t afford to subsidize low student loan rates. That is the premise behind their argument, though not one they share with the public readily, I’ll grant.

Just in case it’s not clear yet, on July 1, Speaker Boehner issued a statement claiming inaccurately, “Republicans have passed common-sense legislation mirroring the president’s plan to stop student loans from doubling and make college more affordable.” Mirroring? You mean, if only the President had been willing to stick students with the higher rates of the GOP plan that he said he would VETO.

On June 28th, the Speaker’s office was desperately trying to establish the narrative that the House’s bill was bipartisan (as if — nothing bipartisan comes out of the House unless Pelosi gets it done for Boehner), “But rather than take up a bipartisan solution supported by President Obama and House Republicans, Senate Democrats are going to go ahead and let student loan interest rates double on Monday.”

Ironically, it was the Washington Post (in a link that now goes to page not found, but it was reported here) that pointed out that the Republican plan would cause the interest rate on a Stafford Loan to double, “Students who max out their subsidized Stafford loans over four years would pay $8,331 in interest payments under the Republican bill, and $3,450 if rates were kept at 3.4 percent. If rates were allowed to double in July, that amount would be $7,284 over the typical 10-year window to repay the maximum $19,000.”

The Republican version is variable rate scheme where a student’s loan rate would be reset every year in order to enable the banks to make a profit off of students and force students to pay down the deficit of their elders.

The Post’s own earlier reporting confirms my take on things, “The proposal cleared the GOP-led House on a largely party-line vote of 221 to 198, but it faces opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate and a veto threat from President Obama.” Yes, see, it wasn’t bipartisan, Obama did not support it, and he did threaten to veto it.

That same WaPo article noted that while there were some similarities, a key difference between Obama’s and the House Republicans’ plans is that under Obama’s plan, rates “would be fixed after students take out a loan. The Republican bill would let rates for individual loans float.” You can see what damage floating rates could do.

You might expect a writer to at least do a cursory search before passing a press release off as fact, but we got the entire inaccurate GOP narrative neatly painted for us and passed off as news. Buyer beware, because while not all press releases are full of lies, Speaker Boehner’s are by necessity inaccurate and misleading.


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