NPR Publicizes Students' Campaign Backed By Left Wing Organization

On Tuesday's All Things Considered, NPR's Claudio Sanchez spotlighted the efforts of college students who, with the assistance of the "liberal Center for American Progress," are lobbying Congress for an extension of low interest rates on their Stafford loans. While Sanchez did find a critic of the politicization of the loan issue, he came from another left-leaning organization, the Brookings Insitution.

All of the correspondent's soundbites came from the CAP-backed students and from Mathew Chingo of Brookings, with none coming from conservatives/Republicans. Sanchez noted how the students visited Senator Rob Portman and identified him as "a Republican from Ohio," but omitted that he is considered a possible running mate on the 2012 Republican presidential ticket. He also played up how one student was "upset about something one of the senator's staff members said," but failed to get the other side of the story.

Host Melissa Block introduced the NPR's journalist's report by outlining that "neither Democrats nor Republicans want to be blamed for a rate jump in a few weeks, but lawmakers can't agree on how to pay for keeping the rate low. As NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports, the political stalemate has mobilized students, who are on Capitol Hill pleading with lawmakers to stop the bickering." Sanchez began by playing three clips from the students, and pointed out that a thousand dollars "would be added, on average, to every new Stafford loan for every year a student is in college, if the interest rate jumps from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1."

The correspondent then acknowledged the students "organized with the help of the liberal Center for American Progress," and noted how they visited Senator Portman, who is "all for the idea of keeping rates down, but doesn't want to pay for it by doing what Democrats propose, which is to close a payroll tax loophole used by business owners." He also played a clip of the students friendly departure from the politician's Capitol Hill office, but followed it with the soundbite of the aggrieved student:

SANCHEZ: After meeting with Portman's staff, Tiffany Loftin, a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, sounds upset about something one of the senator's staff members said.

TIFFANY LOFTIN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ STUDENT: I have $38,000 in debt, like I told her, and it doesn't seem like she understood how urgent that was, because she said it wasn't an urgent matter. I was disappointed, though.

Sanchez didn't say if he tried to obtain a comment from Portman's office, which would have been the sensible follow-up.

Near the end of the segment, the NPR correspondent played three clips from Chingo, who concluded that "his small policy issue that the President [Obama] has made a big deal out of has, in many ways, been overblown."

It should be pointed out that both NPR and the Center for American Progress received large donations from left-wing billionaire George Soros in recent years.

The full transcript of Claudio Sanchez's report from Tuesday's All Things Considered:


MELISSA BLOCK: The Senate took up competing proposals today to keep the interest rate for federal student loans from doubling. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to be blamed for a rate jump in a few weeks, but lawmakers can't agree on how to pay for keeping the rate low.

As NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports, the political stalemate has mobilized students, who are on Capitol Hill pleading with lawmakers to stop the bickering.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Clarise McCants and Patrick Johnson, both undergraduates at Howard University, are running late. They're joining students from California and Ohio, who've come to Capitol Hill to deliver a message to Congress: don't let the interest rate on federal Stafford loans double. It would be devastating, says Patrick.

PATRICK JOHNSON, HOWARD UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Because there's a chance that- after leaving college, that I may not have a job immediately after, and I'm still going to have to pay back these loans eventually. It would really set me back in debt even further.

CLARISE MCCANTS, HOWARD UNIVERSITY STUDENT: A thousand dollars means a lot to me, you know what I mean?

SANCHEZ: That's how much more would be added, on average, to every new Stafford loan for every year a student is in college, if the interest rate jumps from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. Clarise says, for her, it's a lot.

MCCANTS: The student loan rate increase will effectively make college even less affordable for me next year, and, you know, these additional costs may seem minimal compared to, you know, the fiscal budget or, frankly, the salary of a congressman. But they're a big burden to people like me who are, you know, economically disadvantaged. So-

SANCHEZ: Clarise, Patrick, and the other students organized with the help of the liberal Center for American Progress. Their first visit is with Senator Rob Portman, Republican from Ohio. Portman is all for the idea of keeping rates down, but doesn't want to pay for it by doing what Democrats propose, which is to close a payroll tax loophole used by business owners. Republicans want to pay for it by eliminating a preventive health care fund.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Thank you- appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: You're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Have a good day.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: You too.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: After meeting with Portman's staff, Tiffany Loftin, a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, sounds upset about something one of the senator's staff members said.

TIFFANY LOFTIN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ STUDENT: I have $38,000 in debt, like I told her, and it doesn't seem like she understood how urgent that was, because she said it wasn't an urgent matter. I was disappointed, though.

SANCHEZ: Another group of people who also seem disappointed are policy wonks, who've been watching this political skirmish unfold, especially after President Obama began pummeling Republicans with the issue.

MATTHEW CHINGOS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: This small policy issue that the President has made a big deal out of has, in many ways, been overblown.

SANCHEZ: Mathew Chingos is with the Brookings Institution.

CHINGOS: I think interest rates are certainly important, but the policy he's talking about is really about an interest rate on one type of federal loan, and only on new loans that will be issued in July and going forward.

SANCHEZ: For Republicans and Democrats, says Chingos, it's just one more issue with which to attack each other. But more importantly, it's a lost opportunity.

CHINGOS: So I think the President got the whole country talking about higher education, focused on this one piece, when there's a much broader set of issues about affordability.

SANCHEZ: Chingos says a serious conversation about college access, costs, and reforming the federal student loan program has given way to political bickering that does little to help students. Congress has less than eight weeks to come up with a relief plan. Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center