The job market and student loan debt had lawmakers waxing philosophical at today’s Conversations with Conservatives event on Capitol Hill.
“When I graduated from undergrad, I had a degree in Spanish literature and a minor in philosophy. I knew I wasn’t going to get a job,” Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, said. In fact, he joked, “I was not marketable at all, so I had to run for Congress.”
Actually, the Idaho Republican recalled, he paid his way through college and law school, taking multiple jobs to afford the cost of higher education. Although he was accepted into the prestigious Georgetown University law school, he instead chose to enroll in the University of Washington’s School of Law because it was one-third the price.
“You’ve got to make those decisions for yourself,” Labrador said. “You shouldn’t be expecting the government to be subsiding everything that you’re going to be doing in your life.”
Although he took a lighthearted approach to the debate over the burden of student loan debt, Labrador and his colleagues had a serious message for millennials: President Obama’s policies are making it more difficult for young Americans to prosper.
“Young people who voted overwhelmingly for Obama have a higher unemployment rate today than they did before Obama was president of the United States,” Labrador said. “They have fewer opportunities for growth, their education loans are higher, and they’re having fewer opportunities to go out there in the marketplace.”
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., agreed, and encouraged millennials to work part-time jobs to front the cost of education and get real-world experience.
“The added benefit of actually working while you’re going to school,” Salmon said, “is that when you graduate, you actually have some marketable skills in addition to your sheepskin.”
When The Daily Signal asked about Obama’s reference to “millionaires” helping to retire loan debt in his remarks yesterday at the White House, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, said the president’s rhetoric is an attempt to drum up support before the midterm elections.
“We have this massive VA scandal, and he is out talking about the executive actions, trying to distract the public from a failed economy, failed situation at the VA.”
Huelskamp added: “I think he’s trying to make himself relevant in a town he should be fixing.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., argued that part of the problem with prevailing trends in American education is that “we boost up people’s self-esteem and tell them they can be whatever they want—they can major in anything they want.”
But in his district, Massie said, employers are “crying” for more qualified employees.
“We send [young people] to college without asking them to look at their employment prospects with their degrees,” the Kentucky Republican said. “This is an area where there needs to be some personal accountability and responsibility.”
His advice to college-bound millennials? “Do not major in political science.”