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Opinion Letters Government employees’ student loans forgiven

This is a followup to my mid-August letter regarding student loans for federal staffers. Recently I called North Carolina's 13 Representatives and received similar responses to those from our nation's 100 senators. Most were receptive, a few were not. One staff member transferred me to someone who was out of the office, another told me to call my own representative and one refused to speak with me.

I was able to speak with staff of 10 of our 13 Representatives’ Washington office. Seven of the 10 said they didn't know where their rep stood on the student loan interest rate issue and seven also (not always the same seven) stated they did not know whether their rep uses the program's funding to pay student loans for their staff.

Three said, "Yes," their rep does use the funds for that purpose and the same three claimed their representative favors lowering overall interest rates for student loans.

Most of the senatorial staff told me the same thing which I find profoundly curious considering both the U.S. House and Senate passed bills in July (both by wide margins) and sent them to President Obama (which he then signed) raising interest rates on student loans beginning next year (2014).

Folks, here's what I know. A program has been used for over a decade by the Senate, House and federal agencies which consumes tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually paying off student loans for their employees and staff, the vast majority of whom are people you're unrelated to in any way.

How much money are we talking about? Statistics kept by the Office of Personnel Management (and reported nationally this past June) revealed that by 2010, more than 11,000 workers in 36 federal agencies had received loan payments totaling $85.7 million.

Congress does not provide detailed reports on how many staff members have their loans repaid or the cost (a shocker there). However, an analysis of 2012 reports by USA-Today and the Sunlight Foundation indicated that about 2,400 staff members were paid about $14.9 million or about $6,000 a year for each staffer.

From the conversations I've had with senatorial and house staff, the confiscation of millions of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to pay off federal employees and congressional staff college loans continues unabated.

If you yourself, or a family member, or a friend, or someone you know, is working and paying taxes and also paying their own student loan with high interest, you should be outraged.

You should be infuriated enough to call your senator and congressman and tell them what you think of this despicable misappropriation of your tax dollars.

Regrettably, far too many Americans prefer to "let George do it." If we become too lazy or apathetic to get off our duffs and actually try to do something, we become the reason Congress continually gets away with these contemptible shenanigans. I am absolutely positive that your senator and my senator, and your congressman and my congressman expect and rely on you and me to remain everlastingly silent. And I, for one, intend to prove them wrong. I hope you will too.

David L. Snell — Dillsboro, N.C.


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