Mitt Romney is unusually prone to 180-degree reversals of policy for naked political reasons, but it's hard to think of a chutzpah moment in his campaign more striking than his assertion last night, when a college student asked him about the bleak job climate. Romney responded by saying, "I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program growing."
Really? His education policy paper throws cold water on the idea: "As a result of the expanding entitlement mentality, the Pell Grant program -- the foundation of the federal investment in student financial aid -- is on unsure financial footing. To keep up with the program’s massive increases, the government has been forced to take steps such as eliminating subsidized loans for graduate students. A Romney Administration will refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path that avoids future funding cliffs and last-minute funding patches."
"Refocus" is an obvious way of saying he will curb funding for Pell grants. And that's exactly what his running mate Paul Ryan would do. His budget would make a cut of 19 percent in "the category of discretionary funding that includes Pell grants," as it puts it.
Maybe that's a good idea. I'm open to the possibility that generous federal aid has undermined its purpose by allowing colleges to raise tuition, leaving many students worse off.
But even if I knew whether I think it's a good idea or a bad idea, I don't know whether Mitt Romney agrees with me. What I do know is that he will say just about anything to win.
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