Andrea Mitchell Turns to Left-Wing Activist to Fact-Check GOP

On her MSNBC show on Wednesday, host Andrea Mitchell brought on Heather McGhee, president of the left-wing group Demos, to “sort all this out” when came to the debate over student loan debt in the 2016 race: “...student debt 101. The presidential candidates are put to the test on what to do about the rising cost of college.”
    
When introducing McGhee, Mitchell failed to identify Demos as a liberal organization: “Demos is a public policy organization with the goal of reducing political and economic inequality through research, advocacy, and litigation.”

In 2010, fellow MSNBC host Chris Hayes actually described the group as “non-partisan” when bringing on McGhee to praise President Obama’s financial regulation bill.

On Wednesday, Mitchell did freely admit that McGhee was a supporter of Hillary Clinton on the issue: “I know that you have been supportive of Hillary Clinton's proposals on student aid, but I wanted to get you to put this in context.”

McGhee proceeded to bash Republicans:

Well, putting this into context, you really have to realize that public higher education used to be a public good in this country. People like Marco Rubio, people like Jeb Bush, and even Donald Trump went to school in the 70s, 80s, and 1990s really on the public dime. It was state funding that supported low tuition costs so that a student really could, in previous generations, work their way through college.

The only thing that has really changed is that state’s have cut funding, like what Scott Walker is doing, and you'll start to see the effects in tuition in a few years in Wisconsin....        

McGhee then praised Clinton: “Secretary Clinton's plan is really focused on restoring the public guarantee of debt-free college. And really, if you think about it in the long sweep of history here, it's what we owe to the next generation.”

Mitchell again teed up McGhee on the topic: “So what do these candidates bring to the table in terms of competing proposals so far?”

McGhee seized the opportunity to slam Marco Rubio:

Well, it's a great thing that so many candidates on the right and the left feel that they need to respond to this issue. It really is a national crisis of opportunity. Marco Rubio's plan – he talks about his own law school debt quite a bit – but Marco Rubio's plan is a very conservative idea. It's basically find an investor on Wall Street to buy out a stake in your future earnings. That's not the kind of system, I think, that we want. It's certainly not what enabled him to spend just about $900 a year in tuition for his undergraduate education, that was a public investment that was made. And it's not what's going to bring this country into the future in a strong way.     

Wrapping up the segment, Mitchell lamented: “Well, Heather, we just touched the surface, scratched the surface. To be continued.”

Here is a full transcript of the August 12 segment:

12:45 PM ET TEASE:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Up next, student debt 101. The presidential candidates are put to the test on what to do about the rising cost of college.
                            
12:48 PM ET SEGMENT:

SEN. MARCO RUBIO [R-FL]: How is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she – how is she going to lecture me – how is she going to lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago.

HILLARY CLINTON: I bet some of you might have sat through four hours and 17 candidates of debate the other night. There was not one word from one of those candidates about making college affordable or dealing with debt. You take somebody like Governor Walker of Wisconsin, who seems to be delighting in slashing the investment in higher education in his state.

MITCHELL: It's a big issue. The debate over student debt heating up as 2016 approaches. Governor Scott Walker fired back at Hillary Clinton's comments with a scathing tweet, referring to her speeches on college campuses, the paid speeches, that read, “.@HillaryClinton I've frozen in-state tuition rates for four years, while you charged colleges $225K+ just to show up.”

Well, to sort this all out, Heather McGhee is president of Demos, Demos Action. Demos is a public policy organization with the goal of reducing political and economic inequality through research, advocacy, and litigation. Heather, great to see you again. I know that you have been supportive of Hillary Clinton's proposals on student aid, but I wanted to get you to put this in context.

Walker's latest budget in Wisconsin included a $300 million cut in Wisconsin university system money and the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which he announced in January, included a 13% cut in state funds. So that's part of what she is talking about. Yet she has not explained – beyond changing in the tax system, changes in the tax system for the wealthy – how she would come up with the $350 billion over ten years to fund her program.

HEATHER MCGHEE: Well, putting this into context, you really have to realize that public higher education used to be a public good in this country. People like Marco Rubio, people like Jeb Bush, and even Donald Trump went to school in the 70s, 80s, and 1990s really on the public dime. It was state funding that supported low tuition costs so that a student really could, in previous generations, work their way through college.

The only thing that has really changed is that state’s have cut funding, like what Scott Walker is doing, and you'll start to see the effects in tuition in a few years in Wisconsin. And so there's been about a 25 cents on the dollar per pupil cut across the country, as an average, on public funding. And there's been a huge shift onto tuition.

And so, Senator – Secretary Clinton's plan is really focused on restoring the public guarantee of debt-free college. And really, if you think about it in the long sweep of history here, it's what we owe to the next generation. Previous generations have had this kind of economic freedom and this investment from their country. This generation deserves it just as much.

MITCHELL: And just briefly, you took a look at what the inflation-adjusted tuitions would be for some of these candidates, Hillary Clinton and Scott Walker, as well as Marco Rubio, we can just throw that up on the screen. Her tuition at Wellesley today would be $45,000. That's just tuition, that's not room and board. Scott Walker, if you look at his Marquette University tuition, today would be 35 – almost $36,000. Marco Rubio had far less in his education at community college but he had a lot of debt from law school. So what do these candidates bring to the table in terms of competing proposals so far?

MCGHEE: Well, it's a great thing that so many candidates on the right and the left feel that they need to respond to this issue. It really is a national crisis of opportunity. Marco Rubio's plan – he talks about his own law school debt quite a bit – but Marco Rubio's plan is a very conservative idea. It's basically find an investor on Wall Street to buy out a stake in your future earnings. That's not the kind of system, I think, that we want. It's certainly not what enabled him to spend just about $900 a year in tuition for his undergraduate education, that was a public investment that was made. And it's not what's going to bring this country into the future in a strong way.

MITCHELL: Well, Heather, we just touched the surface, scratched the surface. To be continued. Thanks so much for coming on.
                
MCGHEE: Thank you, Andrea.


Please support NewsBusters today! (a 501c3 non-profit production of the Media Research Center)

DONATE
CyberAlerts Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Personal Finance Higher Education Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Video Heather McGhee Andrea Mitchell