Obama's Affordable College Speech & Bush's Affordable Housing Speech

Barack Obama went to Austin today and gave a speech demanding the country increase the number of college graduates by eight million that is eerily similar to the one George W. Bush gave at a similar point in his first term (October 15, 2002) demanding the country increase the number of minority homeowners by 5.5 million.

Obama's rhetorical spin is more conservative than Bush's (compare the emphasis on race), but the political intention is similar: a payoff to constituencies, a plan for increasing costs in the name of "affordability."

Obama said:

That’s why I’ve set some ambitious goals for this country. ... And producing 8 million more college graduates by 2020 so we can have a higher share of graduates than any other nation on earth.

In a single generation, we’ve fallen from first to twelfth in college graduation rates for young adults. That’s unacceptable, but not irreversible. We need to retake the lead. If we’re serious about making sure America’s workers – and America itself – succeed in the 21st century, the single most important step we can take is to offer all our kids – here in Austin, here in Texas, and across this country – the best education the world has to offer. ...

But we also know that in the coming decades, a person’s success in life will depend more and more not on a high school diploma, but on a college degree, on workforce training, on a higher education. And so, today, I’d like to talk about the higher education strategy we’re pursuing not only to lead the world once more in college graduation rates, but to make sure our graduates are ready for a career; ready to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy.

The first part of our strategy has been making college more affordable. I don’t have to tell you why this is so important – many of you are living each day with worries about how you’re going to pay off your student loans. We all know why. Even as family incomes have essentially flat-lined over the past thirty years, college costs have grown higher and higher. Over the past decade, they’ve shot up faster than housing, faster than transportation, even faster than health care costs. No wonder the amount student borrowers owe has risen almost 25 percent over the past five years.

So, how exactly is the government massively stimulating demand for college going to reduce the price of college? Similarly, the Bush Administration's 2002 campaign to reduce the downpayment required for homes in the name of fighting racism helped drive home prices to stratospheric heights.

This isn’t some abstract policy matter to me; I understand it personally. Michelle and I had big loans to pay off when we graduated – and I remember what that burden felt like. That’s why I’m absolutely committed to making sure that here, in America, no one is denied a chance to go to college, no one is denied a chance to pursue their dreams, no one is denied a chance to make the most of their lives because they can’t afford it. We are a better country than that, and we need to act like it.

And that no one is denied an opportunity to accumulate massive tuition debts.

...The third part of our higher education strategy is making sure every student completes their course of studies. Over a third of America’s college students, and over half our minority students, don’t earn a degree, even after six years. So, we don’t just need to open the doors of college to more Americans; we need to make sure they stick with it through graduation. Community colleges like Tennessee’s Cleveland State are redesigning remedial math courses, boosting not only student achievement, but graduation rates. And we ought to make a significant investment to help other states do the same.

Because the Chinese are quaking in their boots over what inspired engineering marvels Cleveland State Community College of Tennessee's remedial math students are going to invent.

Here are excerpts from Bush's speech at the 10/15/2002 White House Conference on Minority Homeownership. You'll notice from the garbled syntax that Bush, unlike Obama, isn't just reading off the teleprompter. He's winging this one from his heart:

President George W. Bush addresses the White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership at The George Washington University Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2002


THE PRESIDENT: …. I appreciate your attendance to this very important conference. You see, we want everybody in America to own their own home. That's what we want. This is -- an ownership society is a compassionate society.

More and more people own their homes in America today. Two-thirds of all Americans own their homes, yet we have a problem here in America because few than half of the Hispanics and half the African Americans own the home. That's a homeownership gap. It's a -- it's a gap that we've got to work together to close for the good of our country, for the sake of a more hopeful future.

We've got to work to knock down the barriers that have created a homeownership gap.

I set an ambitious goal. It's one that I believe we can achieve. It's a clear goal, that by the end of this decade we'll increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families. (Applause.) … And it's going to require a strong commitment from those of you involved in the housing industry. …

I appreciate so very much the home owners who are with us today, the Arias family, newly arrived from Peru. They live in Baltimore. Thanks to the Association of Real Estate Brokers, the help of some good folks in Baltimore, they figured out how to purchase their own home. Imagine to be coming to our country without a home, with a simple dream. And now they're on stage here at this conference being one of the new home owners in the greatest land on the face of the Earth. I appreciate the Arias family coming. (Applause.) ...
All of us here in America should believe, and I think we do, that we should be, as I mentioned, a nation of owners. Owning something is freedom, as far as I'm concerned. It's part of a free society. And ownership of a home helps bring stability to neighborhoods. You own your home in a neighborhood, you have more interest in how your neighborhood feels, looks, whether it's safe or not. It brings pride to people, it's a part of an asset-based to society. It helps people build up their own individual portfolio, provides an opportunity, if need be, for a mom or a dad to leave something to their child. It's a part of -- it's of being a -- it's a part of -- an important part of America.

Homeownership is also an important part of our economic vitality. If -- when we meet this project, this goal, according to our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, we will have added an additional $256 billion to the economy by encouraging 5.5 million new home owners in America; …

To open up the doors of homeownership there are some barriers, and I want to talk about four that need to be overcome. First, down payments. A lot of folks can't make a down payment. They may be qualified. They may desire to buy a home, but they don't have the money to make a down payment. I think if you were to talk to a lot of families that are desirous to have a home, they would tell you that the down payment is the hurdle that they can't cross.....

Secondly, affordable housing is a problem in many neighborhoods, particularly inner-city neighborhoods. … I'm doing is proposing a single-family affordable housing credit to encourage the construction of single-family homes in neighborhoods where affordable housing is scarce. (Applause.)

Another obstacle to minority homeownership is the lack of information. You know, getting into your own home can be complicated. It can be a difficult process. I had that very same problem. (Laughter and applause.) ...

And, of course, one of the larger obstacles to minority homeownership is financing, is the ability to have their dream financed. Right now, we have a program that all of you are familiar with, maybe our fellow Americans are, and that's what they call a Section 8 housing program, that provides billions of dollars in vouchers to help low-income Americans with their rent. It encourages leasing. We think it's important that we use those vouchers, that federal money to help low-income Americans go from being somebody who leases to somebody who owns; that we use the Section 8 program to not only help with down payment, but to help with continuing monthly mortgage payments after they're into their new home. It is a -- it is a way to help us meet this dream of 5.5 million additional families owning their home.
I'm also going to encourage the lending industry to develop a mortgage market so that this script, these vouchers, can regularly be used as a source of payment to provide more capital to lenders, who can then help more families move from rental housing into houses of their own. …

Last June, I issued a challenge to everyone involved in the housing industry to help increase the number of minority families to be home owners. And what I'm talking about, I'm talking about your bankers and your brokers and developers, as well as members of faith-based community and community programs. And the response to the home owners challenge has been very strong and very gratifying. Twenty-two public and private partners have signed up to help meet our national goal. Partners in the mortgage finance industry are encouraging homeownership by purchasing more loans made by banks to African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities.

Representatives of the real estate and homebuilding industries, through their nationwide networks or affiliates, are committed to broadening homeownership. ...

The other thing Kirbyjon told me, which I really appreciate, is you don't have to have a lousy home for first-time home buyers. If you put your mind to it, the first-time home buyer, the low-income home buyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else.

For awhile, at least.