Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used graphics, hashtags and cheeky banter to debate a legitimate policy issue: the cost of higher education.
PolitiFact fact-checked two pieces of their exchange: Clinton's "Florida got an 'F' for college affordability under Bush" and Bush's "the cumulative student debt has nearly doubled under the current White House." Both claims have an element of truth, but they go too far when they try to pin the blame on each other. Rather, the facts point to long-term trends in shrinking college affordability that are bigger than any single administration.
At the end of 2008, right before Obama was inaugurated, the total student loan debt was $640 billion. By March 2015, student loan debt was $1.19 trillion. Experts told Politifact that total student debt increases when tuition increases and when more people decide to pursue higher education, and the 2008 recession caused both of these things to happen - so the recent increase is more a function of the economic downturn, rather than having a Democrat in the White House. The economic downturn pushed states to cut higher education funding, so schools - publics, in particular - upped tuition to cover costs.
Additionally, there haven't been any big policy changes so far in the Obama administration that would have affected student loan debt significantly, positively or negatively. Politifact rates Bush's statement "half true"
Bush was Florida's governor from 1999-2007. For the year cited in Clinton's tweet - 2006 - Florida did receive an F for affordability. And it wasn't the only time: In 2004, the study also gave Florida an F. But Florida was hardly alone in flunking the affordability test. In 2006, the year the Clinton camp selected for the tweet, every state but seven received an F, and those "lucky" seven states didn't do much better: Five ended up with a D while two got a C. The missing context from the tweet, then, is that Florida was not uniquely bad - not by a longshot. Additionally, Politifact concluded that while tuition went up under Bush, it did so at a rate slower than the national average. Bush's team pointed out several policies he helped institute on higher education, such as a First Generation Matching Grant for Floridians who are the first in their families to attend college. Politifact rates Clinton's statement "half true."
Jeb Bush says President Obama is to blame for the "premature withdrawal" of all U.S. troops. Hillary Clinton's campaign reminded Bush that his brother, President George W. Bush, signed an agreement that set Dec. 31, 2011, as the withdrawal date. Both have a point, but there's more to the story than either is letting on. The record shows that Jeb Bush ignored the fact that his brother agreed to the withdrawal deadline and agreed not to leave behind a residual force. Likewise, the Clinton campaign's response that Iraq wouldn't allow the Obama administration to renegotiate the terms of the withdrawal ignored criticism that Obama didn't try hard enough. That criticism isn't just partisan. His own defense secretary said Obama wasn't actively engaged in the negotiations and allowed the opportunity to "slip away."
The site climatefeedback.org is providing peer-reviewed online coverage of media reports on climate change. Scientists review online media articles and provide 'feedback' on the scientific accuracy of the information presented. Readers can view these annotations directly alongside the original texts and see exactly where the article's information is consistent - or inconsistent - with scientific thinking.
Chip Tuthill is a longtime Mancos resident. Websites used for this column: www.factcheck.org, www.politifact.com andwww.climatefeedback.org.