White House hits back at Twitter critics of student loan relief
The White House’s official Twitter account, @WhiteHouse, normally smuggles in static infographics and excerpts from temperate government speeches, but on Thursday night it took an aggressive turn.
In six tweets, the White House account cited a Republican representative’s criticism of President Biden’s student loan plan and responded to how much money the member of Congress accepted in forgiven loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, The purpose of which was to help businesses. Coronavirus pandemic.
It was a simple formula, and was applied throughout social media at the time, but judging by the source, the tone was unusually pointed. There were fans of the approach on Twitter: “This is the best White House trolling ever!” One wrote.
Asked about the tweet on Friday, White House spokeswoman Alexandra Lamanna said, “We have never hesitated to address the hypocrisy, and we are not going to stop now.” “It is important to clarify that what many people are calling student loan debt relief – which will help middle class and working families breathe more – a bailout for the wealthy had no problem with a loan bailout allowing their own Companies benefited, and corporations and the wealthy have no problem cutting taxes.”
The White House was not the first to highlight the government debt relief received by critics of student loan forgiveness. Soon after the plan was announced on Wednesday, individuals and activists found critics’ loan information on public databases and shared it online.
One graphic in particular was widely shared and the same six Republicans listed by the White House and seven other members of Congress were said to have forgiven between $38,000 and $4.3 million in PPP loans. .
The comparison between the two loans is not completely identical. PPP loans were designed to be forgiven effectively. In an effort to distribute funds to businesses that were struggling during the first years of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government introduced them without the traditional standard for business loans. Nearly every company with 500 or fewer workers was eligible for low-interest loans, which were forgiven as long as the money went into permitted costs.
US Small Business Administration spokesman Matt Coleman said the agency could not comment on the White House tweet. “It has been a long-standing agency policy, which has stretched across several previous administrations, not to comment on individual borrowers,” he said.
The amount delegated businesses received through this program also exceeded the amount any single individual would receive from the Student Loan Forgiveness Program, which canceled up to $20,000 in loan debt for people below certain income thresholds. will do it.
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Independent analysis shows that people eligible for college loan debt relief are disproportionately young and black. The Department of Education estimates that about 90 percent of affected borrowers earn $75,000 or less per year.
Some in the world of social media and politics speculated that this new tone for the @WhiteHouse account was the work of strategist Megan Coyne, who recently appointed Gov. The New Jersey state government Twitter account was unusually run under Murphy. , a Democrat. Ms Coyne announced on 1 August that she was joining the Biden administration’s Office of Digital Strategy as deputy director of the platform.
But the White House would not say how much Ms Coyne was involved in the messaging, and she had no comment other than tweeting a smiley emoji above a screenshot showing that reactions from critics were a top trend on Twitter.
The approach itself was clearly a complete buy-in from the Biden administration. When asked about the tweets on Friday, Bharat Ramamurthy, deputy director of Mr Biden’s National Economic Council, told reporters at a White House briefing that “we absolutely think this is a fair comparison between PPP and student loans”. .
“We think, why is there a double standard here?” Sri Ramamurthy said. “From a Republican point of view, why is it great to forgive a loan of up to $10 million to a business owner, but if we want to provide $10,000 or $20,000 in loan forgiveness for a teacher or bus driver or nurse, then All of a sudden it’s socialism?”
These nuances aside, Biden’s use of the White House meme jolted the somewhat sleepy account at the center of the social media debate about the student loan scheme.
One of its tweets, which said Republican Representative Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma had forgiven more than $1.4 million in PPP loans, was shared more than 44,000 times. A White House tweet a day earlier, which included a video clip of Mr Biden announcing the student loan plan, was shared more than 1,000 times.
“Another ignorant attack from a career politician who never scored a single job,” Rep. Mullin replied. “74 days ahead of the midterm, Joe Biden is targeting business owners to protect their employees from government lockdowns. President Trump has always supported American workers and job-seekers. ,
The change in tone also coincided with more aggressive language from Mr Biden, who denounced “extreme MAGA Republicans” in a campaign speech on Thursday night.
But by Friday morning, the White House account was back to its usual business tone, posting an infographic with student loan data. As of Friday afternoon, it had been shared more than 1,600 times.
Stacy Cowley and Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.