Conservative Economist Mocks Cash-Strapped College Students, Critics Blast His 'Privileged' Credit Card Advice

The Director of Economic Policy Studies at one of Washington's major conservative think tanks mocked financially strapped college students, suggesting they simply get credit cards.

American Enterprise Institute economic policy director Michael R. Strain was widely derided on social media Tuesday after floating the patronizing suggestion that college students should get credit cards instead of struggling in financial straits. Critics immediately pounced on what they described as a "condescending" question after Strain pushed back against a Temple University professor who tweeted that college students often drop out because they can't afford an unexpected bill of $200.

Strain, who writes opinion columns for Bloomberg, pointed to his past argument that "It is a myth that a large share of people can't cover a $400 emergency expense."

Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab tweeted Tuesday, "Every day #RealCollege students drop out of college because they can't afford an unexpected bill of even $200. I'm therefore thrilled to announce the recipients of the 2019-2020 FAST Fund award."

"Can they not get a credit card?" replied Strain, who personally holds three degrees from New York University, Marquette University and Cornell University. Strain also previously worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Hundreds of comments and replies began pouring in to ridicule the conservative think tank defender, many accusing him of being part of the "cult of entrepreneurship."

"How's the view from Privilege Mountain you monster," replied policy analyst Jon Lieber.

"'Resident Scholar?' Is that an honorary title?" snapped another critic, pointing to his joint title at AEI.

"You do know that a credit card doesn't settle a debt; it just shifts it to another party, yes?" replied another critic of the conservative think tank director.

"No guys, Michael totally understands, his preparatory private high school costs $14,500 annually but I'm sure he put it on a credit card he's already paid off," another Twitter critic shot back at Strain. The conservative economist went on to defend his comment and pointed to his own June column questioning whether Americans, Democratic politicians and other economists are embellishing claims of how poor some students and employees are across the country.

Many commenters remarked that predatory credit lenders preyed upon them as college students and piled massive amounts of debt onto their already exponentially growing student loan debt.

"To be clear, I have no doubt that many hard-working college students do not have ample financial resources. But concern over $200 is surely exaggerated," he later tweeted. "I think dropping out due to financial stress is a real issue. But finding $200 isn't. My concern with these exaggerated claims is that they distract from finding real solutions by misdiagnosing the problem and making it easier to dismiss."

"[E]ven if respondents are accurately reporting on their finances, these numbers suggest their situation is relatively uncommon. By making the problem seem so widespread, politicians and journalists are making it harder to identify how to help people who really are suffering financial hardship," Strain argued.

However, several supporters of the conservative economist joined in mocking student loan borrowers and broke college students.

"But they can afford all the alcohol, designer clothes, Fall/Spring vacations, and expensive laptops . . . Yawn," replied one agreeable commenter.

michael strain aei college students
The Director of Economic Policy Studies at one of Washington's major conservative think tanks mocked financially strapped college students, suggesting they simply get credit cards. Screenshot: AEI
Conservative Economist Mocks Cash-Strapped College Students, Critics Blast His 'Privileged' Credit Card Advice | U.S.
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