Senator Elizabeth Warren made headlines
this week when she grilled Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know Wells Fargo employees were caught scamming customers by creating 2 million fake bank accounts without their customers' knowledge or approval.
In the wake of this scandal, Wells Fargo fired 5,000 low-level employees and refunded some money, but the company did not terminate the senior executive who supervised the unit where the fraud occurred. Wells Fargo's CEO John Stumpf made millions of dollars from these misdeeds because the scheme caused his stock to go up. But Stumpf isn't giving back any of his ill-gained profits.
So Stumpf was a sitting duck when Senator Warren began questioning him at the Senate Banking Committee hearing. "You should resign," Warren told Stumpf. "You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Stumpf, of course, is lawyered up. He went into his flak-catcher crouch, continually repeating his talking points and saying he was sorry for Wells Fargo's misdeeds.
All great theater. Who doesn't enjoy seeing a transnational financial executive publicly humiliated? But what will come of all this drama? Nothing. Stumpf won't face criminal charges, and the Wells Fargo senior executives who profited from the fake-account scheme won't give back a penny of their loot.
Elizabeth Warren enjoys a great reputation as the champion of consumer rights and the friend of the little guy. But what tangible thing has she done to help working-class Americans? And more particularly, what has she done to ease the suffering of millions of student-loan debtors?
I'll tell you what Warren has done--she's done nothing. She's all blather. In fact, I don't think Warren even understands the student-loan crisis. She charged awhile back that the government is making "obscene" profits from the student-loan program, but that's not true. The government would be making a profit on the loan program if borrowers were paying back their loans, but they are not. As the Wall Street Journal
reported recently, 40 percent of student-loan borrowers aren't making payments on their loans.
Here are some things Senator Warren could propose that would help relieve the suffering of distressed student-loan debtors.
Legislation banning the government from garnishing the Social Security checks of elderly student-loan debtors who defaulted on their loans.
Around 155,000 Americans are having their Social Security checks dunned right now, causing real hardship for these people.
And how much money does our government collect from this disreputable practice? Probably less than the Secret Service spends guarding President Obama on just one of his Hawaiian vacations. Why doesn't Senator Warren use her bully pulpit to stop the government from going after elderly student-loan debtors who are living off their Social Security checks?
Wholesale relief for student-loan borrowers who were ripped off by the for-profit college industry.
Senator Warren joined 22 other Democratic Senators
in a letter to Secretary of Education John King asking the Department of Education to grant broader relief to the 35,000 students who were enrolled at one of ITT Tech campuses when ITT closed and filed for bankruptcy. But that letter is almost completely incoherent and doesn't propose real relief.
DOE should forgive the loans of all
the people who took out student loans to pay for ITT programs. Giving former students longer to file for loan forgiveness under DOE's "closed school" regulations (as the Democratic Senators proposed) does not go nearly far enough.
Amending the Bankruptcy Code to allow distressed student-loan debtors to discharge their federal student loans in bankruptcy like any other nonsecured debt
. Senator Warren co-sponsored
a bill to make private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, but private loans are only a small part of the overall student-debt crisis--only about 10 percent of total outstanding student-loan debt. The bill does nothing about reforming the Bankruptcy Code to allow distressed student-loan debtors to discharge their federal
student loans in bankruptcy.
Conclusion; Senator Elizabeth Warren is a phony
Senator Elizabeth Warren is a phony. She hasn't accomplished anything significant to help solve the student-loan crisis. It is true she supports a bill to make private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, but such a law--if passed--is small potatoes.
Let's face it. Although Warren portrays herself as a progressive fighting for overburdened student-loan debtors, she will never do anything that would threaten the core interests of the higher education industry. After all, there are 114 colleges and universities in Warren's state of Massachusetts; and most of the professors and administrators who work at those colleges voted for her.
Those colleges and universities have to have federal student-aid money to survive. They are like crack addicts waiting for their next federal fix. Warren can talk all she wants about helping student-loan debtors, but she won't do anything that upsets the status quo. And real reform of the Bankruptcy Code to allow people to discharge their federal loans in bankruptcy would definitely upset the status quo.
Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip. Clinton to propose 3-month hiatus for repayment of student loans
. Washington Post
, July 5, 2016. Accessible at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/07/05/clinton-to-propose-3-month-hiatus-for-repayment-of-student-loans/?hpid=hp_special-topic-chain_clinton-loans-11pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Ashlee Kieler, Senators Introduce Legislation to Make Private Student Loans Dischargeable in Bankruptcy. Consumerist
, March 12, 2015. Accessible at https://consumerist.com/2015/03/12/senators-introduce-legislation-to-make-private-student-loans-dischargeable-in-bankruptcy/
Jena McGregor. 'You should resign': Elizabeth Warren excoriates Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf.
Washington Post, September 20, 2016. Accessible at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2016/09/20/you-should-resign-elizabeth-warren-excoriates-wells-fargo-ceo-john-stumpf/
Josh Mitchell. More than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren't Making Payments
. Wall Street Journal
, April 7, 2016. Accessible at http://www.wsj.com/articles/more-than-40-of-student-borrowers-arent-making-payments-1459971348
Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. A Message from the Secretary of Education to ITT Students
. Accessible at http://blog.ed.gov/2016/09/message-secretary-education-itt-students/
Sen. Warren Questions lack of Private Student Loan Relief Options. Senator Warren Website, July 31, 2014. Accessible at https://www.warren.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=591
Letter to the Honorable John King, Secretary of Education, from 23 Democratic Senators
, September 15, 2016. Accessible at https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/files/9_15_16%20ITT%20Tech%20ED%20Letter%20(1).pdf
Dawn McCarty and Shahien Nasirpour. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After Shutdown
, September 16, 2016. Accessible at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-16/itt-educational-services-files-for-bankruptcy-after-shutdown-it6byu6t
Jena McGregor. 'You should resign': Elizabeth Warren excoriates Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, Washington Post, September 20, 2016. Accessible at
Reuters. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After Aid Crackdown
. International New York Times
, September 17, 2016. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/18/business/itt-educational-services-files-for-bankruptcy-after-aid-crackdown.html?_r=0
Marian Wang. Q & A: Elizabeth Warren on Spiraling Student Debt and What Should Be Done About It
. Pro Publica
, May 20, 2014. Accessible at https://www.propublica.org/article/qa-elizabeth-warren-on-spiraling-student-debt-and-what-should-be-done-about
Alia Wong. When Loan Forgiveness Isn't Enough
. Atlantic Monthly
, June 15, 2015. Accessible at http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/government-corinthian-college-loan-plan-problems/395513/