Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2016

Paul Krugman exploits the Great Louisiana Flood of 2016 (Redneck Katrina) to promote Hillary Clinton: Krugman's cynicism knows no bounds

Who do you have to sleep with to get a Nobel Prize?

Or perhaps that's the wrong question. Why do the Swedes award Nobel Prizes to arrogant fools like Paul Krugman?

Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics, but everyone knows he's nothing more than a shill for the transnational financial oligarchs and a zombie cheerleader for the Clinton campaign.

So I was enraged this morning when I read his New York Times column trying to turn South Louisiana's catastrophic flood (which I have dubbed Redneck Katrina) into a political story that favors Hillary Clinton.

I've got a couple things to say about Krugman's shameless sycophantic journalism. First, Krugman claimed that President Obama's FEMA response to Redneck Katrina was "infinitely superior" to Bush's FEMA response to the 2005 Katrina disaster.

I'm not so sure about that. Our recent flood only took place about a week ago, and at least 110,000 homes and business were damaged. Let's see how FEMA does over the next couple of months before we hand out accolades to FEMA. How many refugees will be back in their homes 60 or 90 days from now?

Moreover, speaking as a person who was rescued by the Cajun navy, I think South Louisianians are in a much better position to judge the quality of Obama's FEMA than Mr. Krugman, who is snugly safe in Manhattan.

Second, Krugman has no right to criticize Donald Trump for coming to Louisiana to lend his support to our flood victims. Where does Krugman get off labeling Trump's gesture as "boorish, self-centered behavior"?  After all, President Obama is visiting Louisiana tomorrow.  I suppose Krugman will characterize Obama's gesture as the act of a magnanimous and caring President, when in fact Obama was playing golf on Martha's Vineyard while Louisianians were clinging to to their roofs.

Krugman mocked Trump for handing out toys to Louisiana children,  which he described as a"hamhanded (and cheapskate) effort to exploit Louisiana's latest disaster for political gain." I don't think Louisianians would agree. On the contrary, I think we are all grateful for any assistance we receive, whether it is a toy for our kids, a case of bottled water or a FEMA grant.

Finally, Krugman cynically turned our natural disaster into a campaign ad for Hillary Clinton. Krugman suggests that our flood is a consequence of global warning and that Hillary would make a better President than Trump because she yaks on and on about how she is going to counteract global warming  if she  becomes president while Trump doesn't say much about it.

Well, global warming may be a factor in Louisiana's recent floods and hurricanes.  I can buy that. But Hillary's gassy rhetoric about climate change doesn't change the fact that she is a scheming, money-grubbing political hack who is totally owned by Wall Street.

Personally, I am glad Trump visited Louisiana. I look forward to Obama's visit, and I hope Hillary will visit as well. If she does visit the Pelican State, I hope her advisers tell her not to wear her orange pantsuit. She might get mistaken for an escaped  prisoner from St. Gabriel's Women's Prison, and that would be awkward.

Image result for hillary clinton in pantsuits
Hillary, please don't wear orange around St. Gabriel's Women's Prison

References

Paul Krugman. The Water Next Time. New York Times, August 22, 2016. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/22/opinion/the-water-next-time.html?_r=0

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What do Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have in common? They all received political contributions from Dade Medical College or affiliates. Dade's former CEO has been charged with making illegal campaign contributions

What do Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have in common? All four received political contributions from Dade Medical College or someone affiliated with DMC.  Ernesto Perez, the college's former CEO, was recently charged with making illegal political contributions. Indeed, the Miami Herald ran a photo of Perez being handcuffed earlier this month.

Perez had a remarkable career in higher education. Although he is a high-school dropout and convicted criminal, that did not stop him from founding a medical college that trained nurses and had five campuses.

Dade Medical College or people affiliated with it made three quarters of a million dollars in political contributions over the years, and two Florida legislators were on its payroll. It is closed now, and its 2000 students have been left in the lurch. Most of them have student loans that still have to be paid back.

Americans should thank the writers of the Miami Herald and Michael Vasquez in particular for relentless and hard-hitting reporting about DMC and the for-profit college industry in Florida. As the Herald series of corruption in the Florida for-profit college industry revealed, a ton of Florida legislators received political contributions from the industry, helping it to flourish. In fact, 18 percent of all postsecondary students in Florida attend a for-profit, far higher than the national average--about 12 percent.

Another individual who has written great stuff on the for-profits is David Halperin, who has shown a spotlight on the way the for-profits have bought influence with legislators at both the state and national level.

If you want to understand how the for-profit college industry manages to prosper in spite of low graduation rates, high dropout rates, and high student-loan default rates, read Halperin's work in Huffington Post and the Miami Herald articles on corruption in the Florida for-profit industry. The for-profits have hired lobbyists and made strategic campaign contributions to nearly every legislator who has the power to help or hurt them. And millions of naive students have been injured by this pernicious industry.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: A bleeding heart liberal
who takes political contributions from the for-profit college industry

References

Francisco Alvarado. Dade Medical College Has Powerful Friends but Struggling Students.  Broward/Palm Beach  New Times, August 29, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/2013-08-29/news/dade-medical-college-has-powerful-friends-but-struggling-students/

Patricia Born & Jay Weaver. Homestead mayor's ties to downtown redeveloper probed. Miami Herald, June 8, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/08/v-fullstory/3441091/homestead-mayors-ties-to-downtown.html


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/08/v-fullstory/3441091/homestead-mayors-ties-to-downtown.html#storylink=cpy
Dade Medical College.  Ernesto Perez to be Honored at SFBJ CEO Awards. 2013. Accessible at: http://www.dademedical.edu/rightnow/ernestoperezbehonoredsfbjceoawards

Kelly Field, "U.S. Has Forgiven Loans of More Than 3,000 Ex-Corinthian Students, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://chronicle.com/article/US-Has-Forgiven-Loans-of/232855/?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en

Fred Grimm. Before his fall, Ernesto Perez bought himself lots of friends. Miami  Herald, November 4, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article42988848.html

David Halperin. Exposed: For-Profit Colleges' Blueprint for Blocking Obama Regulations. Huffington Post, May 5, 2014. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/exposed-for-profit-colleg_b_5256688.html

David Halperin. For-Profit Colleges Spend Big on Lobbyists to Fight Obama Regulation. Huffington Post, April 28, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/for-profit-colleges-spend_b_5221407.html

David Halperin. For-Profit College Lobbyist Explains Decades of Fraud as Humanitarian Mission. Huffington Post, September 23, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/for-profit-college-lobbyi_b_8184952.html

David Halperin. The Perfect Lobby: How One Industry Captured Washington, DC. The Nation, April 3, 2014. Accessible at:  https://www.thenation.com/article/perfect-lobby-how-one-industry-captured-washington-dc/


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article42988848.html#storylink=David Halperin. $33 Million Per Year of Your Tax Money to For-Profit College Whose CEO Hid Criminal Record. Huffington Post, October 21, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/33-million-per-year-of-yo_b_4136451.ht
David Halperin. Which For-Profit Lobbyist Are You? Huffington Post, March 28, 2014.  Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/which-for-profit-college_b_5040172.html

Michael Vasquez. Amid criminal charges, CEO of Dade Medical Ccollege Resigns. Miami Herald, October 23, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/23/3706821/ernesto-perez-resigns-as-head.html

David Halperin. $33 Million Per Year of Your Tax Money to For-Profit College Whose CEO Hid Criminal Record. Huffington Post, October 21, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/33-million-per-year-of-yo_b_4136451.html

Dade Medical College owner turns himself in. Miami Herald, November 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article42643344.html

Michael Vasquez. Amid criminal charges, CEO of Dade Medical College Resigns. Miami Herald, October 23, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/23/3706821/ernesto-perez-resigns-as-head.html

Michael Vasquez and Christina Veiga. A for-profit empire, Dade Medical College, tumbles down. Miami Herald, October 30, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article41967387.html

Sunday, May 3, 2015

An episode of The Walking Dead: Why did the U.S. Department of Education oppose bankruptcy relief for a quadriplegic student-loan debtor?

America's insolvent student-loan debtors are the walking dead

America's student-loan crisis is beginning to resemble an episode of The Walking Dead.  Like zombies, millions of distressed student-loan debtors stumble around the American landscape, basically pushed out of the economy and suffering in silence.

Just as Deputy Sheriff Rick tries to elude the zombies in Walking Dead, President Obama treads lightly, hoping to avoid encountering the millions of student-loan defaulters. Deputy Sheriff Rick doesn't have enough shotgun shells to dispatch all "the walkers" if they show up en masse; and the Obama administration doesn't have the intellectual or moral resources to deal with the masses of people whose lives were destroyed by their student loans.

Insolvent student-loan debtors: The Walking Dead

Basically the culprits who created the student-loan crisis or helped hide its magnitude--Congress, colleges and universities, think tanks like the Brookings Institution, the Department of Education, the College Board--are huddled in their bastions much like the characters in The Walking Dead, who holed up in an abandoned department store for awhile, hoping someone with a little courage and intelligence would come to their rescue.

Of course, if the United States was a humane society--which it isn't--people who were overwhelmed by student-loan debt could discharge their loans in bankruptcy. But Congress passed several laws making it quite difficult for insolvent student-loan debtors to get relief from the bankruptcy courts.

Still--a few brave souls make the effort, filing adversary actions in the bankruptcy courts, often without lawyers. And recently, the bankruptcy courts have begun to take notice of the nightmare that the student-loan program has become; and the courts have been discharging some student loans.

But every time an intrepid spirit tries to get relief from oppressive student loans in a bankruptcy court, lawyers for the Department of Education or one of the government's private debt-collection agencies show up to oppose relief. In fact, it is fair to say that the official position of the U.S. government--President Obama's government--is that no one should be relieved of student-loan debt in bankruptcy.

In virtually every student-loan bankruptcy case, the lawyers for DOE and the debt-collection companies argue that student-loan debtors should be put in 25-year income-based repayment plans (IBRPs) rather than have their loans discharged. Of course, this is a heartless position to take, and in some cases it is downright ridiculous.

In Stevenson v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, for example, Educational Credit Management Corporation argued that a woman in her 50s, who had a record of homelessness and was living on less than $1000 a month, should be put in a 25-year IBRP in spite of her record of poverty and in spite of the fact that this woman didn't file for bankruptcy until 25 years after she took out her first student loan.  And the bankruptcy judge agreed! I don't know what ultimately happened to this poor woman, but apparently she was forced into a repayment plan that would not end until a half century after she first borrowed money to go to college.

Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education: DOE opposes bankruptcy relief for a quadriplegic student-loan debtor

But for utter, depraved heartlessness, my nomination goes to the bankruptcy case of Myrhe v. U.S. Department of Education, in which the Department of Education opposed bankruptcy relief for Bradley Myhre, a quadriplegic student-loan debtor who had no muscle control below his neck.  Myhre had suffered a catastrophic spinal injury in a swimming-pool accident, but he borrowed money to attend college and was able to work full-time. Unfortunately, his salary wasn't enough to cover the cost of paying his full-time caregiver--the person Myhre employed to feed, dress and bathe him and drive him back and forth to work.

Incredibly, DOE--Arne Duncan's DOE--opposed bankruptcy relief for Myhre and argued that he shouldn't have spent money for cable television since that was money he could have applied to paying off his student loans.

Fortunately for Mr. Myhre, the bankruptcy court rejected DOE's arguments and granted him relief from his student loans. In fact, the court praised him for his courage. "Mr, Myhre is an articulate and personable young man," the court observed, "whose mobility is determined by his wheelchair and dexterity is only sufficient to operate a directional stick control." Myhre's daily life required "bravery and tenacity," the court wrote," and Myhre had "made a truly admirable effort to return to work in order to support himself financially rather than remain reliant on government aid" (Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education, 2013, p. 704).

The Department of Education's lawyers are like Daryl in The Walking Dead

Why did the Department of Education take such a heartless position regarding Mr. Myhre's student loans? I'll tell you why. DOE is driven to stop every student-loan bankruptcy because if the bankruptcy courts ever begin reviewing the plight of insolvent student-loan debtors from a humane perspective, the judges would start granting bankruptcy relief to these unfortunate souls. And if that ever happenes, millions of honest but unfortunate people--and I mean literally millions--will be filing for bankruptcy, which would topple the entire corrupt and putrid student-loan program.  DOE simply can't let that happen.

Much like a DOE lawyer opposing bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors, Daryl quietly dispatches zombies
And so when DOE's lawyers go to court to oppose bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors, they behave much like Daryl in The Walking Dead.  Daryl kills zombies silently with his crossbow, dispatching them efficiently without making a noise that would attract other zombies. Likewise, DOE attorneys overwhelm student-loan debtors who go to bankruptcy court without lawyers, beating them down with canned legal briefs they keep on the hard drives of their government computers for just such contingencies.

The metaphor isn't perfect, of course. The "walkers" that Daryl drills through the brain with his arrows are frightening creatures, while the poor folks dispatched by DOE's lawyers are decent human beings entirely deserving of our pity and our aid. And of course, I would be  slandering Daryl to compare him to a DOE attorney!

But overall, I like the metaphor. Our insolvent student-loan debtors are very much like the zombies in The Walking Debt, and the Department of Education's lawyers are quite like Daryl, quietly picking off the "walkers" who make their way into the bankruptcy courts.

I don't know how this series will end, but I feel pretty sure some scary episodes lie ahead. If there is any justice in the world, distressed student-loan debtors will rise up one day by the millions; and America's cowardly politicians, college presidents, and policy wonks will wind up eating stale canned goods while holed up in the real-life equivalent of The Walking Dead's abandoned Center for Disease Control.

Quiet! Don't let the walkers hear you.
References

Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education, 503 B.R. 698 (Bankr. W.D. Wis. 2013).

Roth v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, 490 B.R. 908 (9th Cir. BAP 2013).

Stevenson v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, 436 B.R. 586 (Mass. Bankr. 2011).


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Legal Education and the Battle of Isandlwana: Our Country Isn't Solving Problems Because Our Colleges and Professional Schools Aren't Properly Training Our Leaders

What do law professors do beside teach law students?

Most of them write law review articles--long, tedious pieces with literally hundreds of footnotes. And they write a lot of them.  All American law schools sponsor at least one law journal; and many sponsor several. Each year, these journals publish about 10,000 law review articles!

Law scholars use an arcane system for crafting their footnotes under rules laid out in The Bluebook, an almost incomprehensible volume published by Harvard Law School. The Bluebook is now in its nineteenth edition, and its text is even more opaque than the 18th edition. In fact, Richard Posner, an esteemed judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, described it with a quote from Heart of Darkness: "The horror! The horror!"

Here is a quote from the University of Houston Law School's Bluebook Guide that described just one change that was instituted in the nineteenth edition:
Rule 1.2(a) [E.g.]: Clarifies that when this signal is combined with another signal such asSee”, the comma separating the signals should be italicized while the comma at the end of the signal should not be.   
Law reviews are edited by law students, and student editors are required to master the mysteries of The Bluebook in order to edit law-article manuscripts. As a student at Harvard, Barack Obama must have spent a lot of time with The Bluebook when he was Editor of Harvard Law Review.

And Barack Obama's educational background may explain why he is at loggerheads with two powerful heads of state: Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin.  Putin is a former KGB man, Netanyahu is a special forces veteran of the Israel Defense Force, and Obama is a former footnote checker. It is not hard to imagine why Netanyahu and Putin seem so contemptuous of our President.

And this brings me to the Battle of Isandlwana, which was a disastrous military defeat for the British army during the Anglo-Zulu War.  In January 1879, a force of 20,000 Zulu warriors overwhelmed a British force of about 1500 men on the rolling plains around Mount Isandlwana. The British commander, Lord Chelmsford, believed that modern weapons and trained British soldiers could defeat much larger enemy forces equipped only with spears and a few antiquated muskets.

But Lord Chelmsford was wrong. Splitting his forces, Lord Chelmsford departed from a supply camp at Isandlwana, leaving Brevet Colonel Henry Pulleine in charge. Lord Chelmsford had not fortified the camp, thinking it unnecessary; nor did he encircle the camp with a laager.  After all,  the British were armed with Martini-Henry rifles; and they had two cannons, a rocket-launching battery and 500,000 rounds of ammunition. What could go wrong?

The Battle of Isandlwana: Hey, what could go wrong?
On the morning of January 22, 1879, Lieutenant Colonel Pulleine's scouts spotted a large force of Zulus sitting patiently in a ravine; and they reported back to Pulleine.  He ordered troops to form a long skirmishing line about 1500 yards in front of the camp.

For a while things went well. British soldiers shot down attacking Zulus by the score; and the troops were in a jolly mood.  Gradually, however, the Zulus encircled the British right flank, which eventually collapsed.  British troops fell back to the camp itself, where small groups made a last stand before being overwhelmed. Almost the whole force was massacred.

Donald Morris's The Washing of the Spears is the best historical account of this battle. Morris explains that the British were deployed too far from their ammunition supply; and the ammunition boxes proved difficult to open--requiring special screwdrivers to get the lids off the boxes.  A movie about the battle, entitled Zulu Dawn, depicts soldiers standing in long ques waiting for ammunition. One scene shows a military clerk filling out receipt slips while Zulus spear soldiers patiently standing in line.

It shouldn't have turned out that way. After all, Lord Chelmsford was an esteemed British commander who had purchased commissions in respected military units.  He probably thought he knew what he was doing when he split his forces and departed from an unfortified camp.

And Lieutenant Colonel Pulleine, who was trained at Sandhurst, received plenty of warning that the Zulus were on their way. His camp was well provisioned, and he had two cannons and some rocket launchers. How could things have turned out so badly?

Arrogance, in my opinion. The British officers thought it inconceivable that they could be defeated by a native force armed mostly with spears, even if the enemy had the advantage of overwhelming numbers.

And arrogance is the cause of most of our nation's recent blunders in the international arena. We are the United States, after all. We have superior technology such that we can kill our enemies with drones simply by pushing a button. And our leaders all went to the best colleges and professional schools: Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, Oxford.  And our law-trained leaders know The Bluebook backward and forward.

But our arrogance is leading us to defeat after defeat against our enemies and our competitors. And our president, trained at Harvard Law School, is no match in a duel of wits against people like Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Our elite colleges and universities have failed us. Instead of training problem solvers and crisis managers, they have produced arrogant elitists--people much like Lord Chelmsford.  And so long as we place such people in charge of our national security, we will see our national strength and stature diminish.

References

Donald R. Morris. The Washing of the Spears: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965.

The Bluebook (19th edition).

Zulu Dawn (1979).


Friday, June 13, 2014

Is Senator Elizabeth Warren a Paper Tiger? Her Bill to Lower Interest Rates Was a Non-Starter

A lot of people think Senator Elizabeth Warren is a fierce advocate for college-loan debtors, a feisty bulldog who strives mightily to get some relief for the millions of young Americans who are burdened with crushing student loans. I once thought so myself.


But I've become skeptical.  So far,Warren's basic thrust has been to advocate for lower interest rates on federal student loans. Lower interest rates will give college-loan borrowers some relief, of course; but lower interest rates will do nothing to stop the spiraling cost of higher education--which has forced students to borrow more and more money every year in order to attend college. 

And lowering interest rates will do nothing to clean up the fraud and abuse in the for-profit college industry--a problem that Warren says little about.

Earlier this week, Warren's bill to lower student-loan interest rates failed in the U.S. Senate, killed by the Republicans.  The bill never had a chance of passing because it included a provision to raise taxes on the wealthy--something Republicans would never vote for.

And of course Warren knew that. Basically the bill was a cynical attempt to paint the Democratic Party as the friend of indebted college students while embarrassing the Republicans by portraying them as hardhearted protectors of the rich.

All fine theater of course, but did anything get accomplished? No--not a damn thing.

I realize of course that getting real student-loan reforms through Congress will be difficult. The for-profit industry and its lobbyists are very powerful; and the for-profits make strategic contributions to key legislators like Speaker of the House John Boehner.

But Warren could render real service simply by publicizing just how bad the student-loan mess is.  She should demand, for example, that the Department of Education release information about the true default rate--not the watered-down rate that it publishes every October.

In addition, she could team up with outgoing Senator Tom Harkin and publicize how the for--profit colleges are exploiting low-income and minority students.

She could advocate for a reform of the Bankruptcy Code so that millions of insolvent student-loan debtors could discharge their loans in the bankruptcy courts.

But no--she is content to sponsor legislation that she knows will go nowhere simply to embarrass the Republicans.

I suspect that Senator Warren's core constituency in Massachusetts--all those corpulent, self-satisfied and arrogant colleges like Harvard, Boston University, Brandeis, etc. etc.--are quite happy to see their senator engage in sound and fury regarding the student loan program. They know Senator Warren's bombast will never lead to any legislation that would threaten their interests.

So just keep yakking, Elizabeth; go right on yakking.

References

Julie Hirschfield Davis. In School Speech, Obama Deplores Blocking of Student Debt Bill. New York Times, June 12, 2014, p. A20.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Like a Secret Drunk Who Hides A Bottle of Bourbon in His Office Drawer, The Higher Education Industry is Addicted to Student Loans But Won't Admit It

Almost everyone agrees that Alcoholics Anonymous has the best treatment program for alcoholics. AA's simple 12-step program is followed by alcoholics all over the United States, and AA's method for treating alcoholics has been adapted for other addictions as well--including the addiction to drugs.

Perhaps the higher education industry should adopt an AA-style 12-step program to treat its addiction to the federal student loan program.  After all, higher education's dependence on federal student aid money really is an addiction. For-profit colleges in particular could not survive a week without regular infusions of federal cash.

Drinking problem? What drinking problem?
photo credit: twentytwowords.com
But the Obama administration and Arne Duncan's Department of Education treat the student-loan mess as if it were just an irritating  problem and not a full-blown crisis.  It's like Aunt Sally's tolerance for Uncle Ed's drinking binges--she just smiles while reassuring herself that Ed maybe drinks just a wee bit too much.

And President Obama's announcement to expand the Pay As You Earn program shows us that he is in denial about the magnitude of the student-loan crisis.  His administration's decision to expand the program, like its decision to continue strengthening the regulation of the for-profit industry, shows that President Obama and Arne Duncan know that the student-loan mess is serious.  But they want to address the problem like Aunt Sally deals with Uncle Ed's drinking--they just want to water down the whiskey.

Let's face it, in spite of the New York Times' sycophantic praise, Pay As You Earn is nothing more than a plan to stretch students' 10-year student-loan repayment obligations to 20 years.  Yes, this will reduce borrowers' monthly payments, which will give college-loan debtors some short-term relief; but borrowers will be paying on their loans for a majority of their working lives. Is that a real solution?

Second, although I haven't seen any financial analysis to back me up on this observation, I suspect a lot of people who elect the government's income-based repayment options for paying back their loans  won't be making payments large enough to reduce the principal on their debt.  When their loan obligations are discharged after 20 years, millions of people will still owe as much as they borrowed. How can that be a good thing?

So let's look at that 12-step plan.

Step number one is to admit that you have a problem and are powerless to control it.  The Feds could follow that first step by releasing the real student-loan default rate--not that phony three-year rate it releases every October.  According to DOE's latest report, about 15 percent of  recent debtors defaulted within three years of beginning their loan repayment phase; for students who attended for-profit colleges, the rate is 21 percent.

Those numbers are bad but they dramatically understate the true default rate.  Many for-profits, community colleges and some traditional four-year schools have hired so-called "default prevention" firms to contact distressed student borrowers and encourage them to sign up for economic hardship deferments.  Students who obtain these deferments--which are quite easy to get--are not counted as defaulters even though they are not making loan payments.

Just facing up to the reality of how many millions of people are not paying back their loans would be an admission that the student-loan program is out of control.  That's step number 1 of the AA's 12-step plan.

Another important step in AA's 12-step program is to make amends to the people you have injured. I believe that is step number 9.

And of course the Obama administration, Congress and the nation's colleges and universities haven't made amends to the people who have been hurt by the student-loan program.  And until they make amends they haven't done what is necessary to break the higher education industry's dependence on federal student aid money.

What should be done?  As I have tirelessly advocated, Congress needs to amend the Bankruptcy Code to allow insolvent student-loan debtors to discharge their  student loans in bankruptcy so long as they file in good faith.

Second, the federal government should stop garnishing the Social Security checks of elderly student-loan debtors who defaulted on their loans.

And third, the for-profit college industry needs to be shut down.

Of course none of these things are going to happen.  Our government will continue to hide the true magnitude of the student-loan default rate, and it will continue to let millions of people suffer who have no reasonable hope of ever paying off their student loans.

And just like Uncle Ed, who drinks in secret, our nation's colleges and universities will continue abusing students by forcing them to borrow more and more money.  Eventually, Uncle Ed will kill himself from excessive drinking. And eventually, higher education's addiction to federal student aid will destroy the integrity of our nation's colleges and universities, which were once the envy of the world.

No one knows just how Uncle Ed will die--liver disease or a fatal car accident.  And no one knows just how low American higher education will go in terms of its degradation.  But the future is bleak for both of them.

References

Student Borrowers and the Economy. New York Times, June 11, 2014, p. A20.




Sunday, April 13, 2014

Two Americas--Where one man makes more in 20 minutes than a widow survives on for a year

Two stories in today's Times caught my eye. According to a report in the Business section, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, makes $37,692 an hour--that's right, 37 grand an hour. Meanwhile, another Times article told the story of Carol Cascio, a widow, who lives on $900 per month. She had hoped for an additional $400 per month from her deceased husband's pension--which would just be a few seconds of Mr. Ellison's salary--but the pension fund went belly up and she will get nothing.

Obama in Silicon Valley
Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House

And the disparity is even worse than that. According to the Times story, Ms. Cascio borrowed money to finance her daughter's education. In fact, she was hoping to pay back the loan with the pension money she will not be getting.

There's something wrong with a nation in which one American makes three times as much in an hour as another person lives on in a year. And this is taking place in Barack Obama's America--the man who was supposed to bring us hope and change. And yet President Obama spends much more time with people like Mr. Ellison--wealthy people who can make campaign contributions--than people like Carol Cascio, who can do nothing to help Mr. Obama fill the Democratic Party's campaign coffers.

At least Ms. Cascio can take bankruptcy, you may be thinking, and discharge the education loan, assuming it has not been paid back. Probably not. Even someone in Ms. Cascio's situation will find it difficult to discharge an educational loan in bankruptcy. In fact, the Department of Education recently opposed bankruptcy discharge for a student-loan debtor who is a paraplegic and only owed $14,000! That's right, President Obama's Department of Education wanted the young man who is paralyzed from the neck down to sign up for a 25-year repayment plan. Fortunately, a federal bankruptcy judge was a bit more compassionate than the Department of Education and discharged this poor man's education loan.

We should think long and hard about the nation we have become--a nation in which wealthy pet owners call themselves "pet parents" and buy toys for their dogs to stimulate their pets' brains; a nation in which our leading and most respected newspaper printed a story about the new fashion trend in which wealthy women groom their public hair; a nation in which millions of people living on the boundary of poverty have college loans they can't pay back.

The people who run our country--President Obama's arrogant, power obsessed Ivy League bureaucrats; the media elite; and corporate oligarchs like Oracle's Larry Ellison--actually believe they are smarter and more sensitive than the average American holding down a job and raising a family.

But the people who run our country are nothing more than self-absorbed children who grab for all the power, money and recognition they can get while millions of decent Americans suffer economic hardship--hardship that grows worse with each passing day.

The people who run our country believe they are liberal; they believe they are sensitive; they believe they are progressive. But all it means to be a liberal in today's America is to vote the Democratic ticket, watch Jon Stewart on television, and show a proper degree of scorn toward the smucks who didn't get in one the action--perhaps a smuck like you who borrowed money to get a college education and don't make enough money to pay back your loans.

References

Peter Eavis. Invasion of the Supersalaries. New York Times, April 13, 2014, Business Section, p. 1.

David Hochman. You'll Go Far My Pet. New York Times, April 13 2014, Sunday Styles Section, p. 1.

Marisa Meltzer. Below the Bikini Line, A Growing Trend. New York Times, January 29, 2014. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/fashion/Brazilian-bikini-wax-women-hair-removal.html?_r=0


Myhre v. United States Department of Education, 503 B.R. 698 (Bkrtcy Rep. Wis. 2013).

Mary Williams Walsh, Thought Secure, Pooled Pensions Teeter and Fall. New York Times, April 13, 2014, p. 1.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tardy praise for the Obama Administration's regulations to cut down on abuse in the for-profit college industry

Arne Duncan
I have criticized President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for not doing enough to stop the abuse in the for-profit college industry and for failing to pass measures to ease the suffering of millions of stressed-out student-loan debtors.  I have argued for bankruptcy reform so that insolvent student-loan borrowers can discharge their student loans, and I favor a law that would prohibit the federal government from garnishing the Social Security checks of elderly student-loan defaulters. I also favor a crackdown on Dickensian loan-collection practices against student-loan defaulters.

I still favor those things, and I still think the Obama administration has not done enough to help people who have been injured by their participation in the federal student loan program.  But President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan have tried to rein in the abuses in the for-profit college industry, and they deserve praise for their efforts.

In October 2010, the Obama administration released new regulations--called the program integrity rules--in an effort to stop fraud, misrepresentations, and high-pressure recruiting by for-profit colleges.  The rules prohibited for-profit colleges from paying bonuses to employees based on the number of students they recruited, a practice that encouraged recruiters to sign up students who were unqualified for the programs they borrowed money to enter.  The rules also contained sanctions against institutions that misrepresented their programs or their programs' costs.

In 2011, the Department of Education issued its gainful employment rules--rules designed to close down colleges that did not produce significant numbers of graduates who made enough money to pay off their student loans.

The for-profit industry sued to invalidate these regulations, and they enjoyed quite a bit of success.  A federal court struck down important sections of the program integrity rules, and another federal court essentially gutted the Department of Education's gainful employment rules.

But a few days ago, the Department of Education released new regulations to rein in abuse among the for-profit colleges. These new regulations wee drafted to avoid the legal pitfalls that led the original regulations to be struck down by the courts.

Of course, the for-profits may sue to strike down these new regulations, and they will certainly turn their lobbyist loose to keep the government from effectively stopping abuses in an industry that is ripe with abuse.

But at least President Obama and Secretary of Education are still trying to clean up the for-profit college industry. They face long odds, but they deserve credit for their perseverance.

References

Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities v. Duncan, 681 F.3d 427 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities v.Duncan, 870 F. Supp. 2d 133 (D.D.C. 2012).

Chris Kirkham. For-Profit Colleges That Bury Students in Debt Face Second Obama Crackdown. Huffington Post, March 13,  2014. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/13/for-profit-colleges-obama_n_4961163.html


Friday, February 7, 2014

"Fill out those forms, fill them out!" Michelle Obama recklessly urges low-income students to go into debt to attend college



Michelle Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan were in Alexandria, Virginia earlier this week urging students to fill out federal financial-aid forms to attend college. "Fill out those forms, fill them out!" Michelle urged students as she watched them fill out the forms. "Don't leave money on the table."


Fill out those forms, fill them out!
I don't mean to be hard of Ms. Obama.  I commend her for urging high school students to attend college.  And I realize most low-income students need to borrow money in order to pursue the dream of a college education.  And the forms are complicated to fill out, although the Department of Education is trying to make them simpler.

Nevertheless, it is reckless and irresponsible to urge poor families to borrow money to attend college unless that advice includes some warnings about the trouble poor kids can get into when they take out college loans.

First of all, the federal student loan program has created a giant morass of debt that has sucked many people into a lifetime of penury. People who attend for-profit colleges are especially vulnerable.  According to DOE's own data, one out of five students who take out loans to attend for-profit institutions default within three years of beginning repayment.   And, as I have said before, the true default rate is probably double that.  And research shows that low-income and minority kids are most likely to be snagged by the rapacious for-profit college industry.

Is it irresponsible for the First Lady to urge students to take out student loans without warning them about the for-profit colleges?  Yes, it is.

Second, millions of people with college degrees hold jobs that don't require a college education, and millions more have made poor borrowing decisions--borrowing money to get an expensive degree in art education, for example, that will never open the door to a high paying job.

Consequently, lots of people have defaulted on their loans or have gotten economic hardship deferments. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency, 15 million people have either defaulted on their loans or have stopped making payments because they are under some sort of economic hardship deferment or other forbearance program.

 Among the people who are making loan payments, quite a few are making payments that don't cover accruing interest, which means their debt is growing larger over time, even though they make their loan payments every month.

Is it irresponsible for Michelle Obama to encourage young people to borrow money to attend college without warning them of the consequences of making poor choices in terms of a college major or the cost of tuition at the college they choose?  Again, the answer is yes.

Meanwhile, Arne Duncan's Department of Education is frantically urging student-loan borrowers to sign up for income-based repayment plans that lower monthly payments but stretch out the loan  repayment period to 20 or even 25 years.  In my opinion, DOE is setting up America's young people to become a class of indentured servants--forced to turn over a portion of their paychecks to student-loan creditors over the majority of their working lives.

Let's face it: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Arne Duncan are in a frenzied effort to preserve the status quo for the higher-education industry--a bloated, self-satisfied, increasingly isolated and irrelevant bunch of institutions led by overpaid blow-hard presidents.

Millions of people have fallen into the student-loan trap.  Financially stressed debtors can't take bankruptcy to discharge their loans.  They don't have access to consumer protection laws.  Those who are ripped off by the for-profit colleges can't sue because the for-profits force students  to sign agreements promising not to sue as a condition of taking classes.

Michelle may think her life story is an inspiration for aspiring young people who are living in poverty.  But the chance that these kids will go to Princeton and Harvard Law School like Michelle did is about as good as getting a lucrative contract to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If Barack, Michelle and Arne want to start behaving responsibly, they should work to kick the for-profit colleges out of the federal student loan program.  They should work to amend the Bankruptcy Code to allow insolvent student-loan debtors to discharge their loans in bankruptcy. They should publicize the true student-loan default rate--which is probably double what DOE reports every year.

But Barack, Michelle, and Arne won't do that.  The higher-education industry's lobbyists and campaign contributions make sure no serious reforms will ever take place.  And millions of low-income and minority young people are seeing their financial futures destroyed, not enhanced, by the federal student loan program.

References

Emmarie Huetteman. First Lady Urges Students to Apply for College Aid. New York Times, February 6, 2014, p. A15.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We live on different planets: The World of the New York Times is not the world of the average American

I live in fly-over country and can't get home delivery of the New York Times. Nevertheless, I get the Sunday Times  delivered to my home; and I can pick up a copy of the weekday issues at Benny's Car Wash on Perkins Road. I try to read it every day as part of my effort to stay informed about world events.

Lately, however, I have begun to suspect that the New York Times writers and I don't live on the same planet.  And today's issue heightened my suspicion.  Here are some stories that make me shake my head.

First, I read Frank Bruni's op ed essay excoriating the state of Texas for keeping an unborn baby alive even though its mother is brain dead, the victim of a pulmonary embolism.  The woman's husband and parents want the pregnancy terminated, but doctors say they are bound by law to bring the pregnancy to term.

As Bruni himself said, there are no happy outcomes to this sad scenario, but Bruni says Texas is devaluing the lives of the baby's father and it grandparents by not snuffing out the baby's life. 

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. I think most husbands would want the baby to live in this situation and so would most grandparents.  I think it is unfortunate that they apparently find the baby inconvenient.  But to say that the state of Texas and the doctors in charge of this unborn baby's care are cruel is nonsense.

Let's move on.  Today's Sunday Review section contained two--count-em two--positive articles about legalized gambling.  Moises Velasquez-Manoff  wrote a piece on Indian casinos in which she compared casino distributions to Native American families to a mother nurturing her child  Yeah, right.  Ms. Velasquez-Manoff should spend some time strolling around the nation's casinos. She will see a lot of stressed-out, chain smoking elderly people pumping cash into slot machines--cash that most of them don't have to spare. Do those people looked nurtured?

And then there is an article by Greg Grandin, a professor at New York University (where students graduate with the highest average student-loan debt in the country).  Grandin analyzed an obscure Melville novel that Barack Obama once read and somehow linked it with contemporary American racism, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and the Tea Party.  Wonder what it costs NYU students to take a course from this guy?

Then we have an essay by Sam Polk, a wealthy former financier who claims to have been addicted to making money.  He was dissatisfied, he confessed when he only got a  bonus of $3.6 million.  Hey, fellah. Dorothy Day's got a cure for that addiction. Read Matthew 25.

And finally we have an op ed essay by Thomas Friedman, who urges President Obama to tell Americans in his next State of the Union speech that American kids are not doing as well in school as kids in other countries because American parents aren't demanding that their children be challenged more in the classroom.  OK, we get it.  The American education crisis is the parents' fault.

After pondering all this, I felt like I was reading news from a parallel universe--a world in which I do not live.  Some people might point out that the New York Times is not meant to be read by people like me and that I should stick to reading the Farmer's Almanac.  And they may be right. Certainly, all the advertisements for luxury goods that appear in the Times' supplements are not aimed at me or my family.

But here is the problem.  The  New York Times, the people who read the Times and the politicians that the Times adores (Barack Obama) are contemptuous of the people who live in fly-over country; but they want to dictate how these people live. They express outrage when state legislatures try to put reasonable restrictions on abortion or try to maintain marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  They imply that politicians who speak for some of us are white supremacists. They show disdain for American values but they want people who hold those values to fight and die in foreign wars the Obama administration doesn't even believe in.

I do not write this from a partisan political perspective. I am no red-stater.  I have no more regard for Sarah Palin than the New York Times editorial board.  I write from the perspective of a person who believes that traditional American culture--what we might call middle-class culture or Judeo-Christian culture--is basically benign and healthy. And I am alarmed to see powerful political forces  show disdain for the traditional values that served this nation pretty well for over 200 years.

References

Thomas Friedman. Obama's Homework Assignment. New York Times, Sunday Review section p. 1.

Greg Grandin. Obama, Melville and the Tea Party. New York Times, Sunday Review section p. 6.

Sam Polk. For the Love of Money. New York Times, Sunday Review section p. 1.

Monica Velasquez-Manoff. When the Poor Get Cash. New York Times, Sunday Review section, p. 12.




Friday, January 17, 2014

President Obama's White House Summit with Higher Education Leaders: How Important Was It?

President Obama invited about 100 college presidents and higher-education industry leaders to the White House yesterday to talk about expanding education opportunities for low-income minority students. How important was this event?

Well, the New York Times carried the story on page 14, so perhaps the event wasn't too important.  As its ticket for admission, each institution submitted a plan for expanding college access for poor, non-white students; but I'm sure that didn't take any of those 100 institutions more than 5 minutes to develop.  Higher education has been obsessed with affirmative action for more than 30 years.  They all have plans in place to increase minority and low-income enrollment.

I commend President Obama for highlighting the fact that higher education has become far too expensive, which has created hardships for low- and moderate-income families who want to send their children to college. His bully pulpit approach has probably contributed to the gradual easing of annual tuition-price increases.  Universities that charge $50,000 a year for room, board and tuition are embarrassed to raise their prices much higher.

But let's step back and look at the big picture. The Higher Education Act of 1965 was intended to provide opportunities for low-income students to attend college, regardless of their financial wherewithal. Affirmative action, which the Supreme Court approved in Grutter v. Bollinger was intended to expand educational opportunities for minority students.

Today, the federal government pours more than $100 million a year into student financial aid, and total student indebtedness has reached $1.2 trillion.  Average student-loan indebtedness among those who take out loans (about 65 percent) is pushing toward $30,000 by the time students graduate.

Millions of college graduates (almost half) hold jobs that don't require a college degree, and the gap between college completion for low-income families and high income families has widened. Will more money, more special programs, more focus on affirmative action improve this picture?

I don't think so. I think Michelle Obama might have made the most perceptive observation at yesterday's White House Summit. Intervention and encouragement are the key, she said, to ushering low-income and minority students into the world of higher education.

I agree, and I speak from personal experience. I came from an Oklahoma farm family and got a bachelor's degree from a public university in Oklahoma without any guidance about what I was going to do with that degree.  I  had no clue about how to develop a career or find a rewarding job with a middle class salary.

A friend of mine was attending the University of Texas School of Law, and he encouraged me to explore going to law school. My friend gave me the name of the Dean of Students, the late Thomas J. Gibson; and I made an appointment to see him.

Dean Gibson took time out of his busy schedule to ask me about my background and interests, and he made arrangements for me to sit in on some law-school classes--including a class taught by the great Charles Alan Wright--one of the nation's premier authorities on federal civil procedure and the courts.

Charles Alan Wright
As the result of my friend's encouragement and Dean Gibson's kind interest in me, I went to law school and graduated with honors.  And my legal education changed my life.

My point is this. We can pour more money into higher education; we can establish more federal programs; and we can hire more college administrators to administer those programs.  But what young people really need is for someone to take a personal interest in them and help them navigate the seemingly impenetrable bureaucratic obstacles to finding out what they need to know to get an appropriate college degree without going into too much debt.

In short, we need more kind and civic-minded people in higher education--more people like Dean Gibson. Unfortunately, for all the rhetoric and posturing by our college presidents and senior administrators, kind people are in short supply in our nation's college and universities.  And a White House Summit is not going to change that sad reality.

References

Allie Bidwell. Millions of Graduates Hold Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree, Report Says. The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 28,2013.

Jackie Calmes. Obama Lauds Pledges to Expand College Opportunities. New York Times, January 17, 2014, p. A14.

Jason DeParle. For Poor, Leap to College Ends in Hard Fall. New York Times, December 22, 2012. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/education/poor-students-struggle-as-class-plays-a-greater-role-in-success.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


Friday, January 10, 2014

Such hypocrisy! The Obama administration urges private college-loan lenders to play nice with student borrowers

Obama administration officials summoned the leading private student-loan creditors to a meeting at the Treasury Department yesterday to urge them to do more to help student-loan borrowers who are in danger of default.

Who attended this meeting?  Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and Richard Cordray, chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, represented the government.

And these are some of the banks that attended: Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, RBS Citizens Financial, PNC Financial Services, SunTrust Banks, and Discover Financial Services.

The Obamacrats delivered their usual blather about easing the plight of overburdened student-loan borrowers.  This is how a government  spokeswoman described the meeting.
Participants discussed strategies to assist borrowers in successfully managing their private student loans, including servicing best practices and approaches to private student loan modifications and refinancing.
Yak, yak, yak.  The only way to get the private banks to behave decently toward indebted college students is to force them out of the student-loan business altogether.  And this could be done so easily.

In 2005, Congress amended the Bankruptcy Code to make private student loans nondischargeable in bankruptcy absent "undue hardship"--the same standard that applies to federal student loans. Consequently, private student loans--like federal student loans--are almost impossible to discharge in a bankruptcy court.

All Congress needs to do to reform the private student-loan industry is repeal the 2005 law and allow insolvent debtors with private student loans to discharge those loans in bankruptcy. I guarantee you, this single legislative change would dry up the private student-loan industry overnight.

But Congress won't do the straightforward thing.  No--it will tinker with all kinds of cosmetic fixes and allow the private banks to continue exploiting colleges students.  

Hands down, Sallie Mae is the chief offender. According to a 2012 news story, Albert Lord, Sallie Mae's CEO, made $225 million between 1999 and 2004 and was building his own private golf course.  What do you think his total compensation is today?

Democrats seem to think they can establish their liberal credentials simply by expressing sympathetic platitudes. Arne Duncan talks about helping student borrowers but hasn't done a damn thing to alleviate the student loan crisis.  And Senator Elizabeth Warren, a self-proclaimed consumer's  advocate, is all bark and and no bite.

Thanks, Arne,ever so much!
Why doesn't Congress act more aggressively to give college students some relief? Maybe because the private lenders and private-college industry hire well-paid lobbyists to protect their interests and make strategic campaign contributions to powerful politicians.

Personally, I won't start believing the so-called liberal Democrats who express concern about the student-loan crisis until some of them throw their support behind some straightforward and simple reforms.  First and foremost, insolvent students who took out private loans to finance their education should have access to bankruptcy.  

References

U.S. Urges Private Lenders and services to Help Borrowers. Inside Higher Education, January 20, 2014. Accessible at: http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2014/01/10/us-urges-private-lenders-and-servicers-help-borrowers

Sophia Zamen. "Education is Worth It": Students Take on Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord at Shareholder Meeting.  Alternet.org, May 21,2012. Accessible at: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/932971/%22education_is_worth_it%22%3A_students_take_on_sallie_mae_ceo_albert_lord_at_shareholder_meeting

Note: My description of the meeting at the Treasury Department comes from the Inside Higher Education story.  My references to Sallie Mae are taken from Sophia Zamen's essay for Alternet.org


Friday, January 3, 2014

Blah, blah, blah: Drew Faust, president of Harvard, lectures America on the value of arts education

Drew Faust, president of Harvard University, took time out from her busy schedule to co-author an op ed essay for USA Today on the value of arts education. Anxiety abounds, Faust and co-author Wynton Marsalis noted, about the ability of our current educational system to respond to a rapidly changing world. "Yet," they conclude, "the education we are fashioning for our children and their children seems ill-suited for the lives they will lead."

Faust and Marsalis went on to summarize the kind of education Americans need to live in the world we now inhabit and to shape the world to come:
We need education that nurtures judgment as well as mastery, ethics and values as well as analysis. We need learning that will enable students to interpret complexity, to adapt, to make sense of lives they never anticipated. We need a way of teaching that encourages them to develop understanding of those different from ourselves, enabling constructive collaborations across national and cultural origins and identities.
Faust and Marsalis then argue that many of the skills and attributes that students need to prepare themselves for life are taught through the arts--drama, music, dance, etc.

Well, who can argue with that? 

Drew Faust is president of  Harvard, the nation's most prestigious university and perhaps the most prestigious university in the world. We can reasonably assume that Harvard is providing students with an education that instills the values Faust and Marsalis articulated. Indeed, we might reasonably assume that all of the nation's elite universities--Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, Brown, etc.--are instilling these values.

Drew Faust, President of Harvard Univefrsity
Unfortunately, I don't think these values are being taught in today's most prestigious universities.  Let's look at the people who work in the Obama administration, almost all of whom have undergraduate or graduate degrees from elite American universities.  For example, Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, has degrees from Harvard and Georgetown. Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama's top advisers, received a degree from Stanford; and Obama himself has degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law School.

Do we see the Obamacrats exercising sound judgment as well as mastery? Do we see them demonstrating ethical values as well as analysis?  Do we see them expressing an appreciation for diverse cultures and religious traditions?

No, we do not.  Jacob Lew, our Secretary of the Treasury, received a $685,000 exit bonus from New York University when he left NYU to go to work for Citigroup. He also got a special deal from NYU on a home mortgage. Illegal? No. But certainly this compensation is inappropriate for a person working at a tax-exempt university.

And how about Valerie Jarrett, who basically said Americans are too dumb to understand President Obama's grand designs.  Has she demonstrated an understanding of people different from herself? No, she has shown contempt for the very people she is supposed to be serving.

And President Obama, who has accumulated honors and accolades all his life--has he demonstrated moral rectitude? Has he shown himself able to build "constructive collaborations across national and cultural origins and identities"? No, he has repeatedly insulted the Catholic Church, casually and perhaps even unknowingly. He has lied to the American public. His administration has managed to outrage many of the major nations of the world: France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Saudi Arabia and India among them.

It is time for Americans to realize that our nation's elite universities are not producing the leaders we need. The people who run our government--almost all graduates of our nation's elite colleges, are arrogant, provincial, condescending, and contemptuous of traditional American values, including the values associated with Christianity.  Perhaps more art education would produce better citizens as Faust and Marsalis suggest, but somehow I think President Obama and his cronies would still be as crude as they are now, even if they had taken a few art classes at their high-toned colleges.

References

Drew Faust and Wynton Marsalis. The Art of Learning. USA Today, January 2, 2014, p. 7A.

Danny Hakim. Obama's Treasury Nominee Got Unusual Exit Bonus on leaving N.Y.U. New York Times, February 25, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/nyregion/lew-treasury-nominee-got-exit-bonus-from-nyu.html?_r=0

George F. Will. How a Presidency Unravels. Washington Post, November 22, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-obamas-presidency-unravels-through-chaos-and-crisis/2013/11/22/57132e74-52de-11e3-a7f0-b790929232e1_story.html

 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Doting Mother Syndrome: The New York Times endorses America's gross insult to India

When it comes to President Obama and his administration, the New York Times is like the doting mother of a spoiled brat. You know the type. The kid is usually a little bully--disrespectful, sneaky,  and disrespectful.  But mama always takes the kid's side.  People who complain about her son just don't understand little Johnny, who is too special to be expected to behave decently or to comply with the rules of civil behavior that apply to ordinary people.

Without question, the United States government blundered when federal agents arrested Devyani  Khobragade, an Indian diplomat, in front of her child's school.  Federal officials then cuffed her, subjected her to a body cavity search, and threw her in a cell with common criminals.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should apologize to Ms. Khobragade and the Indian government for this outrageous breech of civility; and Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who ordered Ms. Khobragade's arrest, should be fired.

Preet Bharara should be fired
But the New York Times simply doesn't get it. "India's reaction to the arrest of one of its diplomats . . . is unworthy of a democratic government," The Times said in an editorial yesterday. In fact, in the Times' opinion, Secretary of State John Kerry should not even have issued his vague statement of regret over the incident.

In today's issue, the Times went further, printing an op ed essay by Anana Bhattacharyya, who lectured the Indians about their  "feudal mindset." Bhattacharyya seems to think the United States did India a favor by humiliating one of its diplomats. "I can only hope that [this] case will make Indians look inward and see that feelings of patriotic fervor aside, India has a serious problem."

Such drivel! The Times is behaving exactly like the doting mother of a spoiled brat, which is what President Obama increasingly resembles.   Since taking office, Obama has lied to the American public, misused the Internal Revenue Service, spied on our allies, and launched drone attacks that have killed innocent civilians indiscriminately.  He has insulted the Catholic Church, and he behaved boorishly at Nelson Mandela's memorial service.

And yet the Times mindlessly defends the Obama administration, like a dotty mama standing up for little Johnny after the principal caught him scrawling graffiti in the school bathroom.

Admittedly the facts of this affair are murky. The United States says Ms. Khobragade committed visa fraud, and the Indian government maintains that Ms. Khobragade's housekeeper tried to blackmail her.

But even if the facts are exactly like the federal prosecutor claims them to be, a civilized government does not conduct a body cavity search on another nation's diplomat based on such a petty charge.

No, Ms. Khobragade deserves an apology. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is too cool to ever say he's sorry.  And the New York Times, Mr. Obama's neurotic enabler, has made matters worse  by interpreting the whole affair as a reflection of the flaws in Indian society.

But I would like Ms. Khobragade and the nation of India to know that at least one humble American is ashamed of the way the American government behaved in this disgraceful affair. So on behalf of myself and decent Americans all over the United States, let me just say this: Ms. Khobragade, we are sorry for the behavior of our government, and we are deeply ashamed.

References

Ananya Bhattacharya. Having a Servant is Not a Right. New York Times, December 21, 2013, p. A19.

Editorial. India's Misplaced Outrage. New York Times, December 20, 2013, p. A26.





Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Peace for our time or a historic mistake? The Ivy Leaguers make a deal with Iran and your children will pay the price

World War II was unnecessary, Churchill wrote in The Gathering Storm, the first volume of his history of the Second World War. Had the British and Americans conducted their affairs "with the ordinary consistency and common sense usual in decent households," Church observed, they could have maintained their security without bloodshed.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain & Hitler
September 23, 1938
Those of us who read history know that Neville Chamberlain made a groveling peace pact with Hitler in 1938, and less than a year later, England and Germany were at war.  As Churchill put the matter, "You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war."

Today, the United States and its passive allies are on the verge of a deal with Iran whereby the United States and the European Union lift their sanctions against Iran and Iran promises not to build a nuclear bomb.

Does anyone believe Iran will cease its efforts to become a nuclear power? I certainly don't.  And Israel, whose life depends upon this issue, doesn't believe it either.  The deal with Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated emphatically, is a "historic mistake."

But, like Neville Chamberlain, who believed his deal with Hitler would bring "peace for our time," President Obama believes he has made the Middle East a safer place. Or perhaps he merely believes a deal with Iran will look good on his vita.

America's national affairs are in such disarray that it is embarrassing to contemplate them. Today, the United States begs a mob of Afghan elders to allow us to pour American blood and treasure into a country that has no interest whatsoever in democratic values or human rights.

On the home front, the President has lied repeatedly about the essential features of Obamacare, but he holds average Americans in such contempt that he doesn't bother with a proper apology.  As Churchill said of British politician Stanley Baldwin, "He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened."

As I have said more than once, our country is being run by people who were schooled in the nation's elite colleges and professional schools--institutions which teach nothing more than arrogance, an unseemly obsession with power and recognition, and a studied cynicism toward traditional American values.

How will all this end? Regarding Iran, there are just two possibilities.  Either Iran will become a nuclear power and thereby make the Middle East even more unstable or Israel will launch military strikes in an effort to destroy Iran's nuclear capability.

If Israel acts militarily, you can kiss your 401(k) goodbye along with your draft-age children and grandchildren.

But don't worry about Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.  However things turn out, there's a book deal for Obama after he steps down from the presidency.  And John Kerry's wealth is well invested.  He will do just fine financially no matter what happens to you and me.

References

Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948.

Jodi Rudoren. Israelis See Ticking Clock, and Alternative Approaches, on Iran and Palestinians. New York Times, November 26, 2013, p. A12.