Showing posts with label Bernie Sanders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bernie Sanders. Show all posts

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic and broad relief for battered student-loan debtors: Congress needs to go big or go home!

The coronavirus pandemic rolls along like a tropical storm gathering force in the Gulf of Mexico.
Every day, it kills more Americans and further batters the national economy. The airline industry, the travel industry, and the restaurant business are begging for financial assistance to help them survive an economic crisis that no one saw coming.

PresidentTrump and Congress are working on a $2 trillion aid package to assist industries that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak and provide cash assistance to individuals who lost their jobs or their businesses due to the pandemic.

Lawmakers also recognize that student-loan debtors need relief. Even before the pandemic, millions of college-loan borrowers were struggling to pay off their loans. Now--as the unemployment rate rises and whole industries collapse, a lot of student-loan debtors have their backs to the wall.

Republicans and Democrats have both proposed some form of assistance for student debtors. The Republicans recommend giving students a three-month break from their student-loan payments with no interest accruing.  The Democrats want the Department of Education to make student-loan payments on borrowers' behalf for as long as the national emergency lasts.

These proposals are a good start, but they do not go far enough. More than 45 million people have outstanding student loans, and less than half of them can pay them back. As President Trump might say, it's time to "go big" when we think about student-loan relief.

First of all, let's take a look at Senator Bernie Sander's proposal for total student-loan forgiveness—a $1.6 trillion-dollar bailout. Let's also examine Senator Elizabeth Warren's plan for loan forgiveness up to $50,000 per debtor. These ideas are not as wacky as some commentators have made them sound.

Regarding Bernie's idea, let's face facts. More than 8 million people are in long-term, income-based repayment plans, and most of these people are not paying down the interest on their loans. In fact, their loan balances grow with each passing month due to accruing interest. Millions more are in default or have their student loans in deferment. They're not paying their loans back either.

What's the point of pretending the student-loan scheme is a solvent federal program? It's not.  Bernie's plan to wipe out all student debt and offer a free college education is a logical proposal.

Senator Warren's plan to help student debtors also makes sense.  She wants to cap debt relief at $50,000, and that would help a great many people. After all, as  Don Trooper and colleagues recently reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, people with small loan balances are more likely to default on their loans than people who owe $100,000 or more.

Forgiving student debt for individuals who ow relatively small amounts would help a lot of debtors who took out student loans to attend for-profit colleges and trade schools and didn't benefit from their educational experience.  That would be a good thing.

But if we really want to "go big," Congress must do two straightforward things. First, it must strike the"undue hardship." language from the Bankruptcy Code and allow insolvent student-loan borrowers to discharge their college loans in bankruptcy like any other nonsecured consumer debt. Second, it must repeal those provisions of the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act that made it more complicated and more expensive for beaten-down debtors to file for bankruptcy.

The very purpose of bankruptcy in American law is to give honest but unfortunate debtors a fresh start. Lawmakers need to remember that now as we enter into this century's Great Depression.

The 2020 Depression will look a lot like the Depression of the 1930s.









Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Joe Biden and the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act: "It's not personal. It's strictly business."

The 2020 presidential election is about eight months away, and I'm not going to tell you how to vote. If you hate Trump, you'll vote for Biden. If you think Biden is suffering from dementia, you'll vote for Trump.  And by election day, Biden or Trump will probably be your only choice.

Regardless of their political affiliation, all student-loan borrowers who are drowning in debt will want the next President to do one thing: reform the bankruptcy law. Specifically, they will want the next President to pressure Congress to repeal the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 and to remove the "undue hardship" language from the Bankruptcy Code.

The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005--named with unintended irony--made it more difficult for Americans to discharge credit card debt in the bankruptcy courts, and it made the bankruptcy process more expensive and more difficult for beaten-down debtors.

 According to Senator Elizabeth Warren:
After the bill passed, bankruptcy filings went down permanently by 50%, and the number of insolvent people went up permanently by 25%. By making it harder for people to discharge their debts and keep current on their house payments, the 2005 bill made the 2008 financial crisis significantly worse: experts found that the bill “caused about 800,000 additional mortgage defaults and 250,000 additional foreclosures.” 
The law also made private student loans almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. Before its passage, debtors could not discharge federal student loans in bankruptcy unless they could show "undue hardship." After the bankruptcy reform law was passed, private loans were also nondischargeable unless a debtor could show undue hardship.

The law was a Republican-backed bill, which Senator Ted Kennedy scathingly criticized. “This legislation breaks the bond that unites America, it sacrifices Americans to the rampant greed of the credit card industry,” Kennedy said.

But many Democratic senators crossed party lines and voted with the Republicans.  One of those aisle-crossing Democrats was Joe Biden. Senator Biden claimed the new law would cut down on abuses in the bankruptcy system. In fact, there was little evidence that debtors were scamming the bankruptcy courts.

In my view, Biden disguised his motives for voting in favor of the bankruptcy reform bill. In reality, Biden was doing the bidding of the corporate banks, which have donated millions to his campaign coffers over the years. To borrow a quote from The Godfather, Biden's vote wasn't personal; it was strictly business.

Now, however, Mr. Biden is singing a different tune. As reported by Matthew Yglesias in Vox,  Biden recently changed his position on the 2005 law. He now endorses the views of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have called for its repeal.

This is good news for student-loan debtors, but I think Mr. Biden needs to express his change of views more forcefully. Student debtors need to hear Biden explicitly call for the repeal of the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act and the abolition of the "undue hardship" language in the Bankruptcy Code. If he does that, Biden will win a lot of votes in the November election.



Biden and the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act: It wasn't personal. It was strictly business.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Urban Institute: Thirty percent of student debtors are enrolled in Income-driven repayment plans

The federal student-loan program is in crisis, but it is hard to figure just how big the problem is.

The Department of Education annually reports the percentage of student borrowers who default three years after beginning repayment. That figure--about 10 percent in recent years--is concerning but not alarming.

Non-governmental studies (Pew Foundation and Brookings Institution) have found that the 5-year default rate for recent cohorts is double the 3-year rate: about 25 percent.  In other words, 1 out 4 student-loan debtors default on their loans within five years of beginning repayment.  Now that is alarming.

But the situation is a lot more dire than that.  A recent report from the Urban Institute (authored by Kristin Blagg, Laurie Goodman, and Kelia Washington) noted that 8 million student-loan debtors are in income-driven repayment plans (IDRs).  According to this report, that amounts to about 30 percent of all college borrowers.

That's really scary because almost no one among those IDR participants is paying down the principal on his or her debt.  Instead, just about all of these 8 million people are making very small monthly payments based on their income--not the amount that they borrowed.

It is always dicey to compare one student-loan analysis to another because we are always measuring apples and oranges. Some of the people counted as 5-year defaulters in one study may be the same people identified as IDR payers in another. (And the Brookings and Pew studies examined cohorts, not the entire student-debtor population.)

Nevertheless, it is clear that when the 5-year defaulters and the IDR participants are considered together, about half of all student-loan borrowers are not paying off their loans.  In my opinion, that's a meltdown.

You may love Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren or you may hate them, but both deserve credit for putting a serious proposal on the table to address the student-loan crisis.  Forgiving all student debt (Bernie's plan) or $50,000 of a borrower's debt (Elizabeth Warren's plan) are reasonable ideas.

One thing seems clear (at least to me): The student-loan program is out of control and it is kicking millions of people out of the middle class. The program hinders overburdened debtors from buying homes, having children, getting married, and saving for retirement.

And who benefits? Our corpulent, incompetently run colleges and universities whose leaders say the universities need more federal money.

Greedy colleges: "Feed me, Seymour!"





Sunday, January 19, 2020

Trump Administration is "woke" to the student-loan crisis: What can it do in 2020?

Love 'em or hate 'em, student-loan debtors owe a debt of gratitude to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for putting the student-loan crisis on the front burner of national politics. Liz proposes to forgive the first $50,000 of student debt if she is elected President. Bernie says--what the hell--let's forgive it all.  That's $1.6 trillion!

Meanwhile, as the Democrats offer to help college borrowers, Trump’s Department of Education (DOE), led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is doing everything it can to alienate a very large constituency--45 million student-loan debtors.  

But last month, the Trumpers became "woke" to the student-loan catastrophe.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal's Josh Mitchell and Andrew Restuccia, the Trump administration is considering some relief options, including allowing borrowers to shed their student-loan debt in bankruptcy.

According to the WSJ, the Trump administration is mulling a policy adjustment whereby DOE "would essentially decline to contest borrowers’ requests before [bankruptcy] judges to have their student loans canceled.” The beauty of this proposal is Trump could make this adjustment without congressional approval.

Better than that, Trump could claim that he is only following the policy announced by the Obama administration in 2015 when DOE's Lynn Mahaffie said in a letter that DOE would not oppose bankruptcy relief for student borrowers if it did not make economic sense to do so.

Of course, DOE never followed that policy. Instead, it has allowed Educational Credit Management Corporation to oppose virtually every student debtor’s petition to shed student-loan debt in the bankruptcy courts.  And this has been DOE’s practice under both the Obama and the Trump administration.

All President Trump needs to do to grant significant relief to college debtors is tell ECMC to fire its battalions of lawyers and file formal non-opposition documents when worthy student debtors seek to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy.

Undoubtedly, a few unscrupulous people would try to use the bankruptcy courts to shed debt they have the means to repay and which they should repay. But filing a fraudulent bankruptcy claim is a federal crime, and the bankruptcy judges know how to sniff out deceitful claims.

If Trump were to follow through with this proposal, we will need a lot more bankruptcy judges because millions of people would be entitled to bankruptcy relief.  Where will we get the money?  Let’s take the cash that DOE is funneling to ECMC and its lawyers and use it to hire some judges. 

Pretty simple really.  

"What do you say, Betsy? Let's tell ECMC to piss up a rope."




Monday, September 16, 2019

Higher education leaders oppose Democrats' proposal for free college: Why?

College tuition has risen faster than the rate of inflation for the past quarter-century. While wages have remained stagnant, the cost of going to college has shot through the roof. According to Forbes writer Camilo Maldonado, tuition rose 8 times faster than wage growth during the years 1989 to 2016. Eight times faster!

Why? The colleges say they are forced to raise tuition rates because the states are providing less support for higher education. But this lame explanation--repeated ad nauseam--is mostly bullshit. The colleges don't mention the explosion in administrative positions-the profusion of assistant vice presidents, executive associate deans, etc. It is not uncommon for senior administrators at public and private universities to draw salaries that exceed a quarter-million dollars a year.

In any event, everyone agrees that rising tuition costs have forced millions of American students to take out student loans, which now total $1.6 trillion. Something must be done to alleviate the distress.

Several Democratic candidates for the presidency have proposed making college education free at all public colleges and universities. You would think the higher education community would love that idea. But it doesn't. Vassar president Catharine Hill criticized Bernie Sanders's free-college idea when he ran for president in 2016. Her lame-brained solution was to expand long-term income-based repayment plans. And that's basically what we've done--creating repayment plans deliberately structured so that students can never pay off their college loans.

Now we are in the early stages of the 2020 presidential election season, and more Democratic hopefuls have joined Bernie in proposing a free college education for everyone. Senators  Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand (who recently dropped out of the presidential race) have all endorsed a free-college proposal.

But the higher education community still opposes the idea. Just a few days ago, Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, published an op-ed essay in Chronicle of Higher Education, in which he cited a couple of liberal tropes to justify his opposition to free college.

A free college education would hurt low-income students, Rosenberg argues, because they would be "squeezed out" in the application process that would become more competitive if tuition were free. And he also contends that free college would exacerbate the nation's already low graduation rate.

Huh? How could free college be bad for low-income students? How could it make graduation rates go down?

Mr. Rosenberg is the president of Macalester College, a very good liberal-arts school in Minnesota, but he does not mention that free college at public institutions would severely disadvantage the private colleges. Who would pay $54,000 a year in tuition and fees to attend Macalester College if they could enroll at the University of Minnesota tuition-free?

 I'm sure Mr. Rosenberg's arguments against free college are sincere and his commitment to private liberal-arts education is genuine. But a great many university presidents and higher-education policy wonks simply don't care about the student-loan crisis, which has motivated political leaders to propose a free college education.  They want to preserve the status quo in higher education, with the federal government spewing more than a $100 billion a year to support the present system.

How many elite-college presidents have come out in favor of a free college education? I don't think any of them have. Unlike Mr. Rosenberg, most college leaders are keeping silent about their qualms, but rest assured they will fight tooth and nail if a Democrat is elected President and tries to get a free-college plan through Congress.

Meanwhile, I don't think any of these arrogant college presidents have lifted a finger to ease the student-debt crisis.  The status quo works just fine for them.

Macalester College: $54,000 in tuition and fees
(the bagpipe music is complimentary)



Saturday, June 29, 2019

Bernie Sanders wants to cancel $1.6 trillion in student debt: A bridge too far?

Senator Bernie Sanders is running for President a second time. Last week he made the news with his proposal to cancel all federal student-loan debt-- $1.6 trillion.  If Bernie makes good on this pledge, he will certainly make 45 million student-loan borrowers very happy.

Bernie also proposes to make a four-year college education tuition-free at public universities. If he can pull that off, millions of Americans will be delighted. A free college education! What's not to like?

I have supported student-loan reform for more than 20 years, and I applaud Senator Sanders for putting the student-loan crisis on the front burner of national politics. But in my view, Bernie's proposals may have gone a bridge too far.

First of all, the federal student loan program, which Congress inaugurated 50 years ago, has morphed into a giant Improvised Explosive Device (IUD). As we saw in the movie Hurt Locker, an IUD must be defused very carefully or it will blow up in our faces. No one really knows what the impact would be on the national fisc if the federal government were to write off $1.6 trillion in student-loan debt. Bernie says he will pay for this bonanza by taxing Wall Street, but that tax would fall heavily on retirees, who have most of their savings in mutual funds tied to the stock market.

Even if Bernie could cancel all student debt tomorrow, most students would still have to take out additional student loans to pay for their next semester's tuition, fees, and living expenses. Of course, Bernie's solution to that problem is to simply make a college education at a public institution tuition-free.

But let's think about Bernie's tuition-free college proposal for a moment. All public colleges receive some kind of financial support from the 50 individual states. Any plan for a tuition-free college education at a public institution must involve some coordination with 50 state governments. Is it realistic to think a Sanders administration could successfully negotiate with California, Illinois, New Jersey, and 47 other states to provide tuition-free college from sea to shining sea? I doubt it.

As for Bernie's proposal to forgive all student-loan debt, that notion seems unwise. Although it is true that millions of student-borrowers are unable to pay back their loans, some portion of the 45 million student debtors received fair value for their student-loan dollars. Do we really want to forgive student-loan debt taken out by people who attended Harvard Law School and landed high-paying jobs?

In my view, the best way to resolve the student-loan crisis is to reform the Bankruptcy Code and allow insolvent student-loan debtors to discharge their student loans through bankruptcy. People who took out student loans in good faith and cannot pay them back should get relief from their debts like any other insolvent debtor.

After all, the bankruptcy judges have the expertise and experience to determine who is entitled to bankruptcy relief from their student loans. All that needs to be done is simply to strike the "undue hardship" clause from the Bankruptcy Code.

In fact, Senator Sanders and several other presidential aspirants in Congress are co-sponsoring just such a bill. Titled the Student Borrower Bankruptcy Relief Act of 2019,  the bill has been filed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Rather than forgive $1.6 trillion in student debt in one fell swoop, Congress needs to pass this bill so that distressed student-loan debtors can obtain relief in bankruptcy.


Bernie Sanders: We can have our cake and eat it too!





Sunday, February 24, 2019

Congressman John Katko introduces bill to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Will presidential candidates endorse the bill?

Last month, John Katko, a Republican congressman from New York, filed H.R. 770, a bill that would make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy like any other consumer debt.

Titled the "Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy Act," Katko's bill is quite simple. It merely strikes the "undue hardship" clause from Section 523(a) of the Bankruptcy Code.

Congressman Katko filed the same bill two years ago. When he filed the bill in 2017, it had ten co-sponsors, including Maryland Congressman John Delaney. When Katko refiled the bill last month, he only had two co-sponsors.

If H.R. 770 becomes law, millions of Americans who are overwhelmed by student loans will get relief in the bankruptcy courts. They will have an opportunity to start families and buy homes. They will get the fresh start that bankruptcy is intended to provide.

Let's make Katko's bill the litmus test for everyone who is running for president or is thinking about running. Let's ask them one simple question: Do you support Katko's bill or not?

  • President Donald Trump, do you support H.R. 770?
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren, do you support Katko's bill?
  • Senator Kamala Harris, do you support H.R. 770?
  • Senator Bernie Sanders, do you support Katko's bill?
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden, do you support H.R. 770?
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, do you support Katko's bill?
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar, do you support H.R. 770?
  • Michael Bloomberg, do you support Katko's bill?
  • Beto O'Rourke, do you support H.R. 770?
  • John Delaney, former Maryland congressman who co-sponsored Katko's bankruptcy-relief bill in 2017, you are now running for president. Do you support Congressman Katko's bill?
Our federal legislators are fond of holding committee hearings where they bully witnesses by demanding yes-or-no answers to all their hectoring questions.

Well, here is a question to everyone who wants to be president, and we should demand a yes-or-no answer. Unless a presidential candidate can say "Yes, I support H.R. 770 without qualification," that person is nothing more than a windbag who doesn't care about average Americans and does not deserve our vote.

*****

Note: I am grateful to Phil Uhrich for calling this bill to my attention.  Mr. Uhrich wrote a provocative essay on national politics in 2016 that is still timely.

Representative John Katko (R-NY)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Big Nothing Burger: The FBI should stop investigating Jane Sanders, Bernie's wife and former president of Burlington College

The FBI is investigating Jane Sanders, former president of Burlington College and wife of Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The heart of the matter, as I understand it, is this: Jane allegedly submitted a loan application on behalf of Burlington College that falsely represented that the College had secured millions of dollars in pledged financial donations. The college obtained the loan but the pledged donations did not materialize. The college then closed in 2016 under a mountain of debt.

This is a big NOTHING BURGER, and the FBI should shut this investigation down.

Let's assume for a moment that the allegation is true and that Jane falsely represented that the college had financial pledges and that the the college obtained a large loan based on that misrepresentation. That would be reprehensible but no more reprehensible than the millions of people who filled out so-called liars loans during the real estate bubble that burst in 2008.

We all remember that episode, accurately dramatized in the movie The Big Short. People were applying for loans to buy homes without proper documentation of their income and assets. Those homes were wildly overvalued; but real estate brokers, real estate appraisers, and the banks all colluded to make sure the loans were approved Corporate financiers then packaged the loans into asset backed securities (ABS), which were peddled to unwary investors, including pension funds. The ratings agencies glibly certified that the ABS were investment grade when in fact they were junk.

And then the real estate market collapsed in a flood of foreclosures, and the American economy nearly collapsed.

Did anyone go to jail for that huge speculative bubble? No, no one went to jail.

Even if we put Jane's conduct in the worst possible light (which I am not inclined to do), she did nothing that wasn't done by millions of Americans, including a lot of fat cats in the global financial industry.  If we aren't going to put the ratings-agency executives, the real estate brokers, and the fat cats from Goldman Sachs in jail, then let's leave Jane Sanders alone.

Apart from whether Jane filed a fraudulent loan application, there is a suggestion that she was an incompetent president of Burlington College and that the college closed last year due at least in part to her poor leadership. But that allegation is bogus as well.

Dozens of small private colleges have closed in the past three or four years, and dozens more are on the brink of closure. Even if Jane Sanders had sterling administrative and financial skills, it is doubtful she could have saved that little college. After all, Burlington only had a couple of hundred students.

Her detractors have collected negative assessments from disgruntled former Burlington faculty members, but let's face it. Colleges all over the country are on the brink of extinction, and the professors generally do nothing but moan, gripe and criticize.

I repeat, this is a big nothing burger. The FBI and the conservative media should get off Jane's back.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I was once a big fan of Bernie Sanders. I voted for him, and I was disappointed when he wasn't named the Democratic nominee for President.

But I am over Bernie. In my opinion, he was cheated out of the Democratic nomination by Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a gaggle of disreputable journalists. Remember when columnist Froma Harrop called Bernie a racist in an op ed essay? Bernie Sanders, who was arrested in a civil rights demonstration when Hillary was checking footnotes at Yale Law School. What an outrageous accusation!

After the way the Democratic Party treated him, Bernie should have quit the Democrats and started a third political party. I am hugely disappointed to see him working collegially with the people who treated him so disgracefully during the 2016 primary season.

Nevertheless, Jane does not deserve to have aspersions cast against her based on a loan application that might have been puffed up a bit.  The FBI and Fox News should leave her the hell alone.


Leave Jane the hell alone!


References

Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz: Why the Sanders FBI bank loan investigation is dangerous territory. Fox News, June 28, 2017.


Froma Harrop. Bernie Sanders and Racism LiteSeattle Times, May 19, 2016.

Eli Watkins, Elizabeth Landers, and Will Cadigan. Bernie Sanders says reported investigation into his wife stems from 'pathetic attack. CNN, June 28, 2017.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers and they believe student loans should be forgiven: Politicians take note

 Gordon Long authored an essay for MATASII.com (reposted on the Zero Hedge blog site) that contains some profound observations about the Millennial generation. As Long points out, Millennials now surpass Baby Boomers as the nation's largest generation. In 2015, there were 74.9 Baby Boomers (ages 51-69), while there were 75.4 million Millennials (ages 18-34). And of course, Baby Boomers will shrink as a percentage of the nation's entire population as they grow older and die.

Gordon argues that Millennials have a larger sense of entitlement than Baby Boomers, who, after all, were raised by people from the notoriously self-reliant Greatest Generation. My late parents, for example, lived through the Great Depression and World War II, and they didn't believe anyone was entitled to anything; and I suppose some of that philosophy was passed on to me.  My children are Millennials; and I think they believe that everyone living in a prosperous society is entitled to health care and a basic level of education. If so, I agree with them.


Gordon made two observations about Millennials that have important political implications. First, millennials make about 20 percent less than the Baby Boomers did at their age--they are poorer as a whole than my generation was when we were young.


Second, a lot of Millennials believe student loans should be forgiven. And why shouldn't they hold that view? After all, I paid a pittance for a fine law degree when I was young and immediately got a well-paying job. Millions of Millennials are burdened with student loans and are struggling to find good jobs in a weak job market.


Long believes the Millennials' support for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election can be largely explained by Bernie's impassioned call for a free college education for everyone. This is a very appealing proposal to a generation of Americans who hold billions of dollars in student debt.


So what are the political implications of Long's observations? Simply this: the Millennials will not put up with the status quo in terms of the federal student program. Our political and media elites seem to think young Americans will continue borrowing more and more money for postsecondary education and will be content to enter into income-driven repayment plans that last as long as a quarter of a century. But the elites are delusional.


In the next presidential election and every election thereafter, the Millennials and the generations coming after them will flock to any candidate who calls for student loan forgiveness and free postsecondary education. They will become one-issue voters.


So far at least, President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are tone deaf to the student loan crisis. The Department of Education is mishandling the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and it nullified a decision by the Obama administration to ban student loan collection agencies from slapping huge penalties on student borrowers who defaulted on their loans. Apparently, DeVos is seeking advice from the for-profit college industry rather than the student debtors who were victimized by that industry.


The student loan crisis grows worse by the month, and the politicians who step forward with solutions will win the vote of the Millennials and a lot of other Americans. If our current President doesn't understand that, he will be a one-termer.





References


Stacy Cowley. Student Loan Forgiveness Program Approval Letters May Be Invalid, Education Dept. SaysNew York Times, March 30, 2017.


Steve Rhode. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Teeters With Unmitigated DisasterPersonal Finance Syndication Network, PFSyn.com, May 2, 2017.


Editorial, The Wrong Move on Student Loans. New York Times, April 76, 2017.





Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Governor Cuomo proposes free college education at New York's public institutions, but the for-profits and private liberal arts schools will likely oppose this plan

Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to offer a free college education at New York's public colleges and universities for all New York families making $125,000 or less. This plan is nearly identical to the proposal put forward by Hillary Clinton last fall during the presidential campaign.

In a press release, U.S. Secretary of Education  John B. King quickly endorsed Cuomo's plan, noting that it is similar to President Obama's proposal for a free community-college education.  "I applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo for his leadership in expanding the doors of opportunity for New Yorkers, particularly those who otherwise may not be able to afford [a college education]," King said.

Governor Cuomo's proposal is a sound idea, Hillary Clinton's proposal is a sound idea, and President Obama's proposal for a free community-college education is a sound idea as well. And, contrary to what critics have said about these plans, they are not financially irresponsible.

The federal government already spends $150 billion a year on student aid programs--Pell grants, student loans, work-study programs, etc. The states also spend billions on higher education every year. New York, for example, spends a $1 billion a year in tuition assistance for the state's students.

If all this money was dedicated toward offering a free college education at public colleges and universities, taxpayers might actually save money.  But none of these plans will work if the federal and state governments continue to subsidize the for-profit college industry and private nonprofit colleges.

If Governor Cuomo's plan moves forward, you can expect to see for-profit and nonprofit colleges oppose it. Catharine Hill, president of Vassar College, came out against free college tuition in a New York Times op ed essay last year--back when Bernie Sanders was the only politician endorsing the idea. And New York's association of private colleges has already expressed skepticism about Governor Cuomo's free tuition plan.

The next six months will be a time of great turmoil for higher education. A number of for-profit colleges have closed or gone bankrupt, and many more are hanging on by their fingernails, hoping the Trump administration treats them more kindly than the Obama administration did during its waning days.  Several nonprofit liberal arts colleges have closed as well and more are on the brink of closing.

If the for-profit college industry collapses and the nonprofit college sector shrinks dramatically, then proposals to offer a free college education at public colleges might actually work. But they will not work if federal and state governments continue to prop up the nonpublic college sector with public money.

Bernie & Andrew Cuomo support free college education at public institutions
(photo credit, Sam Hodgson, New York Times)


References

Catharine Hill. Free Tuition Is Not the AnswerNew York Times, November 30, 2015, p. A23.

Jesse McKinley. Cuomo Proposes Free Tuition at New York State Colleges for Eligible Students. New York Times, January 3, 2017.

Rick Seltzer. Free Tuition Idea Revived. Inside Higher Ed, January 4, 2017.

U.S. Department of Education Press Release. U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr.'s statement on New York Gove. Andrew Cuomo's free college tuition proposal. U.S. Department of Education, January 3, 2017.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Suicides and a Jail Death in Anadarko, Oklahoma: Bitter, Angry and Frightened, Oklahomans will not vote for Hillary

Last January, the Washington Post reported on a spate of suicides in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Four people committed suicide over a period of less than two months. All were young, all were racial minorities, and all killed themselves with guns.

And last April, Darius Robinson, an African American father of seven, was killed in his Anadarko jail cell, asphyxiated by jail employees. Jailers say Robinson was trying to escape, but the Oklahoma Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.  A small demonstration was organized a couple months after Robinson's death; about 50 people attended. Robinson, by the way, was not in jail for a violent crime; he was in the slammer for failing to pay child support.

You might think these tragedies would draw the attention of President Obama. Four desperate young people killed themselves with handguns--what a great opportunity for the President to talk about gun control. A black man strangled by his jailers while in police custody--that's as least as shocking as the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore/

Nevertheless, as far as I can determine, Barack Obama has said nothing about these deaths, and Hillary Clinton has said nothing about them. And, to the best of my knowledge, neither Al Sharpton nor Jessie Jackson has shown up in Anadarko.

Why? Because the Oklahomans don't matter. The Democratic political operatives have written off Oklahoma, and well they should. In the Democratic presidential primary, Oklahoma Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders--Bernie Sanders! And  God knows they didn't vote for Bernie because they are socialists. No, Oklahoma Democrats loath Hillary Clinton, and Bernie was their only alternative. And if Oklahoma Democrats loath her, you can imagine what Oklahoma Republicans think.

In truth, Oklahomans are bitter, angry and frightened. Outside a few pockets of urban prosperity--Oklahoma City, metropolitan Tulsa, and Bartlesville--the state is in deep depression. From the Winding Stair Mountains in the east to the short grass country of western Oklahoma, there are no jobs. Anadarko, my home town, may be the epicenter of Oklahoma's desperate condition. Abandoned houses, suicide, alcohol abuse, drug addiction--rural Oklahomans are among the casualties of the new global economy.

Hillary and Barack despise these people, and the Oklahomans know it.  Barack sneeringly dismissed poor white Americans generally when he said they comfort themselves with guns and religion. When Hillary condemned the "basket of deplorables," she was talking about the people I grew up with.

Eighty years ago, John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath, a tribute to the strength and courage of the Oklahomans who were driven off their land during the Dust Bowl years and migrated to California in rattletrap cars. "We're the people that live," Ma Joad says in the novel. "They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people."

Do you think Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton have read The Grapes of Wrath? Not likely. Do you think they give a damn about contemporary Oklahomans who are suffering now just as much as their ancestors did during the Great Depression? No, of course not.

Image result for darius robinson death
Darius Robinson: "We're the people"



References

Sarah Kaplan.'It has brought us to our knees': Small Okla. town reeling from suicide epidemic. Washington Post, January 25, 2016. It https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/25/it-has-brought-us-to-our-knees-small-okla-town-reeling-from-suicide-epidemic/


Xin Xin Liu. Protesters Gather At Caddo Co. Courthouse After Inmate's Death, new9.com, July 22, 2016. Available at
http://www.news9.com/story/32507009/protest-planned-at-caddo-co-courthouse-after-inmates-death

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hillary embraces Bernie Sanders' plan for a free college education: God bless Senator Sanders

You did it! You did it! You said that you would do it, And indeed you did. I thought that you would rue it; I doubted you'd do it. But now I must admit it That succeed you did. 

                                                         lyrics from My Fair Lady

Hillary Clinton announced this week that she favors a tuition-free college education at in-state public colleges for all families with annual incomes up to $125,000. As the New York Times correctly noted, by taking that step, Hillary "largely embraced" Bernie Sanders's core position about a free college education at public institutions for all Americans.

God bless Bernie Sanders! As the Democratic primary season ground on, attacks by Hillary's supporters became more and more vicious. Froma Harrup insinuated he was a racist, Barney Frank accused him of McCarthyism, and a New York Times reporter suggested he was a sexist.  I think someone in the Clinton camp would have accused him of antisemitism were it not for the fact that he is Jewish.

All shameful poppycock. But doughty Bernie went the distance, and the Democratic Party has essentially adopted one of his core campaign issues.

What does this mean?

If Clinton is elected President, which seems likely, Congress will be forced to grapple with real reform for the federal student-loan program.  Clinton crossed the Rubicon when she endorsed Bernie's free-college tuition proposal. There is no going back. And by calling for a 3-month moratorium on student-loan payments to allow college borrowers to refinance their college loans, Clinton has forced the Democratic Party and the American public to face the fact that the student loan program is a train wreck.

As Winston Churchill said after the battle for Egypt, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

A calamity has descended on American higher education. In the coming years, the for-profit sector will collapse,dozens of  small liberal arts colleges will close, and millions of Americans will be forced into 20-and 25-year repayment plans. The student-loan program as we now know it will unravel.

It's going to be ugly, but at least Hillary's two recent pronouncements about higher education finance are an acknowledgement that we have to embrace radical change. And we can thank Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for pushing America's most important domestic policy issue to the front and center of American politics.

And let us not forget what I have been arguing for 20 years: There is no way out of this morass without allowing millions of student borrowers to shed their student loans in bankruptcy.

Image result for "bernie sanders"

References

Stephanie Saul and Matt Flegenheimer. Hillary Clinton Embraces Ideas From Bernie Sanders's College Tuition Plan. New York Times, July 6, 2016. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/us/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-education.html?_r=0

Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip. Clinton to propose 3-month hiatus for repayment of  student loansWashington 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

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Student Loan Crisis and the Democratic Party Platform: Key Reform Proposals Would Entice Young Voters to vote for Hillary

Hillary Clinton has a problem with young  voters. They went 3 or 4 to 1 for Bernie Sanders in the various Democratic primaries this spring. Why did young voters go to Bernie, and how can Hillary win them over?

The Democratic Party insiders--dinosaurs like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Charles Schumer, etc--don't realize it but the number one domestic policy issue in the United States today is the student loan crisis.  Approximately 43 million Americans are carrying $1.3 trillion in student-loan debt, and at least half of them can't pay it back.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in April, about 40 percent of college-loan borrowers in the repayment phase aren't making their monthly loan payments.  And five million people are enrolled in various income-based repayment programs. Most debtors in these programs are making payments so low that the payments don't cover accruing interest. In reality then, most people in income-based repayment plans will never pay off their loan balances.

Bernie Sanders signaled that he understands the scope of the problem when he proposed a free college education at a public college for every American.  By making that pledge, he turned millions of young Americans into single-issue voters.

Hillary could attract millions of Bernie supporters by adding these  planks to the Democratic Party platform:
  • Free college education at a public college or university (as Bernie proposed).
  • Eliminating the tax penalty for people who successfully complete long-term repayment plans but who have a loan balance when they've  completed their repayment terms.
  • Stopping the garnishment of Social Security checks for elderly student-loan defaulters.
  • Forcing the for-profits to stop putting mandatory arbitration clauses in student enrollment documents.
  • Repealing the provision of the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act that virtually eliminated bankruptcy relief for people who took out student loans from private lenders.
If Hillary and her handlers are smart, they will adopt these ideas. I hope Bernie refuses to endorse Hillary until she endorses at least some of them. If Bernie can pressure Hillary to make a commitment to solve the student-loan crisis, his campaign for the presidency will not have been in vain. But if the presidential race between Trump and Hillary rolls toward election day without any serious discussion of the student-loan crisis, then this country is in huuuge trouble.



Image result for bernie sanders

References

Josh Mitchell. More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Payments. Wall Street Journal, April 7 2015. Accessible at http://www.wsj.com/articles/more-than-40-of-student-borrowers-arent-making-payments-1459971348