An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Student debt crisis

Maybe now people can see the obvious. A recent article in Salon.com Protester's furious new front, documents the history of the student loan programs and how it turned into a corrupt and deceitful industry. This also led me to a new (to me) web site: StudentLoanJustice.org. Starting in 2009 student loans surpassed credit card debt in the U.S. at $830 billion (footnote: Wall Street Journal). Browse through the stories on this site. Check out the footnotes.

The Salon.com article is a bit long but well worth reading in full. Here's a couple of highlights:

(The Reagan administration engineered the transition from need-based grants to interest-based loans.)

No one understood the profit potential of this [transition] better than an ambitious Sallie Mae executive named Albert Lord. Within a decade of joining the company as comptroller in 1981, Lord rose to CEO with a plan to take Sallie Mae private and shift the company’s center of gravity from Washington to Wall Street. The desire was mutual. Sallie Mae’s assets multiplied eightfold during the Reagan years. Investors were salivating over the chance to get a piece of Sallie Mae’s expanding $15 billion portfolio of government-backed loans.
... 
In 1993, [President] Clinton instituted the Direct Loan program in the Department of Education. The intent of allowing the Department of Education to issue loans was to cut out middlemen like Sallie Mae and save money. But the industry’s friends in the newly Republican Congress successfully undermined the program. 

Oh, thank you for that. With this assistance from Newt Gingrich's Republican Congressional majority Lord took Sallie Mae public in 1996. He had a personal fortune of $230 million by the early 2000s. And it gets worse:

Sallie Mae had just spearhead the lending industry’s lobby effort behind the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, which stripped private student loans of bankruptcy protection. (Such protections around federal loans had long been chipped away.) Leading the effort in Congress was Lord’s golfing buddy and current majority leader, John Boehner. It was around this time that Sallie Mae hired Boehner’s daughter as an executive at one of its largest collection companies. Sallie Mae remains the largest donor in the history of Boehner’s PAC...

Yes, that John Boehner.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Silly Semantics

The week of April 9th Ann Rosen, a democratic talking head, blurted out during an interview that Mitt Romney's wife Ann, "… hasn't worked a day in her life." Predictably, the Republicans rolled out the outrage. Supposedly Rosen and by extension all democrats and the Obama administration have no respect for the work of raising children. Ann Romney tweeted: "I made a choice to stay at home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

Republicans trying to position themselves as champions of women in general and stay-at-home mothers in particular hits a few snags. Chris Hayes, filling in for Rachel Maddow, does a wonderful job of deconstructing the fake outrage. From Romney's own book, No Apology, p. 251:
Welfare without work erodes the spirit and the sense of self-worth of the recipient. And it conditions the children of nonworking parents to an indolent and unproductive life. Hardworking parents raise hardworking kids; we should recognize that the opposite is also true. 

And then there's this delightful clip of Romney on the campaign trail:
… even if you have a child, 2 years of age, you need to go to work. and people said, "well, that's heartless." And I said, no no, I'm willing to spend more providing day care to allow those parent to go back to work. It will cost the state more providing that day care, but  I want the individuals to have the dignity work.
The entire segment is worth viewing. You can see a parade of this year's Republican Presidential candidates saying much the same verbiage about the dignity of working for a paycheck. If you're not rich, the work of raising children is just not good enough.





I will nitpick on only one point in this interview: it was not Connie Schultz's mother who first made the observation that how we treat people we do not have to treat well says a lot about us. I do like the aphorism that you should not marry anyone until you see how s/he treats the waitress. But credit where it's due - Dostoevsky : "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reverse the colors, see what happens

Those following the Trayvon Martin murder may be interested to know that an inversion of this "stand your ground" case has already happened. A black man defended himself from an armed attack by a white man, on the black man's property. After a warning shot he killed his armed assailant. There was even a witness. The dead white guy even had a record of terrorizing people. What do you think happened as a result?

If you guessed that the black man is serving a life sentence - you would be correct.

When "stand your ground" fails (appearing in Salon.com April 11, 2012) presents the basic facts of the case of John McNeil shooting Brian Epp which demonstrates that the application of these laws has a color bar. Now we have an additional element of verification (as if we needed one) that "stand your ground" laws, although not overtly racist in their inception, have proven blatantly racist in their implementation.