I actually want to write about Obama’s attempt at student load reform, but before I do I want to mention an excellent article at truthout discussing Beck, Coulter, and Limbaugh. The author (one Davidson Loehr) gives a brief review of Julius Streicher, who would seem to be the closest thing to a real life Howard W. Campell Jr. as exists, and compares his crimes (for which he was hung at Nuremburg) to the activities of Coulter, Beck, and Limbaugh. It’s a good read, and mostly on the money. He makes a very strong case against Coulter and Beck, but if the quotes he uses for Limbaugh are the best he could find, his case is pretty weak there. Limbaugh is probably guilty of little more than paving the way for Beck and Coulter and Fox news.
Moving on to Obama’s student loan overhaul: I just read an article at the NYT called Obama’s Student Loan Overhaul Endangered. For those of you who don’t know, the American student loan system works as follows: Most student loans are made by private, for profit companies, with government guarantees. In other words, the private companies take the profit, while the federal government takes the risk. This is essentially the same problem people discuss with the bank bailouts (and the airline bailouts, and the automotive bailouts…) with one important difference: Here the situation is planned in advance. It’s not an attempt at averting an even worse catastrophe, it’s just an example of successful (for the profiteers) lobbying. For federally subsidized loans, the govt makes the interest payments until graduation. Student loans are exempt from bankruptcy, so even if you go bankrupt, you will still owe on the student loans.
Obama’s plan is to loan the money directly, which would save the government billions of dollars, which he would use to expand Pell grant scholarships. This is no-brainer policy reform. The only people who lose out are the lenders, who, let’s face it, are parasitic users who have obtained their risk-free, merit-free profits by gaming the U.S. political system.
But the education bill is strongly opposed by some Senate Democrats, particularly those in states where for-profit student lenders are major employers. In a letter to the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, six Democrats said they disliked the president’s proposal.
“We write to make you aware of our concern with provisions of contemplated student lending reform that could put jobs at risk,” the senators wrote. “Increase our nation’s commitment to higher education funding is a priority, but we must proceed toward this objective in a thoughtful manner that considers potential alternative legislative proposals, while still delivering an equivalent amount of savings over the next ten years.
So, who should be haranguing for this? They are: Senators Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Warner of Virginia and Jim Webb of Virginia. Now, I’m a huge fan of Webb for his courageous attempt at justice reform. He’s also one of the most reasonable and ethically consistent senators with regard to foreign policy. I might not agree with all his conclusions, but I thnk he’s a pretty good guy who works hard at being ethical. So in the end, the system is to blame, not the individuals. I’m not familiar with the others, but probably the same holds true. It’s not hard to see how this probably played out: Contributions buy you access. Once the lenders have access they make a spiel about how this is going to cost their state X jobs, and probably paints the whole thing as a political liability for the Senator in question. At that point the senator in question either cynically decides in favor of the local over the national interests (this amounts to self interest through the election process), or decides that he (or she) has to pick their battles carefully, and this one isn’t worth fighting.
What really gets me is couching the conflict of interest in terms of national interest vs jobs, where the real issue is national interest v.s. private wealth. Why? Well, the loans are going to made anyway, which means the jobs are needed anyway. The only difference is who’s doing the work, and where. So it’s not a question of jobs, it’s a question of whether or not we want to let some asshole(s) with money and connections profit from the student loan process or not. Who are these assholes? Well, Sallie Mae is at the top of the list.
The whole “jobs vs X” line is overplayed, and pretty transparent. It used to be used to great effect to torpedo environmental protections. Of course, environmental protections typically create jobs. It’s automation and outsourcing that destroys work places. Hopefully the american voter is gradually getting wise to this line of bullshit. So write your senator and tell them you don’t fall for that jobs versus X bullshit anymore, and you expect him (or her) to vote with your interests in mind, not with Fannie Mae’s.