Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate the federal student loan program. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich believes student loans are a “Ponzi scheme,” which really doesn’t make any sense at all.
Speaking by satellite to a New York education forum sponsored by The College Board, a membership association of colleges that administers standardized tests like the SAT, Cain proposed local avenues to replace existing federal tuition aid structure.
“I believe that if a state wants to help with college education, that they should do that,” he said from Arkansas, where he is on a campaign swing. “Secondly, you have people living within communities within states that are willing to help fund those kinds of programs. So I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to help fund a college education because herein, our resources are limited and I believe that the best solution is the one closest to the problem. The people within the state, the people within the communities, ultimately, I believe, are the ones who have that responsibility.”
It’s not just presidential candidates. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week told voters the Pell Grant program is “unsustainable” (it’s actually sustainable with some sensible reforms, making Paul’s drive to gut the program unnecessary*) and that he was outraged that the Obama administration “confiscated the private student loan industry” (that never happened).
As a factual matter, Ryan has no idea what he’s talking about, and Cain’s idea about shifting all college aid responsibilities to states won’t work. But even putting these pesky details aside, why is it Republicans are so eager to make it harder for young people to further their education?
College tuition costs are soaring to the point of being “out of control.” Young people are entering the workforce shouldering $1 trillion in student-loan debt. Given global competition and the need for the most educated workforce the nation can muster, policymakers should be making every effort to make higher ed more accessible, not less, at costs that are more affordable, not less.
And yet, here we are, with national Republican figures cutting funding for student loans, pushing for the elimination of student grants, and in the case of some GOP presidential candidates, calling for the end of federal student assistance altogether.
Talk about losing the future….
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 28, 2011
An “emergency manager” bill allowing a state-appointed executive to unilaterally fire city councils and school boards and cancel union contracts has drawn the ire of Michigan’s labor movement for months. Resistance to the measure, including rallies of a few thousand and a promising repeal effort, have united elements of the state’s labor movement.
The emergency manager law is just the beginning, however. Eighty-five bills now under consideration start from the view that Michigan’s economic problems are the fault of public employees and the poor, rather than driven by a merciless recession and the auto industry’s contraction.
TEACHERS IN CROSSHAIRS
While teachers relaxed over the summer, legislators attacked their tenure and seniority. School boards can now fire teachers for any reason during the first five years of employment. Districts have the power to fire tenured teachers for any reason, not only for “just cause.” Administrators also gained discretion over teacher layoffs and placement, based not on seniority but on “effectiveness.”
Another bill, introduced in October, would make dues checkoff illegal for teacher unions with more than 50,000 members, which means the Michigan Education Association.
MEA drew criticism from lawmakers in April for asking local affiliates whether enough support existed for a strike.
Public employees who use work email for union or political business are threatened with a thousand-dollar fine and a year in prison, under a bill moving through committees. Its author says the law would be enforced by workers reporting on each other.
A school privatization package would rescind the cap on charter schools. Another bill would take away domestic partner benefits for public employees, including those in union contracts.
Unions have staged several rallies, but look to Democrats to stem the tide.
The MEA issued a commercial and website titled “Stand up for kids, not CEOs,” that resembles a 2012 election ad. “It’s time we teach these Republican politicians a lesson,” declares the ad. Seven Democrats, however, voted for the provision facilitating teacher layoffs.
Attacks on workers and the poor go further than legislation. Michigan’s civil service has shrunk by 11,000 employees since 2001, and more devastating cuts to the social safety net are on the way.
Eleven thousand Michigan families will soon be cut off cash assistance, and a recent court ruling jeopardized heating subsidies for low-income households, just in time for winter.
A privatization effort in Grand Rapids has drawn scrutiny from veterans and public employee unions. Hundreds of workers at a state-run veterans’ home are being replaced by underpaid, undertrained contractors. Reports of incompetence and maltreatment are rolling in, and court hearings are scheduled.
Meanwhile, the emergency managers, appointed by the state to run cities and school districts operating in the red, continue to wreak havoc. In Ecorse, near Detroit, the manager forced 60 percent of firefighters to part-time schedules. They lost benefits and nearly half their pay with one day’s notice.
While two ambulances sat in the firehouse collecting dust, an emergency medical contractor took over.
Members of Firefighters Local 684 described an excruciating wait at the scene of a head injury, hearing the siren of the contractor’s ambulance as it searched up and down nearby streets for the location.
“They were holding the guy’s head together with a towel,” said President Scott Douglas. The contractor took more than 20 minutes to arrive. “I still don’t know if the guy made it.”
CIVIL RIGHTS LESSONS
There are signs of progress.
“We’re able to pull together in ways that we haven’t seen in a non-election year,” said Greg Bowens, AFSCME Council 25 spokesperson. Public employee unions entered joint negotiations with the state for the first time.
Community organizations and unions have come together to gather signatures for a fall 2012 referendum on repealing the emergency manager law.
Clergy in Detroit are organizing, too, holding three marches at the governor’s Detroit office ahead of October 1, when the new budget went into effect.
Pastor David Bullock of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park is pulling together an anti-poverty summit. Bullock intends to go beyond lobbying to bring lessons from the civil rights movement to the 21st century.
“We lost the point of protesting,” Bullock said. “It’s to disrupt power centers and to challenge them directly.”
By: Evan Rohar, Labor Notes, October 26, 2011
We know Congress isn’t getting along. But that’s no good reason to spend less time together.
The House’s 2012 calendar is out, and it reflects some of the divisions the chamber is experiencing. Majority Leader Eric Canto has scheduled just 109 days in session, a schedule he said will make for a more streamlined legislative process while giving lawmakers the opportunity to spend time with their constituents. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer complained that the schedule is “more of the same.” This year so far, the House has conducted legislative business for just 111 days, Hoyer noted, nearly equal to the 104 days spent in recess or in pro forma session.
Let’s be clear: when the House is back home, they are not on vacation. Their work schedules in the district are sometimes more arduous than those they have in Washington, since lawmakers are expected to travel around their districts, speaking to a myriad of constituencies. They also have to raise campaign cash during these trips, a task that is becoming an increasingly larger part of their jobs.
Nor is Congress slacking off when they are not actually on the floors of the House and Senate. They have committee hearings, meetings with constituents, and (hopefully) negotiating sessions with fellow lawmakers.
But spending less time in Washington is not going to heal the divisions in Congress. In fact, it’s likely to get worse. Especially in the House, with its 435 members, personal relationships are critical to achieving compromise. Lawmakers who barely see each other will never get past the party-identification barrier.
Further, the calendar (like this year’s) is out of synch with the Senate calendar. The two chambers take week-long recesses at different times, making it harder for the House and Senate to reach the compromises necessary to pass legislation.
The 2012 calendar is campaign-friendly, however. After October 5, members are free until after the 2012 elections, giving them the time to keep their jobs, but not actually do their jobs. The new calendar is indeed more efficient, as Cantor contends. But it’s an efficient metaphor for what has gone wrong with Congress.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 28, 2011
It would be marvelous to believe that the congressional supercommittee is going to reach a bipartisan deal. Well, actually, I’m not so sure it would be marvelous, substantively. We’ll get to that. But politically, it would be nice to see Washington function for a change. Hard experience suggests to us, however, that when all the smoke clears, there will be no deal. What will happen then? The Republicans will then go in for even emptier posturing than they’re engaging in now, this time with regard to defense cuts. You think things can’t get worse? Just wait.
For a while, when the committee’s six Democrats and six Republicans were able to talk to each other in vague generalities, Washington was able to pretend that things were looking pretty hopeful. There was no precise reason for this hope. Some senators told me that their colleagues on the committee weren’t even telling them anything. But Washington elites cling to hope of bipartisan common sense winning out the way M. Night Shyamalan fans swear that he’s going to regain form in the next movie, for real this time.
But eventually and inevitably, the negotiators had to start talking numbers. And as soon as they got to specifics, two things happened. First, they realized how far apart they were. Second, the leaks started, at which point the rest of us realized how far apart they were.
Let’s compare the plans. The Democratic proposal, released by senator and committee member Max Baucus the other day, looks to cut $3 trillion from the budget. The Republican plan, leaked in parts to The Wall Street Journal and Politico after Baucus moved, cuts just $2 trillion. If it seems odd to you that Democrats are proposing more deficit reduction than Republicans, you aren’t alone. The reason is that the Republicans—surprise, surprise—are doing it all by cuts with no tax revenue, while the Democrats include $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion in new revenue.
Now, Republicans will repeat in these coming weeks that their plan does include “revenue.” And in a way, it does. It’s just not tax revenue. Or wait—it is tax revenue! But from a tax decrease! Yes: The GOP plan says the government will raise $200 billion by cutting corporate and individual taxes. You know, the way the Bush tax cuts increased revenue, which is to say, not in the real world, but in the minds of Mitch McConnell and other delusionals who think the Bush tax cuts raised revenue. So when they go around saying “our plan raises revenues,” remember their track record.
If the time comes for Pentagon cuts, will the Democrats be willing to hold the line and risk the silly accusation of being “soft on defense”? I think we know the answer.
It bears noting, once again, that the Democrats have said with the Baucus plan that they’re ready to deal if Republicans will. Their plan includes $500 billion in entitlement program cuts. They’re prepared to attach increases in Social Security benefits to the so-called chained consumer price index, which would decrease benefits, especially for those in their 80s. That’s not some token nothing. That’s a real concession, so much so that liberals are going to be up in arms about it as time marches on. That chained CPI bit probably wouldn’t make it through Nancy’s Pelosi’s caucus, but other entitlement cuts will. So the Democrats are at least showing up to play some ball.
But the Republicans are staying in the dugout. They aren’t even bothering to take the bus to the stadium. A trillion in taxes, one dollar in taxes, it doesn’t matter; Republicans will not permit a tax increase of any kind. I’m bored of writing this sentence, so you, poor reader, must be even more bored of reading it, but it has to be said, because so many others are out there peddling the falsehood that both sides are equally to blame for the impasse: No—the impasse exists because of Republicans and taxes. Period. If the GOP moved on taxes, the Democrats would give ground on entitlements, as they have now signaled yet again. And the Democrats should not and cannot accept a deal in which there are no tax increases, because they have two-thirds of the country with them and because it’s the right thing.
Put it all together and the odds of an agreement seem long indeed. Could this rump effort of 100 bipartisan House members and 40 bipartisan senators move the boulder? It’s like asking if a Boy Scout could light a fire with two sticks in the rain. Maybe. The conditions have to be just right, and no one really knows what those conditions are.
Assuming no deal, here’s what I’m told is likely to happen after everyone has acknowledged the collapse. The Republicans will, as John McCain and others have suggested, turn up the heat on the question of defense cuts. They will introduce legislation to exempt the Pentagon from cuts. Now remember—these cuts to the Pentagon, 15 percent, were agreed to by both parties in the August debt-ceiling deal. But Republicans, being the clever dialecticians that they are, will decide that the course of history has changed, and that deal will mean no more to them than one of those secret treaties Lenin routinely abrogated back in the day.
So they’ll advance a bill saying: cuts to domestic social programs, sure; cuts to Pentagon, nyet. It will pass the House. It will go to the Senate, and all the Republicans will be for it, and they’ll need 13 Democrats. So then the questions will be: will the Democrats be willing to hold the line and risk the silly accusation of being “soft on defense”? And will the White House also hold the line—bucking, of course, its own defense secretary, who agrees with the Republican position? I think we know the answer.
So the Republicans will have killed another deal with their indefensible and immoral position on taxes, and then, having stuffed that carcass in the trunk, they will retroactively work to kill the deal they agreed to last summer, and spend December demagoguing about how Democrats are going to leave America defenseless and throw hundreds of thousands of poor aeronautical engineers into the streets.
Your tax dollars at work.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 29, 2011