Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| September 9, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

  • Russian state-owned media has claimed Moscow officials have already been perusing top secret documents the FBI was looking for when it raided former President Donald Trump’s home.

  • While some have blamed the American Rescue Plan for U.S. inflation, it is actually a global phenomenon, the Economic Policy Institute reports. Upon review of U.S. policies to restrict spending or to slow economic growth, EPI says that “would be misguided at best.”

  • There were sighs of relief from many, as well as calls of “unfair” last week President Joe Biden announced a student debt forgiveness program, wherein Pell grant recipients earning less than $125,000 annually would get $20,000 in student loan forgiveness, and federal borrowers with the same income would have $10,000 forgiven.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “slap in the face” to grads who had paid their debt, and to those who had taken other career paths to avoid student debt.

But Sen. Elizabeth Warren disagreed, saying that McConnell graduated college in 1964 when it cost $330 a year.

“Today it costs over $12,000. McConnell has done nothing to fix it and is irate that the President is stepping up to help millions of working Americans drowning in debt,” Warren said.

Some Republicans have introduced legislation to address higher education costs.

CNN collected various reactions about Biden’s student debt relief: a teacher whose child has cerebral palsy says it will help her create a better future for her daughter; a 66-year-old African American woman said with scholarships they were able to help their daughter get a Master’s degree, loan-free, but are delighted for those the debt-forgiveness will help; one man who worked his way through college said the bill sends “the wrong message”; a 28-year-old man said he can now afford to move out of his parent’s home; a 30-year-old man with $26,000 student debt, that he’s been paying on for seven years (and still owes $21,000), said he can now consider a house down payment and starting a family; a 56-year-old man said he earned his college education with the GI bill (late 1980s) and faulted those with student debt for not managing finances well; a 31-year-old woman worked full-time through college, but her low wages as an educator meant she was paying $100 a month on student debt, and looking at death before her loans were paid off.

Close to 90% of the student debt relief will go to those earning less than $75,000 a year, according to the Dept. of Education, and will benefit some 43 million borrowers (one out of eight Americans).

The White House National Economic Council Director pointed out that a comparison to the 2017 Republican tax bill saw 15% of people benefitting who made under $75,000 annually.

Various media reported that the Trump-era Paycheck Protection Program saw Republican lawmakers forgiven for figures like $183,504 (Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene); $2.3 million (Rep. Vern Buchanan); $1.4 million (Rep. Markwayne Mullin); $1 million, (Rep. Kevin Hern); $482,321 (Rep. Matt Gaetz), $987,237 (Rep. Mike Kelly); and the list goes on.

PPP’s benefits went to 85% of those making over $75,000 a year, with nearly half going to those making over $250,000 annually.

President Biden weighed in with a tweet noting that all the Republican hand-wringing about the deficit didn’t mesh with the “unpaid-for $2 trillion [Trump era] tax cut to the wealthy and big corporations. It makes you laugh. Under my Administration, the deficit is on track to come down more than $1 trillion this year.”

Biden, apparently on a roll, said more at a Democratic National Committee meeting, addressing the threat from the far-right MAGA Republican faction: what is on the ballot this year is voting rights, the existence of Social Security, safety for kids from gun violence and “the very survival of our planet.”

Blast from the past: Student debt like that in the U.S. does not exist elsewhere in the developed world, says historian Thom Hartmann. He notes that student debt began a noticeable increase when Ronald Reagan, as

California governor, ended free tuition at the University of California, and cut state student aid by 20%.


Reagan explained that college students were “too liberal” and we “should not subsidize intellectual curiosity.”

Prior to Reagan’s presidency, states paid 65% of college costs, federal aid covered about 15% and students were left to handle 20%.

Between 1980 and 1985 spending on higher education was slashed by 25%; no other programs had deeper cuts than that of student aid. Four decades after Reagan students are responsible for 80% of the cost of a college education. (By comparison, today most northern European countries provide free college and a stipend for books and rent.)

A pre-Reagan look at higher ed: the 1944 GI Bill educated 8 million people, with a return of 14 Nobel prize-winners, 24 Pulitzer prize winners; 238,000 teachers; 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors; 450,000 engineers, and millions of lawyers, nurses, artists, actors, writers, pilots and entrepreneurs.

People with an education typically earn more money, stimulate the economy, and pay more in taxes, offsetting the investment in their education, typically a $7 return for every $1 invested in education, by the government.

And another blast: The EPI says today’s minimum wage is worth 21% less than in 2009.