Saturday, May 13, 2006

Legalizing High School Robbery

Thanks to Republicans like Rob Simmons, most high school students who will depend on financial aid of one kind or another will be lucky to keep a shirt on their backs. The latest tax legislation is carefully crafted to offer a few crumbs to the middle class while punishing parents and students.

As Connecticut Blue observes, "Simmons is one of the few Second District residents that will benefit from this bill. The rest of us will be saddled with paying the principal and the interest on the debt we will rack up in order to transfer our money to rich people like Rob". The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities lists the criminally negligent consequences of Bill: H R 4297.

$20 for the middle class, $43,000 for millionaires. Middle-income households would get an average tax cut of just $20 from the agreement, according to preliminary estimates by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, while the 0.2 percent of households with incomes over $1 million would get average tax cuts of $43,000, and the top 0.1 percent of households (whose incomes exceed $1.6 million) would get average tax cuts of $84,000.

But to complain about this -cough- "transfer" of wealth from the not-rich to the ultra-rich would be nothing more than petty jealousy on the part of the not-rich so we can't talk about how it will affect local budgets.

You see, when the not-rich have less money to spend the not-rich are less likely to vote for school and local government budgets. Bad for schools, fire departments, police, and other not-rich constuencies.

But let's peel the onion one more skin.

Today, The Student Business by Ralph Nader, is an article that talks about your child's chances of ever paying off a student loan.

In February Congress did act on student loans in another way - backward. It cut $12 billion out of the student loan programs, mostly from students and parents. In a report just out, the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) found that in California, 17.9% of public college students and 28.8% of private college graduates have unmanageable student loan debt were they to take jobs as teachers or social workers. Yet these critical careers desperately need college graduates to replenish their ranks. (To download the full report, go to http://www.calpirg.org. See also http://www.studentloanjustice.org.)

Last Sunday, May 7th, I turned on CBS' 60 Minutes which unloaded on Sallie Mae in a devastating segment about its power, greed and profits.

Originally a government-sponsored enterprise like Fannie Mae, Sallie Mae was privatized in 1997 and is now the largest private lender to students. But not entirely private. The federal government is its guarantor. Michael Dannenberg of the New America Foundation told Leslie Stahl: "It may be called 'private'.but it's not private at all. Frankly it's a socialist-like system. It's not as if this private entity is assuming any risks. No, no, no. The law makes sure that this so-called private entity has virtually no risk."

It gets worse. Let's say a graduated student defaults. The government pays Sallie Mae both the principal and the interest compounded. But the loan is still subject to collection. Guess who owns some of the largest collection agencies - you guessed it, Sallie Mae. When its collection agency collects, it gets 25% of the recovery. The profits go to Sallie Mae.

The corporate lawyers who conceived this self-enriching system ought to get the nation's top prize for shameless perversity.


Shameless perversity! The holy rollers who have taken complete control of this government say they talk to God, that the non-rich "don't share their values", and tell us underfunded schools need to be held accountable. And just a minor footnote on their "values" - for the first time in my life - torture, eavesdropping, sado-masochism, prostitution, money-laundering, national fraud in a multiplicity of critical areas, cover-ups, political paybacks, kickbacks, and back-stabbing, the destruction of a major American city including neighboring suburbs in three states... I am likely to exhaust myself naming the sins, high crimes, perversions, and witless incompetence that so naturally and casually has become business as ususal in the Bush theocracy.

And gutter bureaucrats like Rob Simmons have no problem with any of it except that it has an outside chance of hurting their election chances.

Voters reinforce the idea that schools are turning out idiots. Just look at the national election results. Stupid is as stupid does. The kids don't deserve this.

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