Oh The Hypocrisy!!!

Certain Republicans in Congress obviously believe that We the People are stupid.  The hue and cry over President Biden’s plan to forgive a portion of student loan debt for qualifying individuals is not only ludicrous, but insulting to the average Joe.  Take, for example, Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania who made this statement:

“Asking plumbers and carpenters to pay off the loans of Wall Street advisors and lawyers isn’t just unfair. It’s also bad policy.”

Apparently, either Mike Kelly hasn’t been paying attention, or he’s pretty sure his constituents aren’t bright enough to have been paying attention, for the student loan forgiveness is only available to people making less than $125,000 per year and both wall street advisors and lawyers earn well over that mark, so they wouldn’t be eligible.  Period.

Then there was ol’ Vern Buchanan, a member of the House of Representatives from Florida who said …

“As a blue-collar kid who worked his way through college, I know firsthand the sacrifices people make to receive an education. Biden’s reckless, unilateral student loan giveaway is unfair to the 87 percent of Americans without student loan debt and those who played by the rules.”

Two problems with this statement.  First, of that 87% who have no student loan debt, some 62% have none because they never attended college, so of course they have no student loan debt.  The other problem with Vern’s statement is that he himself had a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiven to the tune of $2.8 million!  And yet, he would begrudge the average college graduate, struggling to get a start in his/her career, a write off of between $10,000 – $20,000?  What a guy, eh?

Oh yeah … turns out the aforementioned Mike Kelly also received PPP loan forgiveness to the tune of nearly $1 million!  Take a look at the people who received PPP loan write-offs and are now complaining about giving a break to hard-working college graduates …

Their criticism is one of many hypocrisies promoted by Republicans in Congress today. They also claim it isn’t fair to people who have already paid off their student loans, but Clay Jones killed that argument earlier this week …

If you buy into the notion that it isn’t fair to those who didn’t have the luxury of assistance with their loans, then where do you draw the line?  Can we never progress in any area because it wouldn’t be fair to those who went before?  In that case, we shouldn’t have such luxuries as automobiles and air-conditioning, for it isn’t fair to those who lived their entire lives without them. Or perhaps it isn’t fair for the wealthy to have yachts and vacation homes, for it isn’t fair to those of us who cannot afford such things.  Where do you draw the line?

The bottom line is this is just one more excuse the Republicans are using to rile the masses, to convince voters to vote for them.  It assumes that We the People are too stupid to have read the truth about the plan to forgive a portion of some student debt.  It is a slap in the face to our intelligence, our understanding, our very beings.  See … this whole thing highlights the real difference between the Republican and Democratic policies … one helps people while the other is all about the wealth of a few.  I am an Independent voter who has voted for candidates of both parties in the past, but no more.  My conscience would not let me vote for any of the Republicans on the ballot today.  I worked three jobs to support my family and pay my tuition while going to grad school, but I nonetheless applaud President Biden’s plan and am glad people who need it will be getting some assistance.  Too bad others don’t feel the same.

The Week’s Best Cartoons 8/27

I thought I’d give you guys a break from my political commentary today, so this morning it was silos, this afternoon it’s … TOONS!  TokyoSand over at Political Charge has a knack for finding the best ones each week, and this week is no exception.  With the clock ticking down to the November 8th election, needless to say much of the air space will be taken up with election-related ‘toons & commentary for the next 11 weeks, but there is other news, too!  Be sure to click the link at the bottom, for there is much more on TS’ post!  Thank you, TS, for all your hard work in finding the best of the best this week!

I know I’ve been feeling the momentum from the Democrats, and the utter sputtering of the Republicans, about, well, everything. And these feelings are perfectly reflected in the cartoons I found by our favorite editorial cartoonists.

Be sure to check out the rest of the ‘toons!

The President Is On FIRE!

I know that quite often people, even those within his own party, see President Joe Biden as too meek, too weak, not strong enough to stand up to the challenges before him, but I think if there was ever any doubt, his speech at the DNC rally yesterday should have put those doubts to bed!  Here are a few excerpts from that speech:

In 2020, you and 81 million Americans voted to save our democracy. That’s why Donald Trump isn’t just a former president. He is a defeated former president.

[Republicans] have made their choice to go backward, full of anger, violence, hate, and division. We’ve chosen a different path: Forward, the future, unity, hope, and optimism.

The whole notion of the burn-it-all-down politics and MAGA Republicans continues to be a drumbeat.

In this moment, those of you who love this country — Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans — we must be stronger, more determined, & more committed to saving America than the MAGA Republicans are to destroying America.

There are not many real Republicans anymore. By the way, your sitting governor [Larry Hogan], he’s a Republican you can deal with. I respect conservative Republicans. I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.

MAGA Republicans don’t have a clue about the power of women. Let me tell you something—they are about to find out.

If we elect two more [Democratic] senators, we got a lot of unfinished business we’re going to get done. Folks, look, we’re going to codify Roe v Wade. We’ll ban assault weapons, we’ll protect Social Security & Medicare, and we’ll pass Universal Pre-K.

Do you want to put your Social Security in the hands of Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene?

We also had to take on the climate deniers. And guess what? We beat them. The survival of our planet is on the ballot.

In the first year-and-a-half of his presidency, Biden encountered more challenges than the former guy did in his entire four years, or than most any other president has faced in a single year.  And yet, he has managed to accomplish so much.  Just a few …

  • Signed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. This package increases investment in roads and bridges, renovates ports and public transportation, expands broadband access and replaces every lead pipe in the United States, among other initiatives. This bill brings jobs, jobs and more jobs, and it begins to rebuild our long-neglected infrastructure.
  • Signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in March 2021 that included up to $1,400 per person to financially struggling Americans, extended unemployment support and provided billions of dollars to help schools, colleges and universities reopen.
  • Biden put in place a $20 billion vaccination program to fight COVID. While 1% of the U.S. population was vaccinated when Biden came into office, 74% of Americans – 249 million Americans – have received at least one vaccine dose.
  • Expanded access to affordable health care for five million Americans
  • Cut unemployment dropped to 3.9%; under Donald Trump, unemployment was 6.3%.
  • 6,000,000 jobs have been created already.
  • Jobless claims are the lowest since 1969.
  • And just two days ago, he announced student debt relief of up to $20,000 for most earning under $125,000 per year.

Yes, some will argue and nitpick, say these accomplishments cost money – which is true – but it is money well-spent, for these are the things that help people!  These improvements to infrastructure, jobs, education, safety and more have far more value than spending more money on military hardware, on the tools of war, or on padding the investment portfolios of the already-wealthy.  And frankly, if those already-wealthy were paying their fair share in income taxes, we could easily fund all of the above and more, while decreasing the national debt and deficit significantly!

In general, I much prefer President Biden’s normally calm demeanor to the bumbling, ranting, spiteful one of his predecessor, but this was one time I was glad to hear the fire in his voice, see the passion in his eyes.  In a perfect world, Democrats and Republicans would be working together to solve the problems facing this nation, but our world is far from perfect and as we all know, today there is no middle ground. To Republicans, the president can do no right and they would prefer the screeching, red-faced wanna-be dictator of yore.  I prefer President Biden.

A Promise Made … And Kept

This week, President Biden announced his student loan forgiveness program … a long-awaited program to help those lower-and-middle income people who are struggling under a mound of student debt.  Since this is a program that helps real people, not wealthy corporate executives, it was to be expected that the Republicans would be up in arms, and they did not disappoint. It is reminiscent of the hue-and-cry when President Obama announced the Affordable Care Act, aka ‘Obamacare’.  I’ve read a number of editorials, both pro and con, but I think Robert Hubbell sums it up best …

Promises Kept.

Robert B. Hubbell

25 August 2022

       President Biden kept another campaign promise on Wednesday by announcing a student loan forgiveness program that will cancel up to $20,000 for certain borrowers. Importantly, the plan also provides relief to future borrowers by cutting in half the amount that borrowers have to pay each month from 10% to 5% of discretionary income and forgives loan balances after ten years of payments. The White House Fact Sheet for Student Loan Relief contains the details of the plan. Per the Fact Sheet, the plan will

  • Provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients
  • Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for married couples.
  • Extend the pause on federal student loan repayment will be extended one final time through December 31, 2022

          The Department of Education estimates that 43 million borrowers will receive some form of relief and about 20 million borrowers will receive complete forgiveness. The DOE estimates that 90% of all relief will go to borrowers earning less than $75,000.

          Biden’s proposal will improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans. For reasons difficult to understand, the backlash against Biden’s plan has been fast and furious. For Republicans, the hypocrisy writes itself. The GOP has described Biden’s loan forgiveness as “socialism” and a “moral hazard.” And yet, fifteen Republicans in Congress (or their business affiliates) received forgiveness of $16,193,000 in loans they received from the federal government under the Paycheck Protection Plan [emphasis added]—an average debt cancellation of more than $1 million, compared to a maximum forgiveness of $20,000 under Biden’s Plan. And then there is Donald Trump, who has petitioned for bankruptcy on six occasions to avoid paying the debts of his businesses . . . .

          The Editorial Board of the Washington Post seemed to take personal offense over the plan in an editorial entitled, Biden’s student loan forgiveness is an expensive, regressive mistake. The Board wrote:

          The loan-forgiveness decision is even worse [than the four month extension of the moratorium on loan repayments]. Widely canceling student loan debt is regressive. It takes money from the broader tax base, mostly made up of workers who did not go to college, to subsidize the education debt of people with valuable degrees.

          While the Post’s objection is technically true, it is also true for the following subsidies and credits: Trump’s 2017 tax cut for millionaires, oil company subsidies, export subsidies for US manufacturers, auto industry subsidies, lower tax rates for hedge fund managers (“carried interest deduction”), 100% deductibility for yachts purchased for “business purposes,” and deduction for 100% of the future depreciation for private jets in their first year of service.

          All of the above subsidies, credits, and deductions are regressive because—as the Post notes—“the broader tax base is mostly made up of workers” who are not millionaires, who do not manage hedge funds, who do not own oil wells, and who do not purchase yachts or private jets. And yet, the Post and others reserve peevish indignation for a program that helps middle- and lower-income earners who took a chance by investing in their futures and themselves.

         And there were complaints about “unfairness” by those who paid their loans or who do not qualify for loan forgiveness. Biden did what he could given the limits on the Department of Education’s ability to modify its loan programs. The fact that Biden crafted a plan that targets middle- to low-income earners was a reasonable compromise. Was it perfect? Of course not. But when that becomes the standard for achieving progress, all forward movement will cease. We should celebrate another promise kept by Biden.

Shall We Stop Educating Our Children?

Betsy DeVos served under the former administration as Secretary of Education.  Ms. DeVos brought no qualifications in the field of education to the position – her only qualification was the huge sum of money (reported to be in the multi-million dollar range) she and her husband, Dick, had donated to the former guy’s campaign in 2016.  Ms. DeVos was no more qualified than I for the position, and did an even worse job than I would have, but that is all water under the bridge, for she and her corrupt boss have left the federal government … or have they?

It seems these days that anybody and everybody who served in the former administration feels qualified to write a book, and they believe that we will pay money to read their first-hand experience, or drivel, which is what most of these books are.  There are a few exceptions, such as Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy by Jamie Raskin, which I am currently reading.  However others, like One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General by former Attorney General William (Bill) Barr are merely ego trips for the authors.  The latest in the batch, slated for release on June 21st, is Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child by none other than Betsy DeVos.

Apparently Ms. DeVos defines ‘education freedom’ differently than I do, and hopes for an entirely different future for today’s children than I would wish for.  During a tour this week to promote her upcoming book, Ms. Devos made this statement:

“I don’t think the Department of Education should exist.”

My jaw dropped … she was, after all, paid $199,700 per year from our hard-earned tax dollars to lead the very department she now claims should not exist.  I read two articles about her ideas, why she believes the Department of Education should be shut down, and in my view she didn’t make one bit of sense.  She drones on about how ‘children are political pawns’ and “how poorly the system is serving children,” but offers no facts upon which she bases her opinions.  She apparently does not believe that every young person should have the opportunity to go to college, for she said …

“There are millions of great jobs going unfilled that don’t require a college degree.”

And regarding President Biden’s proposed student loan forgiveness program, she believes …

“It’s a horrible idea, and I don’t know how anyone can defend it. All you’re doing is buying a bunch of political goodwill.”

Way back in 2017, when DeVos was first made Secretary of Education, I posited that the goal she and Trump had was to ensure that only the children of the wealthy would ultimately be able to afford or qualify for a college education, that the other 99% of us would remain the proletariat, doing the heavy lifting for subsistence wages while those wealthy kids went into politics and managed their family’s multi-million dollar corporations.  Seems I was right.

Now, I consider her to be irrelevant and wouldn’t waste my time writing about her, except that … her ideas are becoming the ideas of the entire Republican Party that wants to diminish the education our kids are getting by failing to teach them facts, teach them history, teach them what they need to get into college and learn to think for themselves.  What if … perish the thought … the former guy somehow avoids the long arm of the law and is allowed to run for president again in 2024, and what if he were to win?  Would he follow DeVos’ advice and demolish the Department of Education?  And what would it be replaced with?  The Department of Christian Learning?  Will forced school prayer return to our schools, replacing such things as Biology, Literature, and History, all of which are seemingly being given the axe in many states today.

From banning books to refusing to teach about such things as slavery – the true cause of the Civil War – and the Tulsa Race Massacre, and the Civil Rights Era, and how white people treated the original owners of this land, we are turning education upside down and not in any good way.  I hope, I truly hope, that Ms. DeVos is never again in charge of anything in our government, but there are other equally noxious people in the Republican Party like Ron DeSantis who support the dumbing-down of our children.  What will this nation look like in 50 years if they succeed?

Good People Doing Good Things — Robert F. Smith

It’s graduation season at colleges all across the nation, but one commencement ceremony will stand out in the minds of many for the rest of their lives.  Graduates of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, will be telling their grandchildren about their graduation “way back in 2019”.  Why?  Because of the generosity of one man, Robert Frederick Smith.

Mr. Smith gave the commencement speech at Morehouse last Sunday.  Watch (pay particular attention to the guy in the lower left-hand corner)

Who, you ask, is Robert Frederick Smith?  Never heard of him, have you?  Well, he is a 56-year-old African-American man, originally from Colorado, currently living in Austin, Texas.  He is a businessman, investor, and philanthropist, a former chemical engineer and investment banker. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.  Not the sort of person I typically feature in my good people posts, and not the sort we usually think of when we think of ‘generosity’.

Smith’s net worth is estimated at $5 billion, but he is not your typical billionaire.  Smith was not born into abject poverty, but neither was he born into wealth.  Both of his parents were schoolteachers and his was very much a middle-class upbringing.  But Smith had drive, he had ambition, and he knew at an early age what he wanted.

As a junior in high school, Smith landed an internship at Bell Labs — by calling the company every week for five months until he got a slot. Smith tinkered with computers during his summer and winter breaks and went on to study chemical engineering at Cornell University. He earned an MBA from Columbia University, followed by an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs. After advising billion-dollar mergers for tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, he left Goldman to found Vista Equity Partners in 2000.  Today, Robert Smith is the wealthiest African-American in the nation.

Smith’s gift to Morehouse graduates is far from his first act of generosity.  Prior to the 2003 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Smith donated $20 million.  In 2016, he gave $50 million to Cornell University for its chemical and biomolecular engineering school, and to support black and female engineering students. He is the founding director and president of the Fund II Foundation. Under his leadership, Fund II Foundation has invested in organizations such as Cornell, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), National Park Foundation, Susan G. Komen, and Global Wildlife Conservation, among many others.

In 2018, Smith was the largest individual donor at the City of Hope Gala, earmarking funds towards prostate cancer treatment for black men and for breast cancer research for black women. Smith also donated $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to advance prostate cancer research among African-American men.

In 2017, Smith signed on for The Giving Pledge, joining such notable philanthropists as Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and currently 190 others.

Robert-Frederick-Smith“I will never forget that my path was paved by my parents, grandparents and generations of African-Americans whose names I will never know. Their struggles, their courage, and their progress allowed me to strive and achieve. My story would only be possible in America, and it is incumbent on all of us to pay this inheritance forward. For these reasons, on behalf of my family, I am privileged to join the Giving Pledge with a commitment to invest half my net worth—during my lifetime—to causes that support equality of opportunity for African Americans, as well as causes that cultivate ecological protection to ensure a livable planet for future generations.”

As you all know, I typically have little or no use for billionaires, as very few use their wealth to help people.  But when a man pledges to pay off the student debt for 396 college graduates, my hat is off to him.

I did a bit of research and found that the average white college graduate leaves school with $28,650 in student loan debt.  But, according to Brookings Institute, the average black student has an additional $7,400 in debt, in part because black parents have less wealth to help pay for their children’s educations.  So, what Mr. Smith has done for these graduates is no small thing, for the total could well end up being around $15 million, according to my calculations.  And what he said toward the end of his speech … he called on those graduates to “pay it forward” … will ensure that his gift is one of those that ‘keeps on giving’.