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The federal government initiated the student loan program in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnik the year before by the Soviet Union. “High school students who showed promise in mathematics, science, engineering, and foreign language, or those who wanted to be teachers, were offered grants, scholarships, and loans.” In 1965, the government passed The Higher Education Act, which provided more college grants to students, especially lower-income students. The Pell Grant was established for students in 1972 (Citlen).

Then somebody on Wall Street came up with the idea of securitizing student loans, which meant pooling student loans, selling them to investment companies, which would then issue bonds to investors backed by the loans. Student loan payments would primarily go to the investors, with a little to spare to pay for the service providers.

From a Wall Street point-of-view, billions of dollars a year could be made in fees every step of the way with every securitized student loan. Subsequently, Wall Street investors successfully pushed government legislators to reduce grants and to issue more student loans. That is how the US government, as well as politicians of both political parties, has used the student loan program to redistribute billions of dollars of income yearly from the 99 to the 1 percent via the conduit of student loan-backed bonds.

This forced students to borrow more money to help finance their higher education than would otherwise be the case, making loan defaults more likely, especially during economic downturns. The Great Recession hit in December 2007 and lasted until June 2009, but the negative effects of this disaster have continued. The government, of course, is working hard to disguise how bad the situation really is.

Five years ago, fearing an increase of student loan defaults, and a massive devaluing of the student loan backed bonds they owned, investors began selling off their bonds, which resulted in declining values. They couldn’t stand this. Something had to be done to restore investor confidence, and so the federal government doubled student loan interest rates on all new loans from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2013 (Sheehy).

This increased the return on investment while doubling the burden on the 99 percent who take out new loans to finance their college education. The public outcry was so heavily against this increase politicians felt compelled to reduce student loan interest rates within a year. The burden for students and their families had been too great. The US government dropped the rate to 4.9 percent in 2014, which was still a nearly 50 percent increase over 3.4 percent (Lobosco). Doing so, however, stabilized the market for student loan-backed bonds.

Dictionary.com defines “crisis” as “a dramatic, emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person’s life.” Student loans are a perfect example of such a crisis in the personal lives of borrowers. In 2016, total outstanding student loans represented roughly 7.5 percent of the United States gross domestic product (GDP), up from 3.5 percent only ten years earlier (ACE). Nearly 43 million Americans were chained like slaves to rich bondholders via student loan debt, each with an average balance of $30,000 in 2016 (Friedman).

The cost of university education has grown faster than the value of Federal Pell grants (in current dollars) since 1976. The average Pell grant in 1976 paid 72 percent of the maximum cost of going to a public four-year college or university. This figure grew to 79 percent in 1979. Nowadays, the average Pell grant is less than half of that, hovering inside the 32 to 34 percent range (ACE). Therefore, students have had to increase their borrowing to fund their higher education and Wall Street investment banks and investors of the 1 percent all benefit from this higher student loan debt.

As the negative economic consequences of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 slowly gave ground to better times, student loan defaults fell, from nearly 15 percent in 2013 to 11.8 in 2015 to 11.3 percent in 2016. Defaults occur when former students go 360 days without making a payment. About 593,000 former college students out of 5.2 million total borrowers were in default on their federal debt as of Sept. 30, 2015, the US Department of Education reported. Default rates at public and for-profit colleges dipped, while private, nonprofit schools experienced a slight increase (Nasiripour).

Perhaps the biggest reason the default rate declined was that student loan borrowers deferred their payments at increasing rates, and for longer periods. The default rate, therefore, doesn’t accurately represent the degree to which former students have problems making their loan payments. An Obama White House report said in 2015, “The cohort default rate published by the Education Department is “‘susceptible to artificial manipulation.’”

The share of student borrowers paying down their loans more accurately reflects what is occurring than default rates alone (EPI). The report noted that a rising number of students are unable to make payments on their loans, but manage to avoid defaulting. Because of this, the report stated the actual default rate at four-year institutions is about 12.5 percent, and 25 percent for community colleges. For-profit colleges and universities have a 30 percent default rate. 41.5 million Americans owed more than $1.4 trillion federal student loans by the end of 2016. About one in every four borrowers is either delinquent or in default the report stated. Furthermore, “total indebtedness has doubled since 2009” (Nasiripour).

However, it turns out the White House report understated the numbers by quite a lot. Leaked documents showed only 46 percent of students out of school three years or more are paying down their student loan debt (Obama’s Student Loan Fiasco). This means 54 percent are not paying down their loans. Something else is terribly amiss as well. To be among the 46 percent, you cannot be in default, and you must have paid down the principal of your loan by at least one dollar. So if somebody who has owed $30,000 in student loans since they graduated from college ten years ago paid a dollar on the principal of their loan eight years ago, they have officially paid down their loan and are among the 46 percent. In other words, the bar for those who have not defaulted and are paying down their loans are about as low as one can get.

The government is paying the interest on student loans to bondholders for people who cannot pay down their loans. In other words, the rich are getting richer at the expense of the government and those who are paying down their student loans.

Clearly, tens of millions of people are in a state of personal crisis when it comes to student loans they cannot pay off. In addition, the next economic downturn may bring about a crisis in the financial markets centered on student loans, just as it occurred last time, only it will likely be worse. That economic crisis is looming.

People who have left higher education institutions saddled with an average of $30,000 in debt and limited job prospects are facing a crisis, which will only bring about another crisis in the student loan-backed bonds markets. Student loan debtors have other debts and bills to pay that turn their student loans into tens of millions of individual financial catastrophes, forcing them to spend years postponing payments so they can make their monthly mortgage payments, rent payments, put food on the table, pay their monthly bills, and raise their children.

People go to universities to increase their earning power so as to enjoy greater fruits of their labor. However, the growth of wages and salaries for most people have been flat or in decline for the last thirty-seven years when the official inflation rate is factored in. However, there is significant evidence this official rate is heavily understated, which means people are coming out of college and earning less in real terms than their parents thirty-seven years ago. This is why many people remain mired in student loan debt. Prices are going up faster than their earnings. They simply cannot pay it off and are forced to postpone payments for years and decades.

The remedy to this situation is to increase Pell Grants or simply make college free. According to the nonpartisan Office of Budget Management, the US government is giving the 1 percent and corporations $1.5 trillion dollars over ten years with the new Republican tax cut. Surely the US government can afford to provide such a sum to the middle class via a similar amount, thereby rendering college free. Studies clearly show this would be good for the US economy while there is not one scrap of evidence the tax cuts will do anything positive for the economy.

Student loans are an example of the golden rule of massive US government corruption; he or she who has the gold makes the rules that redistributes income and wealth their way from the less financially well endowed. Nobody knows this better than Wall Street Senator Ron Wyden.

Works Cited
Friedman, Dan. Americans Owe $1.2 Trillion Dollars In Student Loans. New York Daily News, May 17, 2014. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/americans-owe-1-2-trillion-student-loans-article-1.1796606

American Council on Education, (ACE) http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/FactSheet-Pell-Grant-Funding-History-1976-2010.pdf

Investment Memo. Merganser Capital Management, 2016 http://www.merganser.com/PDF/Memo/2015-Q3.pdf
http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/28/pf/college/student-loan-defaults/

Carrillo, Raul. How Wall Street Profits From Student Debt, Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone Magazine, April 14, 2016).

Sheehy, Kelsey. What the Stafford Loan Rate Hike Means for Students. US News and World Report, March 7, 2013 http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2013/07/03/what-the-stafford-loan-interest-rate-hike-means-for-students

Obama’s Student Loan Fiasco. Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Jan. 22, 2017

Allan, Nicole, Thompson, Derek. The Myth of the Student Loan Crisis. Atlantic Monthly, March 2017

Citlen, Jeff. A Look into the History of Student Loans. http://www.Lendedu.com, August 15, 2016

Lobosco, Katie. Student Loan Interest Rates Are Going Down. CNN Money, June 30, 2016 http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/30/pf/college/student-loan-interest-rates/

Nasiripour, Shahien. Student Loan Defaults Drop, but the Numbers Are Rigged. Bloomberg News, Sept. 28, 2016
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-28/student-loan-defaults-fall-but-the-numbers-are-rigged

Kroeger, Teresa; Cooke Tanyell; Gould, Elise. The Class of 2016. Economic Policy Institute. 21/04/2016. http://www.epi.org/publication/class-of-2016/

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US Senator Elizabeth Warren is an honest politician. And she sounded like a champion of the 99 percent during an interview with Salon.com when she bashed President Obama for kowtowing to the interests of Wall Street ahead of the American people.

Warren praised Obama for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency aimed at enforcing consumer protection laws. However, Obama’s financial ties with the elites of Wall Street came under closer review.

Warren told Salon that “there has not been nearly enough change” in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis.

“He picked his economic team and when the going got tough, his economic team picked Wall Street. …They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. Not young people who were struggling to get an education. And it happened over and over and over.”

On lobbyists: Banks spend millions on “armies of lobbyists and lawyers,” she told Salon, but there are few people at “the decision-making table” representing the concerns of everyday Americans.

“And when that happens — not just once, not just twice, but thousands of times a week — the system just gradually tilts further and further.”

Under Obama, during the greatest crisis since the Great Depression, in which massive fraud and money laundering for drug cartels and other crimes were committed by Wall Street executives and their employees, not a single person was charged by Obama’s Justice Department. “I’m the only one standing between you and the pitch forks,” Obama told a group of Wall Street executives during the height of the crisis. He was right, and he did his job for them. Goldman Sachs was the largest of his campaign financiers.

Under George W. Bush, people actually were charged with crimes in corporate scandals, and sent to prison, such as the Enron and Worldcom scandals. Under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, over a thousand people were convicted of felonies for their parts in the savings and loan scandal.

This indicates how corrupt to the core the government of the United States has become, and  it’s not just Obama. It’s both major political parties, all Republicans in congress, and 90 percent of all Democratic lawmakers. The system is awash in money and corruption, all the way to the corporate wing of the US Supreme Court. The political and economic games are completely corrupted and rigged against the middle class.

For the complete interview, click on the link below.

Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama: “They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over”–Salon.com

 

 

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Inflation redistributes income from the 99 percent and delivers said income to the 1 percent. This is a no-brainer, making inflation nothing more than an income redistribution scam that those on the right and those on the left lie about, although maybe they just don’t know, which is unlikely. Case in point is a Paul Krugman op-ed below.

Krugman claims there is little inflation nowadays, while his right wing opponents claim there is ton’s of inflation and its caused by the Federal Reserve. They’re both right and they’re both wrong, kind of, but not really.

Krugman claimed in his op-ed that inflation is close to zero, and that’s true, kind of. In reality, inflation is currently closer to 8 percent if it was measured as it was back in 1980. Since then the government has switched the way it measures inflation twenty times, and all of these changes show less and less inflation. That is why inflation as measured today is less than 3 percent when it’s probably slightly above 8 percent. The purpose of doing this was to keep people from protesting and getting mad about their loss of real spending power, such as happened back in the 1970s.

Conservatives rightfully claim the inflation numbers are understated, which is remarkably true. However, Republicans claim this is caused by the Federal Reserve and its massive printing of money, which is perhaps a tad true, but mostly false.

Inflation mostly comes from corporate planning. Publicly traded limited liability corporations must always have rising share prices, which is largely a product of increasing profits and dividends. The best way to ensure these constantly increasing returns on investment is for corporate competitors to gather together and plan price increases. Thousands of corporations plan their prices rises in tandem, for the most part, and that’s why we have inflation.

When corporations raise their prices in tandem, it’s called a conspiracy in restraint of trade, a violation of the law, but the government almost always looks the other way, which is a function of corruption. This is not to suggest that to some degree competition doesn’t exist in the corporate world, because it does, but it’s a minor nuisance to our captains of industry which is quickly eliminated when the competition gets too hot, and saner minds quickly impose a truce on any hostilities since the primary enemy of the corporations are their unwitting customers.

Guess who pays the cost of this non-competition? You do. When the price of tuna, or lettuce, or gasoline, or cars, or airline tickets rise due to corporate planning, the difference between the old prices and the new higher prices goes from your pockets into those of rich shareholders.

That’s what the politicos and corporate fat cats don’t want you to know, so they keep the argument within unrealistic and narrow lines of debate.

See Krugman’s op-ed below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/opinion/paul-krugman-conservative-delusions-about-inflation.html?_r=0

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The GOP has just set a new world record for “Insidious.” The Republicans have cut food stamps for the poor – only in Democratic states.

Here is how they did it. Food stamps, a/k/a the Food Supplement Program, is limited to the needy. Neediness is calculated based on family income. Income is calculated after subtracting deductions. One of those deductions is the “Full Standard Utility Allowance,” or FSUA, which is $644. Families who receive Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) payments are automatically eligible to take the FSUA deduction. That reduces their income, and makes them more likely to qualify for food stamps.

In the farm bill that just passed the House, the sole GOP food stamp cut was a change in the qualification rules to prevent LIHEAP recipients from automatically qualifying for the FSUA deduction. This is a $9 billion cut.

What do Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Illinois and Maine have in common? They’re cold, and they’re Democratic. What do Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi have in common? They’re warm, and they’re Republican.

Are you starting to get the picture?

In fact, Democracy for America has calculated that 97% of this cut in food stamps falls on blue D.C. and 15 blue states: the New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. All of them but Montana voted for President Obama twice. Twenty-eight of their 32 Senators are Democrats.

So basically, the GOP Farm Bill cuts food stamps for lots of Democrats, and only some Republicans. And those impoverished Democrats now have to choose between heating and eating.

First the GOP allegedly shuts down access to the busiest bridge in America, to punish a Democratic mayor who wouldn’t endorse a Republican governor. Now they cut food stamps, but just in Democratic states.

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History shows that tax cuts for the rich destroy jobs in any number of ways. Tax cuts are used by the 1 percent to put pressure on CEO’s to cut jobs in order to raise profits. They also buy politicians, who then enact legislation on behalf of their financial benefactors to destroy jobs through corporate freely trading your income to the 1 percent treaties, as well as a myriad of other scams.

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Back in 2009 and 2010, we were told the yearly US debt was too high, that if the total US debt went over 90 percent of yearly GNP, it would inhibit economic growth, increase interest rates, and lower GNP and job growth by 2 percent. All of these claims were the opposite of what history shows us. These claims ignored decades of Economic 101 teaching and practice. The people mass producing these lies knew this.

A new study by University of Michigan economists Mile Kimball and Yichuan Wang shows that sequestration, (the term used for automatic cuts to the yearly deficit via a deal reached between Republicans and our dumb-dumb president who apparently didn’t realize the Republicans were trying to use deficit cutting as a weapon to reduce job growth and sabotage the economy so that Mitt Romney could win the presidency in 2012), has reduced GNP growth by 2 percent per year.

If the debt had been run up, the economy would be stronger, albeit still historically weak. As far as interest rates, they’re still at or near historic lows. In fact, the US spends about the same amount of its tax dollars on paying the national interest (as a percentage of GNP) as it did under President Ronald Reagan, about 3.25 percent. That’s because interest rates are so low.

Interest rates and not the debt is the real issue, a fact conveniently ignored by the corporate propaganda machines, erroneously called the corporate media. That’s because the US debt is a revolving debt. The US Treasury Department sells bonds to cover the yearly deficit. Whenever the bonds come due, the government sells more bonds to pay up, but it uses tax dollars to pay the interest due on the bonds.

Sequestration has inhibited job growth for the 99 percent, reduced demand, weakened the economy, created mass suffering, and all for political gains on behalf of the 1 percent and Wall Street.

During this Sequestration period, real interest rates have been negative at times. In other words, the governmennt has been paying 1 percent interest or less on its debt, but the inflation rate has been 1 to 3 percent, and the real effect has been negative percent interest. That means heavy deficit spending could have accomplished massive works projects on roads, bridges and rails on the cheap, all to the benefit of the 99 percent. 

So why would President Obama agree to this stupidity?

According to a recent story in Mother Jones, Wall Street and the 1 percent benefit from Sequestration by keeping unemployment high and wages down. Goldman Sachs has been Obama’s biggest campaign contributor over the last two election cycles. The rest of Wall Street and many big corporations whose stocks and bonds trade on various financial markets benefit from this in the same way.

In other words, Sequestion is another way of rigging the game to ensure income and wealth is transferred from the 99 to the 1 percent.

 

 

 

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