Is StudentsFirst really living up to its name by supporting a right-wing Republican?
Earlier this week, Michigan’s Flint Journal reported that Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst has been supporting Michigan GOP Rep. Paul Scott against a potential recall election. Altogether, StudentsFirst has spent and owed $70,000 of political spending on behalf of Scott.
This came as a shock to many, who viewed Rhee’s StudentsFirst as primarily a nonpartisan group dedicated to education reform. By spending tens of thousands of dollars defending Scott, StudentsFirst is drawing a decidedly political line. What’s more, Scott has been a vocal defender of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) economic and education policies, which have led to significant reductions in the state’s K-12 school aid.
Included among the budget that Snyder signed earlier this year was a whopping $300 million aid reduction to schools statewide. Additionally, there was a $100 million cut to aid to cities, which also serves to negatively impact schools.
It seems odd that an organization that says its goal is to “build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world” would spend so much money to defend a right-wing Republican who loyally helped his right-wing Republican governor take an axe to the statewide school budet.
By Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani on Oct 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm
This afternoon, a group of about seventy-five students mobilized at the OccupyDC camp at McPherson Square to raise the issue of crushing student debt. The average student, facing grim job prospects in the current economy, is graduating with at least $24,000 of debt.
The students and recent graduates then marched several blocks through DC to the lobbying headquarters of student loan giant Sallie Mae. As students posted letters and stories about their own debt on the walls of the building, a phalanx of police officers and security guards blocked anyone from entering the building.
The demonstrators, who had planned to voice their grievances in the lobby of the building, began chanting “if we had money, they’d let us in!” As the crowd swelled outside the Sallie Mae office at 7th Street and Pennsylvanie Avenue, security officers continued to block protesters from entering. The peaceful crowd said they only wanted to air their grievances with a representative from Sallie Mae, but were rebuffed. Watch it:
The demonstrators formed a human chain and said they didn’t want to see people leave without talking to them about student debt. Eventually, police escorted employees out of the building, and demonstrators verbally warned eachother against the use of any violence or harassment against Sallie Mae staffers. Watch the employees exit under police escort:
Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender, has spent millions lobbying Congress to continue massive government subsidies to private lenders. Worse, Sallie Mae has lobbied aggressively, using money received from students, to allow private lenders to use predatory practices, including hidden fees.
ThinkProgress Intern Rebecca Leber contributed to this report.
Brian Beutler has an amusing article about Republican members of Congress who’ve found their inner J.M. Keynes when it comes to the potential macroeconomic impact of cutbacks in defense spending. Read it and have a good laugh at the hypocrisy.
I do have to say, though, that I don’t think the Defense Keynesians are mistaken. You hear a lot about “multipliers,” but I think the more relevant issue for fiscal policy may be resource substitutability. The problem of demobilizing defense production workers is basically the same as the problem of demobilizing teachers. In a healthy economy, the problem you have is that all your resources are employed but people want more stuff. In Brazil, for example, there’s very little unemployment, but people are still poor. In an economy like that, it’s really bad to be deploying your resources inefficiently. Wasting medium-skilled workers in “defense” production when they could be making business inputs and household consumption goods is a huge problem. But America isn’t butting up against objective production constraints. So the risk is very present that instead of going from building armored personnel carriers to building hybrid SUVs, you go from building armored personnel carriers to reading help wanted ads. Then the waitress at the diner down the street ends up losing shifts.
People should try to be consistent about this. Even conservatives who want to see a long-term shift out of state and local government production ought to be willing to concede that right now is not the best time to try this. By the same token, I think reducing the “defense” share of the American economy is basically a Now Less Than Ever policy priority. Over the long-term, we’re impoverishing ourselves by investing so many resources in the fundamentally non-productive enterprise of building things that explode but this is not our present problem.
Presidential candidate and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) joined a chorus of Republicans in opposing President Obama’s proposal to help college students and graduates get out from under crushing student loan debt. She followed former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) and pizza magnate Herman Cain (R) in announcing her opposition last night at an education forum hosted by News Corporation and the College Board in New York.
Gingrich called the plan a “Ponzi scheme,” while Cain claimed the student loan industry should be managed by the states. Bachmann, however, took a different stand, saying Obama’s plan was an “abuse of power” that would create a “moral hazard” for the nation’s college students:
“I believe it is abuse of power from the executive to impose via an executive order a wholesale change in the student loan,” Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, said during an education forum in New York put on by The College Board and News Corp.
Bachmann said the change creates a “moral hazard” when it comes to student debt.
“There is a morality in keeping our financial promises, and I don’t think we should push that off onto the taxpayer,” she said. “The individual needs to repay and be responsible for repaying their student loan debt.”
The “moral hazard” that would result in not keeping “our financial promises,” however, isn’t based on the actual plan Obama proposed, since it forgives very little debt that students owe, and only then after borrowers have been paying their loans for twenty years. (The old requirement for forgiveness eligibility was 25 years.) Mostly, the plan lowers monthly payments — by hundreds of dollars for many students — by putting a cap on the amount that must be paid back each month.
As for it being an abuse of power, Obama’s executive order doesn’t create a “wholesale change” in student loans, it merely accelerates the implementation of a law passed by Congress last year, putting it into effect in 2012 instead of 2014.
Instead of providing a credible, truthful reason to oppose the plan, Bachmann has chosen to join her Republican colleagues in their continuing effort to make it harder for low- and middle-income Americans to go to college. Student loan debt is expected to top $1 trillion this year and tuition costs are rising across the country, but the GOP’s method of addressing such problems includes cutting billions in funding for Pell Grants and opposing multiple student loan reforms.
Following anti-choice activists down this radical road, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain recently declared, “I am pro-life from conception. [No] abortions, no exceptions.” Cain’s campaign has since insisted that he in fact does support exceptions. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) bemoaned Cain and Republicans increasing extremism on abortion. Noting that most Americans agree “that you shouldn’t have to die in order to bring a child into the world” and that “it was OK to have birth control,” she blasted the GOP for “branding themselves” as anti-government intrusion while trampling a woman’s privacy as obviously “hypocritical”:
MOORE: I think that people have overreached. This is a debate where really good decent people on either side of a woman’s right to choose can disagree. And I think where people had gotten to, people at least decided that you had the right to terminate a pregnancy if your life was in danger. That you shouldn’t have to die in order to bring a child into the world, I think people had gotten to that point. I think people had gotten to a point that if you were a victim of a traumatic rape or incest or some unusual circumstances like that that you deserved to have an abortion. [...]
And I think we’re seeing a defiance here, that really overrides the majority of American opinion, that this is something that is a private issue between a woman and her family, her doctor, and certainly an issue between a woman and her relationship with God. So Republicans who like to brand themselves as being independent of government control and regulations certainly are hypocritical with respect to this issue.
ICE Officer In Immigration Raid When Asked For A Warrant: ‘The Warrant Is Coming Out Of My Balls’ |
This week, the ACLU of Tennessee filed a lawsuit on behalf of 15 residents of an apartment complex who were targeted in an immigration raid. The defendants say police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials entered the complex without warrants. The defendants allege that when they asked one officer for his warrant, he replied, “We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE.” He then pointed at his genitals and said, “The warrant is coming out of my balls.”
‘Marriage Equality’ Scores 9 Points Higher Than ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ |
A poll of New Jersey voters found that 52 percent support legalizing “same-sex marriage,” but 61 percent support “marriage equality.” It’s important to note that marriage equality has a strong majority of support either way, but the distinction between the responses is telling. Allowing same-sex couples to marry is a matter of equality, and making sure voters understand that is paramount to winning their support.
The numbers may be somewhat inflated by his penchant for silly action movies where he plays supporting roles, but Samuel L. Jackson’s movies have grossed more than any other star’s oeuvre, according that most redoubtable of resources, the Guinness Book of World Records. In any case, it’s another statistic to throw on the pile of evidence that black actors are not inherently box office poison. I remain vastly curious what the tipping point for Hollywood will be, when they realize that the elements around actors and the quality of their performances are probably more determinative than the race of the actors themselves. If you put self-aware black actors in big, glossy, funny action flicks, those movies will likely make money, and not be harmed by the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is showing up with a purple lightsaber or an eye patch. But I really would love to see an executive name the metric after which they’ll be comfortable with the idea that black actors are not box-office poison.
After months and even years of grassroots protests against the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, national media are starting to take notice. CNN’s Randi Kaye featured the controversial pipeline as an “undercovered” story, in a segment with CNNMoney.com’s Steve Hargreaves. Hargreaves portrayed the battle over the foreign pipeline as one of “hopes for the economy” versus “fears for the environment.” Tar sands crude is “a little bit dirtier” than conventional oil, Hargreaves conceded, but he said that the economic benefits of building a pipeline to pump tar sands crude from Canada to Texas refineries will win out:
Ultimately it is an election year and it will create a lot of jobs and it will be a lot of money and Americans are concerned about energy, they’re concerned about energy independence, they’re concerned about high gasoline prices. So to vote — to limit the amount of oil coming in to this country especially coming into it from a place like Canada would be a very difficult thing for Obama to do while facing what’s going to be a tough re-election. So most analysts, yes, they do expect it will be built.
Independent analysts whose work wasn’t paid for by the oil industry believe that the claims Hargreaves made are likely false. The tar sands pipeline will be as bad for the American economy as it is for the environment:
Keystone XL Could Kill American Jobs. TransCanada and the American Petroleum Institute cite a study by the Perryman Group, commissioned by TransCanada, that claims the pipeline’s construction will generate 20,000 American jobs. The U.S. State Department’s analysis, drafted by Cardno Entrix and also commissioned by TransCanada, estimates that the construction will only involve 5,000 to 6,000 workers, including non-American employees.
The only study independent of TransCanada influence, by the Cornell Global Labor Institute, finds that even the State Department’s employment figures are too rosy. In the first stages of the pipeline project, steel from Canada and India was used, and only 11 percent of workers were local hires. The pipeline will reduce air quality in both Canada and the U.S., increasing health care costs and thus killing jobs, for decades after the brief construction period of the pipeline.
Keystone XL Will Increase Gasoline Prices. Gasoline prices are expected to rise in 15 Midwest states, because the pipeline will allow Canadian oil producers to bypass that market and reach Texas refineries for export to China and the rest of the global market. In Canada, TransCanada says that one of the benefits of the pipeline is that it will raise the price of heavy crude oil in the Midwest.
Keystone XL Will Threaten Energy Independence. Canadian tar sands oil won’t reduce American dependence on foreign oil. The Keystone XL pipeline is designed to feed the global market, instead of U.S. demand. Its primary effect on American energy policy will be to increase the profits and thus the political influence of oil industry players like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, while accelerating the threats of global warming. Climate change, the greatest threat to global security, could reach a point of no return if Canada’s tar sands are fully exploited.
The Keystone XL debate is not economy versus environment — it’s a battle between dirty energy and clean energy.