You Want A Scandal?

ScandalWhile the Villager Press inside the beltway gets all titillated over the IRS (which only denied the 501(c)4 application of one organization, a liberal group in Maine) and the AP (which might have revealed information about a CIA covert agent) and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi… (oops the full emails show the CIA wanted to limit the amount of information about ops in the area?) there are some scandalous situations about which no one in the Cocktail Party Circuit appears to be getting all flustered…and outraged…and fulminatory about.   Let’s try on a few.

STUDENT LOANS

The Federal Reserve Discount Rate right now is 0.75%. [BankRate] So, banks can borrow money at 3/4th of a percent.  The current Stafford Student Loan Rate (in school) is 3.4% and the current Stafford Student Loan Rate (out of school) is 6.8%.  [BankRate]  We know, of course, that the banks don’t keep loans on their own books for the most part, and the student loans are really safe “paper” to package up into bonds, which in turn get sliced and diced into derivatives for the market traders to play with, creating a tidy $1 Trillion in total student indebtedness in this country. [WSJ]

We say we need more scientists, more engineers, more physicians, more nurses, more architects, and more computer engineers — but when it come down to helping students pay for the education necessary to pursue these degrees our next generation finds itself so saddled with student debt that basic life decisions — like finding housing, getting married, and paying the usual bills are swirled into the vortex of loan repayment.  The Federal Reserve Bank of New York posted this conclusion on April 17, 2013:

“Student loans have soared in popularity over the past decade, with the aggregate student loan balance, as measured in the FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel, reaching $966 billion at the end of 2012. Student debt now exceeds aggregate auto loan, credit card, and home-equity debt balances—making student loans the second largest debt of U.S. households, following mortgages. Student loans provide critical access to schooling, given the challenge presented by increasing costs of higher education and rising returns to a degree. Nevertheless, some have questioned how taking on extensive debt early in life has affected young workers’ post-schooling economic activity.”   […]

As seen in the chart below, the share of twenty-five-year-olds with student debt has increased from just 25 percent in 2003 to 43 percent in 2012. Further, the average student loan balance among those twenty-five-year-olds with student debt grew by 91 percent over the period, from $10,649 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012. Student loan delinquencies have also been growing, as shown in the recent presentations by New York Fed economists Donghoon Lee and Wilbert van der Klaauw.

The number of student in debt has increased, the amount of the debt has increased, and so have the number of delinquencies.  And all the while the profitability of the banks (which we remember were bailed out with tax payer dollars) has continued unabated.  “Banks have been reporting steady growth in earnings since soon after the financial crisis. With the latest reports rolling in, analysts think the banks’ first-quarter profits will be their best ever.” [NYT 4/17/13]

Now isn’t that nice. The banks are getting “best ever” profits and the students are getting more deeply mired in debt.  Does this mean we have a Congress more concerned with the profitability of the banks than with the manageability of student debt, and the prospect of a nation in which fewer young people can afford to seek the educations which would boost their economic circumstances and enhance our national structure?  Meanwhile, it’s seemingly more important to give freshman Congress creatures an opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act — for the 37th time — than it is to conduct hearings and draft legislation to address the Student Loan Scandal.   Perhaps if we start calling the situation a “scandal” some attention might be brought to the subject?  Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has a bill on the Senate side to offer a bit of relief, which by some lights doesn’t go far enough, but at least someone is paying attention.

Military Sexual Assaults

There are approximately 1.4 million people serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Pentagon reports there have been some 26,000 cases of sexual assault.  This isn’t a “women’s problem.” This is a military culture problem.  This is a legal problem.    Even the distribution of a motion picture on the subject (The Invisible War) hasn’t raised the Scandal Flag amongst the Village Media.  A Senate Armed Services Subcommittee has held one hearing — March 13, 2013. [SASC]   On the other side of the building House Armed Services chairman Buck McKeown  “said he was outraged and disgusted by the Fort Hood allegations.” [CNN]  As well he should be — so now where are the umpteen hearings on sexual assaults in the military?  Generally, when the term “sex” is combined with an issue — infidelity, crime, or whatever — the resulting phrase is Sex Scandal.  Why not this time?  Oh, yes, wait — the House is still voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the 37th time, and there will be more hearings on Benghazi…

This could go on … isn’t it scandalous we’re reducing the federal budget deficit … “The federal deficit is shrinking more quickly than expected, and the government’s long-term debt has largely stabilized for the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday in a report…” [LAT] BUT there’s a House bill which would further reduce funding for SNAP and nutrition programs, Meals on Wheels is sharply curtailing services to the elderly, and the Mysterious Chargemaster continues to make hospitalization bills inexplicable, opaque, and unfathomable…but these haven’t risen to the level of “Scandal” in the Washington, D.C. media.

And, then there’s the polling indicating that some 91% of the American people thought there ought to be expanded background checks to mitigate the prospects that an insane person, a felon, a fugitive, an undocumented person, or a juvenile could get hold of lethal weapons … and the Senate Republicans filibustered the bill…

For information about these issues we’re better off looking to local reporters who write about local children going hungry, or local seniors unserved, or local hospital rates, or local gun violence tragedies …. Perhaps if a crowd of  senior citizens picketed a military installation (or a couple of banks) clad like the current on-sale portrait of the late great  Bea Arthur, and packed AR-15s for show while waving their empty plates and their grandkids’ student loan papers … could we get some attention here?  And, while we’re at it — Where are the JOBS bills?

Would THAT be a scandal?

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