Everybody is now talking about the student debt crisis, but nothing is being done about it. Thanks in large part to the great public amplifier of the Occupy movement, this year’s presidential contenders have been forced to embrace student loan reform as a talking point in their respective campaigns. But the debt relief being pushed by the Obama administration is a token gesture, aimed at getting some traction on the youth vote–especially the more disillusioned or alienated student constituencies. Recent bills introduced in Congress–Student Loan Forgiveness Act (H.R. 4170) and the Private Student Bankruptcy Fairness Act (H.R. 2028)–have zero chance of passing in anything like their current form. Practically speaking, no reform program of any substance is on the legislative horizon, least of all one that would regulate the predatory lending practices of Wall Street banks.
The truth is that student debt relief is too important to be left to elected officials. They are chronically dependent on the financial backing of the lending industry, and are structurally incapable of addressing this crisis, let alone resolving it. As a result, reform initiatives such as Student Loan Justice and Forgive Student Debt (to Stimulate the Economy) that have been aimed at petitioning lawmakers have very little to show for all their hard effort. The recent federal modifications in payment schedules are micro-cosmetic compared to the sea-change that is required to free debtors of their intolerable burdens and rescue higher education from its increasing use as a profit engine for financiers, asset speculators, and real estate developers. The pathway to this outcome does not lie in futile pleas for economic reform, but through a political movement, driven by self-empowerment and direct action on the part of debtors.
The Occupy Student Debt Campaign was launched at Zuccotti Park in November 2011 with the goal of building a student debt abolition movement. Our campaign is based on principles for which we believe there is widespread support:
1) Free public education, through federal coverage of tuition fees.
2) Zero-interest student loans, so that no one can profit from them.
3) Fiscal transparency at all universities, public as well as private.
4) The elimination of current student debt, through a single act of relief.
These are interlocking principles, and should not stand on their own. Imagine a world in which lawmakers were to respond positively to the current calls for debt “forgiveness” (an unfortunate term that implies the debtor has sinned). Such a measure would offer much-needed relief, but it would still disadvantage future debtors if it were not complemented by remedies that brought to an end the practice of compelling students to privately fund higher education by going into debt bondage. So, too, a singular focus on reducing interest rates (even to zero) is more likely to encourage colleges to increase their fees than to open up equitable access to education.
"Occupy Chicago" is a film about the Occupy Movement produced by Caroline Gray and Owen Deutsch, two high school students who set out to explore what it means to fight against those who continue to destroy democracy in the United States.
The Court has summarily overturned Montana’s strict campaign finance law limiting corporate election contributions in a 5 to 4 decision, putting an end to the state's resistance to Citizens United and effectively expanding that controversial ruling to the state and local elections. Here is the one-page per curiam decision and the dissent from Justice Breyer.
The Court ruled 5 to 4 that sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Here is the opinion by Justice Kagan, with a concurring opinion by Justice Breyer, a dissenting opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, a dissenting opinion by Justice Thomas, and a dissenting opinion by Justice Alito.
The Court has invalidated most key provisions of SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law, saying they are preempted by federal law in a 5 to 3 ruling. This does not include one of the most controversial provisions that requires police officers to check a person’s immigration status if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the U.S. illegally after they are stopped for a separate crime. However, the Court did not preclude overturning this provision based on racial profiling claims that were not included in this case. Here's the opinion by Justice Kennedy, with Justice Scalia concurring and dissenting in part, Justice Thomas concurring and dissenting in part, and Justice Altio concurring and dissenting in part.
Justice Kagan did not take part in the case because she oversaw the federal government’s role in the case as Solicitor General.
The remaining decisions, including health care reform law, will be announced on Thursday, June 28, 2012.
Thought to be the last of his kind, giant tortoise Lonesome George was found dead by officials at Galápagos National Park on Sunday. The centenarian tortoise was expected to live longer, according to scientists, and the cause of his death was not immediately clear. Lonesome George is thought to have been the last of the Pinta Island subspecies of Galápagos giant tortoise, and scientists tried repeatedly to get him to mate successfully over the years, but to no avail. Efforts to aid the islands’ giant tortoises have increased their population from 3,000 to 20,000 in the past four decades.
Members of Occupy Los Angeles say that recent efforts to clean the "skid row" area of the city are actually a ploy to eventually rid the area of its homeless population, so that a powerful group of lobbyists can begin efforts to help their clients realize plans to redevelop the area into profitable businesses.The CCA is a business group that lobbies city and state government to grease the wheels for development in downtown LA. They represent local businesses, as well as large corporations, such as Chevron, Walmart, Verizon, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo and Bank of America .
Police say that any property not placed in the city provided storage facility during the cleaning operations must be mobile, and kept moving all day long, until the one of the Injunctions kicks in at 9pm and people are allowed to sleep. At 6am, they must begin moving around again until the night. You can hear police explain in the video above "You cannot return to where you were, and you cannot stay where you are now." Come 9pm, the homeless have to find a new spot to sleep for the night because they are not allowed to return to the "cleaned" areas, and then each day the process begins again.
Occupy Los Angeles, LA CAN, Occupy the Hood, and Occupy Skid Row have all kept a presence in the area to protest the efforts of CCA, with Occupy LA reporting over this past weekend. From Occupy LA's website:
First thoughts written last night: ”4 Arrests in Midnight LAPD Raid on CCA Siege – Occupy Los Angeles – three of my best friends and roommates, and an unknown 4th man ARRESTED. Charges unknown. Police orchestrated tactical raid with 25+ cops, pepper spray out and batons were swinging. Captain Frank (at a compañera’s trial yesterday) pointed at her and said, “Don’t I know you?”. Another police officer told a fifth occupier that “You’re getting arrested tomorrow.”
I couldn’t move, trapped inside a tent and seeing silhouettes of gum-chewing cops, fidgety and in war-mode. LAPD’s true colors emerging.
You want to talk targeted kidnappings and terror? Cops were laughing as they pushed and hit us. Laughing as they sent 3 snatch squads and took my friends in the dead of night.”
We’re traumatized and enraged. Three of my roommates were snatched by LAPD last night. Bails are $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000…. they’ve been some of the most visible organizers with the siege on the Central City Association (1%’s lobby here in Los Angeles) for nearly a month. They have all been harassed, intimidated, brutalized, and arrested by the LAPD before. They have all been occupying for months and are inspiring in their defiance and rejection of the oppressive status quo.
The arrests began over alleged chalk drawings, despite the 9th circuit court decision of Mackinney vs. Neilson that states, “No chalk would damage a sidewalk.”
Since May 29, occupiers and homeless advocates have camped out each night in front of the CCA’s offices in downtown, as part of an ongoing “siege” protest that was originally only meant to last seven days. The action was coordinated by Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy the Hood, Occupy Skid Row and the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
Obviously, occupiers, who would prefer government to be free of corporate influences, are ideologically opposed to the lobby group. In fact, one could say the CCA is Occupy LA’s local archenemy.
Heather Meyer, an occupier who has been camping out in front of the CCA, said the lobby is “behind everything that is oppressive.” She cites as an example the groups opposition to the recently passed “Responsible Banking” ordinance, which requires banks doing business with the city to turn over information on loans and foreclosure activity and making it readily available to the public.
“They are the lobbyists for the one percent,” she said. “They are the epitome of money in politics.”
The CCA has done more than support bankers to irritate occupiers. The CCA also successfully opposed community efforts to block the construction of a Walmart in Chinatown. They helped kill a city ordinance that would have required hotels to keep their employees 90 days after a change of hotel ownership, according to their website.
As further evidence of the power the lobbyists at CCA wield, the report cites CCA announcing their intentions earlier this year to further lobby for more police resources for the skid row area. The LAPD soon after announcing 40 more officers being sent in to patrol despite there only being a “minor uptick in reported crime” in a neighborhood that “still reports some of the lowest crime levels in the city,” according to the Downtown News.
To explain the decision to respond so strongly to a minor uptick in crime, the LAPD stated:
In recent months, the department has been fielding more complaints from residents and businesses about aggressive panhandling and people sleeping on the sidewalk during the day, he said.
“We are having an increase in quality of life issues and we don’t want to lose any ground that we’ve gained in that area,” Perez said. “We want to stop the problem before it explodes. We’re just being proactive in our analysis and response to the area and understanding it.”
Interestingly enough, it sounds as if the increase in complaints began around the time CCA announced it would begin lobbying for more police...
If you continue to read the Downtown News article, it really does a great job of making skid row sound bad. I've seen it, it's a depressing and disturbing area that seems like you've crossed some great divide into an undeveloped nation. So many people with nowhere else to call home. Then it finishes with a quote from CCA's CEO:
“There hasn’t been an area in the entire county of Los Angeles that has not benefited from making Downtown come alive,” said Schatz. “When people are sleeping on the streets… it affects our ability to continue to attract investment and continue to make this Downtown thrive.”
As I read that quote, it didn't sound to me as if what happens to the people of skid row was a priority, or even a concern at all.
I'll keep you posted on any updates on the situation.
Good morning, today is Monday, June 25, 2012. The Supreme Court is expected to convene later today to reveal their decision on the constitutionality of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Will their ruling impact you in any way?
Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie on Sunday compared Bain Capital sending jobs overseas while Mitt Romney was the CEO to President Barack Obama's campaign "outsourcing" telemarketing to places like Omaha, Nebraska.
Appearing on CNN, Gillespie ripped The Washington Post for reporting that Bain had invested in companies that outsourced jobs to China and India, calling it "a breathless headline over a baseless story."
"The reporter confused the notion of outsourcing -- now a lot of American companies outsource," Gillespie explained. "They outsource domestically as well. For example, the Obama for America campaign outsources from its own campaign telemarketing services."
"To Omaha or wherever it is," CNN host Candy Crowley pointed out. "But we're talking about foreign jobs here."
"I think the reporter confused the notion of outsourcing -- which happens all the time when you don't do all of your services in house, you go outside -- to moving jobs offshore," Gillespie continued. "And yes, there were companies that Bain invested in that did engage in outsourcing. A lot of companies do, obviously. It's an economic model that makes sense."
The liberal blog Think Progress has noted that the Romney campaign is technically correct that there is a difference between "outsourcing" and "offshoring."
But the effect is similar: Jobs are provided to people in other countries instead of the U.S.
"This simply doesn’t change the fact that Bain, under Romney, invested in companies whose sole purpose was to move jobs to other countries, directly countering the narrative that Romney has been trying to set," Think Progress' Pat Garofalo and Igor Volsky wrote last week.
From this Wednesday's Politics Nation, the Rev. Al Sharpton did a good job of pointing out the fact that our political class in Washington doesn't seem to be too terribly concerned with poverty, or the plight of the working poor in the United States. He went after the Senate for the $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the farm bill, and for voting against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's amendment which would have removed the cuts, which went down by a vote of 33 to 66 earlier this week.
Sharpton also did a great job talking about the record income disparity and the fact that we're slashing our social safety nets while the wealthiest among us get one tax cuts, one after another.
There is one point he missed, though. The real welfare recipients in the United States are not the poor. It's companies like Walmart who refuse to pay their employees a living wage and will happily allow the American taxpayer to make up the difference by having their workers receive benefits such as SNAP and Medicaid.
As my fellow contributor here at C&L Jill Klausen pointed out in her Winning Words Project, it's time someone asked these United States Senators, who just voted to reduce funding for the SNAP program, the right question:
While our nation still reels from the economic crisis brought on by irresponsible Republican fiscal policies that saw millions of jobs being lost, the middle class being decimated, and a nearly unprecedented rise in poverty rates (only the Great Depression rivals it), our elected Representatives in the United States Senate have voted to reduce funding for the only source of sustenance for millions of impoverished Americans: Food Stamps.
Lots and lots of good stuff there so please go read the rest, but here was Jill's question for our Senators:
When will Republicans in Congress take up legislation that imposes severe fines on mulit-billion dollar corporations who line their pockets at the expense of taxpayers by refusing to pay their employees a 2012 wage and use government programs to supplement their payrolls?
The answer is probably never unless we get the money out of politics, which tragically our Supreme Court took us backwards on with their Citizens United ruling. But our politicians do respond to public pressure occasionally if there's enough of it. It would be nice to see some momentum build to push them to force companies to pay a living wage and to get executive pay back in line with the wages of the average worker. More segments like the one from Sharpton above would be helpful as well, instead of your typical segment at Fox where they're demonizing the poor and labor unions.
Thousands will be marching on the California State Capitol in in Sacramento on June 25th to ask the Legislature and governor to impose an immediate three-year foreclosure moratorium for California. Family Friendly-children encouraged to participate! We encourage everyone to make signs and banners that tell how foreclosure has affected you.
RALLY on the Capitol grounds. Speakers include homeowners, activists, union leaders, clergy, and others. Guest MC/musician: Michelle Shocked, Singer (Occupy Fights Foreclosure Activist).
MARCH in downtown Sacramento. Route to be announced.
LOBBYING TEACH-IN AND LOBBYING. We will lobby legislators and the Governor to stop the hemorrhaging of California home ownership.
TEACH-INSwill be held throughout the afternoon.
The banks are foreclosing on families while at the same time promising loan modifications. We cannot trust the banks to do the right thing. The governor, attorney-general and Legislature must become involved. The San Francisco County Recorder’s Office has audited a sampling of foreclosures and found that 84 percent involved one or more clear violations – proof of illegal foreclosures is housed in recorder’s offices in every county.
We must halt foreclosures with a moratorium to allow for an audit of ALL home loan and foreclosure records. NO MORE THROWING FAMILIES OUT OF THEIR HOMES. We also demand investigation and prosecution of those who unfairly took advantage of homeowners. We call for cooperation between county recorder’s offices, district attorneys and the state to track down all those who illegally profited from stealing the homes of thousands of families, putting many more in precarious situations and wrecking the U.S. economy for years, if not decades to come.
Are you in foreclosure? Know someone in foreclosure?
Angry about predatory lending and dual tracking?
Angry about how the banks have sucked up our money and stolen our homes?
Angry about their refusal to reduce homeowner debt to current values instead of foreclosing and selling
to “investors” for even less?
Angry about how the banks are killing the proposed California Homeowner Bill of Rights legislation?
Want to ask your state assembly member and senator why?
STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD! DO NOT ALLOW THE BANKS TO STEAL YOUR HOME! COME OUT TO SHOW YOUR RESISTANCE TO THE BANKS! DEMAND THE GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATURE IMPOSE AN IMMEDIATE FORECLOSURE MORATORIUM TO STOP THE BLEEDING!