Note To Maryland Democrats: Get Serious About The High Cost Of College

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We’ve got a two-part problem here:

  • Student debt that burdens recent college graduates, as well as those who will graduate this spring and in years to come.
  • Sky-high and still rising college costs. That includes tuition, fees, room and board.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and two dozen other senators are taking the lead on the debt part of the equation. Sen. Warren and others introduced yesterday the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, a bill that would allow borrowers to refinance student loans to a lower interest rate. This bill, if it passes, will not solve the student debt crisis, but it would be a start.

As long as the cost of going to college remains prohibitively high, we’re constantly creating more student debt.

Maryland’s three gubernatorial candidates have all addressed the issue, but feebly. Simply slowing the rate of increase in the cost of college is not exactly a solution. As long as college costs are high, the debt problem will keep getting worse.

Seems to me the real answer is something more radical. Like start reducing the cost of tuition, or providing much more means-based student aid.

You want a really radical idea? Free college tuition. It’s been done before. It should be tried again. We could start on a limited basis, for instance free tuition at Maryland community colleges for any student graduating in the top 25 percent of any high school class in Maryland. That’s just one possibility to illustrate the concept. The fundamental idea is, we’ve got to make college affordable again for middle-class and working-class students.

Otherwise, more and more students are going to pass on college because it’s just too expensive. That decision might limit them for the rest of their lives, and it will definitely inhibit the growth and competitiveness of the American economy. Not everyone needs to or wants to go to college. But everyone who has the ability and the desire to do college work should have the opportunity.

Just my opinions.

— John Hayden

 

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The Student Debt Crisis

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This week’s email brings a reminder from Maggie Thompson at the organization Higher Ed Not Debt about an issue that remains under the radar for much of the population:

“This week we hit a milestone—but it’s not a good one. It’s been two years since the amount of student debt held in this country hit $1 trillion dollars. Americans hold more student debt than credit card debt and auto loans combined.”  — Maggie Thompson

Everyone knows about credit card debt and mortgage issues, but the significance of student debt is still emerging. Higher education student debt should be at the top of the list of issues addressed by Democratic candidates in this year’s elections. Recent graduates (and also students who studied for several years but didn’t graduate) are well aware of the problem, and they could use some help.

The burden of student debt might not be so bad, if more and better jobs were available for young adults. But the fact is, graduates face a stagnant job market and declining wages. How do you pay off student debt and start a family on Walmart wages?

Higher Ed Not Debt is organizing events across the country to put the spotlight on student debt. For more information see the Higher Ed Not Debt website.

— John Hayden

 

America and Maryland Coming Apart At The Seams

Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool, during...

Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool during the 1963 March on Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a few short weeks, we’ve had the following:

A joyful national coming together to  celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech.

The warm, fuzzy feeling of a unifying “American Dream” was quickly replaced by spinning centrifugal forces.

We went to the brink of war, and back, in Syria.

Oh, never mind, forget war. Back to our regularly scheduled program: “Defund Obamacare.”  Or else.

Wait! Wait! A mass shooting inside America’s oldest military installation, the Navy Yard, in the heart of the nation’s capital, a mile from the Capitol building . . . But mass shootings and gun control debates hold our attention for shorter time spans with each round of crazy violence.

Back, quickly now, to defunding Obamacare. (Obamacare is a serious but somewhat flawed effort to provide access to health care for all Americans. Therefore, it must be EVIL, right? Let me know if you can figure it out. I can’t.)

The alternative to defunding Obamacare, far as the crazies on the right are concerned, is shutting down the federal government!  And defaulting on the national debt; to be followed by worldwide economic chaos.

Loud and fevered — and apparently serious — conspiracy to bring down the federal government of the USA has previously been known as Treason. What should we call it today? Political and cultural insanity?

English: Map of Maryland counties

And now. to add a touch of humor, or not, the counties of Western Maryland (depending on how you define Western Maryland) are talking about seceding from Maryland to form a new state, complete with two U.S. senators! (Just what we need, two more additions to the world’s most dysfunctional deliberative body.)

Into the midst of the debate about secession comes a guest host on a Baltimore radio show, who displays amazing ignorance of Maryland geography and politics. She blindly relocated a state senator from District 37 on the Eastern Shore, placing him not only in the wrong county, but in a whole other region of the state, Southern Maryland, which is on the whole other side of the Chesapeake Bay. Hey, it’s only mainstream media. Actual facts are peripheral.

Not surprising that voters are fed up with the way things are going. Can the center hold? It’s looking more and more unlikely.

Fragmentation is the preferred intoxication of the day. Ah, the sweet wine of liberty!  “Don’t tread on me,” reads the label. Savor the fruity overtones of anarchy, and the subtle hint of chaos.

— John Hayden

Detroit Bankruptcy, Now We Wait

Largest Bankruptcies

Largest Bankruptcies (Photo credit: Adam Crowe)

Long-term viability of Social Security has been a subject of concern for years. Now, the Detroit bankruptcy filing turns the spotlight on municipal and state pensions.

I personally believe Social Security is in better financial shape than most people think. Social Security can easily survive into the 22nd century and beyond, if only we have the will.

Detroit skyline

Detroit skyline (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

But retirees, and anyone who expects to retire in the future, ought to be nervous about the shock waves from the Detroit bankruptcy. How many other cities, big and small, will have their credit ratings reduced? How many more will follow Detroit into bankruptcy? Not many, we may hope.

Continue reading

Summer Of Discontent And Division

SOMETIMES IT SEEMS LIKE WE'RE PADDLING AS HARD AS WE CAN, BUT GOING NOWHERE. AND SOMETIMES, WE'RE GOING OUR SEPARATE WAYS. -- John Hayden photo

SOMETIMES WE’RE PADDLING HARD, IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS. — John Hayden photo

This is the summer of discontent and division in America. We’re fractured by class, race, gender, age, and politics.

Yes, I’ve written about divisions before, at least once or twice. Consider this a seasonal update.

stock mktAs U.S. stock markets set new records, people who don’t own stocks are being squeezed and crushed. Recession may be over, technically, but only now are Americans feeling the wrenching pain from the economic dislocation of the past decade.

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College Debt Discussion

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See the “Dwindling Jobs, College Debt” post from yesterday for an extended discussion in the comments below the post. The discussion focuses mostly on debt, especially college debt. In blogging, he comments generated by posts can often be more interesting and informative than the post itself.

Opportunities for Political Mischief

I personally believe that U.S. debt is not a “crisis,” particularly with the economy now expanding. It would be crazy to derail the expansion, which will do much to mitigate debt, by sharply cutting government spending.

But as you can see from the graphic at Fix The Debt., the debt is an issue that’s not going away. Plenty of opportunities (speed bumps) for mischief between now and 2014 elections.

Just my opinion.  — John Hayden

Sequestration In America, Dancing On Wall Street, Pain In Maryland And Virginia

As I write this on Tuesday, the Dow-Jones Index has hit an all-time high. It’s historic! Higher than the last record, set in 2007.

Sequestration, which I call Austerity, took effect on Friday.

Devastating economic pain is predicted throughout America, although some exaggeration is baked into the “sky-is-falling” rhetoric.

Exaggeration or no exaggeration, economic growth has been sluggish. Sequestration of $85 billion in federal spending will slow the economy even more.   Continue reading

The Truth About Sequestration And Democracy, According to One Humble American

“Sequestration” went into effect in America this week, reducing U.S. government spending by $85 billion.

What does it mean? It means that the United States has accepted “Austerity.” 

It’s not the end of the world. The vast majority of U.S. government spending will continue as usual. The government will not grind to a halt, at least not because of sequestration. It’s still possible that Congress could force a shut-down of government sometime in the future, but not likely this year.

Failure of Government Decision-making

Most interestingly, Austerity was NOT imposed by the normal processes of legislative or executive action.  Continue reading

Can A Ship Sail Right Over The Edge Of The Earth?

“The U.S no longer has a well-functioning self-government. . . .  American democracy has been hacked. The United States Congress, the avatar of the democratically elected national legislatures in the modern world, is now incapable of passing laws without permission from the corporate lobbies and other special interests that control their campaign finances.” 

The above quote is from Al Gore’s new book, “The Future.” It makes sobering reading as the U.S. ship of state drifts, apparently rudderless, toward “sequestration.” Is the bridge abandoned? Have the helm and the engine room broken down?

I don’t understand the panic over sequestration, but I am concerned about the ability of U.S. government institutions to function. Continue reading