On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a wide-ranging plan to fix the U.S. college system, with proposals including making two-year and four-year public college free and expanding the size and scope of the federal Pell Grant program.
And one particularly radical idea is sure to grab the attention of young people around the country: wiping out student loan debt for the vast majority of American borrowers.
“The time for half-measures is over,” Warren, one of many politicians and public figures hoping to secure the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, wrote in a post published Monday on Medium. “My broad cancellation plan is a real solution to our student debt crisis. It helps millions of families and removes a weight that’s holding back our economy.”
Last year, outstanding student debt in the U.S. topped $1.5 trillion, a growing financial burden that Warren argues is “crushing millions of families and acting as an anchor on our economy.”
“It’s reducing home ownership rates,” she wrote. “It’s leading fewer people to start businesses. It’s forcing students to drop out of school before getting a degree. It’s a problem for all of us.”
To address the problem, Warren is suggesting what she calls a “truly transformational” approach: wiping out $50,000 in student loan debt for anyone with a household income below $100,000. People with student loans and a household income between $100,000 and $250,000 would receive substantial relief as well. At that point, “the $50,000 cancellation amount phases out by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000,” Warren wrote.
That means someone with a household income of $130,000 would get $40,000 of their loans wiped out. Someone with a household income of $160,000 would get $30,000 in relief.
People with household incomes above $250,000 would not be eligible for debt cancellation.
Under Warren’s proposed plan, up to 76 percent of households with student loan debt would receive “total loan forgiveness,” according to an economic analysis of the proposal by academics at Arizona State University, Brandeis University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Ninety-five percent, or 42 million Americans, would be eligible to have at least some of their debt canceled.
The plan would particularly benefit black, Latino and lower-income households, as well as households headed by people who never finished college, the researchers said. Wiping out the debt would cost the government an estimated $640 billion, they noted.
To make the process as painless as possible, student debt owned by the government would be canceled automatically after an analysis of borrowers’ income and outstanding debt, Warren said. Private student loan debt would be “eligible for cancellation” as well, but in those cases, “the federal government will work with borrowers and the holders of this debt to provide relief,” she said.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the influential American Federation of Teachers union, said in a prepared statement that Warren’s college proposals would be a “game-changer” for borrowers, and would prove to be “as consequential as the GI Bill” enacted after World War II.
“Sen. Warren’s plan would release Americans from their debt sentence so they can live their lives, care for their families and have a fair shot at the American dream,” Weingarten said.
Warren’s proposal also received praise from Seth Frotman, the former student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who stepped down last year in protest of what he saw as the Trump administration’s prioritization of “powerful financial companies” over borrowers.
“Student debt has become a crisis that can no longer be ignored,” Frotman said. “We need leaders who not only understand this crisis, but who put forth solutions to end it. Senator Warren’s proposal recognizes the scale of this crisis and rises to meet it.”
In her post, Warren lays out a litany of other college-related proposals as well. Like fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Warren wants to make two-year and four-year public colleges free by wiping out tuition and fees. She also wants to do more to help students pay for the growing cost of non-tuition expenses like room and board by investing an additional $100 billion in the Pell Grants program over the next decade, as well as expanding their size and who is eligible for them.
On top of that, Warren hopes to create a fund with a minimum of $50 billion to help historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions; prohibit “public colleges from considering citizenship status or criminal history in admissions decisions”; give additional funds to states that substantially improve enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color; and eventually cut for-profit colleges off from federal money.
“I commend Senator Warren for proposing solutions to rectify our student debt crisis and to provide universal race conscious access to a quality college degree,” said Darrick Hamilton, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. “This bold debt cancellation proposal, coupled with investments to let Americans graduate college without debt, offers an American promise of enabling access to a college education regardless of one’s race or families’ ability to pay.”
The plan to broadly cancel student debt and institute a universal free college program is estimated to cost a total of $1.25 trillion over 10 years. Warren claims the cost would be covered by passing a separate plan to annually tax the wealth of households worth more than $50 million.
The academics who analyzed the report argued that the overall cost would likely be offset by additional tax revenue that would come from the proposal itself, which they said would serve as a middle-class economic stimulus.
“Debt cancellation cascades to relieving thousands of dollars in interest payments while leaving several hundred dollars each month for consumption and investment,” the researchers wrote in a letter to Warren. “It would likely entail consumer-driven economic stimulus, improved credit scores, greater home-buying rates and housing stability, higher college completion rates, and greater business formation.”
Thus far in 2019, Warren has distinguished herself from other Democratic presidential candidates by regularly putting out innovative policy proposals, like her plans for universal child care and an annual wealth tax on the ultra-wealthy. On Friday, Warren made news on the non-policy front when she became the first Democratic presidential candidate to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
But the Massachusetts senator has also faced questions about the large size of her staff after only raising $6 million during the first quarter of the year ― a number that can be at least partially attributed to her decision to forego traditional big-donor fundraising tactics.
In her post on Monday, Warren argued that she began “sounding the alarm” on the student debt crisis long ago, noting that as a senator she has introduced bills to “provide relief to student borrowers” and “let people refinance their loans and lower their monthly payments.” She has also pressured the Department of Education to cancel thousands of “fraudulent” loans related to the now-dissolved for-profit Corinthian Colleges.
“We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that instead of treating higher education like our public school system ― free and accessible to all Americans ― they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families,” she wrote Monday.
“The student debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment,” she added. “It’s time to end that experiment, to clean up the mess it’s caused, and to do better.”
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NFL Champion Sends Message To Fellow Asian American Football Star Taylor Rapp
Asian American NFL prospect Taylor Rapp received a message from two-time Super Bowl champion Hines Ward, who’s also of Asian descent.
Ward, who dealt with his share of racism during his time in the NFL, had some uplifting words for Rapp, who’s awaiting Thursday’s draft, captured in a promo video.
“I know you’ve heard it before: ’Asians can’t play football,’” Ward says in the video. “I still remember the first time I heard it. But I learned something too. those words can be a gift. You can feed off that energy. Turn that hate into wins.”
He concludes: “So Asians can’t play football, huh? I’d say we’re pretty darn good.”
Asians make up less than 2 percent of the players in the NFL. While Ward was an extremely successful player in the league, becoming Super Bowl MVP back in 2003, he found himself the target of bigotry throughout his career. Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Ward spoke out against the deluge of racist remarks and jokes made toward Japan and reflected on his own experiences as an Asian.
“I’ve been dealing with this my whole life. I still remember being called the Jackie Chan of football,” he told ESPN.
Regardless, Ward has emerged a champion for Asian Americans. In 2010, the former NFL player was sworn into the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a group appointed by the president to help improve and increase access to opportunities for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Rapp himself has been transparent about the struggles he’s faced as an Asian American football player with NFL ambitions. He revealed to NFL.com that growing up as one of the rare Asian faces on the field, he was often taunted. He subsequently wrestled with his own identity.
“They make fun of how you look ― your eyes, the widened, slanted eyes. There were a few instances where I was called the Ch-word. It was offensive to me. It made me embarrassed of who I was,” he said. “That’s why I never embraced it growing up. I was different than everyone else, and I didn’t want to be.”
Since then, Rapp has grown to be proud of his heritage, displaying several conspicuous Chinese tattoos. And with guidance from fellow players who could relate to Rapp’s struggle, as well as the encouragement of Asians on social media who look up to the player, Rapp is now looking to be a role model for others.
“To me, it’s about gaining a platform that will help inspire a generation of Chinese and Asian American kids,” he told NFL.com. “I don’t want to be just an answer to a trivia question; I want to inspire and have a real impact.”
Leader Of Anti-Immigrant Militia Group Attacked In Jail, Lawyer Says
SUNLAND PARK, N.M., April 24 (Reuters) ― The leader of an armed group that spent the past two months detaining migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, drawing condemnation from civil liberties advocates, has been hospitalized after he was attacked in jail, his attorney said.
Larry Hopkins, 69, was in a hospital with broken ribs after being attacked on Tuesday at the Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces in southern New Mexico, attorney Kelly O’Connell said.
A spokeswoman for the Dona Ana County center did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The attack occurred the same day Hopkins’ United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) group abandoned its border camp near Sunland Park, New Mexico, where they had spent two months detaining thousands of illegal migrants.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week accused Hopkins’ group of being a fascist, white nationalist militia illegally detaining and kidnapping Central American families seeking asylum.
O’Connell said he had spoken with Hopkins by phone.
“This guy is very high-profile. So, if he gets put into jail and is immediately attacked after his first hearing just a few days after being put in there, can Dona Ana County correctional protect high-profile defendants?” O’Connell asked.
O’Connell said he did not know why Hopkins had been targeted. But a spokesman for his UCP paramilitary group said he believed it was because of his activity at the border.
“They put him in a pod cell with a group of people and they had just got done watching the article about the ACLU writing about him being racist, and as a result of that he was attacked,” UCP spokesman Jim Benvie said in a video posted online.
New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday said the UCP’s activities had to stop, and the FBI arrested Hopkins the next day on gun charges based on a 2017 search of his home.
Benvie said the UCP was moving to another campsite in a couple of days and would continue to support the U.S. Border Patrol as it faced an “invasion” of migrants, most of whom it said are fraudulently seeking asylum.
“We do have a private property location on the border that we have secured,” said Benvie. “We will not be going anywhere, we will be on an area where we can continue to do what we’ve done.”
The Border Patrol has said it does not support private citizens acting as law enforcement.
(Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)
Labour reveals plan to put £1.3bn a year back into local bus services
Labour would spend £1.3bn a year to reverse recent cuts to local bus services as a means of boosting communities and helping the environment, the party has announced.
The scheme, which Labour said would improve services on 3,000 bus routes around the country, would be funded using revenue raised from vehicle excise duty (VED).
Jeremy Corbyn has raised the issue of poor local bus services at prime minister’s questions, arguing that cuts since 2010 have left many older and vulnerable people isolated, especially in poorer areas, and that such policies lead to greater car use.
The party has already pledged to regulate bus services by putting local services into public ownership and offering free bus travel to under-25s.
The policy was due to be formally announced by the Labour leader and the shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, on Thursday in Nottingham, where the Labour council runs the bus fleet.
Under a plan drawn up under the David Cameron government, from the 2020-21 financial year VED revenue will be hypothecated, meaning it is pre-allocated for certain spending rather than, as is true for most tax, added to the general pot.
The Conservative plan was to spend the hypothecated money on road building, but Labour says it would instead set up a sustainable transport fund, part of which would fund bus services.
The £1.3bn sum a year would reverse what Labour says has been a £645m annual real-terms cut to bus funding since 2010, and invest the same amount on top. Citing government figures, Labour said bus coverage in Britain was at a 30-year low, while outside London the number of passenger journeys had fallen by 10% since 2010.
Corbyn said: “Bus services have been devastated by nine years of austerity. Thousands of routes have been axed, fares have soared and passenger numbers are in freefall. Local services are a lifeline for many, particularly the elderly and those in rural areas. Cuts have had disastrous consequences for our towns and city centres and for air pollution and the environment.
“Bus networks are essential for towns and cities and for tackling rural poverty and isolation, which is why Labour is committed to creating thriving bus networks under public ownership.”
The Conservative MP Marcus Jones, the party’s vice-chair for local government, said Labour’s plans for the VED money would mean “they would have to clobber motorists with tax hikes and slash funding for road repairs to pay for it”.
He said: “Along with their plans to put politicians in Westminster in charge of running local bus services, their pledge to slash funding for roads and their calls to increase fuel duty, this just proves they are not on the side of hardworking families who rely on their vehicles.”
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