Sunday, July 30, 2023

Last Call For The Loan Arranger Rides Again

The SCOTUS argument as to why President Biden's COVID-era student loan forgiveness program had to die was because the executive didn't have the authority from Congress to run the program under emergency rules. The Biden administration has responded with "We do have explicit authority to modify student loans under the Education Department and we're going to use it."

The SAVE, or Saving on a Valuable Education, plan was finalized after the Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s student debt forgiveness initiative in June. It marks a significant change to the federal student loan system that could lower monthly loan payments for some borrowers and reduce the amount they pay back over the lifetime of their loans.

“Part of the president’s overall commitment is to improve the student loan system and reduce the burden of student loan debt on American families,” a senior administration official said, previewing the beta website first to CNN. “The SAVE plan is a big part of that. It is important in this moment as borrowers are getting ready to return to repayment.”

Federal student loan borrowers can access the beta website at The enrollment process is estimated to take 10 minutes, and many sections can be automatically populated with information the government has on hand, including tax returns from the IRS, administration officials said.

“We will be able to show borrowers their exact monthly payment amount and give them the ability to choose the most affordable repayment plan for them,” one official said.

Borrowers will only need to apply one time, not yearly as past systems require, which officials said would make this plan “much easier to use.” Users will receive a confirmation email once the application is submitted, and the approval process, which can be tracked online, is expected to take a few weeks.

Those already enrolled in the federal government’s REPAYE, or Revised Pay As You Earn, income-driven repayment plan will be automatically switched to the new plan.

The full website launch will occur in August, and applications submitted during the beta period will not need to be resubmitted. The beta period will allow the Department of Education to monitor site performance in real time to identify any issues, and the site may be paused to make any necessary updates, officials said.

The SAVE plan, which applies to current and future federal student loan borrowers, will determine payments based on income and family size, and some monthly payments will be as small as $0. The income threshold to qualify for $0 payments has been increased from 150% to 225% of federal poverty guidelines, which translates to an annual income of $32,805 for a single borrower or $67,500 for a family of four. The Education Department estimates this means more than 1 million additional borrowers will qualify for $0 payments under the plan.

Some borrowers could have their payments cut in half when the program is in full effect next year and see their remaining debt canceled after making at least 10 years of payments, a significant change from previous plans.

With the new plan, unpaid interest will not accrue if a borrower makes their full monthly payments.

But the new plan does come at a cost to the federal government. Estimates of the program’s expense have varied depending on how many borrowers sign up for the new plan, but they range from $138 billion to $361 billion over 10 years. By comparison, Biden’s student loan forgiveness program was expected to cost about $400 billion.

The Education Department has created similar income-driven repayment plans in the past and has not faced a successful legal challenge, officials noted.

The beta site launch comes as borrowers will need to begin making federal student loan payments again in October after a pause of more than three years because of the pandemic.

The question now becomes how quickly Republicans will sue to block the program and send it to the Supreme Court.  They will find their federal judge to block the program, and we'll see how fast they move to get it to SCOTUS to end it. I'm betting they will get it blocked in the next few months, but delay any further legal action until after summer 2024. After the election, if Trump wins, he'll just end the program in 2025 or better yet, just have SCOTUS do it so he can say "Oh well I tried" and blame SCOTUS justices who won't face a lick of accountability. If Biden gets a second term, same thing happens.

The trillion-dollar-plus student loan industry that owns SCOTUS conservatives won't let this stand. This will be blocked before the October deadline and the hundreds of billions in student loan repayments will crash the economy by early next year.

Everyone will blame Biden, and then Trump wins easily.

That'll be the plan. Whether it works, well, you tell me.

Climate Of Destruction, Con't

CNN's Elia Nilsen realizes that Republicans have no solution to the climate crisis, or more specifically, that the Republican solution is to do nothing. House Republicans like Rep. John Curtis and Sen. Mitt Romney, both of Utah, realize their states will be the first to be rendered unsustainable, but they will be shouted down by the rest of the GOP beholden to energy interests and Donald Trump.

While at a recent event at a natural gas drilling site in Ohio, as smoke from Canada’s devastating wildfire season hung thick in the air, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was asked how he would solve the climate crisis. He suggested planting a trillion trees to help offset the pollution created by burning fossil fuels – a bill House Republicans introduced in 2020. The measure has not yet passed the House and has an uncertain future in the Senate.

But the biggest and most enduring difference between the two parties is that Republicans want fossil fuels – which are fueling climate change with their heat-trapping pollution – to be in the energy mix for years to come.

Democrats, meanwhile, have passed legislation to dramatically speed up the clean energy transition and prioritize the development of wind, solar and electrical transmission to get renewables sending electricity into homes faster.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Democrats want to pass more climate legislation if they take back a full majority in Congress. He later told CNN the GOP is “way behind” on climate and there’s been “too little” progress on the party’s stances.

“I think we’d get a lot more done with a Democratic House, a Democratic president and continuing to have a Democratic Senate,” Schumer told CNN. “Unfortunately, if you look at some of the Republican House and Senate Super PACs, huge amounts of money come from gas, oil and coal.”

Even though Curtis and Romney are aligned on the party needing to talk about climate change, they differ on how to fix it. While Curtis primarily supports carbon capture and increased research and development into new technologies, Romney is one of the few Republicans speaking in favor of a carbon tax – taxing companies for their pollution.

“It’s very unlikely that a price on carbon would be acceptable in the House of Representatives,” Romney said. “I think you might find a few Republican senators that would be supportive, but that’s not enough.”

The idea certainly doesn’t have the support of Trump, or other 2024 candidates for president, and experts predict climate policy will get little to no airtime during the upcoming presidential race.

“Regrettably, the issue of climate change is currently being held hostage to the culture wars in America,” Edward Maibach, a professor of climate communication at George Mason University and a co-founder of a nationwide climate polling project conducted with Yale University, told CNN in an email. “Donald Trump’s climate denial stance will have a chilling effect on the climate positions of his rivals on the right — even those who know better.”

Even if climate-conscious Republicans say Trump won’t be in the party forever, Inglis said even a few more years may not be enough time to counteract the rapid changes already happening.

“That’s still a long way away,” Inglis said. “The scientists are saying we can’t wait, get moving, get moving.”
Understand Trump's position will be the party's position, and that is "doing anything about the climate is liberal Democrat 'Green Fascism' where you and your family will be forced to live in third world poverty because gas, meat, electricity and technology are too expensive." 

It's a strawman so huge it should be in a Nick Cage movie, but they'll yell about "EAT THE BUGS" and we'll continue to set the world on fire until that gets stopped., either by the planet, or by other nations who will see us as a threat that has to be dealt with.

Sunday Long Read: The Mountain Of Fear

This week's Sunday Long Read has The Believer's Joshua Hunt take us on a trip to Japan's Osorezan -- Mount Fear -- as he deals with the death of his uncle among the surreal landscape of the ancient temples, trails, and travails.
In January 2023, while waiting to board a plane in Stockholm, I saw how swiftly grief can take hold of a person. In a quiet corner of Arlanda Airport, it unfolded before me like a scene from a movie: an older woman answered her cell phone, listened for a few moments to the voice on the other end, then burst into tears. Her anguish was so immediate, and so visceral, that it could only have been the worst kind of news—the end of a marriage, a dream, or a life. Not just any life, though: one so precious to her that its end was immediately comprehensible.

It was this immediacy that struck me as cinematic, because in real life, or at least in my life, death is many other things before it is something I can cry about. Last year, when my uncle Bill died of a heart attack at age fifty-seven, months passed before I could even conceive of his absence. He meant more to me than any other man, including my father, and yet his death was not at once fathomable to me. It landed with no impact I could make sense of; robbed of the clarifying weight of tragedy, I experienced his death first as an inconvenience. An obstacle. A disturbance that immediately complicated my life, or at least my career, which is what I had instead of a life. The instincts that had helped lift me out of poverty had also made it hard to slow down, and so I lived as if on the run. Next stop: Tokyo, where I planned to cement my relationship with a big American magazine by writing the definitive profile of a major Japanese novelist.

These plans started taking shape in May 2022, when the lease on my apartment in Brooklyn, New York, was coming to an end. The rent was going up so much that renewing it seemed like a gamble I wasn’t likely to collect on. Instead, I decided to do the responsible thing: put my stuff in storage, fly to Tokyo, and spend three months living in a modestly priced hotel while I wrote the story. I’d lived in Japan before, and going back after two years away seemed like the best shot I had at shaking off my malaise. It was also my best shot at producing a story that might take my writing career to the next level—a level that would put me in a position to take the occasional rent increase in stride.

By the end of the first week in June, I’d made it only as far as Manhattan, where a friend had invited me to house-sit while his family was on vacation. I was in their downtown apartment when I got the phone call about my uncle Bill. In bed but not yet asleep, I picked up the second of two late-night phone calls from my mom. Crying, and almost certainly a bit drunk, she told me that her little brother was gone, and all I could say was “Oh no.” When our call ended, a little after midnight, I couldn’t sleep, so I listened to old voicemail messages from my uncle. The most recent one was dated December 25, 2021: “Merry Christmas, Josh. I love you. It’s Uncle Bill. Hope you’re having a wonderful day. Talk to you later. Bye.”

I was meant to visit him three weeks after he left that message, but on the morning of my flight to Juneau, Alaska, I tested positive for COVID-19. I’d contracted the virus while working on a story in New Mexico—my first profile for the magazine I hoped to impress by flying halfway around the world to interview a novelist. While listening to old messages from my uncle, I dwelled bitterly on two unfulfilled promises I had made when calling to say I couldn’t make it home in January: the first was that I would get to Alaska and see him again soon; the second was that he was going to love the profile I had been working on in New Mexico. It ended up being published ten days after he died.

With my flight to Japan booked, and my nonrefundable accommodations paid for in advance, I had a narrow window for making it to the potlatch that would serve as my uncle Bill’s memorial. In Tlingit culture—our culture—the memorial potlatch has traditionally served as both a funerary ritual and a proto-capitalist one; for centuries, our departed were sent on their way with singing, dancing, food, and an ostentatious display of the wealth they would leave behind for others. These days, the banquets tend to resemble any other family cookout, and not many of our people have much wealth to leave behind. A few years ago, I met a man who put off his dad’s potlatch long enough for the carving of a large memorial totem, which struck me as the height of Tlingit opulence. My uncle Bill had left nothing behind, though, because he’d had so little, and because he had shared what little he had so freely. His potlatch proceeded as soon as a small wooden box with an image of an orca was carved to receive his ashes. By that time, though, my window of opportunity for attending had closed.

My mom sent me an announcement for the memorial service, which I perused on my phone during a layover on my way to Tokyo. In a quiet corner of Los Angeles International Airport, a dull pain grew sharper as I stared at the photograph they had chosen. It shows my uncle Bill standing on a beach on the outskirts of Juneau, bathed in sunlight passing through the sieve of an overcast sky. It is October 28, 2021, and in a few hours he will drive me to the airport for the last time. First we drive back to town, though, and along the way a double rainbow appears in the distance. He slows the pickup truck, then eases it over to the side of the road. He makes a dumb joke and asks me to take a picture of the two rainbows. When I send it to him later, I include another photo I took just a bit earlier. In it he is standing on the beach, dressed in jeans and a Carhartt shirt, smiling like he can already see the rainbows waiting just up the road.


It's a good story. 

And tell the people whom you love that you do love them. Eventually you won't have that chance anymore.

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