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The Killing of American Higher Education (Part 2)

The Dirty, Rotten, Crooked, Broken, Student Loan System and the Immoral Bankers, Brokers, Collectors, and Corrupt Politicians Who Make Billions Off of it While the Courts Garnish Wages and Destroy Lives

Alan J. Yeck

The Age of Darkness, Greed, and Gnashing of Teeth

“It was lip-smacking,” wrote an employee of the student debt collection industry after witnessing a student loan debt protest where students wrote across their shirts the huge amounts of debt they owed.

Lip-smacking. These are the people from the loan “servicing” companies, the other end of the phone calls, the other end of the letters and emails, the other end of human decency. It’s as if by taking out a student loan, you unknowingly sold your soul to the devil.

One in four borrowers will be forced into default, or approximately one million every year, but that will increase. The dollar amount of defaulted loans is more than the tuition for all public colleges. Since the federal government can seize tax returns, garnish wages, and garnish social security payments, the agencies contracted to recover the defaults are doing very well. Very, very well.

The New (and improved) Mortgage Crisis Instrument: SLABS

Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (SLABS). Do you understand what these are and how they make you a lot of money? No? That’s because you’re not supposed to. There is much more detailed, complex information on how these “financial instruments” work but here are the major points you need to understand – let the scales fall from your eyes.

The top three student loan collection agencies also lead with the most issuance of SLABS are Navient, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and Nelnet (all are being sued for a variety of illegal operations). They work in collaboration with help from our buddies at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, et al. These are the same firms and people that brought you the 2007-2010 residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) crisis that foreclosed on over a million homes, who were then bailed out by the U.S. tax payer in the neighborhood of $30 trillion. Goldman Sachs awarded record bonuses that same year to the very people who caused the collapse. This group of bottom dwellers sell your student loans to investors (over $1.5 trillion in SLABS currently outstanding). These investors receive monthly loan payment and interest. Navient, PHEAA and Nelnet receive the cash, fees and commissions, which allows them to continue making more loans, while the risk is pushed to the investor.

The Higher Education Act and SLABS: A Marriage Made in Hell

Now here’s where you can see the scum rise to the surface. In 1992, federal policy from the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed student loan companies to avoid regulatory oversight. This is the same time period that student loans jumped $10 billion in two years with many changes to the HEA reauthorizations allowing more money to more people regardless of income, credit history or ability to repay. The most SLABS were sold between 2005 and 2007, with 2005 being the same year that all student loan debt was exempted from bankruptcy.

Because the market corrector of bankruptcy was stripped away from these citizens’ rights, they are on the hook for life, so SLABS are insured by the federal government which means if a loan goes into default they will garnish wages, tax returns, and social security benefits. A defaulting student borrower now owes more due to interest and fines and with the help of the federal government the investor now makes more money. Defaulting is good business for those unique people who have no interest in humanity or our country. It incentivizes the lenders to continue to make risky loans while the government protects them and the investors – everyone but the student borrowers who are then consumed, bones and all.

Over the last 10 years those “servicing” agencies have made record profits, as have those brokerage houses from these financial instruments selling your debt and profiting even more when a loan goes into default and the interest begins to substantially increase the amount owed. These institutions know that since there is no bankruptcy option available, those borrowers are forced to pay for life – debtors’ prison. “Sure, go into default and we’ll take your tax returns and garnish whatever wages you make.” Brilliant in the most diabolical way.

Borers Maggots of Our Political System

Borer maggots from beetles and moths tunnel and feed under a trees bark, in the darkness unseen by the light of day as they destroy the water and sap tissues in the tree. This causes girdling or strangulation which weakens the structure and causes the branches to dieback to the eventual death of the tree. Millions of acres are destroyed every year. Political lobbyists are the borer maggots of our political system.  It’s not about presenting a viewpoint or idea. It’s about buying influence, and they spend a lot of money doing it. Where your vote ends, which is immediately after the election, lobbyists step in to ensure that they get the legislation they want to happen, not what is best for you or the country but for them and who pays their salaries.

Source of Funds are PACs, Super PACs, Individuals – an average would be 60 percent to Republican candidates and 40 percent to Democratic candidates. Both parties get to be in on the take.

The student loan industry has their maggots deep in the House, Senate, Executive Branch and the Department of Education and the damage they’ve created cannot be hidden any longer.

About $90.92 million has been spent lobbying since 1998 (the Center for Responsive Politics based on data from the Senate Office of Public Records).

Student loan companies spent $11,072,047 (the Center for Responsive Politics based on data from the Senate Office of Public Records) on campaign contributions to Congress over last 9 election cycles (2002 – 2018). For 2019, Navient alone spent $1,000,000 dollars lobbying congress, the Department of Education and the Office of the Vice President.

I went back to school in 40’s to get a better job. I got an Associate, Bachelors and a Masters. Almost 9 years later I don’t have a better job but I have almost $80,000 of debt. No matter how much I pay the balance doesn’t go down. I am at my wits end. I don’t know what to do. I barely have gas money to get to work to pay this bill,” said LaDean Mitchell.

Defiance. We Must Fight!

I cannot keep up with all the lawsuits filed in the last several years against the student loan industry including the (self) servicing agencies, Department of Education, Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and their new leader Kathy Kraninger. What I want you to understand is that system is completely and utterly broken and in complete chaos driven by unprecedented greed and corruption. Below is by no means a complete list.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed against Navient in 2017 (when Seth Frothman was still there fighting for American consumers) for “systematically and illegally failed borrowers at every stage of the repayment by”;

  • Steering borrowers toward more expensive forbearance instead of affordable repayment plans;
  • Misleading borrowers about the options available;
  • Processing payments incorrectly.

Attorneys General of California, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington as well as the Securities Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have launched investigations and/or filed lawsuits against this industry for fraud and unfair practices.

New York state sued the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), aka American Education Services. New York Attorney General Letitia James said they “failed miserably” in their servicing of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

I previously mentioned Seth Frothman, who resigned from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as its chief ombudsman over student loans. In his resignation letter to the than acting director Mick Mulvaney, Frothman stated the administration “has turned its back on young people and their financial futures…unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting…instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.”

The Celebration of Corruption

By the Department of Education accrediting (recognizing the validity and affirming the quality) any institution of higher education, they have done so on behalf of the students that are or would be attending. What has occurred is that for-profit institutions were accredited because of the money paid by these institutions to lobbyists and politicians – not because they were quality programs that would give the graduates the career promised them. Then they go out of business and those students who took out loans to attend are still on the hook for all the money those institutions took from them, or rather, have a barbed hook inserted through their spine by the federal government.

The National Student Legal Defense Network filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the Department of Education’s practices “caused students at the schools to borrow money and waste months of their lives in pursuit of an education they did not know was unaccredited.” In 2017, Dream Center Education Holdings purchased around 100 for-profit schools from Education Management Corporation. A few months later, some of these schools lost accreditation but students were still required to pay for the fraud perpetrated on them.

Recently, Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending filed a lawsuit again Betsy Devos on behalf of former students that were enrolled in for-profit schools operated by Corinthian Colleges that are now out of business.

Another lawsuit was filed by a non-profit student loan advocate group Student Debt Crisis, against DeVos and the Department of Education as well as against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its Director, Kathy Kraninger. This lawsuit alleges that because of mismanagement, over 40 million student loan borrowers ($1 trillion) are at risk of being cheated by the companies that administer their loans.

Kraninger, who is the head of an agency originally established to look after the interest of consumers including student loan borrowers, hired former Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (now being sued by Attorney General of New York) executive Robert G. Cameron as the agency’s student loan ombudsman. The shepherd has hired the wolf to oversee the flock. Why? Because the shepherd’s real job is keeping the fraudulent money flowing back to her masters in the higher ed student loan industry, not the sheep. Among many other destructive moves, Kraninger has also proposed a debt collection rule that would allow debt collectors to send unlimited texts and electronic communications to consumer as well as appointing Rebecca Steele, a former mortgage banker who was called the “new face of the housing crisis” to serve on the Consumer Advisory Board.

“In October 2013, The New York Times Referred To Rebecca Steele, Then Rebecca Mairone, As The “New Face Of The Housing Crisis” Due To Her Role In “Saddl[ing] The Housing Giants Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac With Bad Mortgages That Resulted In Over $1 Billion In Losses.” “More than five years after the housing bust, the roll call of banking executives who have been blamed by the public for the crisis has grown ever longer. But when it comes to top managers who have been hit with a jury verdict for pushing dubious mortgages, the list is small indeed. The new name added this week was Rebecca S. Mairone, a midlevel executive at Bank of America’s Countrywide mortgage unit, who was held liable by a federal jury in Manhattan for having saddled the housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with bad mortgages that resulted in over $1 billion in losses,” said Landon Thomas Jr.

I’m sure she’ll be of great help to the financial industry.

There are also numerous class action lawsuits ongoing about the loan industry’s deceptive practices and dirty dealings filed by unions, coalitions and individuals.

This is the second article in a five-part series by Alan J. Yeck reflecting on the student loan system, its challenges and the far-reaching effects it can have. Check back each Thursday for the latest installment. For a full works cited list, please view the last installment in the series.

We have the power to change the business of education back to a right for all. Contact your representatives and ask them to listen to these facts and national narratives.

Read part 1 of the series here

A History of Liars: The American Politician (Volume One)

Alan J. Yeck

This is the first part of a three-part series.


Introduction

I do not support any hate groups or any people or groups that exclude others based on any socio-political demographic. Hate is not a strategy. Its only purpose is to divide, destroy, and create more hatred. Do not allow yourself to be used by either side to this end. While I’m a registered Democrat, I have never pulled the party lever.

I look at the issues, what those running for office are saying on how they will address the issues, and then I vote. I’ve voted red, blue, green and even the occasional Libertarian sprinkled in to show my protest of the status quo.  At least that’s how I used to do it before I realized just how rigged and corrupt our political system is. I am completely, 100% nonpartisan – they all suck. They have allowed our country to get here by their actions and inactions and it has nothing to do with the will of the American people. 

The attack on the Capitol of January 6, 2021 was a tragic day in our country and just as tragic is that it wasn’t really a surprise. Was it to you? I have never identified with that particular group of people that went from the rally to the Capitol but do not think their intent was to overthrow the government, as many officials like to toss out to the media. I mean in a country that has millions of firearms, and I think it would be reasonable to say that group would have certainly have been gun owners, they were unarmed. Remember the old saying – ‘you don’t bring a spear to a revolution,’ (thanks Water Buffalo Lodge guy). 

We are a country born from violence and war and haven’t done much to change that in 245 years. And again, to be clear, I’m not defending them or their occupation/riot at all but it wasn’t an attempt to go from their rooms at Comfort Suites to overthrow our government. I mean they get a free breakfast so why screw that up? 

I heard the Speaker of the House call it an “…attack on the temple of democracy…” and later an NPR reporter referred to it as an “…attack on the museum of democracy…” I believe the latter to be a more accurate description – a museum is a place full of old stuff that doesn’t work anymore in today’s world.

Spot on!

The Capitol building is a beautiful, historic landmark. A beautiful building. Building. It is not a temple of democracy, or a synagogue of freedom, or a mosque of liberty. It is office space that we, the citizens (who are supposed to be in control of our government), allow the officials we elected to use. With how our country has been run in the last several decades we might have a better return if the space was leased to Amazon as a shipping hub. I think the return on investment would be much better than what the House and Senate do for us.

I am not upset that the building was occupied in protest but it might have been better served had the millions of Americans who sleep without a home every night been the occupiers. Or the millions imprisoned because prisons are the chosen mental health system of the government. I am upset that those inside the building feel they are the gatekeepers of freedom when the truth is, they often hold our freedoms hostage pending corporate approval. They protect their own asses and make money doing so. 

Democracy comes from the people only. It doesn’t reside in a building in D.C. that has a long history of liars and thieves occupying it. We the people, define our freedoms, our liberties, our justice, our systems but have been in a deep slumber for too long now, believing those we vote for have our best interest in mind.  We flipped on the auto pilot and happily watched Tom Brady and Lebron James instead of Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi. We passed the homeless on our way to see The Avengers defend our way of life. The water the children drank was full of lead but gas was cheap.  Rome was burning but at least the lions were distracting.  

My approach has always been, and will always be peaceful protest and in revolutionary thought, through electing those who promise to dissemble this dirty, political warhorse, funded by corporations that has controlled our wonderful country for much too long. True democracy back to the people. 

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

-Abraham Lincoln

This is the first article in a three-part series by Alan J. Yeck reflecting on the state of the American political system, its challenges and the far-reaching effects it can have.

We have the power to change American politics back to a system that serves the people, not the politicians. Contact your representatives and ask them to listen to these facts and national narratives.

The Killing of American Higher Education (Part 1)

The Dirty, Rotten, Crooked, Broken Student Loan System and the Immoral Bankers, Brokers, Collectors and Corrupt Politicians Who Make Billions Off of it While the Courts Garnish Wages and Destroy Lives

Alan J. Yeck

Introduction

The U.S. spends almost double that of anywhere else in the world on higher education and that’s before the interest charges are shackled upon the students. Nine million Americans are either in default, deferment or forbearance on their student loans with a million more each year. These students are Democrats, Republicans, African American, Caucasians, Latinx, Asian, Native American, young, old, married, divorced, LGBTQ, fathers, mothers—every single demographic that exists. It’s not a political party issue; it’s blatant criminal activity by our elected officials, their collection agencies and the Department of Education. For their own profit, they have created a life-long debt sentence for these students at the cost of our country’s future.

The student loan debt crisis didn’t just appear. The warning sirens have been blaring for over a decade with the causes going further back than that. The subprime mortgage crisis was also seen years before but again, the people who could have changed it, the politicians, chose to do nothing until it was too late and then they bailed out the firms to the tune of $30 trillion. That same year Goldman Sachs paid out record bonuses to the very people who caused it. Why was this allowed and why is the student loan debt allowed? Because nasty, rotten bankers, brokers, collection agencies, politicians and billionaires are making a great deal of money off of the dreams and misfortunes of students and the mismanagement of higher education (again allowed). Shame on them all. A pox on them all. There are solutions beyond the news bites and campaign rhetoric but solutions don’t pay as well.

The student debt crisis is not new. It wasn’t like a tornado that pops up with the warning sirens giving only minutes of notice before it destroys everything in its path. It has been in the making since the 1970s and touched down on land over a decade ago. It was seen then—sirens blaring, projected to get worse. The narrative never changed: Do not ignore this or very bad things will happen—and it has. Our elected officials didn’t just ignore it but instead they have actively, albeit quietly, ensured the system remained broken and has supported the loan “servicing” agencies in pushing their boots harder on the necks of borrowers for their own profits.

These numbers, including our $1.7 trillion student loan debt figures are always increasing so this is a snapshot of the first quarter of 2019:

  • Federal loan borrowers in repayment: 18.6 million.
  • Federal loan borrowers with loans in deferment: 3.4 million.
  • Federal loan borrowers with loans in forbearance: 2.7 million.
  • Federal loan borrowers with loans in default: 5.2 million.

11.3 million American citizens cannot make their payments. Twenty-five percent of all borrowers will go into default and that’s where the true ugly begins. At this point interest begins to quickly pile on and can double, triple, quadruple the original loan amount.

Once in default, the loan is sent to collections. This is also the point where the power finance players make their money. With the blessing of congress and the courts, wages are garnished, social security payments are garnished, tax refunds are taken in full, you are no longer eligible for deferments or forbearance, and your credit is ruined. This can also cost you your job, or prevent you from future employment. This will last until the loan is paid back or until death (except for private student loans where creditors can come after the estate).

How we reached this point can be very confusing (intentionally designed) so I’m going to attempt to deconstruct the main areas that facilitated the fraud and the areas that keep it going and growing. All of these issues have been previously reported by numerous journalists but have not always tied the relationships together of higher education, politicians (all branches of the federal government), collection/servicing agencies, financial institutions, billionaires and how they worked and continue to work together to commit such a monumental deception on the American public.

Beware phony advocates for reform that appear to speak on your behalf with partial fixes but do so just to ensure there are no real changes to the system that would result in any financial losses for themselves and the masters they serve. The predatory student loan industry exists because our elected officials are either corrupt themselves, don’t take the time to truly understand all the complex aspects of the abuse and fraud in the system (they choose to listen to the industry’s own lobbyists instead of their own constituents), or are just plain morons. Regardless, all kill American higher education.

The American student loan system—government loansharking enforced with judicial muscle. The mafia never had it so good.

No Good Deed Goes Unexploited

It is important to understand the history of how we arrived at our current crisis, because as I said it’s not new, it didn’t just happen last year. It was not only allowed but designed, fed and encouraged to be the devious monster that exists today. This is not the complete history but what is needed to bring us to today.

1944. The GI Bill was established to reward veterans who served their country during World War II to catch up with those Americans who remained in college during this time. Prior to this, many of these people would never have been able to afford to go to college before or after their service. This is really the first involvement we see of the federal government assisting citizens who didn’t have the wealth to attend college on their own. There were advocates who wanted this extended beyond veterans to allow more Americans to benefit from higher education, but the majority members of congress felt that since they never received that, no one else should either. No free rides was the mantra.

1958. The “Red Menace” swept the country and with Russia’s launch of Sputnik. Congress sponsored low-interest loans under national security. It’s of interest to also note that the National Defense Education Act also included debt cancellation for those students who became teachers. There was still no support for need- or academic-based undergraduate funding.

1965. President Johnson and the 89th Congress enacted the Higher Education Act (HEA). Title IV was the first true federal government commitment to providing college opportunity to students in need. This included the Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL) and College Work-Study Programs which also applied to middle-income families. Because the cost of education was somewhat affordable then, any loans to the middle class would have been a small percentage of the program. Enrollments increased and student aid appropriations took the lion’s share compared to other domestic social programs.

1972. This was a big year in higher education. The reauthorization of the HEA laid the foundation for today’s student loan system including establishing the term “postsecondary” to recognize that not everyone needed a four-year bachelor’s degree but did need further education of some sort. This would allow financial aid for those students attending community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and students attending part-time. The reauthorization also included:

  • Pell Grants began as a way students could directly receive federal aid beyond the campus-based programs.
  • Private schools were now allowed to participate fully in receiving these monies.
  • State Incentive Grants, which provided matching dollars to help states expand their need-based grants.
  • Hidden quietly in the darkest corners of Title IV where mold feeds and vermin defecate, they established the Student Loan Marketing Association, AKA Sallie Mae, as a publicly chartered corporation to increase funding to guaranteed student loans (GSL).

The Old Sons of Bitches

In the early 1970s, while the protests of the Vietnam War were still in full swing on college campuses throughout the country, legislators became paranoid that these long-haired, lazy, hippie pinkos would use the bankruptcy system to get out of paying the federal government back for their student loans. (This was the early 70s and our government was completely controlled by wealthy, white men who did think like this.) This fear had nothing to do with reality and there was no evidence to support this position. At that time their main target was those pursuing medical and law degrees that were higher priced. Keep in mind that the degree costs were a small fraction compared to today’s tuition.

In 1973 the Congressional Commission on the Bankruptcy Laws of the United States issued a report which included that student loan debt cannot be discharged for five years after graduation. Three years later the Education Amendments of 1976, Section 439A, was adopted even though the Government Accounting Office reported less than one percent of student loans had gone to bankruptcy. Now, no student loans could be discharged in bankruptcy until five years after graduation, or unless the borrower could prove repayment imposed “undue hardship” (which was never defined by the law makers). While this passed it did have more than a few critics. Michigan Congressman James O’Hara stated that establishing this “treats educational loans precisely as the law now treats loans incurred by fraud, felony, and alimony-dodging. No other legitimately contracted consumer loan … is subjected to the assumption of criminality which this provision applies to every educational loan.”

In 1978, with the passage of the Bankruptcy Reform Act, the exception to bankruptcy discharge of student loans was moved from the Higher Education Act to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code at 11 USC 523(a)(8). While Congress sought to reverse the earlier exception, the Senate’s version prevailed maintaining the inability to discharge student loans for five years and adding that it applied to loans backed by the government and nonprofit institutions of higher education.

In 1979, Congress wanted to address the problem of lack of participation by lenders (although this wasn’t known to be a problem by anyone) so they quietly passed an amendment giving banks a higher rate of return on student loan by linking them with changes in Treasury bill rates. Prior to this the government set a cap on what lenders would make. With banks making more money, the student loan industry was born.

Just because the corrupt say it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s still not corrupt.

The Noose Tightens

1986-92. Loan volume shot up again after the 1986 and 1992 Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorizations. In 1990, the Crime Control Act extended the period before student loans could be discharged in bankruptcy from five years to seven years and then a year later the statute of limitations on defaulted loans, six years, was totally eliminated by the Higher Education Technical Amendments. There was a failed push to increase Pell Grants to reduce the reliance on loans and instead Congress raised the borrowing limits of students and created a new unsubsidized loan for the middle-class that was no longer based on financial need. This meant anyone could now take on a student loan regardless of their income or parents’ income. Smelling more money could be made off of the well-meaning, caring, loving parents, they also uncapped the Parent Loan (PLUS) program. Now parents could borrow, on behalf of their children, the full amount of their children’s’ educational costs. Because of these changes, enrollment took off and in a two-year period the amount borrowed increased over $10 billion.

The Student Loan Reform Act of 1993 revised how loans are serviced and financed, allowing for more students to take out more loans. This also established an income-based repayment plan stretching out to a home mortgage length of 25 years. The Department of Education responded by creating more than 70 complex rule-making packages, further complicating the regulatory process for students, schools and the government itself.

By 1998 the Higher Education Amendments, Section 971 eliminated the seven year period required before a student loan could be discharged in bankruptcy. There had been no debates or hearings on this prior to President Clinton signing the bill into law. This meant there was no longer a statute of limitations nor could student loans even be considered for bankruptcy – ever, unless the ambiguous, indeterminate, undefined “undue hardship” provision could be proven.

In 2005 the final nail was hammered into the hands of student borrowers by Congress with the passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. This meant all federal and private educational loans were excepted from bankruptcy discharge unless the undefined “undue hardship” could be proven (note: you have a better chance of being hit by lighting, which would probably be a welcome relief to my student loan borrowers, than having a judge dismiss a student loan in bankruptcy).

The politicians, with help from their financial keepers, knew by now that money, lots and lots of money, could be made off of student borrowers. By increasing funding to everyone, by ensuring every kind of nonprofit and private educational institution was eligible to receive federal and private loans, by supporting the skyrocketing costs of higher education, by removing the only tool that could provide some kind of market correction (bankruptcy), and by placing student loan debt in the financial markets (SLABS) which allowed those on the inside to make billions of dollars, they had successfully created the most devious, destructive system ever in the history of the United States.

This is the first article in a five-part series by Alan J. Yeck reflecting on the student loan system, its challenges and the far-reaching effects it can have. Check back each Thursday for the latest installment. For a full works cited list, please view the last installment in the series.

We have the power to change the business of education back to a right for all. Contact your representatives and ask them to listen to these facts and national narratives.

Fear Based Leadership

By Alan J. Yeck

A letter of support was requested by a well-known, highly respected community entity for a grant they were submitting that would address extreme poverty in the area. They were not asking for anyone to commit to financial support or any type of in-kind resources but just a note on letterhead saying the project was worthwhile and that the business wholeheartedly supports it (not uncommon in grant applications at all). They had received several other letters already but because this organization actually participated with them in other community committees their support was a natural flow, or should have been a natural flow. These types of letters of support can easily be done by mid-level management but at this particular company ‘only the president has the authority to sign these.’ Fine, have the president sign it.

Weeks later this manager received an email reminder about the letter of support – the community organization still have not received anything from them and the deadline for submitting the grant was fast approaching. The mid-level manager had a meeting with the president that day and it would be mentioned in their discussions – ‘should not be a problem.’ That afternoon, after not hearing, it was brought back up again and they were told that the president was never asked to sign it. Why?

Fear.

This mid-level manager was told by a senior executive not to mention the grant to the president that day because she was upset with one of her vice presidents who didn’t do what he was supposed to do with a similar grant. The deadline passed and they did not provide the requested letter of support. The manager was left hung out to dry and had to face the organization that they didn’t help a few weeks later at another committee meeting. As far as they knew, it was the error of that person, their incompetence as to why they didn’t provide the letter of support – not fear of the president. They couldn’t say, “Oh, sorry but apparently the president’s leaders and managers are scared shitless of her so they never asked.”

In these types of requests, especially from community organizations, you must see in your mind’s eye what the local newspaper headlines could be – “This Company Refuses to Help the Poor of Our Community!” They not only did NOT help this organization with their anti-poverty program, they alienated themselves from them all together. There was no reason for them not to issue a letter of support other than internal incompetence that thrives on fear and affected the entire business.

Besides the micromanagement from the executive offices, the need for absolute control, the organizational culture was that of fear and job security. A culture of fear existed for mid-level managers and produced the exact results one would think; system-wide ineptitude. 

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

By Alan J. Yeck

Just when I thought the political fruit cake couldn’t get any nuttier, I woke to the news that Hillary Clinton, in a discussion with Nancy Pelosi, shared her own conspiracy theory that President Trump called Vladimir Putin on the day of the riot at the Capital. I find myself going back and forth between being entertained by the moron platform (well used by both parties) to really pissed off that this is even in the news. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not? That’s why we wait for facts before holding public hearings. I don’t like Trump but I don’t like Biden either. I don’t like any of them and this is just another example of ‘why.’ Their intense, personal hatred of Trump comes first and foremost, well before issues that are affecting and destroying the American people on a daily basis. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord…and Hillary and Nancy. Don’t you wish they were that consumed with the fraudulent, student loan industry? Don’t you wish they spent their energy on campaign finance reform, or healthcare, or a distribution plan for the COVID vaccine? Don’t you wish all of them had their heads out of their asses and actually worked for the welfare of the American people? I do.

The next WTF moment came with two commercials on the networks; one was about TV news personality, Katie Couric, being interviewed by the news, about Trump. The other promo was about the news, interviewing CBS News White House correspondent, Major Garrett, on Trump. This is what we do now – the news interviews the news and makes it news when it’s not news at all. Again, I’m not defending nor supporting any of the politicians including Trump, but is it a surprise, to anyone in the country, how the mainstream news networks loathe Trump? I’m not saying they don’t have good reason – I’m saying they are news networks and not gossip tabloids (or shouldn’t be gossip tabloids). If you also loathe Trump do you need more loathing ammo? If you support Trump, does this ease your fears as we transition to a new Biden administration? Maybe try reporting on how much money from Super PACs go to which politicians? How about where the thousands upon thousands of lobbyists spend their time, and money, in Washington? How about using the power of the press to bring real, lasting change to a country desperately needing it, by real reporting and not a vendetta agenda. Do you understand that as you also seek your pound of old, white, flabby, flesh that you only create more mistrust in what you report on?  The only difference between you and The National Enquirer is…nothing. Except I did see Elvis in an Asheville head shop so the Enquirer’s reporting on that was true. 

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The Pandemic of American Politics

By Alan J. Yeck

It’s been a bit tough trying to write this week. So much information coming at us and so many emotions in the mix that it’s been hard to bring my thoughts to clarity. Then I saw a picture today and in it I found a few moments of focus. It was a picture of a short hose coming from a fire hydrant, attached to a larger PVC pipe with a dozen drinking taps on it. It’s a fresh water station on the streets of San Francisco for the homeless. There is not a better example of the biggest problem we face today in the United Sates but if you think I’m saying ‘homelessness’ is our biggest problem, you’re wrong. Our biggest problem, and it didn’t start with this administration but I promise you it will continue with the next, is how we address all of our problems- we treat the symptoms and not the causes. The problem isn’t providing drinking water to the homeless, it’s the homeless! Instead of addressing the causes of homelessness, e.g., mental health, affordable housing, life sustaining wages, education, etc., we hook up a hose to a device that is supposed to be used to put out structural fires and call it a day. The world leader in innovation does it again. The COVID-19 equivalent would be to never develop a vaccine and just treat the symptoms with Alka-Seltzer Cold and Flu. “Plop plop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” That should do it.

Meanwhile, on any given night in our country, more than 500,000 people go homeless every night, 40 million of us are living in poverty, 21 million are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, 10 million women and men are physically abused by their partners, with 700,000 children abused and neglected yearly  (the actual number is much higher because so many go unreported). And what is our mainstream solution? Our judicial system which ensures the extremely profitable prison system has a never-ending supply of customers.  We have 2.3 million people in 110 federal prisons, 1,833 state prisons, 3,134 local jails, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 218 immigration detention facilities (immigration is another problem where only the symptoms have been addressed), 80 Indian Country jails, state psychiatric hospitals, and military prisons. Prison is the largest treatment for mental health in the U.S. What I mean is that where so many Americans need mental health treatment (the root causes of incarceration, homelessness, drug abuse…) instead of making sure they can receive that, we treat the symptoms and sent them to prison where they are beaten, raped, abused and come out more likely to commit greater crimes than before they went in. Prison is like the ITT Tech of criminal instruction. It’s not good but we’re paying for it anyway. 

Those are just an example of some of the many troubles we need to deal with, head on. How do we address them, by finding the root causes or only treating symptoms? These are national issues that affect all of us therefore it is the responsibility of our government and elected officials to implement policies to make the positive changes. But they don’t do they? Why? 1) Follow the money. Always, follow the money. 2) Keep the people asleep. A person in California was asked, “why do you think there are so many homeless people here?” Her response was, “because we have nice weather.” That’s right, homelessness exists there because the weather is nice. OMFG! 1 and 2 working together are hard to beat, but not impossible. 

How do you feel the government systems we’ve been using are working for us? All of them, blue and red, are accountable for what the United States is today. All of them. Until we remove corporate and lobbying influences (the money) and expand the two-party system, the corruption will only continue. And the worst part? Me, you, and your sister too have allowed it. It is time for us to wake up from our social coma. Demand from those whom you vote for that they support this and if they don’t, then know they are why all of the above continues. They are why the capital was attacked, they are why democracy is dying, and they all make money from it. Vote for the person that agrees to make these changes in our system and restore democracy to the people. If they don’t, don’t vote for them.  Yes, it is just that simple. 

Be well and keep up the peaceful fight. 

Reflections on Higher Education Reform: “Free College” and the fallacy of the college degree as a necessity.

By Christiane Warren, Ph.D., Guest Contributor

January 15, 2021

In today’s public discourse both on and off university campuses, the overwhelming consensus asserts that a college degree has become a necessity, even a collective right to secure individual economic security and to address past and present wrongs of racial and economic inequality.  If the cost of college remains high, many students, and disproportionally this means, students of color, are unable to attain a college degree.  Thus, existing levels of social and economic inequality continue to persist and even grow, contrary to the long-cherished belief that a college education serves as the key to social mobility and economic stability.

The answer to this generally accepted causal connection, as offered by the incoming administration and its Progressive supporters, can be found in an expanded role of Federal funding and regulation aimed at removing financial barriers from college attendance. While noble in its basic sentiment, these ideas are highly problematic and largely unrealistic in their implementation. Furthermore, much of their justification is built on a flawed premise, shaded by ideological subjectivity, and will lead, not to greater equality, but only to the hastened demise of the American higher education structure.

To address the issue in detail, it is necessary to clarify the current crisis in its actual terms: The first assumption, that a college degree is a “must have” and thereby should be fully funded by the public, namely the taxpayer, is false. Not every person needs to, nor is academically able, to earn a college degree. Most jobs still do not require four years of study. By reducing the college degree to a means for obtaining employment, we lower its educational value and place an undue burden on many students, who are neither prepared for, nor truly need four years of intellectual study in abstract thinking and theoretical analysis to obtain employment and relative financial security. Most of today’s occupations can be entered into with an arguably improved, High School education and 18 months to 2 years of vocational skills acquisition.

Yet, many argue that the modern-day high school diploma no longer serves the needs of the 21st century workplace. The responsibility and cost of educating the American public has been displaced, largely on community colleges and state universities, where most under-prepared students attend. The need for additional services both in student activities and services along with the steep increase in assessment requirements, have greatly contributed to the growth in administrative costs.  Many educators place emphasis for reform here, demanding that colleges offer even more robust support systems, alter admission criteria and adjust course curricula to reflect the learning needs of academically under-prepared and financially marginalized students.

This acceptance of so-called “credential creep” as a fact due to the overall failure of many public high school systems, is inherently wrong and should be vigorously fought. Shifting the responsibility of general education from high school, which is free and mandatory, to colleges, which are voluntary and require payment, is contradictory to the tenets of equity and defies basic common sense.  It also further contributes to the escalation of costs and persistent educational inequality. When the educational responsibility of the secondary school system is transferred to post-secondary sector, society ends up paying twice for the same service and perpetuates instructional redundancies. Students spend additional time, financial aid, and energy, learning in college what society paid for them to learn while in high school. Not only does this deplete already limited public resources, but it also decreases their chances of success, and thus leads to greater drop-out and loan default rates.

Educators and reformers acknowledge the problem; however, they advocate for colleges to provide more support services in the name of racial and economic equity. Doing that, however, only exacerbates the original problem of inequality and further adds to the cost of higher education.

For those who truly seek reform, both for students and for society, the answers are far from easy. Points for exploration may be found in ending social promotion in public schools, curtailing systemic disciplinary discrimination against male students of color, raising the professional status of public-school teaching through recognition, salaries and support, and limiting the reliance on standardized testing as the primary measure of student achievement. By bolstering the depth and quality of the general education students achieve through their high school diploma across the board, the necessary community and critical skills, so valued can be acquired before leaving school. Thus, post-secondary learning can be either focused on acquiring specific job training skills or furthered in college for those who have both the inclination and ability to do so. Doing so should be preferable over lowering standards and expending money to teach the same course work again that was not processed in high school, during the first 2 years of college.  While on the surface, free college, especially with an emphasis on community college appears to be a laudable concept, however, on closer examination, it is based on flawed assumption and will inevitably prove to fall short of its social justice goals, while burdening the American taxpayer with an unsurmountable bill.

More About the Author

Guest author, Dr. Christiane Warren, Senior Consultant at Anna J Cooper Education Advocacy. Recognized for producing growth and cultivating success in the career and education space, Dr. Warren has served as tenured faculty, department chair and academic dean for entire divisions and in the Academic Affairs office at both 2-and-4 year institutions in NJ and NY. Read more about Dr. Warren here.

Masks Matter

This post has been edited/rewritten for clarity from it’s original version with the author’s full permission.

Trigger Warning: Language & Discussions of Death

My husband and I went into social isolation on March 17, 2020.

We went into isolation “early” because I am a part of a vulnerable population. I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for 29 years this year and I’ve had asthma for around five years. Many of the stats I’ve read and research shared by major medical organizations and trusted groups states that I’m at least three times more likely to die if I contract COVID-19. Way more likely to have COVID long term complications or be a “COVID Long Hauler”. If I were one of the lucky to survive, the chances that I would make it out without at least some serious complications are slim.

I am not writing that out because I want your pity. I am writing it out because it’s important to me that you can put a face, my face, with statements that I’m hearing/seeing being shared.

You know someone like me. Someone who doesn’t “look sick” who deals with a health concern that puts them in a high risk category. You probably know several people who fall into a higher risk category you can see also (such as anyone older than 50).

When you say it is your right not to wear a mask, you are correct. You have the right to put yourself in danger. That said, your mask is more of a protection for the people around you, so you’re actually putting other people in danger by not wearing one. You don’t have the right to put other people in danger. That’s why we don’t allow people to drive when they’ve been drinking.

This pandemic has become a political discussion, when it should be a people discussion. Our collective health and well being, as a nation, is in more danger than ever before. The virus, the death count, our overwhelmed health care system, and the financial ruin health care bills will leave for millions when this is all said and done are reasons enough to show caution. They’re more than enough reasons to do whatever we can to stop COVID.

People I’ve known for many years and have always thought were reasonable have posted about their rights being taken away when they are required to wear masks. There is outrage about vaccines and wondering aloud how employers can make things mandatory. They’ve questioned if all of this is worth the income they’re losing. They’ve griped about the government infringing on them and they’ve said they don’t understand what the big deal is. They’ve posted pictures where they haven’t socially isolated from people they care about, because, why would they do that? They feel fine.  

But anytime someone questions the validity or shares misinformation, even just wondering in a public forum if it’s true, I find myself overwhelmed with one of the stages of grief. I never get to acceptance. I continue to hold out hope that my belief in the goodness of all people will win. That hope is more strained all the time.

Now, while millions of people are awaiting the vaccine, and we’re having the deadliest days in American history, I continue to hear people question if the science is real. If this is really necessary when “only a few” die from the virus. We are still having this conversation, so many months in. But really, it’s only 1%, maybe, of US citizens that will die right? And mostly just the sick and elderly. That’s really not that many? That’s not a big deal, right?

Keeping in mind that 1% of the US population is roughly 3.3 million people, yes, it’s a big deal.

Many people continue to cite the rapid creation of the vaccine as a reason to fear it; others simply share their mistrust of any of the information put out regarding the vaccine. Some argue against vaccines in general and use peer pressure and unsubstantiated rhetoric to ignite fear in other people. The misinformation travels even faster than the virus does.

So this is my challenge to those of you who want to reopen immediately and “get back to normal” without additional precautions in place. Who question the science and validity of the science because your political affiliations don’t like Dr. Fauci. This is my statement to the people saying “We’ll lose a few people but ONLY the sick and the elderly.” Or “The strong will survive”.     

I want you to see my face, hear my voice, and listen.

Call me and tell me why I don’t deserve to live.

If the economy is the most important piece; if it is truly just a numbers game, if the “strong will survive”…imagine having to look someone in the face and actually say that: “You don’t deserve to live”.

If I’m not available to take your call, I have hundreds of people (friends, family, my spouse, etc.) you can call. I’m very fortunate to have lived a life filled with wonderful people. If you can’t imagine delivering that statement, “Your friend, sister, daughter, wife, granddaughter, niece, etc. doesn’t deserve to live,” then it’s time to stop delivering unhelpful rhetoric regarding vaccines and pull your mask back up over your nose.

For the record, I don’t necessarily care if other people choose not to get the vaccine, with some exceptions (those in direct lines of healthcare, those working in care facilities, teachers, etc.). You do have the right to choose what goes into your body, and I believe that stands for everyone. I’ll be getting my shot. I hope to see you there, even if it’s not to save yourself. Even if you “don’t know for sure” the virus is a real threat. I hope your empathy wins if you can’t reckon with the science.

Also, I recognize this is incendiary. If you don’t believe the stats on masks and vaccines saving lives, then I’ll be forced to appeal to your humanity. I recognize that I’m making the choice to stay very socially isolated and we’ll probably be okay because of that. But every time you or someone you know chooses not to wear the mask, or chooses not to self-isolate, or chooses to continue spreading misinformation and doubt about the vaccine, you’ve made a choice to bring that virus closer to my door. You make a decision that those of us that are already fighting every day don’t deserve to live.

Episode 10: Corporate Politics & The Student Debt Crises wih Alan Yeck

Thank you to RightsandWrongsPodcast.com for featuring us!

“Join Alan Yeck and I in a conversation about corporate funds in U.S. politics such as lobbyists. Along with a deep dive into the unspoken issues that make up the student debt crises such as the loans, exploitation of employers, and the disconnect between the universities and the workforce. Alan Yeck is a former Intelligence specialist, with 20 years of experience in higher education, and the founder of the political organization AltRaged Editor & Producer: George O.”

Source: Episode 10: Corporate Politics & The Student Debt Crises wih Alan Yeck

The Solutions to the Student Loan Crisis Don’t Require NASA

By Alan J. Yeck, Founder

At the end of the article he wrote last year, Daniel M. Johnson, What Will It Take to Solve the Student Loan Crisis? responded to the question about whether there is a solution to the student loan scam with “Maybe.” While his piece was focused on the cost of education, which is completely valid and must also be addressed, it is but one part of a solution. “But one thing has become increasingly clear: solutions to the high cost of higher education and the student loan crisis will not come from the higher education establishment.” I completely agree with Daniel on this point. Higher education administration has not focused on reducing costs in any meaningful way for decades. It does so when it’s forced to and it’s never about serving the students, which is why the expenses continue to rise and passed on to the students and their families. Containing costs at the institutions are one aspect of the student loan crisis but all roads lead to Washington D.C. We are in this mess because of legislation they passed, and continue to support, that generates money back to their own campaigns through Super PACs. Lasting solutions are there but it means our elected officials, House and Senate, will have to do the ethically, right thing. I want to believe that still exists in Congress but I am hard pressed to give an example. Blue and Red are equally dirty and corrupt. Joe DiMaggio has been gone for a long, long time.

Restore full bankruptcy rights to student loan borrowers

There was never a valid reason to criminalize student loans. When it was first enacted in the early 1970s, there was less than a 1% default rate, and it was out of concern for what Congress thought of as expensive degrees, specifically law and medical – that the lawyers and doctors wouldn’t pay back their loans. At that time the law was that student loans couldn’t be included in bankruptcy until 5 years after graduation. Over the next few decades, in combination with the increasing availability of federal loans and the explosion of the for-profit institutions, Congress continued to “tweak” the rules as the money flow also increased into their own pockets. Finally in 2005 only those who qualify under an ambiguous “undue hardship” which is determined by each and every individual court could student loans be included in bankruptcy (you have a better shot at winning the lottery than a judge with a backbone dismissing your student loan). Once that right was removed, the cost of education skyrocketed which in turn brought out the corporate shit-eating-dogs known as ‘loan servicers’ (Navient, et al).

Solving the student loan debt crisis isn’t like working on global warming, it really isn’t rocket science. A few hundred people that were elected to take care of the people can do it very quickly – a lasting solution can put in place in 2021 but they would have to stop taking the money. Well, hell…now that I think of it, I guess I’m going to stop and get a lottery ticket on the way home. You should too.

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#altraged #studentloandebt #corruption #bankruptcy #buisness #innovation #elections2020 #highered #leadership 

https://hbr.org/2019/09/what-will-it-take-to-solve-the-student-loan-crisis