Sunday, August 24, 2014

Can Students Save The Democrats' Asses In November? Should They Bother?


The 26th Amendment to the Constitution is a simple one: "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age." After being ratified by the 38th state legislature, North Carolina's, on July 1, 1971, it became part of the Constitution 4 days later on July 5. It has passed the Senate on March 10, 1971, 94-0, and the House March 23, 401-19. The same day it passed the House, it was ratified by the state legislatures of Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington. Hawaii and Massachusetts jumped in the next day. (Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Utah still haven't ratified it.)

1972 saw a turnout of 55.4% for newly eligible votes between the ages of 18 and 21. But that didn't help anti-war presidential candidate George McGovern, who was walloped by Nixon 47,168,710 (60.7%) to 29,173,222 (37.5%). McGovern won Massachusetts and DC and was competitive in Minnesota, Rhode Island and his native South Dakota. The Democrats lost 13 House seats and gained and net of 2 Senate seats-- winning 6 (one of which was Joe Biden) and losing 4 to Republicans (one of whom was Jesse Helms. Youth vote diminished significantly after that initial enthusiasm. By 1988-- the election pitting George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis-- young voters were so non-plussed by politics that the turnout was a dismal 36%. The only time young voters even came close to the 1972 high-water mark was in 2008-- Obama's first election-- when the turnout was 49%. It stayed relatively high in 2012 and both years the youth vote went overwhelmingly for Obama.

The midterms look like the Democrats are going to take a major shellacking. They're certainly not going to take the House back and there's a chance they could lose control of the Senate. One of the constituencies that is expected to sit this one out are young voters under the age of 25. The Democrats in general have little to offer them. Enthusiasm is almost nonexistent and many young people have lost faith that electoral politics is a path to change. Plenty of them have come to the conclusion that the system is rigged against them. Income inequality is as bad as it was in the 1920s-- when it was easy to blame it on the rash of failed, reactionary Republican presidents who followed Woodrow Wilson: Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover (1921-1932).

This week Rolling Stone ran the antidote to this kind of malaise, something-- was the Beltway Democratic Establishment to figure out how to run on it-- could turn the trajectory of the midterms right around. Elizabeth Warren is working diligently to eliminate unconscionable student debt. Other progressives are following her. Establishment figures are either ongoing her, hostile to her or giving her lip service.

Warren: "Rising student-loan debt is an economic emergency. Forty million people are dealing with $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt. It's stopping young people from buying homes, from buying cars and from starting small businesses. We need to take action." Speaking for conservatives and for his own reactionary political party, Mitch McConnell says that it's time to admit that a traditional college education has become a luxury good. "Not every­body needs to go to Yale," he lisped menacingly.

"McConnell's idea that people should dream a little smaller is deeply flawed," said Warren. "And let me add: The problem is not limited to private universities. States used to pick up about three out of every four dollars it cost to educate someone at a public university. Now it's about one in four. In America today, a young person needs more education after high school just to have a chance to make it in the middle class. Not a guarantee, just a chance to make it."
Warren's bills range from pie-in-the-sky progressive-- she called for college loans to be issued at the same, nearly free, interest rates that Wall Street banks receive from the Fed-- to soberly bipartisan. Her proposal to refinance outstanding student-loan debt at less than four percent interest (financed by a new minimum tax on America's top earners) nearly cleared the Senate in June, and will return to the Senate floor for a new vote this fall. "This country invests in tax loopholes for billionaires," she says. "And forces college students to pay for them through higher interest rates on their loans. That makes no sense at all."

…The major thrust of your work hasn't been in trying to lower tuitions, but in making college cheaper to finance. Why is that the right approach?

Just the little slice of loans that were issued between 2007 and 2012 are projected to produce $66 billion in profits to the federal government. Think about that. The role of government has to be helping young people, instead of taxing them for making the effort. I would like [to set student loans] at the same rate that the government currently charges the financial institutions. I tried that last year [laughs].

Your latest proposal is to let people with outstanding student debt refinance loans at the same rate currently being offered to students.

Homeowners refinance their loans when interest rates go down. Businesses refinance their loans. But right now, there's no way for students to be able to do that. I've proposed that we reduce the interest rate on the outstanding loan debt to the same rate Republicans and Democrats came together last year to set on new loans [3.86 percent]. For millions of borrowers, that would cut interest rates in half or more. Unfortunately, the federal government can't just reduce the interest rate. It has already built those expected profits into the budget. So we propose stitching up tax loopholes that are available only to millionaires and billionaires, and requiring them to pay taxes at the same rate most American families pay. That would more than pay for the cost of reducing the interest rate on student loans.

What's the status of that bill?

Every single Democrat supported it. Both Independents supported the bill. And even three Republicans voted to move it forward. But the rest of the Republicans filibustered.

We will be voting on it again in September. As a country, we can either invest in tax loopholes for billionaires or lower-cost student loans for young people who are trying to build a future. Billionaires or students: It's a pretty stark choice.
Republicans are killing this legislation. Democrats should run on it. Republicans filibustered it and, although it garnered 56 votes, it was still needed 4. Among the filibusterers were two who could actually lose their seats in November: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Pat Roberts (R-KS). McConnell's Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes has already hosted Warren in Kentucky where they both campaigned on student loans. The Kansas situation is more nuanced-- but could still spell doom for Roberts' overly long, out of touch career.
The GOP's saving grace is that the senator's opponents—businessman Greg Orman, an independent, and Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat—are "pretty much splitting the anti-Roberts vote evenly," according to PPP. But if one of them were to drop out, "Roberts would really be in trouble." In head-to-head match ups, the Republican leads Mr. Taylor by four points and trails Mr. Orman by 10. The independent would "take 30% of the Republican vote while losing only 11% of Democrats to Roberts." Of course, the senator's numbers may improve once he steps up his campaign attacks. As it stands, 64% of likely voters don't have an opinion of Mr. Orman, while Mr. Taylor boasts a 29% name recognition.

Yet using the boilerplate Republican strategy of linking the Democratic candidate with President Obama may not work in Kansas. Mr. Roberts's 27% approval rating in the state is even worse than the president's 33% support. And the senator's more formidable opponent appears to be the young and charismatic Mr. Orman, who manages a private-equity firm and will have a major financial edge over Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Orman is also running on a populist platform that includes term limits for lawmakers, ending Congressional pensions and banning lobbying by former congressmen. Although he briefly campaigned for Senate in 2008 as a Democrat, he's running as an independent this year because "I didn't feel like either party fit me well as someone who is fiscally responsible and socially tolerant." Which is true of many of the state's independents and young Republicans.

If Mr. Orman continues to gain momentum, national Democratic leaders may pressure Mr. Taylor to pull out and back the independent. In turn, Mr. Orman may be persuaded to caucus with the Democrats like independent Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.

In order to hold the seat, Republicans will need to unite around Mr. Roberts. It's a troubling sign for the senator that they didn't do that after this month's primary.
Meanwhile, over in the House, it's not likely anyone will be able to fix the catastrophe Steve Israel's incompetent DCCC is dragging the Democrats into. Hoever, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman, John Kline (R-MN), has bottled up the House version of Senator Warren's bill, H.R. 4582, he and House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Dave Camp (R-MI) refusing to even schedule hearings. Israel's strategy isn't going to help anyone-- except John Boehner-- but progressive challengers like Paul Clements (D-MI), Pat Murphy (D-IA), Kelly Westlund (D-WI), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) are running hard on the proposals to held students and their middle class families caught in the bind conservatives have placed them in. It's a winning issue.

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At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put all the kids in debt to the tune of 1.5 trillion dollars and then charge them a usurious interest rate. Welcome to the rigged game. Getting more rigged by the minute.

The interest raising crowd is beating the band wagon for interest rates to go up. More normal rates? Normal should be 1.5 to 2 per cent. High interest rates were one of the main causes of our economic melt down. Feds talking about raising interest rates which does nothing but cause inflation while all the rich people sit around making money with money. How clever.

The title of the book should be: "Usury and false promises."

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone under 30 should vote either Green or Libertarian.


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