Zealously seeking issues to use against the Obama White House, the reactionary Republicans of the US House of Representatives last week once again dredged up the Benghazi incident of September 11, 2012 in the form of a full-blown media circus centering on hearings by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Congressman Darrell Issa.
Long deprived of foreign policy issues to exploit for political gain, and fearing the political backlash from their usual expedient of trying to start a new war, the Republican reactionaries are doing everything possible to create popular hysteria reminiscent of the final phases of the Watergate scandal four decades ago.
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, desperately seeking to stave off a political challenge by Tea Party fanatics, says that a new Watergate is in the air. The troglodyte Senator Imhofe of Oklahoma is busily invoking the specter of Obama’s impeachment, a project in which he is joined by failed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. House Speaker John Boehner wants to open a fishing expedition among the e-mails of the White House. The pseudo-libertarian Rand Paul has already announced that the Benghazi incident shows that Hillary Clinton, still the most likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, should never hold high public office again. Few indeed are the Republican congressmen who have not found a way to pop off about Benghazi.
These farnetications by themselves would be of limited interest, were it not for a recent change in the attitude of the controlled corporate media, reflecting in turn a shift in the attitude of the US ruling class towards the Obama regime. Up until now, harping on the Benghazi incident has tended to be limited to Fox News, controlled by the British Empire’s right-wing billionaire Rupert Murdoch, and a gaggle of extremist radio talk show hosts. But now, other propaganda channels have joined in: Cheryl Atkisson of CBS news is now working on the story full-time, and Jonathan Karl at ABC news is attempting to catch up. National Public Radio, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press have developed new interest in a story they have long dismissed. For virtually the first time, Jay Carney’s daily White House press briefing is turning into a hostile confrontation, rather than a liturgy of adoration for Obama.
As every college student knows, the crushing burden of student loan debt poses the single greatest obstacle to anyone seeking a good education. An undergraduate degree frequently means $30,000-$50,000 and up in debt. An advanced degree starts at twice that, and medical and law degrees can saddle the student with six figures of loans. For the nation as a whole, student loan debt is a social crisis set to exceed $1 trillion. Interest rates vary, but they are always far too high for young people starting out in life, or for anyone else. And things are scheduled to get worse, with the interest rate on one key type of student loan set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1. A whole generation of young people is being forced to put their lives on hold, prevented by high interest debt from continuing their schooling, from renting or buying a home, from getting married and having children. This is simply intolerable.
At the same time, Wall Street banks can borrow from the Federal Reserve Discount Window for a mere 0.75%. That’s right — just three quarters of 1%. Why should students be crushed when the bankers who caused the present economic crisis with their wild and irresponsible derivatives speculation get a sweetheart deal?
Fortunately, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has now offered a bill which would force the Federal Reserve to fund federal Stafford loans through the US Department of Education at an annual interest rate of just 0.75% — the discount rate the Fed offers banks. Do the arithmetic and you can easily figure out how much interest this bill will save you every year. But this bill faces an uphill battle to become law, since it is likely to be opposed by Wall Street lobbyists, the congressional leadership of both parties, and by the Obama White House. The only hope for the Warren bill lies in a massive outpouring of support, starting with the graduation ceremonies of the class of 2013. That means a big part of your economic destiny is now in your hands.
Graduation ceremonies are often marked by boring platitudes from overpaid and cynical celebrities. But now you can use your graduation day as a springboard to cutting your monthly loan payment.
Make sure in advance that your commencement speaker is going to deliver a stirring call to make Senator Warren’s bill into law right now, before July 1. If your current speaker won’t actively support the bill, fire them and find a speaker who will. Your college or university president knows better than anybody what a huge problem student loan indebtedness represents for individual borrowers and for the country. They need to actively organize to support the Warren bill. If they refuse, then something is very wrong. The same goes for the rich fat cats who often sit on boards of trustees. If they can’t support Senator Warren, they are not interested in higher education. Influential professors should be encouraged to come forward as public spokespersons for Senator Warren’s approach. Use your college radio and newspapers to alert the entire student body. And don’t forget to mobilize debt-ridden recent alumni coming back for reunions.
Plan to have your commencement ceremony pass a strong resolution demanding the immediate passage of the Warren bill. Make sure this resolution goes to the relevant congressmen and senators, along with the demand that they co-sponsor Senator Warren’s measure and get more votes for it. If they drag their feet, assure them that they will soon be voted out of office. On more militant campuses, it may be appropriate to demonstrate or to occupy a building and stay there until the Warren bill is signed into law by Obama. Make sure you tell the local media in advance. The general public will be with you on this one.
Senator Warren would also benefit from feedback. All of her arguments in favor of a Fed-assisted 0.75% interest rate on Stafford loans apply to all other categories of student loans as well. Everyone without exception should be able to refinance at 0.75%, including holders out of Perkins loans, Federal Direct Student Loans, and Plus Loans taken out by parents. The Department of Education must be given the means to re-finance all private student loans at the new lower rate.
This may be your only chance to help Senator Warren cut the interest rates you will be paying for a long time. The end of the semester is coming soon. If you let this chance slip by, you will have only yourself to blame.
Washington DC, May 8, 2013 — I urge a major all-points mobilization in support of Sen Elizabeth Warren’s Bank on Students bill mandating that the Federal Reserve provide 0.75% cheap federal credit for federal student loans (Stafford loans) via the US Department of Education. This is so far as we know the first bill which proposes to force the Fed to provide cheap credit to something other than banks and financial institutions. The substantial benefits in interest savings to American students groaning under $1 trillion of high-interest student debt are obvious.
It is vital to point out that Warren’s bill will not cost the US Treasury or US taxpayers one penny to generate these formidable benefits. It represents federal lending, not federal spending. It simply mandates the use of credit creating power which the Fed has always had, but has insisted using for the benefit of financial institutions only. The bill would relieve pressure on the federal budget by freeing up general revenue for other uses. It is a step toward the restoration not of Keynes, but of Hamilton’s vastly superior American System of Political Economy.
This bill also represents the first pilot project for how to get out of the current world economic depression – by forcing the central bank to act like a national bank, using federal credit creation to serve not just zombie banks, but also the real economy.
Clearly Wall Street forces will attempt to suppress Warren’s proposal. All persons and organizations of good will need to do everything possible to publicize this bill on internet, social media, and TV/radio talk shows and GET IT PASSED AND SIGNED BY OBAMA this spring. Take the news of this bill to campuses and urge students to demonstrate their strong support before the end of the academic year. We suggest urgent amendments to extend this debt relief to additional categories of student loans so as to afford them protection from the scheduled doubling of the interest rate from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1.
The principle embodied in this bill is the key to rebuilding US infrastructure and creating 30 million new productive jobs through a large-scale credit stimulus from the Fed. It takes us beyond squabbling over the limited funds of the US Treasury into the virtually limitless realm of Fed credit creation to finance the needs of the nation. Any politicians groups or media who claim to be progressive must mobilize at once for the Warren bill or be relegated to irrelevance. Anybody who refuses to support it with the claim that the Fed needs instead to be ended will be exposed as a Wall Street agent. We urge all economists who care about our nation’s future to come out in support of this bill.
This bill represents an historical turning point. It must now become law!
Margaret Thatcher’s first high-profile political job came in 1970 when she was appointed to serve as education and science minister in the cabinet of the liberal Tory Edward Heath.
She imposed a series of brutal budget cuts, the most infamous of which was the abolition of a program left over from the Great Depression, which guaranteed a daily pint of milk to schoolchildren between the ages of seven and eleven.
This was a program which had done much good in the poorer mining, industrial, and farming towns and villages of Wales, Scotland, and the north of England, where vitamin deficiency diseases like rickets and pellagra had been an immense public health problem.
But for Thatcher, that daily pint of milk was the essence of communism, a violation of the free market. The milk distributions were stopped. Since then, Thatcher has been hated by all Britons of goodwill, and since then her nickname has been “Thatcher milk snatcher.” This is the epitaph which should be inscribed on her tomb.
The Romans had a saying, “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum” – say nothing but good things about the dead. It is good advice, but in the face of certain enormous crimes against humanity, it cannot be honored. Such is the case of Margaret Thatcher.
Thatcher offers one of the most egregious cases in recent history of a sociopath in power. She can be seen as the mother, or at least as the grandmother, of the world economic depression which broke out in 2007-2008. Thatcher was a fanatical apostle of the economic theories of the Austrian school ideologue Friedrich von Hayek and especially of Hayek’s 1944 screed, The Road to Serfdom, a raving attack on the highly successful economic methods of the Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal in the United States. On at least one occasion, Thatcher is known to have brandished a copy of Hayek’s scribblings as her personal holy book.