- Democratic politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer are fighting for student loan forgiveness to be dealt with during President-Elect Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office.
- At a press conference Monday, Biden did not say whether he would take executive action to address the issue. Instead he referenced plans from the House that would offer $10,000 in loan forgiveness, as well as other plans from his campaign like making education at public colleges and universities free for families making under $125,000 annually and forgiving chunks of debt for public servants.
- Student debt forgiveness became a large debate online, with some saying it would provide millions with relief and allow them to participate more in the nation’s economy. Meanwhile, others argued that student loan forgiveness is unfair to those who have already paid their debt off.
- Many also believe other issues affecting student debt should be dealt with instead, like high interest rates and the cost of a college education.
Student Loan Plans in Democratic Party
Democrats are pushing for President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize student debt forgiveness when he enters the White House in January, prompting heated debates online.
Currently, student debt in the U.S. sits at over $1.7 trillion. During a Monday press conference, Biden said that addressing student loan debt was part of his economic plan, but did not say whether or not he would take executive action to address it.
“It does figure into my plan,” Biden said. “I’ve laid out in detail, for example, the legislation passed by the Democratic House calls for immediate $10,000 of student loan forgiveness.”
“It’s holding people up. They’re in real trouble,” he added. “They’re having to make choices between paying their student loans and paying their rent, those kinds of decisions. It should be done immediately.”
Biden also referenced student debt relief plans he had touted throughout his campaign. Those include making education at public colleges and universities free for families making under $125,000 annually and forgiving chunks of debt for public servants.
While he did not indicate if executive action will be taken, top Democrats will be pushing for it come January. Earlier in November, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told The Ink he wants the matter addressed in Biden’s first 100 days in office.
“I have a proposal with Elizabeth Warren that the first $50,000 of debt be vanquished, and we believe that Joe Biden can do that with the pen as opposed to legislation,” he said.
House Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) have a plan of their own. Back in March the two introduced the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act, which would cancel at least $30,000 in student debt per borrower. Other members of the Squad have joined them in calling for student debt forgiveness, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Debate Moves to Twitter
This prompted debate on Twitter about student debt and whether or not it should be forgiven. A common argument that many against forgiveness made was that it is unfair to those who have already paid off their debts.
“Those with college debt will be thrilled, of course,” one person wrote. “But lots and lots of people who didn’t go to college or who worked to pay off their debts? Gonna be bad.”
“Things were bad for me, so they should stay bad for everyone else” is not a good argument against debt cancellation – student, medical, or otherwise,” Ocasio-Cortez said to counter the popular argument.
Many who had already paid off their debts but still supported forgiveness also spoke out, including actor Kumail Nanjiani.
Others noted the many implications eliminating student loan debt will have, including the fact that this kind of debt disproportionately impacts women, specifically Black women.
Many also argued the benefits this would have as people struggle financially because of the coronavirus.
“Canceling student loan debt doesn’t just help [those in debt], it frees many of them up to help stimulate a struggling economy during the pandemic,” one person wrote.
What Experts Are Saying
Thoughts on whether or not student debt forgiveness is the best solution to this crisis are not just mixed on Twitter, but among financial experts as well. Back in August, Forbes spoke to a dozen financial experts about their ideas on the subject.
“There are merits,” entrepreneur David Gokhshtein said. “If debtors currently struggling to make their student loan payments have increased available income, that money will be spent in other places. This could create an increase in home loans, small business startups, tourism and general retail purchase increases. Though, perhaps this should be on a case-by-case basis or through a qualified enrollment program.”
He was not alone in thinking there would be positive effects on the economy should debt be forgiven.
“Student loan debt hinders the start of a promising career,” Sam Singh, founder of CFO Base added. “Many potential entrepreneurs put their spirit on hold for a corporate job based on salary to pay the debt, while turning down offers from small businesses with less of a budget. This creates more failed startups and hurts our GDP.”
However, others argued there might be better fixes, including interest-free loans or increasing financial literacy among young people. Many accept student loans when they are just teenagers about to enter college and have little understanding of what they are and what they could mean for them down the line.
Some also thought that loan forgiveness is merely a bandaid solution to a larger problem, which is how expensive college tuition has become. Because of this, Matthew Cuplin of Midwest Financial Group said it opens up “Pandora’s Box with regards to many questions.”
“Who gets it canceled?” he asked. “What about those who made sacrifices and saved for this expense? Does it devalue the importance of the experience? Would students take it less seriously?”
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (New York Times) (CNBC)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.