Tell Betsy DeVos: Our Students Deserve Better by Sherrod Brown

By: Team Sherrod

“Betsy DeVos proposes rules that would cut student loan relief by an estimated $13 billion”
LA Times; 7/25/2018

A college education is already too expensive for many students. Every year, many students graduate with debilitating debt, causing them to put off life goals.

Now, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is trying to make it even harder for college graduates to succeed.

DeVos is proposing a rule that will make it harder for people to gain relief after they’re hit with massive student loans. It’s a move that lines the pockets of for-profit college executives at the expense of hardworking students. She’s putting profits ahead of our students’ educations. Join me and tell DeVos: Students deserve better.

Students are already struggling to afford the cost of tuition and living in college. New studies show that around 40% of students work in addition to attending school. About one in four are parents. Many struggle to even afford adequate nutrition. And even though costs and fees keep rising, financial aid has not kept pace.

A college education is practically necessary in today’s global economy. Any student with college ambitions should be able to afford it — without struggling with overwhelming debt.

Betsy DeVos is supposed to be working for our students, not special interests. But right now, it’s the other way around. Help me remind her where her priorities should lie. If you agree that our students deserve better, add your name to mine right now.

With gratitude,

Sherrod

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Trump Cuts Staff At Federal Watchdog Agency Obama Created After 2008 Financial Crisis: Report

NEWS

President Trump has reportedly cut 40 staffers from the U.S. Office of Financial Research, a federal agency created as part of the Dodd-Frank legislation signed into law by President Obama, tasked with identifying financial risks and stress on global financial markets following the 2008 financial crisis.

Around 40 staff members were told they are losing their jobs on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The Hill notes that the move was part of the Trump administration’s larger vision announced in June to vastly reorganize the structure of the federal government.

Trump proposed dramatically slashing the office’s budget and slashing employees last May.

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Trump Administration Proposal Could Punish Legal Immigrants If Their Family Members Use Public Assistance

The proposed change to “public charge” rules would assess members of “immigrant households” in determining whether a person qualifies for permanent status.

Gage Skidmore / FLICKR

According to a 7 August 2018 NBC report, the proposed change to what is known as the “public charge” rule will be published imminently in the federal register, at which point the public will have the opportunity to comment before it becomes official.

“Public charge” is currently applied to determine whether an immigrant is inadmissible or ineligible for permanent status based on use of public cash assistance. A leaked draft of the change proposed by the Trump administration showed immigration authorities would extend “public charge” to consider members of an immigrant’s entire household for determining whether that immigrant was eligible.

“It’s a backdoor attempt to alter the family immigration system without going through Congress,” Tanya Broder, senior staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, told us. “It really departs from over 100 years of policy and practice in the U.S. and undermines the purpose of the public charge rule and the overall immigration system in the U.S.”

A Department of Homeland Security official told us the proposed change was meant to prevent immigrants from using public assistance programs to the detriment of U.S. citizens. Federal law “generally requires” that immigrants be financially self-sustaining and not be dependent on public assistance programs, but “these public benefit rules have been ignored for decades.” according to the DHS official:

More than half of all immigrant households use one or more welfare [programs], driving the federal debt and deficit and unfairly taking benefits away from vulnerable U.S. citizens and communities. Non-citizen public benefit usage is deeply unfair to U.S. taxpayers.

Experts whom we spoke to characterized that reasoning as misleading for several reasons. The immigrants who could be affected by the change are in the country legally and are paying into the system via income taxes, and they would potentially be punished for other members of their household’s receiving benefits they are entitled to as U.S. citizens.

Henry Fernandez, senior fellow at the progressive think tank Center for American Progress, said the change would put immigrants in a perilous position of having to choose between obtaining legal permanent residency status and feeding their children if they lost their jobs:

Of course you want someone to feed their child and have a safe place to live because everything we know says that person will now be able to get a new job and get off benefits. But if someone loses their job under [White House advisor] Stephen Miller’s policy, are we’re encouraging that person to let their children starve if they want to become a U.S. citizen? That is fundamentally evil.

Miller serves as senior policy adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump. He has promoted severe immigration policies including “zero tolerance,” under which children were taken from parents caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry. Although a federal judge ordered the government to reunite children with their parents, many children are still waiting for those reunions to occur.

Jacobs said she doesn’t see any public benefit to the proposal but called it instead part of a “campaign to terrorize immigrants.”

Kim Rueben, project director for the state and local finance initiative at the policy research think tank Urban Institute told us the DHS statement misleadingly presents immigrants as a drag on the economy. A 2017 study she contributed to for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that immigration has an “overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the United States”:

First, we are all taxpayers. The “American taxpayer” includes immigrants who are authorized to live here and those who are unauthorized. And while some unauthorized immigrants might not pay income taxes, they and all immigrants pay sales and property taxes (either directly or through the rent they pay).

Second, the pattern of government spending and funds received from immigrants is roughly the same as it is for native-born people with similar characteristics. That is, children are a net cost because they receive public education and pay no taxes, working-age people contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits, and older people benefit more from government spending, primarily through Social Security and Medicare.

Rueben added that she sees a “mismatch” in anti-immigrant rhetoric and reality. Contrary to the perception that immigration is surging in the U.S., the number of undocumented immigrants has been stagnant since the Great Recession. Immigrants don’t generally take jobs away from citizens, and immigrants don’t access government aid programs at higher rates than native-born citizens. And when immigrants do use government programs, it’s generally because they tend to have children and not because of some circumstance inherent to being immigrants.

“I find the kinds of discussions they’re having about public charge misleading and I think it’s only telling half the story,” Rueben told us. “The reason immigrants are costly for state and local governments is because the cost of public education is high, but when you take into account their children after they complete that education, they are a benefit to the federal government.”

Jacobs said the proposed change likely will lead to legal challenges if approved as-is, in part because it treats “similarly situated people differently based on who their family members are”:

If I have granny living with me and she’s a U.S. citizen getting benefits and I’m a U.S. citizen everything’s fine, but if I’m not a U.S. citizen, somehow [her receiving benefits] is on me. I understand if I take an action I may have responsibility for it, but [with this proposal] the actions of someone in my household could have negative repercussions for me.

Controversial event features the director of a federal immigration agency

Criticism of the proposal coincided with an announcement by the non-profit organization Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) that Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Francis Cissna would be featured as a speaker at a 15 August 2018 event held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The event drew backlash from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which has designated CIS as an anti-immigrant “hate group.” In a statement, Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project said of the event that:

It’s disgraceful that Francis Cissna would agree to put the weight of his office -– and the U.S. government -– behind a hate group that exists solely to vilify immigrants. But none of us should be surprised. It’s just one more example of the strong bond between this administration and far-right extremists who will stop at nothing to fuel rage and resentment against immigrants of color.

We reached out to CIS for comment on the hate group classification, among other topics including the proposed public charge rule change. Executive director Mark Krikorian’s response was to send a link to a March 2017 op-ed he wrote in which he argued that SPLC’s designation was politically motivated.

We asked USCIS to comment on Cissna’s appearance at the event and the message it may send to the public, and we received the following response from spokesman Michael Bars:

Director Cissna and USCIS are dedicated to protecting our nation’s immigration laws, helping to ensure they are faithfully executed and defending our system from those seeking to exploit it at the expense of U.S. workers, lawful-abiding applicants and petitioners. But the truth is that advocates of open borders believe the U.S. should turn a blind eye to cases of illegal immigration, fraud, human trafficking, gang activity and drug proliferation at the expense of public safety and the integrity of our laws. Each year, immigration benefits including the great privilege of citizenship are attainable for many law-abiding individuals legitimately seeking greater opportunity, prosperity, and security as newly entrusted members of society, and to this end USCIS takes great pride and helping these dreams become a reality. We reject the false and inaccurate claims of those working to undermine this effort.

Henry Fernandez pointed out that Jason Richwine, who resigned from the conservative Heritage Foundation in 2013 after that organization learned he had written a college dissertation arguing Latinos are intellectually inferior, currently serves as a contributing writer for CIS. Richwine wrote a 12 July 2018 piece arguing that the Trump administration should be “discriminating and objective” when selectively allowing higher-skill immigrants to enter the U.S., because Mexican and Central American workers with college educations tend to take lower-skill jobs than their Canadian and Australian counterparts. “‘Higher skill’ does not mean ‘Einstein,’” Richwine argued.

“The piece Richwine wrote in July was this effort to present lots of data and look intellectual but in fact it’s just an argument for denying Mexican immigrants who have college degrees the right to immigrate to the U.S.,” Fernandez said. “It’s consistent with pseudo-intellectual racism.”

Fernandez said CIS has a track record of cherry picking facts so that all their research draws the same conclusion: Non-white immigrants are bad. In March 2018, CIS argued a border wall would “pay for itself” by using data in a way that researchers called questionable.

“I don’t’ think this is mistake, and I think [the Trump administration] knows exactly what they’re doing,” Fernandez told us in regards to the event featuring Cissna. “This is a racist organization, and Cissna should be ashamed of speaking before them.”

 

 

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Trumpcare Means Leaving the Poor and Sick to Fend for Themselves

By @jonathanchait

President Trump with Health and Human Services Director Alex Azar. Photo: Chris Kleponis – Pool/Getty Images

Yesterday, the Trump administration unveiled plans to allow insurers to skim healthy customers out of the insurance pool by offering skimpy plans that last for up to three years. The legally dubious maneuver is the crowning touch on the administration’s persistent efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Conservative intellectuals are justifiably ecstatic. “Wednesday’s rule came to be because dedicated people within the Trump administration worked hard to push federal policy in a libertarian direction,” exults Cato Institute scholar and onetime author of the “Anti-Universal Coverage Club Manifesto” Michael Cannon. Indeed, Trump’s attacks on Obamacare, taken together as a sum, provide a fair picture of the American right’s unique, social Darwinist philosophy of health-care policy.

Many people are either too poor or too sick to afford access to medical care. In every democracy in the world save the United States, a broad social consensus accepts the need to subsidize care for those people. This includes the conservative parties in those countries. Among right-of-center parties in the developed world, only the Republicans are so committed to anti-government dogma as to oppose measures to subsidize medical care for those who can’t afford it themselves.

But whenever Democrats have attempted to expand access to health care, Republican leaders have generally declined to present themselves as principled opponents of universal health care. Instead, they have promised they could accomplish the same goal in a better, cheaper fashion, without any of the painful trade-offs in the existing Democratic-authored proposals. No such plan ever emerged, in part because Obamacare was the most market-friendly way to accomplish the bare minimum objectives of any humanitarian health-care reform. The only space to Obamacare’s right involved punishing the poor and sick with medical and financial deprivation.

It is now clear that, on its own terms, Obamacare’s policy design worked. When the new marketplaces opened, insurers initially set premiums far lower than the Congressional Budget Office expected, and — as it turned out — lower than the market would bear. After correcting their initial under-pricing, insurers settled their premiums at a stable level that was both affordable to most consumers (especially in states that tried to make the markets work, as opposed to sabotaging them) and profitable for them.

Amazingly, the exchanges have survived despite eight years of legal attacks and administrative sabotage by both Republican state-level government and now the federal government under Trump. Republicans have eliminated outreach advertising for the exchanges, refused to issue required payments for insurers who accept disproportionately sick customers, and are now trying to lure healthy customers out of the exchanges, driving up costs for those who remain. The Republican line maintains that all these blatant attempts to kill the law are somehow the fault of the law’s designers. “Democrats want to blame the GOP for increases that are baked into the health law’s faulty design,” insists a pious Wall Street Journal editorial.

This is demonstrably false. A new study by Matthew Fiedler of the Brookings Institution shows that insurers in the exchanges have made a healthy 10 percent profit this year, and if the Trump administration had taken no additional steps to sabotage the exchanges, premiums would be coming down by an average of 4.3 percent next year.

A poll by Axios finds that, by a 20-point margin, Americans would rather keep Obamacare or do more than repeal it or do less. Republican politicians, caught between the unpopular extremism of their ideological vanguard in Washington and the moderate demands of the electorate, are retreating to evasions. In a New York Times story about Democrats focusing on health care, a Republican spokesperson gamely retorts, “A contrast between single-payer health care and our ideas — a more patient-centered approach — is a debate we fully welcome.” If you don’t know what “patient-centered” means, don’t worry. It has no meaning at all. Which is the point. The entire purpose of the phrase is to obscure the party’s health-care agenda.

Trump’s most recent step is to allow insurers to sell those skimpy plans with little coverage — excluding customers with expensive medical needs, who would be left in exchanges without healthy customers to help share the costs. This would provide some immediate cost-benefit to healthy customers, who would be free from cross-subsidizing the less fortunate. Of course, if they happen to suffer unexpected medical misfortune themselves, they will be out of luck.

The new Trumpcare plans will be cheap for people who are healthy enough to qualify. But they don’t cover much. If you find you’re having a baby, or need a weekend stay at a hospital, or even something as exotic as prescription drugs, you’re out of luck. The Journal editorial page insists this will all be fine, because “not everyone needs all benefits,” and also, “[t]he HHS rule also stipulates that issuers must prominently display a notice that the coverage isn’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act. Everyone will know what they’re buying.” Right, because everybody in America is already aware of what the essential benefits of Obamacare contain, and thus what their absence implies. Anyway, insurers are definitely going to make sure you’re aware of all the shortfalls and gaps in the product they’re selling you.

What is striking about the Trump-era Republican health agenda is the lack of policy ambition. Having spent years insisting they had an army of wonks who could design a better alternative to the Obamacare “train wreck,” the Republican plan of attack has dissolved into a rearguard sabotage campaign with no pretense of doing anything to help the poor and sick afford medical care. Health care remains a policy ground with which conservative-movement dogma cannot grapple.

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