Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Student Debt is Challenging the Reason for Getting that Long Sought After College Degree

What has changed for many of the college educated is finding themselves in debt longer than their parents were after college, being penalized for having student debt when going to buy homes, cars, etc., and in the end having less wealth and a lower salary when compared to those without a college education.

One reader’s comment. “I’ve been meaning to write back, but a large number of days on the road takes precedence. I disagree about the relevance of my experience working endless shit jobs while living in crappy apartments and eating pb&j to pay back my loans. That said, I do respect your opinion, and I hope you continue to share your thoughts about how entirely fucked up our priorities are as a Nation when it comes to education.

As my father who is in his late sixties recently said to me “sorry your generation got screwed”, something I’m quite cognizant of as I lose twenty grand selling a home to pursue a career. In the meantime, time to bust some ass and take care of what is in our power to affect. Patrick “Ripping Off College Students Economic Future”

The argument for a college education has always been the earning potential the 4-year degree holder has as opposed to those without a 4-year college degree. As more and more students have trouble buying into the Middle Class with the degree they have earned because of the overwhelming debt, the value of a college education has come into question considering the debt load carried by college graduates. What has changed in the last decade is tuition increases outstripping the cost of healthcare, the decline in state support for colleges, and the increased use of credit cards, home equity, and retirement account borrowing to fund college education. What remains after the piece of paper is passed out at graduation day is debt remaining with the student into his thirties and sometimes well into their forties.

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PRESS RELEASE: Angry Bear Offers Dem Pols Free Political Consulting Service. Free!

Here’s our offer.  It’s a very good offer.  And a serious one.  Seriously.

(Yeah, I’m venting my frustration.)

Who, the HELL, is running the House and Senate Campaign committees? My guess: People who have some personal or financial connection to the usual-suspect Dem consulting firms. Or who just can’t even imagine that, y’know, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

So, folks, let’s start a protest movement, right here at AB, and demand a change.

—-

UPDATE: Reader Alex Bollinger posted this in the Comments thread this morning:

Not only would low-info voters benefit from actually knowing that the ACA is doing good, but a few lefties could use a reminder that it’s not just a neoliberal gift to the insurance industry.

I responded:

Yes, Alex.  Exactly.  It surprises me that the insurance industry hasn’t been sponsoring pro-ACA, anti-AFP-disinformation ads.  I realize that it would involve implicitly acknowledging that their past policies–e.g., denying individual-market coverage to anyone who had even a minor preexisting condition–but they’re in real danger of losing the single-payer war (or at least the public-option) war.

Back last December, after it had become clear that many of the state Blue Cross companies–which had by far the largest market share of the individual market in many, many states–was taking obscene advantage of the ACA (and then the healthcare.com debacle) to imply to policyholders of canceled plans that their only option was a very high-priced plan, I wrote here in AB that they were presuming that single-payer or at least the public option could not become a real possibility as a result. And by the very end of the year, after several pundits began making the same point, and it looked like the issue could really take off, the industry apparently did recognize it; it did stop the deceit.

What everyone seems to forget is that until last fall, the wingnut argument, including in the court challenges, was “Freedom! Liberty!”  You never hear that anymore.  Now all you hear is that premiums and out-of-pocket caps are too high and provider networks are too narrow.

Um.  Single-payer would take care of those things.  So maybe sometime before November the industry will realize that it’s very much in its interest to counter the AFP with a massive ad campaign.  Call it survival instinct.

And, who knows?  Maybe by the time the insurance industry realizes that the AFP ads need to be countered with an ad campaign of hard-hitting refutations and real-people  stories, the Dems will have figured that out, too. I never got this idea of addressing the ACA with generic we-need-to-fix-rather-than-repeal it, and hope that that nullifies the law’s unpopularity as a political problem.

The way to nullify the law’s unpopularity as a political problem is to make the law popular.  And all that would take is a good ad campaign.

Please, no more generic keep-and-fix. Please, now, specific refutations and explanations from actual real people .  And, fix?  A public option, maybe?

Seriously, Dems.  Go for it. There’s nothing to lose but loss itself.

 

 

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Here’s what “unaffordable” long-term leukemia care ACTUALLY looks like, Ms. Boonstra. And Rep. Peters.

Just when I thought I’d written my last post on Julie Boonstra, I read Kenneth Thomas’s post below, from Sunday.  The only comment to that post–mine, which I just posted–reads:

How very, very, very sad that there was no ACA during his years of leukemia treatments and hospitalizations, and that we still do not have single-payer.

And how ironic that he had the very same fatal illness that Julie Boonstra has.  I’d like to shove your post in her face, Kenneth.

I’d also like to see Rep. Gary Peters use this family’s situation in his Senate campaign ads in Michigan, and ask whether Julie Boonstra has any idea of what “unaffordable” means with respect to medical care for leukemia.

When she cut the first of her two ads for AFP in mid-February, Boonstra apparently was genuinely unaware of the full terms of her new Blue Cross plan and of the out-of-pocket-costs limitations legislated in the ACA.  And part of the reason why was the failure of healthcare.com to work in October and November and, apparently at least for Michigan’s exchanges, during early December–coupled with Michigan’s decision to not provide its exchange system through a webstie and run and operated by the state.

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Bobby Jindal Picks His Passion: Lieutenant Governors Should File Frivolous Lawsuits (Ostensibly) On Behalf of States

 

LOUISIANA SUING MOVEON FOR TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT: In a move that has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the liberal group’s billboard and TV ad criticize Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to turn down the expansion of Medicaid, leaving tens of thousands of Louisianans without health insurance, the state says its lawsuit is just about the fact that the ads riff on their “Louisiana: Pick Your Passion” slogan, and that threatens to dilute the state’s brand. [Boldface mine.]

— Paul Waldman (sitting in for Greg Sargent), Morning Plum, Washington Post, today*

Lordy, lordy.

One of the few tacks of the Conservative Movement at its current stage that actually amuses me (well, you know what I mean) is that after a three-decades-long, intense, obsessive, stunningly successful campaign–in the U.S. Supreme Court, in state Supreme Courts, and through federal and state legislation–to end access to court by ordinary people to file lawsuits against corporations or local, state and federal-government entities, employees and officials, this crowd now routinely uses civil litigation in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of this or that law or public policy, or to distort beyond recognition certain federal statutes so as to flip their meaning.

For decades, these people riffed loudly and unremittingly on frivolous lawsuits, the definition of “frivolous” being defined, of course, as any civil lawsuit that does not attempt to advance a rightwing policy cause; beginning in, I guess, the early ’90s, that’s been the definition, anyway. But most people don’t know that that that what “frivolous” means in the mantra “frivolous lawsuits.”**

So, yes, for someone like me, who’s (all too) familiar with this mighty curious trajectory by the Conservative Movement, the Waldman post this morning was downright hilarious.

It’s especially funny for me. I’ve begun working on a book to be titled “Why Law Is Such an Inside Game.”  Most modern nonfiction books that argue a viewpoint have a catchy or cutesy one- or two-word title (often a pun) and then a subtitle like ““Why Law Is Such an Inside Game.” It’s apparently considered obligatory.  But not for me.

Me? I want my point to be in the title itself.

Anyway … I just thought I’d share the inside joke with y’all.  The article Waldman links to is on the New Orleans Times-Picayune site.  It’s titled “Louisiana sues MoveOn.org over Bobby Jindal billboard,” by Lauren McGaughy.

And really, folks, it’s pretty funny.

—-

*This post has been corrected to reflect that Paul Waldman, not Greg Sargent, wrote that blog post.  I also amended the title of this post to indicate that the lawsuit was filed by the lieutenant governor, not by Jindal.  The lieutenant governor will be a candidate for governor next year.

**Paragraph edited for clarity, after initial posting.  (3/18)  Not that it matters, since this post isn’t exactly breaking “hits” records.  Oh, well. 

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Okay, so why was Julie Boonstra advocating for lower-cost oral chemotherapy treatment in Washington when she was getting that medication for a set, low monthly price under the insurance plan she liked and did not want to part with? Was she concerned about reaching her annual or lifetime coverage cap?

Boonstra is the ex-wife of Mark Boonstra, the former Washtenaw County GOP chairman whom Gov. Rick Snyder appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2012. Julie Boonstra said she’s never been a political person beyond advocating for lower-cost oral chemotherapy treatment in Washington. [My boldface.]

Dexter cancer patient who called health care ‘unaffordable’ will save more than $1K, Marisa Schultz, Detroit News, Mar. 10

Boonstra famously was quoted in that article as saying when told the details of her new Blue Cross plan that it  “can’t be true” that that plan is cheaper, by a minimum of $1,200 for the year, than her old plan. “I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra told Ms. Schultz.   Schultz continued:

She said she still fears her costs will be unaffordable because she could be hit with large out-of-pocket bills in the early months when she wouldn’t have the money to pay. She also said her out-of-pocket maximum could be higher than advertised because there’s one prescription that was previously covered by her old plan that isn’t and she now buys with a separate prescription discount card.

An interesting comment thread developed here during the last few days in response to my post on Tuesday about the Detroit News article.  I titled that post “Julie Boonstra Tells the Detroit News Why Her New Healthcare Plan Doesn’t Work for Her: It Requires Her to Read the Policy or Ask Blue Cross a Few Basic Questions In Order to Learn What the Plan Actually Covers and What Her Expense Cap Is.”  One subject of the discussion concerned her statement that there’s one prescription that was previously covered by her old plan that isn’t and she now buys with a separate prescription discount card.  I pointed out that she does not say that that prescription is part of her cancer treatments, and that according to a Blue Cross spokesperson Ms. Schultz contacted for the article, it is not; all her cancer drugs are covered.

I also noted that Boonstra has not said that her old plan covered all medications.  She just said it covered all of her current medications.  And since I happen to know, having shopped there many times, that there is a Rite Aid pharmacy on the far west side of Ann Arbor, just east of Dexter, a village that is a small bedroom community mainly for people who work in Ann Arbor, I posted this from Rite Aid’s website:

Rite Aid, 500 generic-brand prescriptions available: $9 for a 30-day prescription; $16 for a 90-day one.

I also said in that comment something that, surprisingly, no one else (to my knowledge) has mentioned:

She also, by the way, has not said–because she doesn’t know, and either does Blue Cross–what her old plan would have cost in monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses and co-pays THIS YEAR, had the plan not been discontinued. But it sure as hell would be interesting to know how her old plan differed in costs and coverage last year from the year before, and how much her premiums and out-of-pocket and co-pay costs went up in, say, the last five years on that plan.

But there’s an even more fundamental question about Boonstra’s comments to Ms. Schultz: Why was Boonstra advocating for lower-cost oral chemotherapy treatment in Washington during a period when she was paying set, low monthly out-of-pocket costs and was happy with her plan?

When I first read the article it seemed strange to me that this anti-federal government Republican was advocating in Washington for federal regulation of the cost of a particular medical prescription.  But only after reading through the comments to my post on the article, in which I did not mention that statement of hers, but a commenter to the post did, did it occur to me that there was something more, something fundamental, wrong with this picture.

This clearly is someone who is locked deep inside the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh sphere of reality.  She seems to want a single-payer, Medicare-for-all type of healthcare insurance system, and wants the actual benefits of the ACA, including, apparently–no, undoubtedly–the removal of annual and lifetime caps on coverage. And it’s a safe bet that she personally does not believe that the ACA includes these bars, and that that is why her old plan was cancelled.  It can’t be true, because Fox News and Rush Limbaugh haven’t mentioned it.

This woman is among those who cannot be reached with facts.  But they are in the minority among the electorate. It’s deeply unfortunate that our Democratic president won’t educate the public about the actual specifics of the plan.  He doesn’t do specifics in speaking to the public, and doesn’t do facts and explanations at all. And he certainly doesn’t do refutations of misinformation.

We know by now that hell will freeze over before he refutes Boonstra, Emilie Lamb and the others in the AFP ads, and I guess that’s okay, because everyone’s tuned him out anyway.  But why has it taken so very, very long for the Dems to begin to take over this slack?  Their failure to do do this because Obama is unpopular is a key reason why Obama is so unpopular. Or at least a key reason why Obamacare is unpopular.  Which, apparently more than anything else, is what matters this election cycle.

As for Boonstra, reader Alex Bollinger posted this comment this morning to my earlier post:

Yes, we should feel compassion for this woman. And our blame should be mostly on the political consultants who are taking advantage of her loyalty to movement conservatism (I don’t think she’s stupid at all because I’ve seen very intelligent people really, really want to believe something is true so much that they believe their rightthink).

But her comments are intended to rescind the ACA, which has already insured over 12 million people. I’m sure there are people who either have or will get cancer among those 12 million. Just because they don’t have TV ads doesn’t mean that their lives aren’t important as well, and Boonstra has the ability to temper her ideological fervor with, you know, having a basic understanding of her plan before going on national TV to talk about it.

Exactly.

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The PPACA Penalty Fee in 2014 Misinformation

A lot of people think that all they have to pay is $95 in 2014 to get around the PPACA. The $95 penalty is true if you make < $19,650 in Household  income and this comes after your deduction of $10,150. The individual shared responsibility payment is capped at the cost of the national average premium for the bronze level health plan available through the Marketplace in 2014.

The penalty in 2014 is calculated one of 2 ways. You’ll pay whichever of these amounts is higher:

  • 1% of your yearly household income. (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, $10,150 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average yearly premium for a bronze plan.

  • $95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.

The way the penalty is calculated, a single adult with household income below $19,650 would pay the $95 flat rate. A single adult with household income above $19,650 would pay an amount based on the 1 percent rate. (If income is below $10,150, no penalty is owed.)

The Individual Shared Responsibility Payment – An IRS Overview

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Julie Boonstra Tells the Detroit News Why Her New Healthcare Plan Doesn’t Work for Her: It Requires Her to Read the Policy or Ask Blue Cross a Few Basic Questions In Order to Learn What the Plan Actually Covers and What Her Expense Cap Is.

Oh, dear. I won’t summarize this for you; you really have to read it in full.  (Or maybe just read Glenn Kessler’s article about it posted today.)

And to think I had thought Julie Boonstra’s only comprehension problem was with basic math.  Turns out she also has a problem with reading comprehension and with understanding explicit short answers to oral questions posed to, say, a Blue Cross representative. Or maybe just with recognizing that she could learn the specifics of her plan simply by doing one or the other of those things.

Hey, she could have done both!  But first she’d have to have figured out that reading her plan or asking a Blue Cross representative might provide that information.

Yep.  The Republican Party really is the party of stupid. Then again, maybe she knew all along, but thought everyone else is stupid. Okay, I’ll give in and quote this, from Kessler’s post:

Boonstra’s response to this report was that it “can’t be true” because she was worried about high expenses early in the year and because she thought one of her prescription drugs was not covered. A spokesman for Blue Cross told the News that all of her prescriptions are covered and her co-pays on the drugs would help with meeting her out-of-pocket maximum.

It can’t be true, because the truth exists not in reality but instead in her mind. Hopefully, this woman doesn’t fear a nuclear attack by Martians.  Or by the Koch brothers, although that might be prescient, if the attack is to be on, say, Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district.

Seriously, folks.  Does anyone really think this woman had no idea what her plan provided, if not when she purchased it, then sometime shortly afterward?  This new information brings into question the truth of her back-story about being unable for nearly three months to access the Michigan link at healthcare.com and gain information about available plans.  (It also raises questions about whether she is in fact receiving subsidies for her new in-any-event-lower monthly premiums, although of course there is no way to learn that.)

Let’s hear it for Detroit News reporter Marisa Schultz.  And, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Detroit newspaper market: Detroit has two longtime mainstream newspapers, the Free Press, which leans Democratic, and the News, which leans Republican, but both papers’ reporting staffs are journalists in the old-fashioned sense. They’re real journalists, not propagandists.

Yes, folks. The Detroit News leans Republican.

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Paul Ryan and Scott Walker Come Out for Repeal of Federal Child-Labor Laws, Because the Kids Insist. Coming soon: Talking polar bears pleading for more oil drilling.

Oh, my — not only was Paul Ryan’s hunger=dignity speech appalling on the merits, the anecdote he used to make his point was fake — a distortion of a real story with a completely different point.

I’m actually not happy with this discovery; the crucial point here should be that even if the story of the kid who wants brown bag lunches were true, it would be a terrible argument against school lunches and the social safety net in general. In a way it’s a bad thing to have the conversation shifted instead to Ryan’s failure to get simple facts right.

— Into the Mouths of Babes, Paul Krugman, nytimes.com today

Here’s what Ryan said yesterday in his speech to the CPAC convention, as related by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait:

In his vacuous, sloganeering speech today at CPAC, Paul Ryan argued that “the left” — the term he used to describe not the actual left, but the Obama administration — offers Americans “a full stomach — and an empty soul.” What soul-emptying ways is “the left” filling people’s stomachs? Ryan has a story from his fellow Republican, Eloise Anderson:

“She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.”

Anderson is a longtime anti-safety-net crusader and currently a member of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  Ryan was paraphrasing testimony gave to the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs, last summer.  Greg Sargent details the controversy here, and links to Glenn Kessler’s and Wonkette’s investigative reports on it from last night.

I initially had the same reaction as Krugman: that this under-oath fabrication of fact by a witness at a congressional hearing who is a key member of Walker’s administration, would become the news story, rather than that Ryan used the anecdote to come out for repeal not just of the school lunch program but also of child-labor laws.

But upon reflection, I think the revelation that this Walker appointee gave fabricated testimony to a congressional committee–stunning, in itself–is a net plus, because it brings far more public attention than otherwise to the premise of this Walker appointee (and therefore of Walker himself) and Ryan: that children from poor families, including, presumably, infants and toddlers–these people want to kill the food stamp program, too–should work for their food.

This odd conflation of parent and child, by both Anderson and Ryan, is so weird and ridiculous–and so stunningly offensive, surely, to most Americans–that its mere verbatim recitation will, I think, be a gift that keeps on giving during this year’s campaigns.  But it also highlights this: that the Republicans appear to be unaware that a large percentage of school-lunch-program or the food-stamp-program (or both) recipients come from households headed by someone who works, often full-time, at a very low-wage job or at a combination of low-wage jobs.

Or else these pols are claiming that no one should work at very-low-wage jobs, and should instead find a way up the socioeconomic ladder.  In which case, they are saying that Walmart and the fast-food and hospitality industries should pay their employees more.  I mean, shouldn’t be able to find employees. (Not ones who’ve fed themselves and their kids, anyway.)

Paul Ryan and Scott Walker turn out to be pro-labor, after all!  Who knew?  We Dems need to start appreciating the annual CPAC conference for it’s, um, newsworthiness.

These people’s weird obsession with killing the social safety net is shared by–what?–15%-20% of the public? They themselves seem to recognize that outrageous that the people who want this is small, and the people who obsess over it and privilege it over all other policy matters, is really, really small.  Which presumably is why they keep fabricating stories.

This is part and parcel of the genre that until yesterday most recently featured as its top stars Julie Boonstra and Emilie Lamb.  What’s next? Talking polar bears pleading for more oil drilling?

****

As an aside, I think that if Walker is serious about running for president, he needs to fire Anderson.  She fabricated a story, under oath, at a congressional hearing.  That’s not a trivial matter.

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No Money from Old Men

During the late sixties, myself and a bunch of other older teenagers 18 years and older arrived at McAfees on Van Buren in Chicago, IL. Quite a few of us were drafted. I enlisted in the USMC at the age of 19 without knowing completely what my life was going to be like for the next 3+ years except for what my Master Gunnery Sergeant cousin gave a clue to. Fast forward to a few years ago and my young nephew whose father has pretty much left alone wants to volunteer.  A family friend encourages him while I try to talk him out of it. The memories are still fresh.

I do not know why the Republicans and the Tea-baggers are holding Veterans hostage. Many are old men like I am. Many could not run a mile much less carry a rifle and a pack. Too many of them are too willing to send too many young men to war. The same old men are unwilling to give money to help those they sent to war without strings attached. These Senators will not fix what they broke.

 

 

Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kirk (R-IL)
Lee (R-UT)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)

To hell with the lot of you.

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