Tag Archives: debt

Congressmen Say Their Own Personal Debt is OK, but not Government Debt

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Ah, “elected” government, where hypocrites are paid to advocate for causes they may or may not even agree with, and legislate rules that they themselves don’t follow. And apropos of budget hysteria and economic terrorism being wrought against popular public programs, the trumped-up fears are not only false (the debt crisis is imaginary, and only 6% of the country is aware that the deficit is actually falling) but it’s no surprise to anyone that the ‘debt-fixing’ warriors don’t have the same view of their own debt as they do of the country’s, or yours.

As Josh Israel of ProPublica points out, fourteen of the most vitriolic enemies of vital programs themselves live with the personal irresponsibility of private debt (to the tune of millions).

These hypocrites include:

  • House Budget Committee Member Tom Rice (R-SC):Wrote: “At a time when hardworking American families are living off of a budget, the federal government should be no different. My colleagues and I believe it is time for America to change course and get back on a path of prosperity. This begins with a balanced budget plan.” Reported five mortgages totaling over $4 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Diane Black (R-TN):Wrote: “The state of Tennessee balances its budget, American families and businesses balance their budgets and so should the federal government,” and “Balancing the budget is not extreme; it is what American families across this country do on a regular basis.” Reported four mortgages on three properties, totaling more than $3 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Roger Williams (R-TX):Said Wednesday: “We have to have a balanced budget. I have to balance my budget. Everybody in America has to balance their family’s budget or their business’ budget, not every ten years, not even every single year, but every single day.” Reported more than $2.5 million in business debts.
  • House Budget Committee Member Scott Rigell (R-VA):Boasted that he voted for a balanced budget amendment because: “I know that American families do what they have to do to live within their means; and so too should the government.” Reported $1.5 million in lines of credit, a $500,000-plus mortgage, and over $10,000 in credit card debt.
  • House Budget Committee Member Bill Flores (R-TX):Wrote: “It’s time Washington was forced to finally live within its means and cut up the credit cards. Every American family and 49 out of 50 states currently abide by some form of a balanced-budget requirement. If they can make the hard choices to pay their bills and live within their means, then Washington should too,” and “American families and businesses must live by this principle every day, and they want Congress to abide by the same rule.” Reported two mortgages on residences totaling over $1.5 million.
  • House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): In a joint editorial with Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), wrote: “Just as any family or business has to do, Washington needs to learn to live within its means.” Reported three mortgages totaling at least $1 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Vicky Hartzler (R-MO): Said in a floor speech: “Families I talk to, they say, Every year we balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t? Every small business I visit says, We balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t? Every farmer and rancher I visit with says, We balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t?” Reported five real estate mortgages totaling more than $900,000.
  • House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA):Wrote: “Balancing the budget isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. When families in Eastern Washington balance their budgets, they don’t consider it a liberal or conservative policy; it’s just a requirement of life,” and “Families, small businesses and even the State of Washington must balance their budgets. It’s difficult and it forces some hard choices. It’s time for the federal government to do the same.” Reported three mortgages totalling more than $600,000 and a student loan of at least $10,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Reid Ribble (R-WI):Explained that he’d backed a bill because “we need to put a stop to the irresponsible deficit spending in Washington. Families across Wisconsin have been forced to scale back their spending and balance their budgets, yet the federal government has failed to do the same.” Reported several mortgages on properties and a home equity line of credit, totaling several hundred thousand dollars.
  • House Budget Committee Member Rob Woodall (R-GA):Wrote: “A Balanced Budget Amendment is crucial to ensuring fiscal responsibility in our government, not only today, but in the years to come,” Woodall said. “American families and businesses must decide how to spend their money responsibly; it’s time that the folks in Washington do the same.”Reported two mortgages totaling more than $150,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Alan Nunnelee (R-MS):Wrote that “businesses, large and small, are working on their budgets for 2012. Each of these groups, local governments, state government, and private businesses operate with a very practical consideration…they must make their budgets balance. This is a concept that American families understand. Thirty years ago, just before I was to be married, a very wise friend taught me a simple but important principle of family budgeting, ‘If your outgo exceeds your income then your upkeep will be your downfall.’ The only entity in America that does not seem to understand this concept is the federal government,” and “Families and businesses in my district have been sitting down, cutting spending, balancing their budgets and making tough decisions. It’s time for the federal government to do the same. A balanced budget amendment will legally force the federal government to only spend what it takes in and start living within its means – a practice Mississippi families and businesses are asked to do every day, yet a practice our own President refuses to participate in. Reported four mortgages on two properties, totaling more than $145,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member James Lankford (R-OK): Said in a floor speech: “Nineteen years ago my wife and I married. I was still in school, I was working as much as I could, she was also working, but we were barely making it, but we made the decision, we were not going to run up credit card debt and live beyond our means. We paid our school loans, we tied to our church, we ate a lot of peanut butter, and we lived simply. As Dave Ramsey said, we determined to act our wage. It’s a biblical principal for myself and my family; Proverbs 22:7 states, ‘The borrower is a slave to the lender.’ Proverbs 22 applies to families, and Proverbs 22 applies to nations. If we were living within our means as a nation, almost all the debate in the last six months in this chamber would have been different.”Reported that he “is a slave” to Bank of America, with whom he has a mortgage of more than $100,000.
  • House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):Wrote: “In order to make ends meet and plan ahead, hardworking American families and small businesses budget to manage their finances. Why can’t Washington?” and “In the past two years, discretionary spending has increased by 84 percent and our debt has grown by over $3.5 trillion. No family or small business in Bakersfield, or anywhere for that matter, would ever budget like this, and the federal government cannot.” Reported a mortgage of over $100,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Sean Duffy (R-WI):Wrote: “Congress must learn what every working family and small business in Central and Northwestern Wisconsin has known for a painfully long time: the path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future is paved by fiscal responsibility and smaller, smarter government. One of the most commonsense measures we can enact is a balanced budget amendment which simply dictates that the federal government must live within its means. This is a lesson well-learned by the hardworking citizens of Wisconsin and there’s no reason why Washington should live by different rules than Wausau, Chippewa Falls or Rice Lake.” Reported two mortgages totaling more than $150,000, a line of credit, and a student loan of more than $50,000.

As AllGov points out, forty-six lawmakers in Congress owe thousands of dollars in college loans, totaling between $1.8 million and $4.3 million (via OpenSecrets data). But we’re still not see much action in the way of student debt justice.

They probably don’t care a whit for their own debt because they know the next big bribe or revolving door contract is just around the corner. And they don’t care about your debt at all, because elites in the bubble don’t think the same as we do. And to be perfectly honest, they don’t hate the government debt either, as their buddies continue to get rich off of it (and the big drivers of debt and deficit, Pentagon spending, will not shrink an ounce). But they need a fear engendered in the populace so they can have an excuse to take things away from the populace. And if you complain that the programs you have known and loved on for decades are being austerely destroyed, well, you’re just a ‘moocher’ who wants ‘more free stuff’.

The ProPublica piece reminds us that the government is not the same as a corporation, and shouldn’t be run like one. But even considering that corpo-fascism has already taken hold of our once-public infrastructure that used to serve us, they’re still running it like a pretty piss-poor business.

Everybody’s High on Education

As student loans officially increase to around 511% (nearing $1 trillion), as one of the largest for-profit educational chains (and an alma mater of yours truly) faces federal fraud charges, as students and unemployed all over the country vehemently protest large greedy corporations, and as loan corporations bloat an already non-sustainable bubble of debt with their record greed, the taut material holding this battered industry together catches by each thread and shreds slowly under the weight.

These are actually actionable viable threats to a system arterially hardened by its own butter-soaked gluttony. After bearing witness to our recent economic hubris relating to real estate, home mortgages, and big bank credit swaps, and thanks to books like Alan Collinge’s Student Loan Scam and documentaries like “Default: The Student Loan Documentary“, the population at large is becoming more and more aware of the corruption and predatory practices rife in the higher-educational system.

College rates are still on the rise, but not for long as related findings reveal that graduation rates are stagnant, the job market abysmal and placement through the school is laughable. Add in the amount that students and parents have to nearly immediately start paying back, which may last a lifetime, and it begs some serious questions of consumer rights.

When will college go on sale? And though I’m not talking about a (unnecessarily) controversial voucher system, it doesn’t take an analyst to realize that eventually the jig will be up, or at the very least this non-sustainable bubble will burst as the list of those who cannot afford higher education grows to encompass not only underprivileged lower-class, but the once-spoiled now-neglected middle class. The ones whose votes are actually not discounted or tampered with, and more importantly, whose main democratic voice is heard by the spending power of their wallets in our commercial machine. If you silence their credit limits, we most certainly will see even more industries topple and threaten to destroy the rich, shit trickling downhill as it has with so many economies already.

The sale(s) to which I refer would and should be consumer driven demand for basic necessities and, eventually as the middle class grows, extra related frivolities. A series of coupons and discount cards adding bulk value to the college credit system, and a downgrading of the overinflated price per credits, books, materials, etc. It may seem like some cheesy CVS/Safeway, bullshit, and may raise eyebrows to the legitimacy of the school’s accreditation at first, but in the face of dire financial ruin, who would fault them?

The government would have to dish out less, something that big money interested conservatives would be more than happy to hear (though I argue that much more money should be spent preparing an engineering and technologically savvy work force for this new century we’ve stumbled into). The students would have to dish out less, and though they’d still be in the same position as before, a little lateral flexibility would stimulate college spending both socially and academically. Granted a fair amount would squander the difference in savings on flash-in-the-pan adventures fit for fraternity fraternizing, but many may be able to save and put away to be better prepared for the harsh life after the college experience that had been keeping them in their adolescence. The percentage of this, I’d venture to guess, is no different than the squanderers and savers in the general populace.

Learn more about the college and student loan industry, and you begin to be really sick at the schemes intended to put students in ridiculous amounts of unforgivable (even under bankruptcy) debt, and keep as many as possible near or at default. But now with a discounted system, students at least have some gap between the deathly workhouses of indebted indentured servitude. And a consumer-rights-driven movement of demand would engender a mentality of paranoia for corrupt corporate conniving, so perhaps there’s less harm of fraud.

Only the school is losing some money, as the initial discounters. But they’ve shown they prefer quantity of low-income students to anything else, and as any student of economic history may point out, while Henry Ford was not the nicest person, his stroke of brilliance was to pay his auto workers more all over the country, effectively building a new middle class with an infusion of cash so that not merely the stingy upper .1% would be prospective customers.
The only ones who would ‘lose’ would be the massively wealthy and powerful loan companies, who have tripled their profits despite the economic crash and downturn. The risky loans, the odds and interest growing larger by default, and captive market require these greed machines to drive prices up into an untenable bubble. Which is why you can be sure it doesn’t happen.
But as with many industries, technology, information, and interconnectedness obliterate the vacuum, granting the consumer more choice, better deals, flexibility, and direct service and products from their vendor. And though the constant interstitial intervention of the government will remain, newer online markets of education and lower university operating costs may eventually see the end of the financial middlemen.

Protesting is great. But historically, boycotts work better than protest alone. Either way, something’s gotta give.