Loan situation shouldn’t be overlooked


Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

Column by Sean Taylor

I’m a fan of health care reform. I mean, if you’re a student how can you not be? Besides that whole America-going-bankrupt-from-exploding-health-care-costs thing, there’s also the fact you’ll get to stay on your parents’ insurance until you’re 26 perk. And that sure beats the hell out of University Health Services, I know that much.

But in the process of pushing this leviathan through, we’re seeing a lot of good bills get sidetracked by the usual Washington bull. One such bill hits close to home for all of us: Obama’s student loan overhaul.

The way the system works now, the federal government pays big corporate banks in states like Nebraska, Virginia and Delaware to loan you money for school. In the process of the Wall Street mafia giving you this offer you can’t refuse, they skim a little off the top to make a profit.

The taxpayer loses, because the federal government has to pay more to guarantee your loans to the banks and you lose because you’re going to have to pay thousands more in interest and fees 10 years from now when you’re going to want to buy a house and start a family. (Too bad you won’t have the money for it!)

But don’t worry, kids — there’s one winner in this tangled mess of you just trying to pay for school. I bet it’s only going to take one guess on who.

Yes, those big banks are making a killing off a system designed to ease the suffering of billionaires with corporate welfare payments straight from your pocket.

Now enter Obama.

He’s pretty grateful young people voted for him by a ratio of two-to-one and he wants to make sure to keep those voters next time he’s at the ballot box. He also just finished paying off his own student loans from Harvard and Columbia University, so he’s probably a little bitter.

So he tells the Congress he wants a bill on his desk that limits the percentage of a college graduate’s income they have to pay back when they get into the real world, one that caps interest rates at a low, affordable level.

He also says this elaborate, wasteful system we have now just isn’t going to cut it. He suggests instead of having the middle man in place, skimming money off the top and passing the cost onto you, the federal government just take all that money it already guarantees via the banks and directly loan it to the students themselves at no charge to us.

Now if you’ve ever been to a Trader Joe’s grocery store, you understand how this will save money. Right on their Web site, they explain how they get you gourmet food at bargain prices, “We keep our costs low, cut out the middleman whenever possible, and pass our savings on to you.”

To give you an idea of how much this can save, while in Atlanta I purchased a nice bottle of Cabernet that should’ve cost me $15; it cost me $2 dollars instead.

Who could possibly be against these kinds of savings being implemented in the world of student loans?

Besides the usual Republican suspects, Democratic senators in states like Nebraska, Virginia and Delaware are raising objections. And if you’ll recall, that’s exactly where those corporate banks gaming the system are located.

Check the campaign donations of those senators. I bet you’ll find a correlation between the money they receive from banks and the votes they cast.

Students turned out in huge numbers, throwing out the “Just Say No!” Republican Party to elect President Obama and the Democrats into Congress and the presidency. So far, Obama has kept his promise to students, as have a plurality of the Democrats in the Senate (the House of Representatives, ever ahead of the curve, has already passed a student loan bill).

After a year of melodramatic political theater from Mitch McConnell and his crew, I don’t have much hope for any Republicans absolving themselves of their ties to corporate mega-bank thuggery to support this bill.

But it’s time for those Democratic senators wavering on it to wean themselves off the corporate teat and to start listening to the American people who elected them. This isn’t hard, or controversial. Do the right thing, senators.

And if they don’t, it’s time for students to throw the jerks out.