The White House’s proposed 2015 budget contains a provision that will significantly alter the way the federal government handles student loans. If you have more than $57,500 in federally-backed student loans, you should pay particularly close attention.
Currently, individuals who take out federally-backed student loans must make payments for at least 20 years. After 20 years, the remaining debt is forgiven. However, the time frame for debt forgiveness is reduced to 10 years if you work in Public Service (Government or non-profit sector). Most students know this as the “Public Service Loan Forgiveness” program.
Under current law, some people with federal student loan debt may qualify for a repayment program known as “Pay As You Earn” (PAYE). This program allows individuals who demonstrate “financial hardship” to make repayments based on a percentage of your income. The percentage increases as a function of the size of your income relative to your debt burden. There is currently a 10% ceiling on repayments in this program, as a percentage of your “discretionary income.”
The Obama administration’s 2015 budget proposal would expand eligibility for the PAYE program by removing the “financial hardship” requirement. However, it places a cap on debt forgiveness for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and raises the ceiling for the 20-year debt forgiveness program. Under the new budget, only people with student loan debt of $57,500 or less will be eligible for 10-year Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The ceiling for loan forgiveness outside of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has also been raised to 25 years instead of 20.
The good news for this reform is that it gives more people access to the PAYE program, which will reduce their debt burdens considerably. It will also save the federal government money.
The bad news is that everybody who already made the decision to attend college or graduate school in reliance on the availability of the 10-year Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is now getting screwed. I know many colleagues from Law School who planned their academic and professional careers in reliance on this program. There are also people who probably would not have gone deep into debt pursuing graduate-level degrees if they didn’t think they could get their loans forgiven in 10 years. This change affects tens of thousands of graduate students, including law students and med school students whose debt burdens not uncommonly reach over $200k, and in same cases, closer to 300k-400k.
There’s a simple fix for this problem that retains the reforms without hurting the people who already went into debt in reliance on the 10-year Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The Obama administration simply needs to add an amendment to their proposed budget grandfathering in students who obtained federally-backed student loans in reliance on the 10-year program. It is unconscionable to make a benefit available to the public, have people plan their lives and careers around it, and then take it away after they’ve made irrevocable life decisions in reliance on that benefit.
It is also worth noting that the U.S. is fairly unique among 1st-world countries in forcing its students to go so deeply into debt to attain high-level degrees. PhD programs in Sweden, for example, are tuition-free for Swedish citizens. In England, doctors are currently up in arms over paying much less than half what it costs to attend med school in the U.S. (in England, the “average graduate debt for medical students is £20,000.”). When you compare the cost of education in the U.S. to other countries, it’s pretty clear that the U.S. leaves much to be desired.
Nonetheless, the Obama administration should amend the proposed reforms to make sure that students who went to school thinking they could rely on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program don’t get left out in the cold. A grandfather amendment should be added so that students who already went into debt intending to take advantage of this law may do so.
A group of Israeli women hold protest signs that say “Stop The Occupation” in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, respectively. Activestills captions:
In honor of International Women’s Day, Activestills pays tribute to more than a quarter century of anti-occupation activism by the ‘Women in Black’ group in Israel. Every Friday since 1988, the women have stood in the main squares of cities or at highway junctions with signs calling to end the Israeli occupation. Often spat at, cursed or violently harassed by passersby, they have become, for us, a symbol of persistence.
Putin is actually much less popular among Russians who are hostile toward the West than among those with pro-Western views: http://fam.ag/1cEDuAN
LTMC: Indeed. Yet another reason why the U.S. should avoid unnecessary entanglements in the affairs of other countries. Their political culture is often asymmetrical in ways that make unintended consequences more likely. As Daniel Treisman notes in the article, the invasion of Crimea signals that “Putin has abandoned the strategy that has underwritten his political dominance for the last 14 years. And in doing so, he has bet the throne on an approach that is likely to fail.” Internal pressure alone may very well resolve this crisis without the necessity for U.S. intervention, diplomatic or otherwise.
City police officers would face a fine and jail time if they to stop people from legally photographing or filming them under an ordinance created by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
CouncilmanRobert Doherty, the committee chairman, said the law would be drafted and presented in the months ahead.
This will be a HUGE step in the right direction and is the first ordinance of its kind in the US.
LTMC: criminal justice reform history being made right in my backyard.
A News anchor for RT quits live on the air over the network’s coverage of Russia’s military action in the Ukraine.
If you are a fan of House of Cards, and want to know how close it is to actual establishment politics, this article is for you.
Upskirt photos are now totally legal, says disgusting MA court ruling
March 5, 2014
Today in disgusting, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that it’s totally legal to take upskirt photos on public transit. Provided that the victim is wearing underwear.
LTMC: Shocking as this seems on its face, legally speaking, the Court made the correct decision. The law is poorly written, and needs to be updated to cover this type of behavior.
The problem with the law lies in the definitions section. As the article suggests, one of the elements of the offense requires the victim to be “partially nude,” which is defined in a very specific way:
Section 105. (a) As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
“Partially nude”, the exposure of the human genitals, buttocks, pubic area or female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola.
As a matter of basic logic, you could obviously make the argument that when a person tries to take upskirt photos, the victim is de facto partially nude. But the definitions section of the law forecloses this possibility, because the legislature gave “partially nude” a very specific definition. As written, it only includes “exposure of the human genitals, buttocks, pubic area or female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola." This is how you get the legally absurd result that a person could violate the law if their victim isn’t wearing underwear, but can’t violate the law if the victim is wearing underwear.
It’s pretty easy for the legislature to fix this by just changing the definitions section of the law so that “partially nude” embraces people in the situations mentioned above. It does have to be the legislature that does that, though, since the Courts don’t have the power to change a law simply because it’s poorly written.
Gawker recently published a letter from Ray Jasper, a death row inmate who was convicted of killing a man named David Mendoza Alejandro. David’s brother, Steven, then published a response to Ray’s letter, which, as you can imagine, casts the contents of Ray’s letter in a decidedly less positive light.
As I was reading through Steven’s letter, several things jumped out at me. First, there was this passage, about when Steven testified at trial regarding his brother David:
After I was sworn in and sat in the chair, the prosecutor handed me a picture of David. It was a postmortem picture. It was a close up of David’s face from the neck up. His eyes still open. The gash from Jasper’s knife visible. I let out a gasp and when the Prosecutor asked me what the picture was of I told him, “it’s my brother, David.” Through tearful testimony, I tried my best to bring my brother back to life in that courtroom. When I got off the stand I reached for my father’s embrace and sobbed as I had never before and have not since.
This is a good example of how prosecutors manipulate the emotions of witnesses in order to inflame the jury. Here is a guy whose brother was recently killed, and the prosecutor, with zero scruples whatsoever, shows the witness a photograph of his brother’s freshly murdered corpse. The prosecutor then proceeds to ask him to talk about his brother while holding the same gruesome photo of his brother’s corpse in his hand. This is outrageous conduct by the prosecutor. There was absolutely no legally compelling reason whatsoever to show Steven a picture of his brother’s murdered corpse. But the prosecutor did it anyway. Because he knew it would upset Steven and make him an emotional mess on the stand. That of course, would make the jurors more likely to convict based on emotion, rather than the evidence.
Another part of the letter that jumped out at me was Steven’s vacillation over the death penalty. When the defense called him to the stand, they tried to get him to testify that he was opposed to the Death Penalty, but he refused to admit it, even though he actually does oppose the Death Penalty. David wrote the following after recounting his testimony:
After everything, I’m still opposed to the death penalty. I have no intention of witnessing Jasper’s execution but I have no intention of fighting to stop it either. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but that’s for me to live with. I harbor no illusions that Jasper’s ceasing to exist will ameliorate the pain I feel daily from the loss of David. The truth is I rarely think of Jasper or the other defendants. I think of David more. Those thoughts are more important to me than anything else. Certainly more important than any last statement from Ray Jasper. Though I purposefully skipped reading Jasper’s statement, I did read through the comments. I have to say to my fellow death penalty opponent friends: Keep up your fight. It is an honorable one. But do not use this man, Ray Jasper, as your spokesperson, as your example of why the death penalty should be abolished. The death penalty should be abolished because it is wrong to kill another human being. Not because a Medical Examiner said your knife wound did not cause immediate death. Ray Jasper is not worthy of your good and kind hearts. He has never accepted culpability or expressed remorse. He is responsible for viciously ending the life of “the nicest man he ever met.” Responsible for ending the life of the nicest man my family ever met, David Mendoza Alejandro.
As the family member of a murder victim, Steven Alejandro is certainly entitled to feel whatever way he feels about his brother’s death, and about Ray Jasper’s fate. But I think he’s making a categorical error in reasoning when he tells us that it’s wrong to kill another human being, and also says that Ray Jasper is not worthy of our good and kind hearts.
There are two types of arguments against the Death Penalty. One of them is procedural, and the other is ethical. The procedural argument against the Death Penalty is that human beings are flawed, and thus, so are human institutions. Even if we agree that some people deserve to die, the State is incapable of reliably making those determinations. So procedurally, the Death Penalty can never be effectively implemented without an intolerable risk of injustice.
The ethical argument against the Death Penalty is different. The ethical argument claims that even if we could reliably determine the guilt of persons accused of Capital Crimes, the Death Penalty should still be abolished, because all human beings have fundamental human dignity and inherent value. Nobody is capable of forfeiting their inherent value through their actions or omissions. As Steven Alejandro said in his letter, “The death penalty should be abolished because it is wrong to kill another human being,” i.e. it is wrong no matter what the circumstances. Even if the person you are killing has murdered someone you care about.
That’s the fundamental difference between someone who supports the Death Penalty, and someone who wants it abolished on ethical grounds. A person who wants the Death Penalty abolished needs to be able to look the killer of a loved one in the eye with a straight face, and say “you don’t deserve to die.” It is certainly difficult to maintain this conviction when faced with the violent loss of a loved one. And it is completely understandable that a person’s conviction might flag when a prosecutor is manipulating your emotions on the stand.
But it is wrong to say that you oppose the Death Penalty, while also stating that the people most likely to benefit from abolishing it (e.g. Ray Jasper) are not worth the good and kind heart of abolitionists. Ray Jasper is a far more realistic version of the type of people who will benefit most from Death Penalty abolition than the unspoken alternative Steven Alejandro has in mind. Indeed, Jasper does not seem to be the same selfish, violent 19-year old that participated in the robbery and murder of Steven Alejandro’s brother, demonstrating that even murderers are not beyond change and redemption. But even if this wasn’t true, Jasper would still be an acceptable spokesperson for Death Penalty abolition. If the ethical argument against the Death Penalty doesn’t hold up in Ray Jasper’s case, then it really doesn’t hold up at all.
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Ayn Rand was personally extremely clear that she was not a libertarian. For example, she said:
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