Thursday, September 29, 2022

Biden's Student Debt Relief to Cost a Fraction of US Giveaways to the Megarich and Pentagon

"In contrast to President Trump and Republicans who gave giant corporations $2 trillion in tax breaks, President Biden delivered transformative middle-class relief," said two senators.

As opponents of U.S. President Joe Biden's student debt cancellation plan weaponized a new government analysis on its estimated cost, some Democratic lawmakers on Monday pointed to the report as further evidence that the administration is on the right track.

In response to a request by a pair of Republicans, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said that Biden's plan—which will cancel up to $20,000 in debt for federal borrowers with certain incomes—will cost about $400 billion over 30 years.

"Today's CBO estimate makes clear that millions of middle-class Americans have more breathing room thanks to President Biden's historic decision to cancel student debt," declared Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Schumer and Warren were among the congressional Democrats who long called on Biden to implement an even bolder plan canceling up to $50,000 in debt per federal borrower.

In their joint statement, the senators recalled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) signed by former President Donald Trump in late 2017. Blasted by critics as the "GOP tax scam," the law largely served major corporations and wealthy individuals.

"In contrast to President Trump and Republicans who gave giant corporations $2 trillion in tax breaks, President Biden delivered transformative middle-class relief by canceling student debt for working people who need it most—nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to those earning less than $75,000 a year," Schumer and Warren said Monday, referencing a CBO analysis of the TCJA.

The Senate is expected to take up another National Defense Authorization Act next month. The version approved by the House in July put $839 billion toward military spending for a single year, which was widely criticized by progressives within and beyond Congress given the urgent healthcare, housing, hunger, and other needs of many Americans.

Schumer and Warren added Monday that "we don't agree with all of CBO's assumptions that underlie this analysis, but it is clear the pandemic payment pause and student debt cancellation are policies that demonstrate how government can and should invest in working people, not the wealthy and billionaire corporations."

In a series of tweets Monday, CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly noted some of the limitations of the new CBO report, including that it does not factor in the planned changes to the income-driven repayment program—which one reporter said last month is "potentially a bigger deal than forgiveness."

According to the White House, the administration's plan could "provide relief to up to 43 million borrowers, including canceling the full remaining balance for roughly 20 million borrowers."

As Common Dreams has reported, Biden's student debt relief plan is popular among Americans and its announcement has been followed by an increase in the president's approval rating among younger voters.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

ACTION ALERT: Crime Claims of CNN’s New Police Expert Don’t Hold Up to Facts

In its latest
 move to the right, CNN recently hired former NYPD flack John Miller as its “chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst.” As Josmar Trujillo observed more than five years ago (, 6/21/17), Miller “has spun the revolving door between law enforcement and media like perhaps no one else,” moving back and forth between jobs at the NYPD, FBI, ABC and CBS.

Just last year, while working for the NYPD, Miller falsely testified that there was “no evidence” the department had spied on Muslims in mosques—when, in fact, AP had won a Pulitzer in 2012 for uncovering how after 9/11 the NYPD “systematically spied on Muslim neighborhoods, listened in on sermons, infiltrated colleges and photographed law-abiding residents” (Popular Information9/7/22). Shahana Hanif, the Muslim city council member who called out Miller’s lies, told Popular Information:

"John Miller had the audacity to lie under oath about the nature of this program to my face…. Someone like John Miller should not be in public service nor should they be given a platform on a mainstream cable news network.

Predictably, within days of joining CNN, Miller offered up a healthy dose of dishonest copaganda to the network’s audience.

Heads I win, tails you lose

CNN: NYC Crime Rates

John Miller misexplains crime stats to CNN‘s audience (New Day9/7/22).

On CNN New Day (9/7/22), anchor John Berman brought up the issue of crime in New York City, noting that murder and shooting rates had fallen over the past year, and asking Miller to explain “how…that was achieved.”

Miller replied:

"Well, I know how it was achieved because I was there. And that was achieved by extraordinarily smart deployments, which is the Bronx was driving the shooting numbers for the city a year ago. They flooded the Bronx with police officers on overtime. They flooded the Bronx with police officers working a sixth or seventh day.

They shifted tours around. They were very strategic, watching every shooting, every dot on the map and pushing resources there. And they were able to suppress that. 

Berman then asked Miller how to explain the seeming anomaly that “you can get the murder right and shootings down, but robbery, felony assaults and overall crime, all up? Miller responded:

"When you take the larceny, burglary, auto theft, these are all covered under New York’s new bail reform laws, which is, criminals know — criminals have very good intelligence, as good as the police when it comes to collecting information and distributing that among each other—they know that there are certain charges where the judge in New York state, not just New York City, is legally prohibited, prohibited by law, from setting bail in that case. So they know I commit the crime, if I get caught, I’ll be out as soon as I get my hearing. Now, that has caused recidivism, which was always a problem, to skyrocket. So basically when you look at the larceny, the robberies—which are just larcenies where somebody tried to stop them—the burglaries, the auto thefts…. We have people, John, coming from New Jersey, where they have plenty of cars, to steal cars in New York City, because they know if they get caught, they will not go to jail.

In sum: some crimes are down because police have flooded crime-ridden neighborhoods, but that same flood of police has nothing to do with an increase in other crimes, because bail reform.

NY Post: NYPD’s own stats debunk claims of bail reform leading to spike in gun violence

New York Post (7/8/20): “Most people released under the criminal justice reforms or amid the pandemic had no known ties to the bloodshed…. Cops should focus on the flow of illegal guns into the city.”

Unsurprisingly, this is exactly the argument Miller’s former employer, and New York mayor and former cop Eric Adams, have been making recently, based on data they will not publicly release, and that contradicts all actually available data (City and State New York8/3/22Crime and Justice2021; Quattrone Center, 8/16/22).

Curiously, when shootings were up in 2020 (and other crimes were down), the NYPD’s argument had it that that was the result of bail reform. At the time, the total mendacity was called out by even the right-wing, cop-loving, Murdoch-owned New York Post (7/8/20). Now with the crime rates reversed, the NYPD and its allies are hoping the baseless bail reform blame will stick on a different target.

Contrary to evidence

In fact, murder and shooting rates are down slightly nationwide, after two years of increases. Criminal justice observers note that, while one should always be cautious in attempting to explain short-term changes in crime rates because of the many interacting factors involved, the nationwide shifts strongly point to national, rather than local, causes—foremost among them the major social and economic dislocations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that have diminished as pandemic-related restrictions have lifted (Brennan Center, 7/12/22). Gun sales in particular have been mostly dropping since the spring of 2021, after a massive spike from March 2020 through January 2021—a surge in available weaponry that surely encouraged the rise in gun-related crimes like homicide and shootings (FAIR.org7/20/21).

Indeed, it would be very surprising if the NYPD were able to significantly reduce shooting rates by “flooding the Bronx with police officers,” as most research has found no or minimal reductions in violent crime with increased policing—including in New York City. Instead, more cops mostly translates into more arrests for low-level crimes, and the substantial costs those impose on heavily policed communities (FAIR.org1/27/22).

Vera: U.S. pretrial and total jail population, 1970–2015

Vera Institute (4/19): “While the pretrial population comprised about half of people in jail prior to the early 1990s, it now accounts for approximately two-thirds of people in jail nationwide.”

Bail reform is not a policy that says that people who get caught “will not go to jail.” The purpose of bail historically was to make sure that someone accused of a crime—presumed innocent until proven guilty—would show up for their trial. But over the past few decades, the number of people in jail who have not yet been convicted of a crime has increased dramatically, and bail has become a punishment for the poor and a cash cow for the multi-billion dollar bail bond industry.

In fact, research shows that pretrial detention increases the likelihood of conviction, the harshness of the sentence, and the likelihood of recidivism. Given that detainees often wait months for trial, pleading guilty regardless of the circumstances can often seem like the best option for getting back to their life, job (and income), family and community. That pretrial detention also increases crime shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the disruptions it causes in people’s lives, and given that their increased conviction rate makes it harder for them to get work after release (Vera Institute, 4/19).

New York State’s 2019 bail reform prohibited bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges, and required judges to consider the person’s ability to pay when setting bail. Other states and cities have pursued similar reforms. These reforms have reduced the number of people in jail awaiting trial. But according to all available evidence, they haven’t increased crime.

In the most comprehensive assessment of the impact of bail reform on recidivism in New York City, the city’s Office of Criminal Justice reported that as of June 2021, pretrial rearrest rates—the recidivism Miller claimed was skyrocketing “because they know if they get caught, they will not go to jail”—”have remained consistent over time and have not changed with bail reform,” at around 4%. And fewer than 1% are arrested for felonies, like auto theft and burglary.

Moreover, rollbacks in spring 2020 to those reforms allowed judges to set bail for even nonviolent felony cases that involved “persistent felony offenders”—which means the recidivism Miller and the NYPD are highlighting is not impacted by bail reform.

In other words, basically everything Miller said about NYC crime was false pro-punishment propaganda. And that’s what passes for “objectivity” at today’s CNN.


Please ask CNN to explain why a person who lied repeatedly and under oath about law enforcement actions, and is now misrepresenting the evidence on the causes of crime trends on CNN‘s own programming, should be offered to its viewers as an expert on police policies and practices.


Messages to CNN can be sent here (or via Twitter @CNN). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective. Feel free to leave a copy of your message in the comments thread of this post.

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Reprinted with permission.  FAIR’s work is sustained by their generous contributors, who allow them to remain independent. Donate today to be a part of this important mission.
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Follow me on Twitter at @_CharlesBrooks   

2022 midterm election spending on track to top $9.3 billion

The total cost of 2022 midterm elections is projected to exceed $9.3 billion, according to an early, conservative estimate by OpenSecrets. More than $4.8 billion has already been spent on 2022 midterms, setting federal election spending on track to surpass the inflation-adjusted 2018 midterm record of $7.1 billion.

“We’re seeing much more money, more candidates and more political division than we did in 2018,” said OpenSecrets Executive Director Sheila Krumholz. “Spending is surging across the board this midterm cycle, fueling a polarization vortex that shows no signs of slowing.”

That $4.8 billion figure includes spending disclosed to the Federal Election Commission by candidates, political parties, political action committees and other groups during the 2022 midterm election cycle as of Sept. 20, 2022. Total spending will likely jump in mid-October, as most third-quarter filings are not due to the FEC until Oct. 15, the first disclosure deadline for most federal candidates since mid-year disclosures were filed.

While OpenSecrets’ $9.3 billion estimate is slightly less than the $9.9 billion – adjusted for inflation – spent on U.S. congressional races in the 2020 election cycle, 2022 election spending is on pace to exceed the $8 billion in inflation-adjusted spending on congressional and presidential races during the 2016 election cycle.

During the so-called “Blue Wave” of 2018, voters flipped the U.S. House to Democratic control in apparent reaction to the first two years of former President Donald Trump’s administration, although Republicans maintained control of the Senate. Democrats outspent Republicans in the 2018 midterms, and Republicans are spending big this cycle for what they hope will be a “Red Wave.”

Republicans are still slightly favored to win the House, but Democrats are currently favored to keep control of the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight, the polling opinion website affiliated with ABC News.

Over half of the $4.8 billion spent has come from Republican candidates and the groups supporting them as they seek to flip the U.S. House and Senate. Democrats currently control the 100-person Senate by a narrow 50-member majority – including two independents that caucus with the Democrats – with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.

Spending is up across the board from the same point during the 2018 election cycle. House candidates are spending around 30% more than they spent at this point in 2018, and Senate candidates have more than doubled their 2018 spending through the same period. The Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee have spent about $163 million more this election cycle than they had at this point in the 2018 cycle, and outside spending groups have shelled out $280 million more – a 40% increase.

Democrats head into the general election with bigger war chests

While Republican candidates, committees and the outside groups supporting them reported spending more money than Democratic political actors as of Sept. 20, those Democratic candidates and committees have outraised Republican political actors. Democrats have bigger war chests heading into the final weeks before the general election, with $1.3 billion combined on hand compared to $1.1 billion in the coffers of Republican candidates, committees and outside groups. 

“One big element here is that Senate Republican primaries were incredibly expensive,” said Sarah Bryner, research director at OpenSecrets. “There’s just been a ton of money at the beginning of the election, prior to even getting to the general.”

The top 10 most expensive congressional races tracked by OpenSecrets this election cycle are all U.S. Senate contests in battleground states, and three of the top 10 are considered toss-ups by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Political candidates and the outside groups supporting or opposing them have poured over $856.2 million into these races so far during the 2022 midterm election cycle.

In two of the most expensive Senate races – Georgia and Nevada – Democrats and the groups supporting them are outspending Republican candidates and outside groups. The races in Georgia and Nevada could determine control of the chamber in 2022 midterms, a New York Times analysis of polling data found, likely driving up spending in the states.

Some Republican primaries attracted significantly more spending than in 2018. Previous top spending Senate primaries saw outside spending in the teens, but nearly $40.4 million flowed into the 10-person GOP Senate primary in Ohio. An endorsement from Trump and the large influx of outside spending supporting U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance in Ohio was the “one-two-punch” that Bryner believes helped him secure the GOP nomination.

Outside groups also poured $37.8 million into the Pennsylvania GOP primary. GOP primaries in Missouri and Alabama saw outside spending top $20 million.

“It’s hard to predict anything, impossible to predict anything, because of Citizens United,” Bryner added, referring to the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision that removed restrictions on spending by corporations that paved the way for massive outside spending. “If that didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have these conversations. It would be much more predictable.”

Democratic candidates also have a cash advantage heading into the general election despite fielding fewer candidates, according to an OpenSecrets analysis of federal campaign disclosures. Among the six national party committees, Democrats reported $59 million more cash on hand as of Aug. 31 than their Republican counterparts.

Small and megadonors drive fundraising in the 2022 midterm elections

Democrats and committees supporting them received more than $640 million of the $1.2 billion raised from small individual donors who gave $200 or less, while Republicans and political groups supporting them received $533.6 million in contributions from small-dollar donors.

Individual donors contributing $200 or less account for a greater share of money raised during the 2022 election cycle than in recent midterm cycles. Those small donors make up 21% of all funds raised by candidates and political committees at this point in the 2022 election cycle, up from about 17% during the entire 2018 midterm election cycle and almost 16% during the 2014 midterm cycle.

The top seven GOP megadonors have contributed nearly $222.7 million to Republican candidates and outside groups. Of the $185.8 million given by the top three Democratic megadonors, $128 million has come from Democratic megadonor George Soros, the top individual donor this election cycle and a frequent target of anti-semitic attacks from conservative pundits and politiciansFund for Policy Reform, a 501(c)(4) funded by Soros, has given an additional $25 million to super PACs during the 2022 election cycle.

“There are still very active megadonors – George SorosKen GriffinRichard Uihlein – and then also new ones like Sam Bankman-Fried from industries on the rise like cryptocurrency,” Bryner said. 

Bankman-Fried, the billionaire founder of the cryptocurrency trading platform FTX, quickly spent his way onto OpenSecrets’ top individual donor list, mainly by contributing $27 million to his Carey committee, Protect Our Future PAC, which aims to support Democratic candidates that could prevent the next pandemic including Generation Z candidate Maxwell Frost in Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

FTX co-CEO Ryan Salame and his wife also topped the individual donor list in part by bankrolling his own Carey committee, American Dream Federal Action, which boosts conservative candidates. The Salames also made large contributions to Defending Main Street PAC, which typically aims to elect moderate Republicans, and GMI PAC, which launched in fall 2021 to support candidates who support a “more secure, competitive, and innovative digital marketplace.”

The crypto industry ramped up its political contributions during the 2022 midterm election cycle as Congress weighs regulations.

Originally published on September 26th, 2022 on  

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Media Summon Inflation Specter to Oppose Student Debt Forgiveness

President Joe Biden’s student debt cancellation plan may not be full forgiveness, but it can still have a life-changing impact on millions of people. Almost 20 million may see their debts wiped clean, and more than 40 million are directly affected. The plan is a step forward for debtors and activists who have spent decades struggling to abolish student debt and make higher education, long promised as the path out of poverty, affordable for everyone.

It represents an opportunity for America’s poor to imagine futures without instrumentalized and alienated labor. Without diseases of despair. Unpunished by debt. A future America’s ruling class has worked hard to prevent.

Bloomberg: Larry Summers Says Student Loan Debt Relief Is Inflationary

Bloomberg (8/22/22)

So, naturally, corporate media outlets like the Wall Street Journal (8/23/22), Financial Times (8/25/22), CNBC (8/24/22), Vox (8/25/22), CNN (8/24/228/25/22), CBS (8/25/22) and Bloomberg (8/22/22) have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at it, trying to convince their audience there’s not enough to go around. Their primary weapon: the inflation bogeyman.

Regurgitating the views of conservative economists and politicians, corporate media are warning debt relief is inflationary, and even that it will transfer wealth upwards. These arguments are another example of how news media use the specter of inflation as a rationale for disciplining workers: Sorry, that’s it. There’s nothing left. No surplus. So how much are you willing to share? Don’t look over here at my huge pile of cash. The arguments trafficked by much of the corporate media in the aftermath of Biden’s debt relief announcement expose a reflexive hostility to social progress, and the use of government to improve the lives of ordinary people instead of benefiting corporations and wealthy individuals.

‘Inflation Expansion Act’

WSJ: Student Loan Forgiveness Is an Inflation Expansion Act

Wall Street Journal (8/23/22)

From headlines decrying Biden’s debt relief plans as pouring gas on an “inflationary fire” (Financial Times8/25/22) and dubbing the policy an “Inflation Expansion Act” (Wall Street Journal8/23/22), to citing manipulative studies by pro-austerity think tanks, the corporate media response to debt relief has stoked fears that providing much-needed relief to student debtors would increase demand, thereby exacerbating inflation.

If gains for working people will necessarily be nullified by corporate price hikes, maybe media should be questioning whether an economy where that’s the case should be reshaped. But media’s claims haven’t even been consistent on their own terms. Debt relief is not nearly as inflationary as media rhetoric suggests, even by the estimations of their most hawkish sources.

For example, the Financial TimesCNBCVoxCNNCBS and The Hill (8/24/22) all cited “America’s foremost pro-austerity think tank” (American Prospect8/26/22), the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which estimates Biden’s cancellation could cost the federal government $360 billion over ten years, driving spending and increasing inflation. Marc Goldwien, senior policy director at CRFB and “America’s foremost spending scold” (American Prospect8/26/22), made the rounds across the corporate news media to share this estimate.

American Prospect: Marc Goldwein and the Limits of Deficit Scolding

Max Moran (American Prospect8/26/22): “According to Goldwein, we couldn’t cancel student loans in 2020 because the boost to the economy would be a paltry $115–$360 billion. But we also can’t cancel student loans in 2022 because the boost to the economy would be a whopping, inflationary (gasp!) $70–$95 billion!”

Biden’s student debt relief plan “is going to worsen inflation and it is going to eat up all the deflationary impact of the Inflation Reduction Act,” Goldwien claimed in the FinancialTimes (8/25/22). Vox (8/25/22) quoted Goldwien saying Biden’s plan will “raise prices on everything from clothing to gasoline to furniture to housing.” Assuming that CRFB’s estimate is accurate—even though there is much reason not to think so—what the estimate actually says is a far cry from Goldwien’s claim that prices will increase.

Economists like Paul Krugman, far from a hero of the left, as well as Mike Konczal and AlĂ­ Bustamante of the Roosevelt Institute, pointed out how even CRFB’s estimate shows at most a 0.3% increase in inflation, which wouldn’t “reverse” or even “dent” larger deflationary trends like the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes, or even restarting student debt payments, as Biden intends to do at the start of the new year. Krugman explains that given the “fire-and-brimstone” inflation fearmongering, like the talk of “throwing gasoline on the fire” in the Financial Times (8/25/22), the reader might assume debt relief could cause another “major bout of inflation.” Even according to their own sources, this is far from true.

On top of this, the central argument in Goldwien’s case and across corporate media—that debt relief will spur demand—rests on the assumption that canceling people’s debt will incentivize them to buy things for which there is not enough supply to keep prices stable. Heidi Shierholtz, president of the Economic Policy Institute, took to Twitter (5/12/22) to shut this argument down: The latest version of the claim “we can’t have nice things because inflation” is the idea that we can’t cancel federal student debt.… But folks, there is currently a pause on federal student loan repayments, which means that people with this debt don’t currently have debt payments. So even if somebody’s debt is entirely canceled under a new policy, their monthly costs won’t decrease relative to what they currently are. This will dramatically limit any impact on new spending and hence provide no upward inflation pressure relative to the status quo.

That corporate media would boost bad-faith arguments against a policy that represents such a sea change in people’s lives, as well as in the government’s role of helping working people, demonstrates a deep adherence to frameworks of austerity and neoliberalism. As Krugman pointed out in a separate Twitter thread (8/29/22), “what we’re seeing looks more like a visceral response looking for a rationale than a reasoned critique.”

Moreover, these arguments ignore evidence that current inflation is not a result of too much demand, but rather of corporate greed. As FAIR (4/21/22) has previously documented, corporate media have a penchant for putting “far more emphasis” on the contributions to inflation by policies that improve working people’s lives than on “the role of corporate profit-taking.” Despite troves of evidence that corporate monopolies are purposely exacerbating inflation by using the pandemic-related supply chain crisis as cover to needlessly raise costs on consumers—and make record profits doing it—corporate media have once again elected to opine on the inflationary effect of social spending.

‘Take from working class’

That student debt relief is inflationary is not the only argument corporate news outlets have peddled since Biden announced his plan. Critics of student debt relief have also framed the plan as a regressive giveaway to the wealthy, as well as unfair to those who have already paid off their debts.

The same Financial Times article (8/25/22) reported, “Canceling debt is not wholly progressive, given the poorest members of society are less likely to have gone to university.” CBS (8/25/22) noted Sen. Ted Cruz’s view that “what President Biden has in effect decided to do is to take from working-class people.” The New York Times’ morning newsletter (8/25/22) claimed student debt relief “resembles a tax cut that flows mostly to the affluent.”

Newseek: Borrowers With Paid-Off Debt Feel Punished by Biden for Doing 'Right Thing'

Contrary to Newsweek‘s headline (8/24/22), polling finds a majority of past student borrowers support forgiveness of at least some student debt.

Never mind that if forgiving student loan debt were truly regressive, Cruz would be all for it. The reality is that student debt disproportionately impacts Black and brown and low-income borrowers (Roosevelt Institute, 9/29/21). Cancelation would go a long way towards addressing the racial wealth gap and addressing wealth inequality.

Newsweek headline (8/24/22) reported that “Borrowers With Paid-Off Debt Feel Punished for Doing ‘Right Thing.’” The Wall Street Journal (8/23/22) claimed debt relief “insults the millions who paid their loans back.”Astra Taylor, an organizer with the Debt Collective, told Democracy Now! (8/25/22) that this criticism was “so cynical”: First off, I am one of the millions of people who did have to pay their debts. I paid it in full. I do not want anyone else to have to suffer just because I did. Social progress means that other people do not have to suffer through something that previous generations did. And the fact is, polling shows that most people have that attitude.

Student debt was designed as a barrier to keep Black, brown and low-income people from attaining a college education (Intercept8/25/22Boston Review9/1/17). Partial debt relief makes self-determination for America’s most oppressed and exploited groups that much more possible. By trying to convince voters that debt relief will cost them, and that a more egalitarian society is impossible, corporate media are defending America’s ruling class from an educated working class.

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Please support and visit The Brooks Blackboard's websiteour INTEL pageOPEN MIND page, and LIKE and FOLLOW our Facebook page.

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