Showing posts with label President Joe Biden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label President Joe Biden. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Ryan Grim on Railroad Workers’ Rank-and-File Union Organizing

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

Earlier this month, President Biden signed into law a bill prohibiting a rail strike and imposing a deal rejected by over half of unionized rail workers over its lack of paid sick leave. Labor activists have condemned Biden and Democratic Party leaders for failing to secure paid time off for workers who become ill.

Monday, October 17, 2022

WaPo Wants US ‘Beacon’ for Ukraine Refugees—but Not for Haitians

It’s a fair comparison: Migrants from both countries seek protection in the United States because they fear for their lives in their home country. While Ukraine is actively at war, Haiti’s violence and instability have ebbed and flowed for decades, a result largely of foreign exploitation and intervention, compounded in recent years by devastating earthquakes and hurricanes; neither can provide a basic level of safety for their citizens today.

All have the right under international and US law to seek that protection, including at the US border, where they are required to be given a chance to apply for asylum. Under Title 42—an obscure and “scientifically baseless” public health directive invoked under Donald Trump at the start of the Covid pandemic, and largely extended under Joe Biden’s administration (FAIR.org4/22/22)—that right has been violated, as Haitian (and Central American) asylum seekers have been summarily expelled without being screened for asylum eligibility.

One might imagine that this trampling of rights, more actively nefarious than the foot-dragging on resettling Ukrainian refugees, would prompt more, not less, outrage among media opinion makers. Yet the opposite is true for the Post editorial board, which has written about both situations repeatedly.

‘These could be your children’

WaPo: Why isn’t Biden taking in refugees from Ukraine?

Washington Post editorial (3/4/22) in support of Ukrainian refugees calls attention to the fact that “these could be your children.”

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked a mass exodus of refugees, the board (3/4/22) quickly and passionately urged the Biden administration to “welcome Ukrainians with open arms”: 

The images linger in your mind: Ukrainian children pressed against the windows of a bus or train sobbing or waving goodbye to their fathers and other relatives who remain behind to try to fight off an unjustified Russian war on Ukraine. It’s easy to imagine this could be your family broken apart. These could be your children joining the more than 1 million refugees trying to flee Ukraine in the past week. 

The board argued that accepting Ukrainian refugees would be a “way to truly stand with the brave and industrious Ukrainian people and our allies around the world”—and “also provide more workers for the US economy.”

Less than two weeks later, the Post (3/16/22) returned to the issue, forcefully demanding that Biden’s inaction on bringing Ukrainian refugees to the US “must change” and suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security “step up” and grant them entry under a humanitarian parole system. “At the moment, it’s hard to think of a cohort of refugees whose reasons are more urgent,” the board wrote.

A few weeks after Biden’s March 24 announcement that the US would admit 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, the Post (4/19/22) found the idea “heartening,” but called the lack of implementation “an embarrassment to this country.” This was at a time when, as the board noted, most Ukrainians who managed to make it to the US/Mexico border were being allowed entry under the parole system the Post had favored.

Later, the Post (6/22/22) celebrated that its exhortations had been followed: “The US Door Swings Open to Ukrainian Refugees.” In that editorial, the board explicitly highlighted that the Ukrainians who had thus far entered the US had done so “in nearly all cases legally.” They wrote: That tens of thousands of them have successfully sought refuge in this country over about three months, with relatively little fanfare—and even less controversy, considering the toxicity that attends most migration issues—is a reaffirmation of America’s commitment to its values as a beacon to the world’s most desperate people. That commitment must be sustained as the war in Ukraine drags on, which seems likely.  

But the Post board doesn’t want that beacon to shine too brightly for all the world’s most desperate people—such as Haitian asylum seekers.

‘Inhumane to incentivize migrants’

WaPo: Biden’s mixed messaging on immigration brings a surge of Haitian migrants to the Texas border

Washington Post editorial (9/20/21) on Haitian refugees takes President Joe Biden to task for suggesting he would “relax the previous administration’s draconian policies” toward Latin American asylum seekers.

After the Del Rio incident, the board (9/20/21) expressed umbrage that “Haitian migrants, virtually all Black, are being subjected to expulsion on a scale that has not been directed at lighter-skinned Central Americans.”

Yet this was quickly balanced by the Post‘s indignation at Biden’s “on-the-ground leniency” toward migrants that “led many or most of [the Haitians at Del Rio] toward the border.” 

The board wrote that Biden had suggested he would “relax the previous administration’s draconian policies” for “others, especially Central American families with children, tens of thousands of whom have been admitted to the United States this year,” thereby encouraging Haitians to come but then expelling them by the thousands. “The policy is inhumane,” the board lamented; “equally, it is inhumane to incentivize migrants to risk the perilous, expensive journey across Central America and Mexico.”

To be clear, the Biden administration expelled migrants under Title 42 in more than a million encounters in 2021; however, a change in Mexican policy meant the US could no longer expel Central American families with young children (American Immigration Council, 3/4/22). What the board is suggesting here is that the policy of sending away migrants who have a right to seek asylum in the US, and will almost certainly face a dire situation upon arrival in their home country, is equal in its inhumanity to reducing the use of that policy—because that incentivizes more people to exercise their right to seek asylum.

So what’s the answer to this conundrum? Ultimately the board pinned the blame on “partisanship in Congress” that has “doomed” attempts at comprehensive immigration reform. Setting aside the absurdity of the idea that both parties are equally at fault in stymying immigration reform, that analysis implies that any sort of immediate relief for actual Haitians is not a priority for the Post editorial board, regardless of their suffering.

After the Del Rio incident, the Biden administration cleared out the migrant camp the Haitians were staying in, and most were flown to Haiti or fled to Mexico to avoid that fate. Many Democrats criticized Biden for the treatment of the Haitian migrants, but the Post (10/13/21), in its next editorial on the subject, argued that those critics “fail[ed] to acknowledge the political, logistical and humanitarian risks of lax border enforcement.”

The headline of that editorial, “How the Biden Administration Can Help Haitian Migrants Without Sending the Wrong Message,” clearly signaled the board’s priorities; when advocating for helping Ukrainians, the Post never betrayed any concern that such help might send the wrong message.

While it’s “easy to sympathize with the impulse behind” calls to end Title 42, and to grant Haitian refugees asylum if they are judged to have a “reasonable possibility of fear,” the board wrote, “the trouble is that it would swiftly incentivize huge numbers of new migrants to make the perilous trek toward the southern border.”

They argued that their concern wasn’t theoretical; it was “proved” by the “surge” of Haitian asylum seekers “driven in large part by the administration’s increasingly sparing use of Title 42″—implying that the human rights of Haitian migrants must be judiciously balanced against the supposed threat of a “surge” of them at the border. The board members concluded that “Americans broadly sympathize with the admission of refugees and asylum seekers, but a precondition of that support is a modicum of order in admissions.” First comes order, then come the Post‘s sympathies.

Two months later (12/30/21), they argued that the mass expulsion of Haitian migrants was “deeply troubling,” quoting a UN report that Haitians are “living in hell.” And yet they found themselves unable to forcefully condemn the Biden administration’s continued use of Title 42 to prevent Haitians from exercising their right to seek asylum, arguing that the policy is “politically defensible,” since “Americans do not want to encourage a chaotic torrent of illegal immigration.” The strongest umbrage they could muster was to call the situation “worth a policy review, to say the least.”

‘Main export is asylum seekers’

WaPo: As chaos mounts in Haiti, the U.S. takes a tepid stance

The Washington Post (5/7/22) calls for a “vigorous US policy” to oppose Haiti “chaos.”

The Post editorial board is clearly very aware of the plight of Haitian refugees. As they pointed out in an editorial (5/7/22) calling for a “concerted, muscular diplomatic push” to address the Haitian government’s lack of legitimacy, they wrote that for those deported to Haiti, their “chances of finding work are abysmal, but the possibility that they will be victimized amid the pervasive criminality is all too real.”

The board has been vocal (7/7/22) about calling for US policy change toward Haiti to reduce the “human misery”—and the “outflow of refugees”—arguing that “deportation is a poor substitute for policy.” Recently, it has ramped up its rhetoric, even suggesting (8/6/22) the idea of a military intervention in Haiti; in its most recent call for intervention, the board argued:"It is unconscionable for the Western Hemisphere’s richest country to saddle the poorest with a stream of migrants amid an economic, humanitarian and security meltdown. But it’s the country, not its people, at the center of concern here. At no point in the piece are those people, or the impact of US policy on them, described. (Certainly it’s never suggested that “these could be your children.”) Worse, the board calls Haiti a “failed state whose main export is asylum seekers,” reducing those asylum seekers to objects. (One might add that comparing Black human beings to “exports” shows a callous disregard for Haitian—and US—history.)

The board wants intervention in Haiti in part to relieve the “humanitarian suffering” in the country (9/22/22)—but it’s not ashamed to put “death and despair” in the same sentence as “a steady or swelling tide of refugees” as the two things the Biden administration should be seeking to prevent via such an intervention.

The source of the discrepancy between its position on Ukrainian and Haitian refugees seems to be that the Post editorial board sees them as fundamentally different problems. Ukrainians fleeing violence and instability are themselves at risk and need help; Haitians fleeing violence and instability are a risk to the US.

That framing of the problem was perhaps most clear in their editorial (2/10/21) condemning Biden’s support for Haiti’s “corrupt, autocratic and brutal” then-President Jovenel Moïse: "As with Central American migrants, the problem of illegal immigrants from Haiti can be mitigated only by a concerted US push to address problems at the source." Haitian migrants are, to the Post, more a problem for the US than human beings with problems of their own.

And the editorial board’s use of the term “illegal immigrant”—a dehumanizing and inaccurate slur the widely-used AP style guide nixed ten years ago—is also telling. The board repeatedly refers in its editorials on Haiti to “illegal border crossings” and “surges.” But as mentioned previously, Haitians, like Ukrainians—and the Central American migrants the Post dreads in the same breath as Haitians—are legally entitled to come to the US border and seek asylum. In fact, to request asylum, migrants are required to present themselves on US soil. The only thing that makes their crossings “illegal” is Title 42, which itself is clearly illegal, despite judicial contortions to keep it in place. Yet it seems the moral (and legal) imperative to offer the opportunity to seek asylum must always be balanced, in the Post‘s view, with their fears of an unruly mob at the border.

‘An enduring gift to their new country’

Early in the Ukraine War, some journalists came under criticism for singling out Ukrainian refugees for sympathy, in either explicit or implicit contrast to refugees from non-white countries (FAIR.org3/18/22). CBS‘s Charlie D’Agata (2/25/22), for instance, told viewers that Ukraine: isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European—I have to choose those words carefully, too—city, one where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that, it’s going to happen

They seem so like us,” wrote Daniel Hannan in the Telegraph (2/26/22). “That is what makes it so shocking.”

Both journalists were white; it is perhaps worth noting that nine of the ten members of the Washington Post editorial board are likewise white. (Post opinion columnist Jonathan Capehart, who is Black, is the sole exception.)

WaPo: Don’t forget the Afghan refugees who need America’s support

The Washington Post (4/28/22) shows no fear of a “surge” of Afghan refugees.

And yet the differential treatment it accords migrant groups may go beyond racism or classism for the Post; in April, the board (4/28/22) published an editorial headlined, “Don’t Forget the Afghan Refugees Who Need America’s Support.” In it, the board asked, “Why can’t the administration stand up a program for US-based individuals and groups to sponsor Afghan refugees to come here, as it has done for Ukrainians?”

Earlier, the board (8/31/21) had argued that Afghan refugees “​​will become as thoroughly American as their native-born peers, and their energy, ambition and pluck will be an enduring gift to their new country.”

The Afghanistan case illustrates that the Washington Post doles out its sympathy on political, not just racial, terms: Afghans, like Ukrainians, are presented as victims of enemies the Post has devoted considerable energy to vilifying—the Taliban on the one hand, Russia on the other. The plights of Haitians (and Central Americans), by contrast, can in no small part be traced back to US intervention—something the Post has little appetite for castigating.

And Afghans, for the most part, have not been arriving at the US/Mexico border, which is clearly a site of anxiety for the board, with its fear of “surges” and lawlessness.

The humanization and sympathy the board offers to both Afghans, and especially the Ukrainians that “could be your children,” is never offered to Haitians. Their circumstances are described, sometimes in dire language, but they themselves—their “pluck,” their “children pressed against the windows of a bus or train sobbing or waving goodbye to their fathers and other relatives who remain behind”—remain invisible and, ultimately, unworthy.

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'Rent Is Too Damn High': Biden Pressured to Act as Housing Costs Fuel Inflation

"Biden can fix it by doing everything in his power to regulate rents and stop landlords from profiteering off this inflation crisis," said Tara Raghuveer of People's Action.

Newly released inflation data showing that rent has jumped 7.2% over the past year—the largest increase in four decades—is sparking fresh demands for President Joe Biden and Congress to take action to curb soaring housing costs, including by pursuing rent control measures and a host of other policy interventions.

"Without a real strategy to regulate rents, President Biden lacks a real strategy to fight inflation," Tara Raghuveer, director of the Homes Guarantee campaign at People's Action, said in a statement Thursday. "That problem will play out in the midterms. But Biden can fix it by doing everything in his power to regulate rents and stop landlords from profiteering off this inflation crisis."

In an analysis unveiled after the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed that inflation rose again last month—fueled to a significant degree by rent, which makes up about a third of the CPI—the Homes Guarantee campaign warned that rent increases are an even "bigger problem" than the new data suggests.

"The CPI's measure of rental inflation doesn't factor in rising prices in new rentals and leases, and therefore underestimates the rental inflation people face day to day," explains the analysis, which was co-authored by experts at the Groundwork Collaborative. "Some privately collected measures have reported that rents rose 7.5% year-over-year in September."

The brief also argues that far from combating rent inflation, the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes are actually making it worse by driving mortgage rates to a 20-year high, which has had the effect of "pushing would-be homebuyers into the rental market" and "putting even more upward pressure on rent prices."

"The Federal Reserve seems intent on making housing increasingly unaffordable, forcing prospective homebuyers into the rental market, and making people even less able to pay their rent by putting millions out of work," the analysis warns.

In addition to calling on the Fed to stop raising interest rates before it induces a devastating recession, People's Action and Groundwork demanded that Congress and the White House do everything in their power to reverse the trend of skyrocketing rents—part of a broader nationwide housing crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The president has the authority to take executive action and direct agency-level action to regulate rent," the groups note. "For example, the president can direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to impose rent controls on borrowers of federally-backed mortgages, which would apply to approximately 43.8 million rental units—immediately slowing down rental inflation."

"Over the longer term," they add, "policymakers must transform housing from a commodity to a guaranteed public good—making large-scale investments in the supply of housing that is off of the private market, with a goal of guaranteeing safe, accessible, truly and permanently affordable homes: a Homes Guarantee."

Tenant advocates have voiced dismay in recent months at the lack of serious attention that Democratic lawmakers and the Biden administration have devoted to rental inflation, even as both have vowed to bring down surging prices.

"If federal policymakers aren't working around the clock to figure out how to regulate rent, by any means necessary, what exactly are they doing about the economy?" Raghuveer asked in a Twitter post on Thursday. "What are they doing to fight for the people?"

In his statement on Thursday's CPI data, Biden touted the Inflation Reduction Act—a law that doesn't include any affordable housing provisions—while not mentioning rental inflation or housing at all.

While the Biden administration garnered qualified applause from advocates for its Housing Supply Action Plan—which carries the stated goal of closing the housing supply shortfall within five years—campaigners say nothing the White House or Congress have done in recent years has been anywhere near sufficient to curb the nationwide rental crisis.

"None of President Biden's major legislative accomplishments—the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—contained provisions to reduce housing costs or expand housing supply," the Revolving Door Project's Andrea Beaty and Vishal Shankar noted in a Wednesday blog post. "The Build Back Better Act—which did contain transformative investments in housing supply and affordability vouchers—was killed by Joe Manchin last December and its housing provisions were abandoned for the scaled-down IRA."

"The president and his top housing officials have broad legal authority to hold corporate landlords accountable by conditioning existing federal subsidies and mortgages to robust tenant protections—all without the need for congressional intervention," Beaty and Shankar added. "The Homes Guarantee campaign continues to do the leg work of determining how the Biden administration can help tenants across the country, immediately and under existing authorities."

On its website, the Homes Guarantee campaign outlines a number of executive and agency actions that the Biden administration can take to tackle rental inflation and bolster tenants' rights.

For example, the campaign argues Biden can condition all federal financing and rental subsidies on robust tenant protections, including:

  • Rent Control: Limit rent increases to 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index or 3%, whichever is lower.
  • National Right to Lease Renewal: Prohibit evictions without good cause, ensuring every tenant has the right to a lease renewal. Good cause is defined as serious and repeated lease violations provable in a court of law.
  • Tenant Opportunity to Purchase: If a landlord should choose to sell a property, tenants have the right to purchase the property before it is available to the public market.
  • Tenant Right to Organize: Tenants have the right to form tenants' unions free from fear of retaliation from the landlord or managing agent. Ownership and management representatives must not interfere with the creation or actions of tenant organizations.

"It is no longer a question of if or how Biden can act on his own to protect tenants, but rather if he has the political will to do so," wrote Beaty and Shankar. "Historic rent hikes have only strengthened tenant organizers' desire to guarantee safe, accessible, sustainable, and affordable homes for everyone. The question remains: will the White House have their back?"

This article originally appeared at Originally published on October 13th, 2022. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

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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.

Related Posts

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 Alí 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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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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