Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Obama’s Good Move on Student Loans A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
President Obama has done students in need of loans a good turn, and surprised BAR by oving to snatch $15 billion a year out of the jaws of the banks. “For decades the bankers have been getting risk-free federal money at taxpayer and student expense, by handling student loans already guaranteed by the federal government, collecting fees and then selling the loans to the U.S. Treasury.”
 
Obama’s Good Move on Student Loans
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“It is a shameless, $15 billion a year gift to the banking industry for risking literally nothing while siphoning off money that should have gone to students’ education.”
It’s not often that we have good things to say about President Obama. It is even more rare that the good news about his administration has to do with banks. So it is welcome to hear that the White House is making good on its commitment to eliminate the multi-billion-dollar banking boondoggle in dispensing college loans.
For decades the bankers have been getting risk-free federal money at taxpayer and student expense, by handling student loans already guaranteed by the federal government, collecting fees and then selling the loans to the U.S. Treasury. It is a shameless, $15 billion a year gift to the banking industry for risking literally nothing while siphoning off money that should have gone to students’ education.
The Obama White House first promised to cut the bank middlemen out back in February. But we have all learned to take Obama’s political promises with several spoonfuls of salt, since he often fails to follow through with pressures on Democrats in Congress. This time appears to be different. The chairman of the House Education Committee, California Representative George Miller, is introducing legislation to enable the government to loan money directly to students, thus theoretically freeing up $87 billion over the next ten years for direct distribution to students. President Obama says he wants the savings directed to Pell grants for low-income students.
“The student loan business has become a racket because of corruption of politicians by businessmen.”
The banks are crying like somebody stole from them, although they’ll still be eligible for contracts to do some of the paperwork associated with student loans. But that’s not free money, which is the kind the bankster class has gotten used to receiving under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Some of the nation’s biggest banks have already opted out of funding loans to students at community colleges. Citibank and JP Morgan Chase picked up their marbles and left the community college student loan game after the federal government stopped reimbursing banks for paying students’ processing fees. These mega-banks say the processing – at about $20 per student – cuts too deeply into their profits.
The Washington-based New America Foundation recentlyissued a report that recommends elimination of 35 so-called student loan guarantee agencies. These outfits rake in about one and a half billion dollars a year performing contradictory functions. They are paid a fee to help borrowers avoid defaulting on their loans, but they get an even bigger fee by collecting on the loan if the borrower defaults.
Clearly this is a racket, just as the bank middlemen arrangement is a racket. But a more accurate term is: corruption. The student loan business has become a racket because of corruption of politicians by businessmen. A thoroughly corrupt society is one in which the theft occurs in the bright light of day, as part of the normal workings of the system. By that standard, the United States is a deeply corrupt nation, where $15 billion dollars in education money is siphoned into bankers’ pockets year after year for doing very little at no risk. Such monumental corruption would make any Nigerian general very proud.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

Direct download: 20090715_gf_StudentLoans.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:43am EDT

Maxine Water vs. Fatal Derivatives
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The Obama administration is clearly trying to keep Congress from taking legislative action against derivatives, the “financial weapons of mass destruction” that set off the economic crisis. “Geithner claims he wants credit-default swaps brought under control, but only through stricter regulation, not by law.” California Congresswoman Maxine Waters wants derivatives banned outright, and has submitted legislation to that effect. But so far, she has no co-sponsors.
 
Maxine Water vs. Fatal Derivatives
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“When it comes to making rhetoric into law, Obama’s team sides with the money bags.”
President Obama’s sent his dog-and-pony show on banking regulation to Capitol Hill, last week, with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner as Master of Obfuscation. The Obama administration spews lots of rhetoric about reining in the investment banks and hedge funds so that they don’t get another chance to destroy themselves and what’s left of the economy. But when it comes to making rhetoric into law, Obama’s team sides with the money bags that were his biggest campaign contributors and now run his economic policy.
Geithner promised he would control derivatives, the Wall Street inventions that billionaire George Soros has called “financial weapons of mass destruction.” The explosion of derivatives is widely acknowledged to have set off the global economic crisis. Credit-default swaps are among the most volatile and dangerous types of derivatives. Geithner claims he wants credit-default swaps brought under control, but only through stricter regulation, not by law. Amazingly, Geithner argues that passing specific laws would make it easier, rather than harder, for the high rollers to break the rules – a totally illogical and dishonest position. Instead, he wants regulators to keep the players in line – but Geithner refuses to say which part of the bureaucracy the regulators should come from, and the Obama administration won’t offer anything more definitive until September.
“We are supposed to trust the same regulators that have always been in bed with Wall Street.”
Geithner’s mission, as directed by the president, was to discourage the Congress from interfering with Wall Street through legislation. Instead, we are supposed to trust the same regulators that have always been in bed with Wall Street – the guys that allowed Bernie Madoff to operate with impunity decade after decade – and to trust the Obama economic team, made up of the same people that set the derivatives Frankenstein on its path of destruction under President Bill Clinton.
The Obama team says it will force the high rollers to back their derivatives with more capital, so that they will be less likely to implode. But the derivatives market is nominally valued at $592 trillion, about 12 times the value of all the goods and services produced per year on the planet Earth! It would require far, far more money than exists in the entire world to make the planet safe for derivatives. They must be abolished, before they implode again.
Black California Congresswoman Maxine Waters has introduced legislation to do just that: ban credit-default swap derivatives. “Preventing all credit-default swaps is essential,” said Congresswoman Waters, “to bringing stability to the market and preventing a similar crisis in the future.”
The crisis set off by derivatives has stripped African Americans of hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth – a catastrophe of historical proportions that has undone much of the economic progress of several generations. Congresswoman Waters’ bill, HR 3145, has no co-sponsors, as yet. We shall see how the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus responds. This is a clear choice of doing what is necessary to protect Black America, or going along with Barack Obama and his Wall Street friends.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

Direct download: 20090715_gf_WatersDerivatives.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:36am EDT

Ward Churchill: Academic Freedom Denied A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
An anti-imperialist ethics professor has no rights that his university is bound to respect. That's the lesson from a Denver District Court that refused to reinstate Ward Churchill, despite a jury's finding that he was fired from the University of Colorado because of his political statements. “There is no such thing as academic and political freedom if you can be fired for exercising it.”
Ward Churchill: Academic Freedom Denied
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“His real crime was in declaring that U.S. society, as well as the U.S. government, was no innocent victim.”
Academic freedom has long been more of a myth than a reality in the United States. Like so many “freedoms” Americans celebrate, it tends to fail the test when confronted with the larger public’s freedom to exact vengeance against those it hates, and the freedom of large institutions to exclude those who question the role of those institutions, from within.
The political activist and ethics professor Ward Churchill’s freedoms were negated earlier this year by a Denver District Court that ruled he was not entitled to get his job back at the University of Colorado, even though a jury had earlier decided Churchill had been fired for his political views. There is no such thing as academic and political freedom if you can be fired for exercising it.
Churchill’s crime was in writing an essay the day after September 11th, that tried to put the attacks in the context of U.S. foreign policy’s effects on other peoples in the world. He used the term “little Eichmanns” to describe some of the people who died in the World Trade Center – not a very politic thing to do, but certainly not as harmful as what George Bush unleashed on the world in the aftermath, or the wave of racist, fascist-like assaults on anybody vaguely Middle Eastern-looking that continue to this day.
Ward Churchill was made to pay for his impolitic political statements, despite his disavowal of organized terror and his admission that families of 9/11 victims might have been hurt. His real crime was in declaring that U.S. society, as well as the U.S. government, was no innocent victim – that imperialism is a system based on crimes and terror and sometimes the superpower criminal gets terrorized back. In much, if not most, of the world such opinions are thought to be self-evident. In the United States, they are broadly considered a kind of treason, beyond the pale and beyond the protection of the Constitution.
“Ward Churchill was made to pay for his impolitic political statements.”
Certainly, the Denver District Court mangled the Constitution in finding that Churchill did not deserve reinstatement or compensation for his lost professorship. To justify their decision, the court ruled that the university’s board of regents had acted as judges in dismissing Churchill, and therefore, their decision was beyond challenge. If that were true, the regents constituted a very strange court, indeed, since they had collectively denounced Churchill before even formally examining his case.
The District Court also dismissed the fact that a real, legally constituted jury had agreed with Churchill, that he had been fired for political reasons. But, since the jurors only awarded him $1 in damages, the court believed it could get away with giving Churchill nothing.
The law can’t get any flimsier than that. Which shows that academic freedom isn’t just a fragile thing, in America – it’s broken.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
 
Direct download: 20090715_gf_Churchill.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26am EDT