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OK, let's meet our guests here he is a legal services attorney in Los Angeles and editor at Current Affairs magazine, Sparkie Abraham.
Hello. Thanks for having me. She is a writer at New York magazine's The Cut, making her triumphant return to bad faith. Bridget Reed.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me back.
Bridget, it is a close call after last night's performance, but we thought long and deep about it.
I know, but I feel I provide a crucial sector of fearlessness, listeners, the reality television viewership. I think it's important and we're not hurt.
So I think we do need to have you on for more pop culture content. We we open strong with like a Kardashian themed episode is, I think, our number two. And we haven't really dipped our toes frequently in that water, have we, Virgile?
You know, I think we got pretty wet there. I think we're all all done so at all. No more news coming out of that sector.
That's not what I heard you like breathlessly did me the other day with, oh my God, Kim and Kanye are getting divorced.
Like I thought you might find that news interesting. I mean, it was like three days after it had been announced. But I appreciate your enthusiasm.
It was very endearing already bringing the rhetoric down, down, down the gutter here. I'm so sorry. Please back up. Back up. Sparky, I apologize.
It was a big news story. I just want to make sure you got it. Speaking of big stories, we wanted to talk to you both about Biden's plan to cancel ten thousand dollars of student debt. Why that doesn't go nearly far enough.
And some of the other options that are out there right now bridging, you wouldn't expect both.
Actually, I recently interviewed Astra Taylor with the debt collective and talked about some of these other plans. But first, why is it that you think we are not seeing more energy from the White House on this?
I actually asked that question because I think it's a good one. And I think people from across the political spectrum have different answers on Joe Biden's motivations. And the first thing you have to do is agree that it is Joe Biden's motivations that are the problem. Right. So that's identified that, yes, Biden can forgive student debt. The debt collector doesn't like the word forgive Siles say cancel and problem there is that already there he is using this talking point about himself that he can't cancel it, that he doesn't have congressional authority, or that he only has congressional authority up to ten thousand dollars, which is extremely specific interpretation of of the of the law.
But, yeah, what Astro very forcefully came out and saying is that this is who Biden is. So it wasn't so much of a reaction from him as it was like a revelation of where he comes from. He is a friend to predators. He's the senator from Delaware, the credit and banking state. And and she brought up the Bankruptcy Act of 2005 that he fought for harder than he's really we've really ever seen him fight for any legislation through now, which was an absolutely predatory piece of legislation for lenders or for borrowers excuse me, on the side of lenders.
So this is who Joe Biden is. He was pushed to the ten thousand amount from activists like the debt collector. It really is. For me, it's been about like seeing this bill fall apart and just being even angrier that we were sold or for some of us, they attempted to sell to us that Biden was embracing these progressive policies himself when really it couldn't be clearer to me at least and I think you could argue with me on this, that he was pushed by his opponents and now he's totally what it was a tactic, frankly.
That's how I feel about it.
What's the legal argument that you can do 10 and not 50? Has anyone made that?
I don't think anyone has has made any sort of argument for that at all. I mean, I think that it's you know, the legal arguments are about whether the executive Department of Education has authority to cancel student debt.
Full stop. Right. I mean, and the the correct conclusion, in my opinion and in the opinion of everybody seems to have looked at this seriously, is that they can cancel as much of it as they want.
Nothing says ten thousand dollars.
So what you're saying is that we have to give that claim by Joe Biden at least what negative three Merrick Garland's is?
I honestly couldn't even pass what he said to the extent of pulling out that as a claim like it honestly just made no sense at all, because then, of course, he also turned around and said, I think that the money is better spent on early childhood education. Right. And, you know, I mean, we can get into this in a lot of depth. This is one of my favorite things to talk about. You know, the question of that is, what money are you talking about?
People don't understand what student debt is. And there's just this very, very confused notion that, you know, I don't know if Biden is confused or extremely malicious, but he's definitely one of those two who had the folksy veneer and the certain delivery style he has, which you could attribute to a number of factors, really does.
Let him safely occupy the space of I'm not sure if he just misspoke or if he's actively misleading the public. But Sparky, as someone who's written a number of really insightful articles and current affairs on the subject of student debt relief, can you help us understand what student debt is and unpack some of the discourse around the price tag that typically gets put on it and how cancelation would actually work?
Yeah, well, I can try. You know, you can go all the way back to sort of the beginning of the student financing system if you really want to talk about this. And in fact, you can go back farther than that. Right.
Like the place to start, Feinburg. OK, let's start now. The place that I like to start is with like look at high school in 1910, right.
In like 1910, there was no free public high school. Generally, people, if they were going to high school, had to pay for high school. And as a result, very few people went to high school and mostly only wealthy people went to high school.
You are like a chimney sweep or you are the son of a Rockefeller.
Yeah, right. Exactly right. Yeah. And it took a major nationwide grassroots movement to create the social institution that we all now take for granted, which is free public universal high school. And as a result of that, the enrollment in high school skyrocketed. And, you know, there have been a few economic studies that have basically linked a lot of the economic growth throughout the 20th century to the increased access to education when the 1960s rolls around. Marshall Steinbock as written about the sort of history of the student debt system.
And I think Boston magazine, when the 1960s rolled around, it was kind of this inflection point in terms of deciding how we're going to do college. At that point, college was still mostly paid for by students just like high school had been.
And there is a question of are we going to do the same thing that we did for elementary school and then for high school and make a kind of free public college system?
And we decided, no, we decide no. What we're going to do is in order to get poor people into college, we're going to allow them to take out debt. The federal government is going to guarantee their debt in order to go to college. And the idea is that college is going to give them it's basically an investment in their future. And so they're going to be able to pay it back, plus interest over time based on the human capital improvements in themselves that they achieve through college.
This was not inevitable at that point. There were public college systems that that were tuition free and more that were moving to being tuition free in places like California and New York and Virginia. But this really just shifted, right? It shifted the whole approach. And what we ended up seeing is we did see some increased access to college via debt, but we also just have seen generations of people burdened by student debt. We've seen a massive state dissin disinvestment from college.
Now that there's this kind of apparently free, you know, federal spigot that actually rests on the backs of the students. Yeah, it's a very frustrating thing because I feel like it's been so long that it now feels to people like some natural effect of the world. But in fact, it was very intentionally chosen and it's very clear that it has not worked and it's far from too late to do something else.
So in many states, it off into the 60s, college was treated as an entitlement with public universities. But then once the federal money started flowing of a federal loan, guarantees that these shifted to tuition based systems.
Yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, there are a bunch of wrinkles there, right? Like the California system was tuition free. It did have a nominal fee. And even up until I think now even the UC system doesn't call their tuition tuition. They call it fees, but it is comparable to other state public tuition. Once you kind of set the precedent at the federal level of saying this is how we're going to pay for higher education across the country, then the whole discourse shifts.
Right. The whole approach shifts in state houses in the 1960s.
What was the policy rationale behind the creation of the student debt system?
Marshall Steinbock and his article draws some interesting links to desegregation and the idea being basically that policymakers were afraid that if they created a public college system, that the Brown v. Board rationale would apply to it. And this was during a time when there was a lot of strife around things like around desegregation, generally around busing, that basically this would this would be a disaster if they had to let non-white people into colleges. Right. Black people specifically into colleges at at equitable rates.
And so, you know, I think there is some evidence that that was a large portion of the rationale for the financing model specifically. I think it was you know, I think people some people at least had good intentions. You know, they realized that if students have to pay for college, only wealthy students will go. And so the rationale is, well, if we give poor students loans to go, then they can go. But the overall policy is we want to increase the number of people who are done in colleges.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, and it's funny, right? Because this is it's very weird because one way that you can think about student debt is as a sort of tax on people who cannot afford to go to college, but want to go to college. You know, you have to pay interest back to the federal government as a result of doing it. And usually you use taxes to incentivize things. Right.
If we were to say, OK, one group of people you go for price and another group of people you go for price plus interest, you would think that what we're trying to do is discourage the second group of people from going. But in fact, you know, the stated intention was to encourage it. And I think the result has been mixed, to say the least.
Can you talk a little bit about that tax aspect of it? Because I think there is a narrative that says, OK, you there was a bargain struck, you agreed to take out these loans. You need to pay back what you owe. And I think that there's a real disconnect for folks who perhaps have never carried the burden of student loan debt about exactly what those interest rates are, how high they are, and what the effect of that compounding interest is over the lifetime of a loan and people's ability to pay.
And then the incentive that creates, as you've written about Sparkie for the people who own that debt.
Yeah, well, I always get a little bit trepidations talking about points like the interest rate, because I don't think the interest rate is really is really what matters. Right.
I beg to differ. I mean, that's fair, right? We can have it. We can have an argument about that. You know, I think the debt itself is what is what's really a problem and what's really hurting people. And I think the nature of the system is is the wrong here. Right.
But if you're if you're just kind of thinking about, you know, what are the mechanics of it, it's very difficult to talk about this with people who have strong sort of moralistic assumptions about debt that they haven't really reflected on. But I would say just from my own experience, I remember getting my financial aid package is what they call it, financial aid package or a financial aid award. When you get accepted to college, when you fill out your FAFSA, which, by the way, a lot of people who are eligible for student aid don't fill out their FAFSA because that in itself is an administrative requirement.
And you get it. And it's just it's like a list of it's a list of things and a financial aid award. Right. And it's like, you know, scholarship, Pell Grant, Stafford program, parent Plus.
It's not at all a clear document, especially if you're 17, 18, 19, especially if you're not particularly financially sophisticated. You know, they make you go through these sort of student trainings.
But the entire push, like every everything that you ever hear when you're growing up, at least when and where I grew up, assumes that, of course, you want to go to college. Anything is worth going to college, right. Everybody's got to go to college even up until 10 or 15 years ago, even though a lot of the really worst effects of student debt were already being felt by people, there really even wasn't a discourse around the fact that it could possibly be bad.
You know, when I was working in Oakland, I had clients who had student debt from like the late 80s, from bullshit correspondent schools that had closed immediately, that they had just accrued, you know, four or five times the amount of the original debt in interest. It's not that it hasn't been a problem up until now. It's fucking crazy to me that people are just now starting to realize that this is a bullshit system. And I think, you know, part of that is because the cost of increased and part of that is because a lot of the folks who it was the hardest on early on were not the type of people who like journalists and media folks usually pay attention to.
You know, my clients were by and large recruited from unemployment lines.
Bridgit, in a recent article, an interview that you did, you talk to Kendra Brooks, who we've had on this show in our last episode before the election, talking about Pennsylvania and how things are looking in the state for Biden. But you spoke to her about this issue of student debt.
And one of the cases that she made is is similar to what Surakiart saying here, that the villain that has been created in the student debt conversation is this affluent Harvard grad who needs to just pay back their debts. But she painted a very different picture. Can you talk a little bit about what the the more typical scenario is?
Sure. Data absolutely is clear that low wage workers and working class Americans would benefit from the majority of loan forgiveness. Right. So when we're talking about the fifty thousand dollar amount that Senator Schumer and Warren are proposing, for example, it's overwhelmingly clear that those borrowers are not. Elites in the way that it's trying to be portrayed by people who are against loan forgiveness and it's muddled on purpose, right. So if I sound muddled about who that who that elite is and and why they're elitist, it's not clear.
Right? Because it's like Harvard, Penn, Yale. Right. That's the Biden line. And so that would include people like his children. Right. But first of all, there are also people who took out loans to go to those schools who were unable to get high earning high wage earning jobs to pay it back. And then there, of course, the people that took out loans to go to entirely different types of institutions, whether that's community college or terribly predatory correspondent schools like Sparkie was talking about.
And all of those people are being lumped into a tiny fraction of people that have student debt and need it forgiven. Right. Because that's the other thing that data doesn't even necessarily show, right, is that even if we were to cancel a huge amount of debt, that would include people that went to Harvard, took out loans and pay them back because they're, I don't know, neurosurgeon's or whatever, even though we know that neurosurgeons are not necessarily getting hired at the rate and making the money that they need to pay these loans.
Right. But that those people are they're not forgivable sort of figures.
Right. They're not empathetic. And we shouldn't care about what happens to them if they're being lumped in. It doesn't matter how many people it's helping. There's a strong individualist American derangement at work here. Right, because it means that we cannot acknowledge this problem and also solve it. Like Biden's sort of middling response to this is very much like, oh, this seems bad. And I'm acknowledging that it's bad, but doing nothing to sort of make the sweeping changes that we need.
So so that's really what Congressman Brooks was talking about.
And she was talking specifically about black women who hold the majority of debt in this country.
She actually talked about how among some of her colleagues, black women and men, that it was very difficult to get people to openly talk about their debt because it was such a taboo subject. So that's another side. It's not just working class people that might not necessarily have a voice. It's also like people that have been taken in by this meritocracy and might feel personal failure, like there's an insane level of personal angst attached to this issue. And then it ripples.
Right, because for her, she went to get an MBA thinking that it would help her. What she ended up doing was not being able to find a wage that helped her get her out of that debt fast enough. And within two years, she was out of her home. Her daughter had to leave Norfolk State University, I believe, which is also in Pennsylvania, come home. And now she and her daughter went and got a cosmetology degree, which she actually it's like she said, it was something like twenty thousand dollars and she can pay it off in a year with her plan.
So it's just a total misnomer. And these people don't exist like Harvard grads are.
Twenty five hundred undergrads at Harvard Sparkie, a Harvard grad with having. No, I'm not a Harvard grad, actually, but I will go after the point.
I want to go out for the point even harder, because I think, like, one of the things that I can't quite understand when people when people talk about this point is like, what what do you what are you trying to do through student debt?
It really seems to me like a lot of people are trying to impose an income tax through student debt. They're saying if you you know, if you have a high income, you shouldn't get your debt cancelled because you should be paying more into the government. And my answer to that is that's what an income tax is for. Right. Right. You're not doing a real income tax through student debt because it's limited to people who could not afford higher education when they pursued it.
You're not taxing people who could afford to pay for college, who had very rich parents to begin with. They're not paying this tax. Right. I think that people get really, really mixed up on this when they start thinking about, OK, but like, you know, who is really suffering under this and what are we why should this person get cancellation in this person, not get cancellation? What are we trying to accomplish here? You know, what I want to accomplish is I want to accomplish maximum education, maximum access to education and, you know, government revenue sufficient to to make space for whatever the programs that we want to create.
And I think that there's no reason to be linking education to some monstrosity of a fucked up tax. And that's called something else.
Yeah, that's what your story sparkie, the way you've written about it in current affairs, I think is so compelling because there's this presumption that the person that exists after college. Right. We think you go to college, you go to grad school and what do you call it, a human capital rationale for doing it, that we we only think of it as magnifying your ability to earn income afterward. And that is. And we should talk about that, but even if that were a reasonable rationale, the only rationale we cared about to go into going into college, it pretends that everybody coming out the back end who ostensibly they're all equally holding degrees, are in the same place regardless of what their family circumstances were like having gone into college.
So one of the points you make in one of your pieces, Sparky, is that you could come out and have an income based plan, a repayment plan, but maybe maybe Person A can live with their parents or can live in one of their parent's rental properties or have their parents pay their rent. And Person B, who has the same salary as a person A and with paying the same amount on this income or the repayment program is now paying a third of their income to rent in addition to having to pay in a serious amount in student loans.
And the implication here is that, yes, we think culturally everybody should go to college with an enormous amount of pressure that says from the time that you can speak words, you have to go to college. And particular as a black person, I got to say, the narrative was like, you are going to be validating everything everyone has ever said about why black people struggle in America, that it's completely our own fault unless you go to college. Right.
The problem with black people is that don't get an education. OK, let me tell you, I'm not going to get an education. I'm I get the best education money, money can buy. And you told me that was a good bet. The part that you didn't talk about was how the wealth inequity is on the front end are going to dramatically change my life circumstances or make my life circumstances postgraduation different than some of my my other peers.
Yeah, well, and I think just just on the on the race point too, there's data behind that as well that a lot of that a lot of black people are actually seeking higher degrees in order to compensate for employment discrimination. Right.
I think that if I really kind of want to get myself in trouble with my colleagues and many classmates, you know, being in public interest law, which does not pay nearly as well as non-public interest law, you may notice a trend of people from wealthier backgrounds or with very wealthy spouses being the ones who are in public interest law. You know, and there's kind of a reason for that. Like, I think that, again, some of the time people are trying to do an income tax point when they're talking about, you know, giving wealthy people debt cancellation.
Some of the time they're doing more of a moral point where it's more like we're don't we don't want to cancel debt for lawyers, not because they can pay it, but because they should be able to pay it. Right. If you go to Harvard Law, you should be able to pay back your debt because you can go get a job that makes so much money.
And again, it is so goddamn backwards because if you actually think about what you want lawyers to be doing right, do you want all of the lawyers who come out of Harvard Law, at least the ones who couldn't pay that humongous price tag going in to go work for corporate law firms? Or do you want to allow them to go do things that might be more socially useful and start upon this like start a damn podcast?
But, you know, people just kind of throw at this point, it's like it's like this it's like this kind of class resentment thing that they're trying to play on. By the way, the people who are trying to play on the class resentment point are doing so as the puppets of the student loan servicers and the student loan refinance companies.
Yeah, but it's just really, really it's really fucked. And I think the thinking is so muddy and it's very, very hard to sort it out.
Well, invited does it himself. Biden does the classers that men thing routinely. He did it at the CNN town hall that went viral, talking about mortgaging his own home to pay his his kids way through pain and wherever, and then that they went on to get high earning jobs. Like he said that on stage he like laid out very this very specific blueprint of like this works for people like me and why should people like me get help? And so he he does this very well and it trickles you know, you can see it trickle down, I think.
And that class resentment in here to the entire student debt system, particularly the legislative changes that have been made to it over the past 50 years.
Is that the case?
Yeah. I mean, what changes are you thinking of specifically the unique nature of college debt compared to other types of consumer debt?
Yeah, OK, so let's let's talk about this for a second. I mean, I think the class resentment is, I think, more of a rhetorical point.
A lot of the things about student debt that make it particularly fucked up kind of go the other way. So like, for example, the fact that because student debt largely is debt owed to the federal government and, you know, 90 plus percent of student debt right now is federally is federal student debt.
Debts owed to the federal government can be taken out of income that is otherwise protected from normal consumer debt. Right. So, like, if you are on disability, if you're on Social Security, if you're on like even like VA disability, I mean, you know, there are there are things in place here that you're supposed to be able to use to help you, but.
They will, like the feds, will actually just come after and garnish twenty five percent of your disability, check your means tested benefits, no private party is allowed to do that.
That's not affecting wealthy people. Right? They can come after your taxes. They can do all of this without ever going to court. They can also go to court and have had people detained and put in jail for their student debt. Right. You're not supposed to have debtors president of the United States, but all you have to do is tell the judge that they're refusing to pay and the judge can hold you in contempt pending your ability to demonstrate that you can't pay you can't discharge student debt in bankruptcy, which is a relatively recent development by Joe Biden.
Yes. I mean, it's not categorically true. You can if you can demonstrate a sort of extreme financial hardship, it's treated as sort of a super debt, real.
It never goes away. Right.
There's no statute of limitation limitations, no limitations at all.
Like, it's just it sticks with you forever. And the programs that people point to as the ways that you can get out of it are like, oh, well, you know, if you're poor for twenty five years, then maybe you can get cancellation under income driven repayment, you know, which no one has ever done yet. It hasn't existed for long enough. If the public service loan forgiveness program is any indication, even when that time rolls around, the vast majority of people will be denied.
You do get out of it by dying, though. That's the way that a lot of people get out of student debt is they die and then there's a death discharge. You still have to apply for it. You don't get it automatically. But there is a death discharge.
And that's the plan for a lot of people I know. I remember talking to my mother about it when I was headed to college and she was like, yeah, I made the calculation at some point that I should just pay the minimum for the rest of my life because the interest is so the payments are so large that the debt outstanding has grown so much that there's no point like it's cheaper for me at this point just to pay the minimum until I die, which, you know, is still a significant amount of money coming out of your paycheck for a lot of people.
And the reason I brought up the interest point just in terms of the sheer number, because your article Sparkie about the math of all of this, I do think rhetorically it's important for people to understand, because there's also some policy background in this, too, right? When we talk about mortgage interest rates and mortgage subsidies, there's none of this conversation about how this is like throwing money to rich people. When I was a relatively successful person out here in the world, don't have any plans ever to own a house because of my student debt.
There are policy decisions that have been made about the deserve edness of certain kind of debt. And the consequence of that is that we do have all these students with six, seven, eight percent interest rates, whereas homeowners bulk if the thing is that four percent right.
And you have the most of minus seven point sixty five, I think that's my that's my preponderance.
That is also my preponderance. And so we're also and you don't you joke Virgile, but I don't think I would have started this podcast with you if during this last summer while I was unemployed, I was responsible for twenty dollars a month in student loan payments because I was.
So the student loan system is good in some aspects. All right. He's he's got. Yes. I want Sparkie for you to, you know, tell us a little bit about the kind of serious nature of some of the debt that gets accrued by people just because of how it compounds. I just want to paint that picture a little bit, if you can. Yeah, sure.
I mean, it's complicated and it works a little bit differently from other debt. But, you know, yes, the interest rates, many of them are very high. Right. Some of them are not quite as high. Like I think some of the undergrad programs are maybe more like the three, four percent it changes over time. Congress, it changes a couple of times, particularly grad school debt. Like I expect your most of your loans and most of my loans are from law school.
That's like a real high like seven point sixty five. The point that I make on this, though, is that most people are not paying anything. It's hard to pass the data exactly. But, you know, almost 50 percent of people are not even in repayment on their debt.
They're in some other status. They're in deferment, they're in forbearance, they're in something. And then of the people who are in repayment, most of those people are on income based repayment.
And so they're not making whatever the full payment would be required to pay off their debt on the standard repayment term, which is ten years.
I would guess that the vast majority of those people are not even paying the amount of interest that's accruing on their debt. And one of the really, I think, fucked up parts about student debt, which is kind of unique, is that there's a feature. The interest doesn't automatically capitalize rights like when the interest accrues, doesn't automatically get added to your balance. But any time you switch statuses, it gets added to your balance. So what does that mean?
That means like if you're not making a ton of money and you're an income based repayment and you require payments or zero every single month, your debt is accruing interest at whatever your interest rate is. Times, whatever the. Whatever the total balance is divided by 12, if you ever say forget to fill out your annual income recertification or if you fill it out and your servicer loses it, which they do all the time, or if your income increases or anything that happens if you're making small payments, but you miss a couple and you fall into delinquency or default, that giant interest balance that might have been occurring for years gets added onto your principal automatically.
If you're in default and the interest is accruing and then you get out of default, you get back to like a good status boom interest added to your principal balance, along with oftentimes 18 percent collection costs 18 percent. So this stuff, it really like one of the clients who I mentioned, you know, he has some public testimony. And like I said, OK, to talk about this, his debt started as an eight hundred dollar debt. And when I was helping him, it was more than 40000 dollars.
How is that like how is that reasonable or possible? We're talking about 20 years of someone being in and out of homelessness, in and out of unemployment, being hounded by debt collectors. And this eight hundred dollar computer course suddenly is running your life for like literally decades.
It's fucking crazy.
So what could Joe Biden do about it? And what would you say to Democrats who say, well, this is just too expensive?
Yeah, I would love to have an argument about cost. Actually, if any of you want to defend a fifty thousand or ten thousand dollar plan, that would be really fun.
I'll do it. Look, lazy bums, you decided to go to college? My kids went to trade school. It wasn't that expensive. You chose to go and read about, I don't know, Oscar Wilde and all of this flimflam when you really should have just been learning a trade.
I love I love flimflam. I'm pro life. I should.
Blue collar workers have to pay for the children of the wealthy to take gender communism courses, school, university.
It's very frustrating. People still get confused about this, but people are still confused about this. When you talk about debt cancellation, you are not talking about the government writing a check to anybody. Right? The government owns the debt. People owe the government money. And so what the debt is, what cancellation is, is the government saying in the future we have the right to receive payments on this chunk of money and we're basically just going to waive that.
We're going to let it go. Right. And so when you hear people talk about this, they will talk as if the total outstanding amount of debt is the cost of cancelling the total outstanding amount of debt, which is about, what, one point seven trillion dollars is the number that nearly I think today, one point eight is almost up to you.
That's not how debt works at all. Right. Like the cost of canceling or forgiving debt is almost never the amount that the debt is outstanding right now. Oftentimes for mortgages and stuff, it can be more. You expect to make interest on the debt over time.
You wouldn't own the debt if all you were going to get was the principal balance back over 30 years. Right, for the case of student debt, because so few people are paying it and even fewer are paying anything close to something that will make it so that they will pay it off.
And we've already got a bevy of forgiveness programs from public service, loan forgiveness to income based repayment, forgiveness to the God damned death discharge, which is used pretty often and is going to be used a lot more. Right. All of this is already forgiveness. So the cost of cancelling student debt is not the balance. It's what the government can expect to make in the future from that debt. And we have very good reason to believe that number is very, very small.
No one knows exactly what it is, but it's much, much, much less than one point eight trillion dollars for every dollar.
I mean, perhaps you have an estimate of this for every dollar of student loan debt that the federal government holds in their accounting of it. How many cents on the dollar do they owe their own bookkeepers expect to get back?
I don't think they're I don't think there is an existing analysis of that, at least not a public one. There was some sort of macroeconomic analysis of debt cancellation done a couple of years ago by Marshall Stein, bomb Stephanie Kelton, I think Scott FOLOTYN and one other person that I'm blanking on the name I'm sorry, that was basically saying, you know, OK, let's try to figure out, given about how much the federal government brings in on student debt and what we think the effects of cancellation would be, how this would sort of balance out.
And what this analysis found is if you canceled all the debt, the government would actually make more money in the future on increased tax revenues. Then it's making on debt payments because it would be so stimulative of the economy, it would increase employment, etc.. It's kind of mind boggling that people don't actually talk about this because this is the only. Rationale that is ever given for any sort of tax policy, right, if you're ever going to argue for tax cuts, what you say is, well, you know, actually if we cut this tax, this what the conservatives say actually cut this tax than the government, revenue will increase because the economic activity will go up.
Well, here we've got a legitimate, reliable macroeconomic analysis that says, you know, more more serious than a lot of those tax cut bullshit that says that that will actually apply for student debt, that if you want the government to have more money, you should cancel all student debt. And yet people will still be out here talking about over what's the cost of cancelling? The cost of cancelling student debt is less than the cost of keeping student debt.
So what is the stimulus effect of cancelling student debt? I will send you guys the paper, which you can tell me. No, this might be a little bit outdated. It's from February twenty eighteen.
This is not a reading show we're talking about.
And what they found was basically that the five to 10 year revenue would about matched the projected revenue from student debt in that period, maybe a little bit more, and that employment would increase by around half a percentage point. It's a macro econ paper. The headline is that it would be better on all fronts. I just want to be clear.
What the actual process is, is that people are no longer having to pay the principal and interest on their debt so that money goes to other purposes.
Yeah, that money goes to other things. And also people are, you know, freed up on their credit. They can buy beer. You can go out and buy a house if she wants a small studio apartment.
But yes, a small studio. Sure.
I mean, again, like, I I'm sometimes hesitant to talk about these sort of individual stories because I think the problem is very systemic. When you start to focus on individual stories, it gets people caught up in this like, OK, but how what kind of wonky trickery can we do to relieve the most serious harm, which I don't think is the right approach.
But I will say again, you know, I like I worked on this stuff as an attorney for a couple of years, just helping people with their student debt. And I have multiple clients who were doing like Ritcher jobs because in their previous job, their student debt had cards, their wages to be garnished.
And that was intensely stressful. And basically they were like, well, if I do this right, your job, you know, they can't get to my income.
Of course, you know, they're still going to get to your taxes. Yeah. It's not a perfect solution, but it's just it's a humongous psychological weight on people. I think that would be relieved.
This question about the cost and how much it'll cost is so insidious because it sets up the sort of tenets of the argument in a way that it's almost impossible to sort of reason out of our use logic or even financial understanding. Right. It like sucks all the sort of rhetorical logic out of the room. And it makes people not understand that this is not income actively coming into the federal government. And I think that's why debt jubilee is so powerful. Right.
Because it blows out all of that up. Right. And it makes you question kind of every other kind of debt that is used. It's debt is a product. Right. And that's the thing that I think student debt is so powerful because it's kids and it's education. And so you have a president that says education is a moral right. Education is a human right. We don't have anybody yet saying that necessarily about utilities. Right.
But we have a president saying that about education, will write some of this report that we don't have the president of the United States who won by you know, he would maybe argue bye bye bye, sort of appealing to that. Right. And so that's why when you finally understand what, that there is no sort of cost in the balance sheet way that most people understand. I wouldn't necessarily know how to read that macro economics paper. Right by Marshall Finebaum, but I understand right now easy time with it.
It's not that bad, really.
It's actually pretty clear. Well, you know, I'll just go to his Twitter and use that. But yeah, I mean, there you go. Well, can you explain that you believe I don't want to get too far into this about? I mean, I think that that's a really important point. But for people who haven't listened to sparkies, very informative episode on current affairs where he talked about this with Lisburn, they get asked to tailor what is the concept of a debt jubilee?
Sure. Well, most simply, it's a mass cancellation or elimination is really the most precise word of of debt, meaning that it doesn't acknowledge a repayment. Right. It's an elimination of the the debt being held in the first place. So there's lots of different you know, the debt collective has a very specific idea of Jubilee and their plan for it. I'm actually reading the David Graeber book about debt from from 2011 for the first time this fall. And, you know, Jubilee is a biblical term.
It goes all the way back to, you know, lending and borrowing in the very first iterations of these. Your actions, as they are in human history, which sounds overblown, but it's really not like the way that we think about debt and our social investment each other and what we owe from each other is riddled with financial and economic resonance that we don't even realize. Right. So debt jubilee is like almost a celebration in linguistically right of that debt, which is why another reason I find it really powerful, because it's like a communal embrace of something forced and it's like a communal release as well.
So that's sort of like that's how I would describe the emotional reason for Jubilee over another term.
You know, one of my favorite bits from the Gravier book is he basically describes every lower class uprising for the last five thousand years as having two basic demands, which is cancel the debt and redistribute the land. This is this has always been the thing.
And actually, it kind of continues to be the thing because that's where the power is located. So one of the points I think maybe Liz British made, it was that historically biblical biblically, this was something that would recur periodically because there was this idea that society was imperfect and hadn't quite figured out how to run itself in a way that was equitable and that people were going to continue to accrue debts. But the best we could do with our limitations is mere corporeal beings, was to at least say that we understand that this is an injustice and periodically wave it in this idea, which, you know, Lisbona get to talking about religion and it makes this old agnostic feel the feel the spirit sometimes.
But this very, you know, like humane idea, this deeply humane idea that as a society we want to have people not living under this enormous financial and psychological burden as as a community in that pitch, even though there's something very old world and religious about it is so out of step with how our contemporary politicians think about it, including Democrats who really pitch themselves as the bleeding hearts of our political sphere and religious right.
I mean, Biden, especially if I really am just going after dear old Joe, this with my family. My family is from Scranton. So I'm going to get, you know, OAO raked over the coals up. But, you know, he presents himself as super Catholic, right? I mean, but you don't even have to put it in religious terms. I like to think about it in terms of imagination. Right. And like the imaginative horizon of your politics.
And that's what debt Jubilee really is about.
Like what can we actually do versus what we're told we're allowed to do. We're seeing that right now, right in every way that debt has been saddled up to certain communities. We see how members of those communities fill in those gaps in care, whether it's mutual aid during the pandemic or mutual aid in Texas or whatever. And there's like dollar amounts on in every scenario that people are mitigating or getting around through helping each other. So it's like I mean, Graber would say it's like communism with a small C, right.
That you can have an idea of a mutually supportive humanity and it doesn't have to be religious and it doesn't even have to be emotion based.
It really is anthropological. This is how humans actually interact. It's how we help each other and everything about debt. To pick up on what Sparky said earlier, when you get out of this idea that it is somehow essential that it is like a naturally occurring war of of human nature, it expands everything because you don't we don't have to adhere to any of this. We just do. And think about how powerful that would be if if all this messaging, if regular people really understood that, I mean, they're screwed.
That's a complex of social relationships. I mean, I don't want to give folks the wrong impression that the episode that with Astra and with Liz Breunig was actually about medical debt. We did talk about student debt a little bit, but it was about medical debt and about the Rolling Jubilee.
You know, I think that, like, it's not even that distant, right. The Jubilee is not even that distant because it was keyed to the Sabbath year, the seventh year in the Bible. And if you look at a lot of our laws around consumer debt, you will still find the Sabbath here. Right. How long does something stay on your credit report after basically it becomes negative seven years right below. The bankruptcy protections also followed kind of like a seven year model.
So this already exists. I mean, I think that the idea of the Jubilee for me is kind of a bulwark against hopelessness. Right? Like, we want dynamism in our lives. We want change. We want the ability to get ahead, even if that comes with some risk of falling behind. What we don't want is we don't want to be trapped. You don't want a forever loss. Right. You can have some losses, but you don't want to forever lost.
And that, I think, is really the the beauty of something like a regular social restructuring is you say, you know, look, we're going to have social interactions. We recognize that this will result in differential outcomes. And every once in a while, we're going to come together and we're going to reset it and start over. And you are never stuck forever. What strikes me is that it feels like there are a lot of assumptions being made about the incentives that are created by forgiving that there's a presumption that having the debt is going to motivate people in a way to be socially productive in a way that they wouldn't be without that debt.
And that's really what this social responsibility talk, personal responsibility lingo is all about.
And we get into it.
It reminds me of the conversation that we were having doing our Star Trek episode. I go to Star Trek, not religion. The idea that, like when we talk about potential utopian futures and the idea that people wouldn't work at all that really weird, some people out that we could have things figured out efficiently. We've got, you know, all of this technology that can beam food into our refrigerators. No one needs to be toiling and yadda, yadda, yadda.
A lot of people think, oh, that's bad, because if people weren't working or people weren't struggling up, there wasn't an anvil of debt, that somehow society would be worse off. And with all of this, it feels like the difference between people who are kind of pro and con these programs are pro and con socialism are a different kind of future that we're imagining. It comes down to a fundamental difference in the understanding of human nature, human value in what motivates us to be our best, and to sparkies point earlier about who ends up working in public interest law versus who doesn't.
I will say that I have a track record now of dating public justice, and they tend to be working class themselves, but very anomalous in their environment. And one definitely worked with a former presidential candidate's daughter, who I hear is a lovely woman, even though her father is black, me on Twitter. And that is normal. That is the norm. And I think that we should really question why I have so many peers, myself included, who felt like corporate law and getting big bonuses and paying it off fast was the best way out to do something like journalism, which isn't going to be covered by low public interest loans, public forgiveness programs, rather.
Right, because that's the other side of it.
If you want to do something that isn't legal, you're just just that's it. You can do public interest law.
But if you want to do something that's extra legal, that doesn't pay a high salary, it keeps you trapped in there as well. Sparkie, you're writing about those kinds of incentives and your personal narrative as someone who went to college for free and then encountered a whole different kind of a series of presumptions about you and your life as you headed into into graduate school. I think that's why your personal story, I understand your hesitancy to go into personal stories, but your personal story in particular, I find to be really compelling for that reason.
Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I'm not sure it's it's super compelling. But like, you're right, I managed to go to college almost for free, not quite for free. I think my dad ended up with a fourteen hundred one hundred dollar parent plus loan from some, like summer language program that I didn't understand was going to be paid through up through a parent loan, which I paid off for him while I was in law school so they wouldn't start garnishing his disability.
I don't quite understand what people think they are accomplishing with either the system broadly or the solutions that are proposed. Again, I think like there are good intentions floating around to some extent. I think a lot of people have the sense that maybe student debt is unfair. A lot of people understand that. A lot of people suffer under student debt. A lot of people understand that student debt is kind of it's almost like a flexible little option the federal government can use to accomplish whatever redistribution nery goals it wants to accomplish.
This is when you see stuff like, you know, canceling X amount will reduce the racial wealth gap, but canceling Y amount won't. I think that, you know, my kind of broader overall pitch is like, look, if you think that paying for college is unjust, there is a way to get free college, which is first you cancel all the student debt and then you structure a program to continue canceling all the student debt until Congress passes free college.
I actually wrote down that how that plan would work in an article called What a Better Biden would Say about student loan debt. Right. If you are worried about people who are being harmed by their student debt. Well, you don't really have to worry about what their income is or what debt amount. You know, if you are only going to cancel fifty thousand dollars of student debt, I promise there are people who are being severely harmed by two hundred thousand dollars worth of student debt.
Right. If you're going to try to limit the income, I promise there are people who are feeling isolated and maybe even suicidal at above that income level. If you're worried about making sure that that black student debtors have access to more wealth. Look, I've got a plan that solves all these problems, right? You can remove the harm from everybody. You can remove the injustice of the system, and you can cancel the student debt held by every single black Latin sex, every woman, everybody just cancel all the debt.
And in fact, on the macroeconomics, it will, quote unquote, cost less than leaving people in debt, especially given that leaving people in debt means literally just leaving them to suffer for decades until they die in debt and you cancel it anyway.
Closing things out here in this market is something that you've written about is the commodification of higher education and this widespread principle that most policymakers seem to be operating on that college is an investment in your labor, you know, in your labor skills, increases your marketability and creates a down.
And it cost a lot because you can expect a higher income, you know, later in life.
And I do think part of what's driving the the increasing concern about the student debt crisis isn't just the fact that the dollar amounts are going way, way, way up.
It's also the let's call it a glut in college graduates to the degree that a college education, while you are still generally better off in the labor market than someone without a college education, it's no longer the guarantor to a middle class or upper middle class existence that it was in the 1970s.
The thing I want to get out is, is there a different principle of higher education, of college education that we should promote?
Yeah, let me kind of. Turn that on its on its head a little bit, because my principal is a little bit glib, but the way that I would turn that on its head is to say everything that you said about college is also true of high school and was particularly true of high school before the free high school movement started. Right. High school was something that not everybody did. The people who did it could see a massive increase in their expected income over their life.
And in fact, it's still the case that if you graduate from high school, you can expect an increase in your lifetime earnings over people who didn't graduate from high school. It seems to me when I talk to people about this, like, you know, the notion of making people pay or take out loans to go to high school is unthinkable. But college, it's like we've switched our thinking, we now understand that high school education is a necessity, it's a public good, but higher education is still seen as something else.
And I think that higher education should be seen the way that all education should be seen, which is the same as elementary school and high school and everything else, which is that education in general is a public good on an individual level. My experience, I've been trying to figure out exactly how to describe this right. Like I went to three very different institutions for higher ed. I went to a community college, and then I went to a big public university to get a bachelor's degree.
And then I went to like a small, private, ultra prestigious law school.
You know, I was putting you with all the other current affairs HLS grads. My apologies, Speccy. I needed to do that.
I'm no prouder of having gone to Yale than I would be of having gone to Harvard. Both should mean you should be dismantled and burned to the ground.
But I think that the times when I felt like I was getting the most out of my higher education and the times that I kind of like, called back the most throughout my life that have been the most useful to me have been the times when I was there really having fun. Right. When I wasn't trying to follow a particular program, when I wasn't, you know, so goal oriented toward my future career or something like that. And particularly the time when I was at Santa Barbara City College, I didn't know what the fuck I was doing right.
I was just like working full time and going to college for fun. I didn't have any sense that I was going to transfer or anything like that. You know, that is when I really managed to learn the most useful things, you know, about, like how to write and how to interact with people and what this other world kind of looks like. That's, I think, the experience that I would want higher education to be for everybody. I think that requires not just a financial divorcing from the idea that you're doing it for, you know, for your future boss.
But an entire mental shift from that outlook. Education is not to prepare you for the labor force. Education is something else and it's very important.
But I do agree with that principle. Yeah.
I mean, first of all, I some great parties say everywhere we go, I think I saw a guy really like sort of showily like thrill can throw a window at one of those parties.
And I remember being like, well anyway, the for foundational memory for me.
Well, I went to Wesleyan University undergrad, which is like a playground, a surprising playground for clowns. And it should be just kidding. No, we get the short shrift because like Oberlin and Smith and, you know, Levasseur or whatever, get all the name checking. But really, we should really get a lot more in terms of horrible mobs of students trying to get times reporters fired anyway.
Manuel Miranda. Oh, yeah. It's a it's a really it's the most epic.
It's something liberals from Long Island tried to help her run. Oh, I can't help, I guess, anyway. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, education has to be decoupled from productivity. That's like most basic level. And I think that's something like in our soul as Americans, that's really hard to. Get rid of. And by that, I do not mean naturally occurring in any way, of course, I just mean that it is like and that's where this debt conversation is just going to expand in the wake of the pandemic, when so many people are saddled by medical debt like you are talking about sparking all kinds of debt, utilities, things like that.
Yeah, we have to I think school and education has been financial is just like almost every other aspect of living right in this country, at least. And so, yeah, it will take more universal principles, which sounds really like squishy and silly on some level, but is like, you know, has a really like, strong intellectual and philosophical underpinning, which is that life is not to make a profit. Right. And that's going to be something that people use policy.
But also, you know, I think people like the debt collective are going to be doing in actual sort of taking on power and doing it through organizing. Right. So there's multiple ways that it's happening.
And the path the path to to introducing that squishy principle through policy I think is very clear, which is you can't solve the student debt.
Yeah. And people don't like that and they get around it. We saw this in the primary, the Democratic primary. People are rankled by the universality of it, by canceling all of it. I mean, the Pell Grants for the entrepreneurs who are successful for three years, three years in an underserved city.
But it was like so illustrative of of how hard people want to fight against the sort of not the moral nut of that, which is like a disgusting turn of phrase. I just point. But yeah, I mean, it's like I think people that rise through a system are extremely averse to, like, turning inward and looking at it and getting rid of it.
And not everybody, but a lot of people are figuring out how to do that is a huge task.
On the left is the people who benefit from the hierarchy that that I have noticed is truly the people of the world. It is truly my classmates who I had the biggest arguments with about this particular issue. And I think it's because the inaccessibility of higher education is fundamental to the value of it to the people who've already been through it. Right. It is 100 hundred percent about pulling the ladder up behind you. If you managed to get through college, if you managed to get through an elite college, you don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry, all the flotsam and jetsam to come diluting the value of your degree because they too can benefit and participate.
And that was so obvious to me when I was having arguments with these people and their beautiful brownstones as they complained about how they managed to pay off their debt and everyone else should be in the same situation. I think it's also connected to this, the kind of cultural value of those degrees.
I mean, that's a problem. We shouldn't live in a world where Felicity Hoffman, who is rich beyond the dreams of ninety nine point nine percent of people in the world, is cheating and lying to get her kid from going into a perfectly fun, to get her from going through to a perfectly serviceable state school to to like a mid tier college. Right. Like, people are willing to cheat and lie and go to jail because we all understand that there's this weird cultural capital to certain kind of colleges and certain kind of brand names that shouldn't exist in the first place.
That perpetuates a very real resentment that is stoked most often by very wealthy college graduates who might be Tucker Carlson or they might be people to judge, not just those individuals.
I can't let this point escape because who is actually stoking that is the US Chamber of Commerce, right. Is so far is Fed loans, Great Lakes, Nelnet and Navia.
Right. Like it's both the individual people who want to kick the ladder out for money. But also there are there are institutions that have serious financial stakes in this. And they're the ones who are funding the think tank symposia. Right. They're the ones who are buying Super Bowl ads. Right.
Like this is where a lot of this shit is coming from is is these companies. And I don't think people quite understand just how much of a financial Arae is lined up against student debt cancellation by people who profit immensely off the fact that we have to go into debt to go to to get an education.
Absolutely. It's debt buyers. It's servicers, great masses of industry, Great Lakes.
That's mine for you greatly. All right. Well, this has been enormously both cathartic and informative. I know.
And fun and fun. Fun. I can talk about student debt or the Kardashians all day and all night. And I'm sure that we're going to have you guys back. We have to do a panel where we get more into the specific efforts taken up by the debt collectors. People like Ashley Taylor, we also have to connected, I think, to other kinds of debt often one of the remarks that I hear when we're having these arguments is, OK, but what about this kind of debt and why kind of debt?
I'm like, yeah, totes that, too. It only cost eighty one billion dollars to cancel all student cancel on medical debt. And it's frankly unconscionable that it hasn't already been done. It cost less than the amount that all a bunch of progressive Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren, voted to increase Trump's military budget by in 2017.
Seventeen. It doesn't cost. Sorry. You're right. Well, it's complicated. It's complicated for medical. It's it might it might not cost that, though. Look, if folks are interested in this, you should go listen to the the conversation I had with Australian Lisburn, because one of the things we talk about a little bit is like each of these things is different, right?
Like a debt is a social relationship. And each kind of debt, each individual debt is a slightly different social relationship. So student debt exists within the the, you know, universe, the ether of education and in education laws and all this and medical debt exists in different ether. That doesn't mean there are ways to address it. Right.
So when people talk about the cost, they're like how much is owed again, you know, you go and buy it from the debt buyers or whatever and then forgive it. But, you know, the federal government regulates hospitals. The IRS regulates non-profit hospitals and requires them to have charity care, which they don't use. There are all kinds of tools that we might have to address medical debt that are different from student debt, but involve the same understanding of debt, not as some natural fact of the world, but as far as a relationship between people and institutions.
That counts as your plug. That's fine.
It's not like pulling the plug from a grid. Right. Which is how that may be one of the easier ways that people might think about how debt funnels into existing institutions. Right. Or things we need things we rely on, things our government relies on. It's like people really are very easily, you know, come up with these cascading effects even if they don't know them. And that's that's what, you know, years, decades, if not hundreds of years of rhetoric has done in terms of making people take that on, like, why am I taking that on when the government doesn't take on the cascading effects of debt or poverty?
Right. For me and I'm a citizen, you know, that switches is really powerful. And I think that's what activists are really trying to turn off.
Yeah, well, thank you for helping us deprogram after all of those years of programming, we'll put links to all of your guises, articles that we referenced, bridging your recent pieces on both student debt and the 15 dollar minimum wage battle. Thank you again. Yes.
Thank you for continuing to cover these issues that really strike at the heart of what so many people are going through right now.
Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me again. Yeah, thanks for having me. OK, and we are back, Bridget Reed joining us for the Altro portion of the show just to follow up on the panel we just did. Here are the riffs that I thought of but did not have an opportunity to say, Bree, when you were describing the debt jubilee and saying how, you know, oh, we we hadn't I guess I hadn't really figured out how to handle this thing.
So, you know, we'll just have a jubilee. They couldn't they hadn't had Liz Warren's plans.
Oh, I'm tired of moving on. When Bree was discussing Liz Breunig appearance on The Current as a podcast and the religiousness of Liz's commentary, you know, Brees becoming a Trad. wife, she's going to start like dialing in to the show from a rustic cabin in Norway.
The last time Liz Bruening posted some elaborate meal she made for her family, I very seriously considered showing off my dinner, which consisted of some gluten free mac and cheese. I thought better of it from a box. That would be clear. This is like Annie's gluten free market.
Oh, those are the refs. I just have another one here. That's just the word reifel. But I don't really know what I don't remember what that was supposed to be.
Did someone say Reifel? I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking about. Dan Reifel, former AOC or maybe current AFC economics czar, had an army of Trodd wives with.
I mean, yeah. You know, the riff's. Yeah. Goosestepping Aberrated on, uh, you never know what's going to work here. And on the Bad Faith podcast, I know this is going to work.
What did we want to talk about. You don't want to alienate our whole damn audience. I don't know. I don't want to lead with this Kim Kardashian news, which we forgot to cover.
We've got a backlog, something of news. Yeah, I know.
I'm a little tired of this idea. Like I thought the part of the spirit of this podcast was to expand an audience beyond the group of Brooklyn men who you personally consort with. I do.
You mainstream audience. Oh, I.
I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm just teasing. Here's the thing. I mean, I don't mean to do feminism here, but while I have Bridget with me, y'know, no God what am I associating me with against my will.
Just generally I don't have a lot of like backup support on these issues. So I just would like to say there is a phenomenon that exist and I think it is best exemplified by the following. If you go to a restaurant or bar with the television playing in America, odds are that they are playing sports, correct? Just the odds are if you're counting all the bars in the country, sure, yes. And women frequent those bars, not that women don't like sports, but I will I am inclined to say I'm OK with generalizing.
But the main audience for ESPN is predominantly over 60 percent.
I'd say men now go higher. I'm just I'm being cautious.
I don't want to to completely gender stereotype. OK, but if you were to walk into a bar again, these are not these are not gender segregated bars. These are places where men and women are frequently TGI Fridays with the family. TBI's are going blah, blah, blah.
So you're you're non masking and non socially Distin in in TGI Fridays across the tri state area.
This is in twenty nineteen and or twenty twenty one in Tampa.
So in this scenario, if you were to walk into one of those places and let's say the Kardashians or some other like heavily gendered women's programming, we're on TV. Every person in the bar would be complaining about every man would be rolling their eyes and saying something snarky about how dare they be playing this dreck in the bar and they can even be high in television. Not that sports is particularly erudite compared to the Kardashians, but it could be like high end women's programming could be, you know, whatever the most highly respected Jane Austen adaptation is or whatever the heck.
Right. So it's not about highbrow lowbrow. It's about it being feminine versus masculine. And I am and it frustrates me. It frustrates me that if you bring up the Kardashians, if you talk about anything that's like women's related, everybody freaks out. But we're excited just to submit ourselves to all kind of discourses about the Super Bowl and what have you.
Sorry, Oprah Winfrey baby seat. The trick is to be red pill all the way around so that you no longer have to carry this.
I have come to a place where I want every establishment in America to play like footage of people like killing their Sims characters by taking out the pool ladder and leaving them in the pool or putting them in a room and starting a fire and taking out the door like that's my feminism.
You know, it's like I'm picturing Bri constantly going to places called like soccer hooligans and getting pissed off that ball and shit.
It's like how far as I go to doing like ten Jezebel article about sports bars.
It only makes me feel nostalgic because I truly am at a place where, you know, we could call it like weird feminism, where I just want, you know, Tulsi to come out with, like a tampon line that's you know, these are things that I'm trying to manifest that they would mean a lot to me as a woman, as a person.
I wish so much that breeze writing career had started like during the mid Gawker era.
Oh, man, I love God. I mean, I was I was the world's number one Jezebel commentator. Like I before I found Twitter.
We did you did you have like a screen name that you had to, like, audition with and stuff like I had I had it it had identity.
Well, let me it was it was a bit of a tragicomedy because when I started when I started working as an attorney at the firm in 2013, I joined out of cycle for reasons because of the recession. And I did a clerkship Ebola. So I started not with my class, so I didn't have any work to do. They kind of forgot about me and I was very insecure. I was sitting at a desk all day getting paid a high salary not to do anything.
And it was I was nervous they were going to fire me any day. So what did I do with my time?
I became deeply invested in the Jezebel section where all of the battles are being fought. Back in 2013, Twitter was not even like it wasn't as ubiquitous as it is now. And when I switch jobs about a year later, I was devastated because I didn't know my login and I had to leave that whole identity behind.
You need to you need to move in some spaces that are still dominated by these old fights like today on Twitter, the woman that decided to talk about internships, where where does she work at NFL dot com.
So you need to be transported to this world where people are talking about these subjects.
You know something? I realized that it took me a long time to figure this out. But whenever you see just an inscrutable argument on Twitter that like thousands of people are apparently invested in, no idea why people are arguing about it. It's like you should there be doghouses? Like, I don't like something like that.
Took me a while to realize, oh, this is a holdover from, like some message board or common argument that these people have been having for the past 15 years.
I reject the idea that there wasn't a time like I know the left hates the idea that you would need these kind of explainers. They hate the idea of like Candy X and and Y fragility and all of that. I understand the critiques and we've talked about them on the show. But it also I think that sometimes they forget that even ten years ago we lived in a very, very different world where. Yes, your average American. If you brought up the idea that, oh, as a black person, I might be uncomfortable with the idea of you inviting me to your plantation wedding.
It would be a fight. The liberals have come some way, right? Like there's some basic understandings and expectation. Oh, slavery exists. We had a civil rights movement. We are so much farther today than we were in 2010 because of the Francheska Ramses of the world and the folks who did all of this. Let me tell you why. There's obviously racist thing that you've been doing your entire life is in fact, racist. And I know that we think it's all pedantic and stupid now, but we are able to have a higher level of conversation now because somebody thought and a Jezebel comment section, I agree that there has been a positive evolution up to the point.
And this is what else are going downhill when when rich white liberals appointed themselves the race cops. Right.
They just started saying derange stuff all the damn time.
Well, the conversation can't stop and end at the Jezebel Cup comment section. That's the thing. And and equality and social justice isn't, you know, learning how not to micrographs. Your coworker, when she comes in with braids the day after she comes in with an afro. I mean, the problem is, you know, I went to an event during the campaign, during the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus week in DC, and it was like a Google sponsored event.
And the number one preoccupation of the people in the room when talking about like how to get equality or whatever, this is all, you know about all black people.
Barbara Lee was in the room was when you Google beautiful on Google, you get only images of white people. Now, I don't love that that's true. But I was a little chagrined that that particular issue took up so much space and time in this room. It's a proportionality question. Not like a substantive question. You know what I mean?
Well, and I doubt that I was one of those white people so rich.
Bridget, what's happening there on the page? No, no, it's I agree with you. And I. I don't even know if we want to talk about this, but this is part of honestly why I came out today on the side of The New York Times over Donald Jr.
McNeal, the battle over should this man have been fired by a group of white students in Peru or not? Because while I don't think it was handled correctly by the Times at all, and I don't think he should have been forced out, and I do think he was forced out based on his media post today, which is also like such indignity to go from being submitted for the Pulitzer for your coverage. And now you're writing medium posts, which is just such a fall from grace anyway.
Media being below substract now.
And, you know, hiring anyway is because it's free you his his the things he said about black people on those trips, whether it's the question of is it racist or not, I don't think it's as easy to answer as was it just like woefully outdated or not.
It was like beyond the things he said, I miss.
I confess, I'm sorry I had no interest.
Things he said about like about like young black people being thugs and how they don't help themselves.
It was like stuff that is is ten years old and has been the subject of the Jezebel fights of our if that's our Ogura, the Jezebel comment section. Right. These have been litigated in the O'Gara. Right.
And so that's why I was just like it just was so insane for a Times reporter who should be steeped in those, you know, and yeah, he science. But anyway, it was that so that to me was like not necessarily viable, but I just like people were sharing those passages, like he is vindicated. And I was like, yeah, I do think so. But just the cancer culture. Yeah. But I mean, we have to have a whole kinzel culture.
I mean, we've been kind of avoiding it.
Virgil. I know I know Prototyp episode but we never aired was about cancer culture. Our first bite at the apple when Virgil and I were feeling each other out and deciding if we had any and enough chemistry to do the show was a council culture.
And I do think that a lot of what the problem with culture discussions is, the stakes are often too high for us to have a good faith conversation about the substance of what was said.
If it's a person getting fired or a person no longer being a senator or having to drop out of a presidential race, et cetera, then people are going to be less willing to admit that the thing that was said or done wasn't great. Right? People are reluctant to admit that there was any wrongdoing because the consequence of that is justification of whatever the remedy is. And we don't have enough of a conversation about their remedies, whether or not there are things that are short of firing, whether or not they're things that short of like vanquishing from public discourse, for wearing blackface or whatever it is and what rehabilitation looks like, what penance looks like, all of these, again, religious kind of principles that are aimed at getting people back into society once they've transgressed, once they've paid for it in some way.
But. We refuse to have that conversation, so, yeah, we end up do just having folks denying that being very 2011 with their discourse isn't, you know, an issue.
The real issue, though, is that they don't let you watch the Kardashians and Applebee's. Oh, OK.
So, you know, the solution for you, Bri, is you go to gay bars. That's I don't I've been the one that's the kind of stuff that's playing there all the damn time.
They play like the fucked up stuff I was talking about. So first of all, there's a whole discourse about straight women using gay bars as they're like personal sexual discourse.
I mean, I'm at a bar.
It is likely because I'm trying to pick up straight men, which isn't necessarily going to be aided by me hanging out in the gay bar.
But the real issue is for me that there is this double standard. I don't mind watching having the sports game playing in the background, but I do think that there it's that I brought up that example because it's indicative of the hostility toward gendered entertainment, female gendered entertainment in America.
And I reject the idea that to keep subscribers, I have to keep the Kardashians names out of my mouth. That's not true.
I never said that our episode, too, was about the Kardashians and it did not do any damage. What episode? You've never let me speak about it in public.
I, I you do not need my permission to run the panel just as much as I do. And if you just like, just start busting out the Kardashian stuff, what am I what can I do? Stop the recording?
I would say the solution is not to elevate the Kardashians to a level of investment and importance and gravity that sports are given in this country, but to lower sports to the Kardashians, because all entertainment almost in totality is stupid and bad for us. And we should be allowed to revel in that like pigs in our beautiful entertainment slop. Why does anything have to be discoursed point of any of you?
As someone who has written many an entertaining summary of what happened on Real Housewives spinoff shows, what's the one you know with the British one with the hair in the Beverly Hills one.
Oh, Vanderpump, no.
Thorpey. Excuse me. I wrote a seven thousand word profile of these people that was paid for by conning us. OK, that's why I expected more from you, Bridget Elementary.
Elevating the discourse around reality TV is why you're here.
No, but my new my new project is bringing all discourse down. All of it. That's the equalizer. We're trying too hard to go up.
All seven thousand word articles nowadays are either about the Vanderpump Rules or council culture and nothing in between. And that's what you have said. The Vanderpump Rules.
I've heard you say it before, the Vanderpump for Vanderpump Rules.
So now and now I'm back on your team. Breea thinking that that's a microaggression from Virgile. Well, thank you.
If I said it was called Super Bowl without ever putting an article in front of it, everyone would drag me to the heavens.
I just wanna say one thing about James McNeil, which is I hope he makes a substantial. Do you mean just, you know what isn't his name? Donald. I've been following I haven't been following the sport and whatever.
All right. Yeah. Gordon Yeah. Gordon McNeil should make it. You're making sub stack and say this is great. Yeah. No more editorial control. And finally, I'm free to use the N-word as much as I want. Thank you, Substory.
Well, the markets will decide we do what we wanted to talk about the minimum wage thing, right? Yeah.
I'm wondering if this is is this your bet that you wanted. Yeah, this is great. Great, great.
I just thought we might throw a little more chum in the water since we didn't we don't really talk about that much at the top of the battle.
You know, that was the big news cause parliamentarian's said no minimum wage and another little screwing things up just and I don't know why I was so nervous.
And, you know, gosh darn it, we're going to do it. I'm I'm. I'm baby. You're Kambakhsh minimum wage.
I bet this is a problem is that, you know, I think we should just cut the second clip from the top and just put it right here.
It's definitely going to look different in the Senate, you know, with one way that we know, which is that the fifteen dollar minimum wage increase will not be in there, according to the Senate parliamentarian, it shouldn't fit into this package. So because of that, can you promise Americans that President Biden will raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour by the end of his first term?
Well, he can't do it on his own, but he is absolutely committed to raising the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. He thinks it's long overdue. He believes that men and women who are working.
Trying to make ends meet should should not be living at the poverty level and we're going to spend the next few days and weeks looking for the best path forward, working with Democrats and Republicans, hopefully to do exactly that, to working with Republicans, looking for days and weeks for the best path forward, which is no path based on what you've stated that you're not going to do, which is have Kamala Harris overrule the parliamentarian, which is one of many things you can do because the the Byrd rule, what this all hinges on the Byrd rules that were codified in the 70s for reconciliation.
That's not law that's just made up a bare majority can say horrible, just changing the rules.
That's a made up by a man from West Virginia and another man from West Virginia is also getting in the way this time. What is the point of having senators, especially from West Virginia? No, I can't talk about West Virginia because it's also Arizona. No, look, I mean, what she's saying is a joke. She has been appearing the press secretary herself has been appearing in front of this March 14th deadline behind her. Right. Which is the unemployment cliff that we're about to fall off of and have millions more people without, you know, the bare minimum of relief that they've been getting.
And it's ridiculous. And they're pre negotiating against themselves like that's ridiculous and upsetting.
And this is your shot. Like this is your shot for a minimum wage. We know we can't pass with 60 votes. So and we know you don't want to abolish the filibuster, that you pretty much don't have the votes for that. So it's got to be through reconciliation. And that's your only shot until next fall where I'm just curious what what is going to be different next fall? I don't hear anyone saying they're going to fire the parliamentarian, which they should absolutely do if she's the only impediment here.
But in fact, we asked McConnell about that on Monday's episode. You did, Virgil, and he was pretty assertive about the fact that he felt like that shouldn't happen. And it's not the parliamentarians fault and she's just a civil servant doing what she's going to do.
And when we pointed out that you could argue that Joe Biden made it clear what he wanted her to do by saying in advance of her decision that he didn't think the parliamentarian was going to allow it and that she might not be a neutral actor on all of this.
Representative, at least didn't really seem to take up that argument now.
So we're all playing the blame game right now and accusations are flying around, which to me is just a concession of defeat all around you right now.
What I'm concerned with is just the message coming out of the White House and just just the utter shamelessness of it is the thing you ran on.
It's a thing you promised. I've heard it, as you know. Does Joe Biden actually won a fifty dollars minimum wage? Doesn't give a shit. I don't give a shit what Joe Biden in his heart of hearts really cares about. I got curious about what he's going, what he promised, and if you could do what he promised and if he's actually doing it. And all we're getting is spin. And I got to say, you know, you remember when when right after Biden took office and so he had her first press conference doing the press conferences and the entire D.C. press corps was just talking about how great this person is.
All we finally have an honest press secretary.
Give me a break. That's my catch phrase. Give me a break.
Yeah. I mean, look at also the the way the questions are asked. And I don't mean to put Dana on the spot here because, you know, it's difficult in the moment, especially in the short. Be sure. Interviews. What I think all journalists need to start to think about is to anticipate the mealy mouthed answer that they're going to get, because that's the nature of spin and ask the question they really want an answer to, which is this is the only opportunity for fifteen dollars minimum wage because by your own admission, you don't have 60 votes.
Is Joe Biden willing to do what Republicans have done before, which is to fire the parliamentarian, overrule the parliamentarian Bush, to fire the parliamentarian over the Bush tax cuts?
OK, or is protecting this one person or protecting your donor base that really wants you not to press for it a 15 made minimum wage, more important than fulfilling the promise that you made to your constituents during the election cycle that just ended. Isn't it true, Joe Biden, that you are actually not fighting for this and who knows, by the way? I don't know. We had this clip. Kudos to the journalist who asked Jen Psaki at a press conference why it seemed that they were fighting harder for mere attendance.
Confirmation then for a 15 day minimum wage.
The parliamentarian decision, you said that he respects that decision, but progressives don't understand this in some respects. Why not fight for this? Why is the White House not more aggressively challenging that and sending the vice president to try and potentially overrule that with the vote?
Well, the decision of the vice president to vote, to overrule or to take a step to overrule is not a simple decision. It would also require 50 votes. As you know, it's not a one step decision. And the president and the vice president both respect the history of the Senate and they are both formally served in the White House. And that's not an action they intend to take. But the president is committed to raising the minimum wage, to working to determine the best vehicle forward to doing that.
That's why it is in the package. He wants it to be raised to fifteen dollars an hour and he will be in touch with leaders from all wings of the party in determining the best path forward for that. All those things. Go ahead.
Look to Jeff's question, which strikes me that the White House doesn't have 50 votes to confirm Neera Tanden as OMB director. And yet we've heard from White House chief of staff say that the White House is they're going to fight their guts out, fight our butts off, was the phrase he used to get her confirmed. So that's a question. The question for her to say that I feel represented and people stand to benefit more from a higher wage than they would from a chosen OMB director.
Well, I think that's mixing a few things kind of irresponsibly if I'm just being who they are happening. I would say on the minimum things that are happening here in a moment in this package because he felt it or do that, men and women working hard, trying to make ends meet, shouldn't be living at the poverty level. That's why he put it in his package. There is a process that goes through a parliamentary process when it's a reconciliation bill, as you know.
But for people who haven't been following all the nitty gritty of this, because it's a budgetary bill, that's why it went through the process. And, you know, again, I would I would send you to talk to leaders in Congress to see if they have the 50 votes necessary. But regardless, the president, the vice president has made the decision whether or not to move forward the way that it requires two steps as it relates to Neera Tanden.
She is somebody who has decades of experience. She is qualified. She is prepared to lead the budget team. And we're continue, of course, to fight for the confirmation of of every nominee that the president puts forward. We'll see if we have 50 votes. That's part of the journey. That's part of democracy in action.
That's like God. Life is a journey. Life is a highway. No, but the journey the journey thing is important. Right? Because because it is. It is because the fight, the fight and the willingness to fail and take risks and the willingness to like, get on the horn or whatever. Joe Biden refers to the phone as the the bridge. I don't know what the fuck in whatever in the cloud comes a phone and he gets it from the fog.
Anyway, he that's a real thing.
So all this shit about like he respects the Senate and it's a process. And all this arcane stuff is meant to distract from the fact that Joe Biden and the president and all the people at work for him actually do have lobbying power, even if it's not overt.
Right. Because all the people on Capitol Hill all last week said you can't lobby the parliamentarian. That was a line even from like the AARP and like labor lobbyists who are actively trying working with the progressives and Bernie Sanders to get this passed. Right. That's something they all like respect. But of course, behind the scenes, there is absolutely a way to get the message across. And that's what they've been doing with Neera. So it's completely related.
And it's it's a total farce that this is where the process is upheld in other places. Joe Biden is like allowed to sort of show his hand right in terms of where his investment is. And it's a complete joke.
They should be pushing it through. They should be overruling the parliamentarian even if they can't get their two votes that everybody's talking about that they need on board, because that shows where priorities are right.
That was a huge will remain priorities.
We need priorities and we need them coming from him because he has an extremely slim mandate. And the whole point was to be able to roll out the shit quickly. And so it's just absolutely a total, like abdication of being in there.
If he loses his wife, he's going to lose every other fight and will not know the exact same damn thing will happen.
Also, why does he respect the history of the Senate looking more guide of the place? Nobody should respect the fucking Senate.
Yeah, no, it's. In archivist's position, right, it's like total objectivity and toothlessness, as if his being there is a like a stewardship role, whereas we were told it was actually an active negotiator's role. Right. That was what they tried to sell us on, was that he was going to get stuff done. He knows how to go to people like Joe Manchin and Chris and cinema and sell this to them. It's totally untrue. If that's if that was the case, he's not doing any of it.
Joe Biden, MoD's, the Senate Wikipedia page, very defensive of the history of the Senate S..
This is the dynamic. This is the same argument that we were arguing about. I don't care if people are mad about force the vote.
Let's have let's have the vote on whether or not Joe Manchin and Christians that are going to actually vote against a 15 dollar minimum wage, which is overwhelmingly popular in their state. You've got Kshama Sawant, socialist alternative Social City councilman in Seattle, tweeting today about why aren't Democrats calling for rallies and demonstrations in West Virginia and Arizona to put actual pressure on these politicians to conform with what the desires of their constituents are. And the reason is that it doesn't actually respect the parliamentarian who doesn't actually respect process the fact that he wrote it.
He included it in the package. It's like me saying I put in my fifth grade diary that I wanted to be president. That state, it matters. Not at all if I know that there's no way to actually actualize that.
And it just becomes a veneer for me to justify or to pretend that I was on the right side of an issue when ultimately I have no no belief, no effort behind actually getting it effectuated. And that's the shell game. The Democratic Party has been playing for a very long time because there's absolutely no accountability mechanism whatsoever.
Yeah, put the bill with fifty dollar minimum wage, overrule the parliamentarian, do whatever you have to do with the bill with 15 dollars minimum wage on the floor and make Joe Manchin and Grishin Sinema vote against this package with funding for covid vaccines.
Fourteen, a hundred dollar checks and the unemployment extension make them vote against it.
And I don't want to take the wind out of the forced the vote sales, which I know Bre-X. You keep fluttering strongly.
I, I don't but ah the wind is blowing Bridgitte. But when just bleb I don't plan for forcing the vote.
I just want to say that the fifty dollar minimum wage is like as has been said many times, the floor. Right. It's, it's, it's had decades of policy advocacy behind it and that's why it's only down to two senators. Right. It needs a small push over the finish line.
It's a big push because these people are so fucking stuck in their goddamn ways. But it's the reason that it was put in this package is because there has been so much groundwork laid for this particular policy. There's there's so much data. I mean, the Journal of Economic Perspectives, data from last year or 2013 being the strongest, that one million people will be lifted out of poverty by this. Right. Like job loss is minimal at best. This is already the flaw in so many states.
I mean, it's it's outrageous that this is not being thought for because it is so popular.
It's so popular. And, of course, metacarpals popular, too.
But this is really looks like it's so galling because it really is truly like designed for these people.
Write the number 15 is designed for people like Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin, and which is why they do that, which is why we should be asking for twenty, twenty five, like it should be twenty four dollars an hour. And to your point about jobless, we talking about job loss, but what they're really saying is there will be X number of fewer jobs ten years from now than there would have been absent if it's not the minimum wage. So it's not even like the thing goes into effect and the report says magically a bunch of people get fired.
That's not even what the report that everyone's pointing to is claiming. No.
And it's like a Congressional Budget Office report could not be more partisan, not in terms of the institution it came from, but in terms of how it is being used.
Right. That it's a cudgel against people that would argue that, of course, you lose low wage jobs and you make that up elsewhere when you stimulate the economy.
And of course, it's people, a lot of people who are working multiple jobs that wouldn't otherwise have to if they could just have one good paying job.
And people can't wait like people are. People are struggling. People are struggling with multiple jobs and people are struggling in states that have a fifty dollar minimum wage. They're being implemented over four years like California. I mean, it's a huge example of a place where it's not working. It's not enough. None of these people had P.E. None of these people, if you they spoke, got up either wages and hours were garnished. So even if they're making enough hourly, they don't get it to live on.
I mean, it's we're a dire, dire straits here. And you're right. It just bodes so poorly for doing anything while we have Congress. I agree with you.
I just I just think we should respect the CBO and the history of the CBO.
But I just want to take this back to the original point. We're getting the spin. I'm sorry, and we're going to spin from the White House who has this canned line about how, you know, Joe Biden believes, you know, you work hard, you should get a 50 dollar minimum wage, all of that. But I'm sorry, at the end of the day, if you're not willing to overrule the parliamentarian, if you're not willing to fire the parliamentarian, if you're not willing to piss off Joe Manchin or Krysten Sinema or, you know, call Joe Manchin in the Oval Office and, you know, just shove them up against the wall, I'm starting, OK?
But one of the people who don't want to filibuster, if you want to eliminate the filibuster to get a fifty dollar minimum wage, that's sorry. You do not want a fifty dollar minimum wage. That's it. End of story. Amen, brother.
Let's do the wrap up is a free episode, so we got to do the pitch. Hey. Hey. You like this episode?
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Dream big guys and keep the faith.
Well, you know, face to face to face, the fact that. I guess minus one dollar bills. Come on.