And another thing ... Student debt, religious persecution and vanishing numbers

And another thing ... Student debt, religious persecution and vanishing numbers

June 11th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Future shock

The following words should scare you to death: "We actually don't know the costs yet. We'll figure that out on the back end."

So uttered United States Education Secretary Arne Duncan, referring to a memorandum signed by President Obama on Monday that would allow students who borrowed through the federal government before 2007 to pay no more than 10 percent of their incomes in monthly payments for their student loans.

Worse, if a student still owes money after paying on a government loan -- albeit on time -- for 20 years, the remaining amount would be wiped off the books.

The White House projected the program will cost taxpayers $7.6 billion in its first year but supposedly less in subsequent years. But how many government programs actually get less expensive as they go along?

What if the entire federal government ran like this? Oh, wait. It already seems to.

Recall, for instance, the sub-prime mortgage crisis that triggered the Great Recession, which continues to dog the economy today.

Among the contributors to that were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored agencies which were pressured first by the Clinton administration and to a lesser extent by the George W. Bush administration to increase lending -- and therefore lower lending standards -- to riskier home buyers. In 2007, home prices declined, mortgage delinquencies soared, mortgage-backed securities lost value, and mortgage-backed purchases declined. The crisis was afoot.

And then there were then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi's infamous words -- "we have to pass the [Obamacare] bill so that you can find out what is in it." Those words proved to be prescient to all the problems and obfuscations that have accompanied the Affordable Care Act's rollout (and its constantly increasing price tag).

Nobody wants to deny a truly interested student a college education, but Obama's memorandum only decreases personal responsibility on the front and back ends, does nothing to reduce the cost of higher education itself and has no bearing on the need to create a better job market for students once they get out.

What religious freedom?

From the you-never-thought-you'd-see-this-in-America department is the story of the Colorado baker, who is being forced along with his staff to undergo comprehensive training -- some call it sensitivity training -- on the state's anti-discrimination laws after the state's Civil Rights Commission determined the Christian baker broke the law by turning down the opportunity to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his faith.

He'll also have to submit quarterly reports to the commission vowing he did not turn away customers based on their sexual orientation.

Baker Jack Phillips had offered to make the couple any other bakery item when they came to him in 2012, but they refused and filed a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Colorado, but a civil court nevertheless ruled against the baker before the Civil Rights Commission weighed in.

Nicolle Martin, the Alliance Defending Freedom attorney for Phillips, said an appeal is being considered and correctly called the ruling Orwellian.

"They are turning people of faith into religious refugees," she said. "There will be some reporting requirements so that Jack can demonstrate that he doesn't exercise his belief system anymore -- that he has divested himself of his beliefs."

The silence is deafening

In case you missed it, the Obama administration quietly announced recently it would no longer release Affordable Care Act monthly enrollment reports and provided no information on when future reports would be available.

That came, of course, after the administration said in March it had garnered 8 million enrollees in the government-directed health care plan.

So, it will be impossible to know how many who signed up in the open enrollment period simply disenrolled themselves or who were dropped after three months of non-payment.

What has been reported, though, is that 2.1 million enrollees have data inconsistencies -- income, citizenship or immigration status, for instance -- in their records.

So if the Affordable Care Act is such a necessary, affordable and magnanimous program that the president proclaimed "the most transparent in history" why does the administration not want to provide status updates for what it believes is its most stunning achievement?