1.) Come down from your ivory tower, Dick Durbin — Is Sen. Dick Durbin shameless, or just ill-informed? On Tuesday, the Illinois senator spoke to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, a trade group hellbent on cutting off federal funding to for-profit colleges. Durbin had this to say about the industry he’s villified for over a year now: “There are many good for-profit colleges and they serve a vital purpose….But there are also a lot of bad for-profit schools that are raking in huge amounts of federal dollars and leaving students poorly trained and over their heads in debt.” Are those statements true? Yes. So are these statements: “There are many good non-profit colleges and they serve a vital purpose….But there are also a lot of bad non-profit schools that are raking in huge amounts of federal dollars and leaving students poorly trained and over their heads in debt.” One such non-profit is Chicago State University in Durbin’s home state of Illinois. In its annual education issue, Washington Monthly reported that Chicago State “has the worst graduation rate of any public four-year university in Illinois and one of the worst in the nation, with just 13 percent of students finishing in six years.” Funny how this problem is bigger–and closer to home–than either Durbin or Chicagoan Arne Duncan are willing to admit.
2.) Forecasting the future of Fannie and Freddie — “Republicans on the Hill are anxious to finally tackle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but confusion abounds as to what direction they will take,” reports The Daily Caller’s Amanda Carey. The GSE’s, after all, are like giant time bombs hooked up to a dead man’s trigger: Doing nothing almost sounds appealing in comparison to doing the right thing, which could be painful. “The first scenario, favored by most fiscal conservatives, is to scrap Fannie and Freddie altogether,” writes Carey. “That’s what they should do,” Cato’s Mark Calabria told The Daily Caller. “But odds are good that they will set up some sort of government insurance that would just cover mortgage-backed securities.” The second option “is to set up a Fannie and Freddie as mostly private, but allow for a mechanism where the government can intervene as a last resort.” Under these rules, “if an individual cannot pay back a loan, and all capital requirements have been exhausted, then the government could fully-back the guarantee.” The third option is to treat Fannie and Freddie like a public utility, because it’s just not fair that some people have to rent.
3.) Will Baby Boomers sacrifice their retirement to save it? — Sen. Lindsey Graham has gone and done it. “I’m looking for a process that will lead to a vote on saving Social Security from bankruptcy this year, that would adjust the age,” Graham said during an interview with a South Carolina radio station. If Graham gets his way, the olds will have to settle for Soixante-neuf. “Ronald Reagan went from 65 to 67 with Tip O’Neill…we could use that same type system, to go from 67 to 69, for people under 55.” Who retires at 67 anyway?
4.) Floridians like Rick Scott’s new austerity plan more than they like Rick Scott — It’s not enough to lower taxes and eliminate wasteful spending, as several incoming state governors have done. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is taking it to the next level. Not only is the billionaire paying himself a $1 annual salary and using his own private jet for state business, he’s even asking public employees to contribute to their own pension plans! Ironically, the announcement of these plans has made Scott’s policies more popular than the governor himself. The Miami Herald reports that a new poll found 28 percent of respondents view Scott favorably, while 24 percent viewing him unfavorably; while at the same time, “about 56 percent say they’re optimistic about the next four years under Scott, with 29 percent expressing pessimism.”
5.) Thank God we bailed out Wall Street — “In 2010, total compensation and benefits at publicly traded Wall Street banks and securities firms hit a record of $135 billion,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “The total is up 5.7% from $128 billion in combined compensation and benefits by the same companies in 2009.” For anyone still sore over TARP, there is a sterling silver (or is it platinum?) lining to the news: “Banks and securities firms are deferring a larger percentage of compensation than they used to, trying to counter criticism that yearly cash bonuses encourage unwise risk-taking by executives, traders and other employees aiming for a big payday.”
6.) Apparently they do not teach the concept of ‘checks and balances’ at Occidental, Columbia, or Harvard — “The Obama administration snubbed top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa on his first major document deadline as new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sending a short letter promising to comply in response to a major information request that was due Saturday at noon,” reports TheDC’s Jonathan Strong. “The Obama snub is the first sign of how the administration will respond to demands for documents and testimony by key officials from Republicans in control of the House now that the GOP holds the power of congressional subpoena.” As if missing deadlines was not bad enough, Issa claims that federal agencies under Obama are intentionally screwing up. “I was disappointed to learn that on or about Jan. 20, 2011, DHS’s Office of General Counsel instructed career staff in the Privacy Office not to search for documents responsive to my request.” So much for transparency!