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Young Voices Podcast – Student Debt Relief could leave Universities and Taxpayers on the hook

Today’s Young Voices Podcast features Sergio Monreal and YV Advocate Stephanie Downey discussing federal plans to alleviate student debt by allowing students to sue institutions if they feel they’ve been mislead by the institution, regarding job placement, average salary, etc.

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Costly loan forgiveness amendment will burden universities

The Department of Education is pushing a loan forgiveness amendment to federal student loan policy that would relieve students of their debt if they could make the case that the school “substantially misrepresented” the education received. This new policy would have vast financial implications, is poorly thought-out, and is unlikely to be adjudicated properly.

Under the current policy, there are two main situations in which a student can apply for loan forgiveness: when the borrower succeeds in legal action against the school or when the school fails to meet contractual obligations.

This policy change would add a third component, stating that when the school makes substantial misrepresentations toward the borrower, the borrower can be eligible for loan forgiveness.

At first glance, this amendment looks as though it is protecting the small guy against big, powerful universities. However, the wording of this amendment, “substantial misrepresentation,” goes well beyond the legal definitions of fraud, making it easier for borrowers to make expansive and unreasonable claims. “Substantial misrepresentation,” as defined here, could take the form of a university advertising salary expectations or job prospects which the borrower did not find themselves able to achieve. Or, it could mean the university providing a school ranking institution with any flawed or misleading statistics — a common practice.

While universities should provide honest and detailed statistics to college ranking outlets, the famed U.S. News and World Report rankings are well-known to be fraught with problems; metrics are played around with every year, changed in small ways. Universities must report their acceptance rates, so some have been known to artificially inflate their applicant pool numbers.

A large element of the ranking is subjective, based on reputation or intangible factors like faculty dedication to teaching. It should be no surprise that rankings are far from a precise science. Yet with this new Department of Education ruling, these flimsy metrics could be used to dole out costly loan forgiveness. This amendment is unlikely to bring about greater accountability in college advertising and ranking reporting. Rather, it will simply create an avenue for individuals to drag universities through mountains of paperwork in attempts to get vengeful claims. According to the proposed rule, these claims could cost taxpayers anywhere between $2 and $42 billion.

Continue reading at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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Pokémon GO Is Not, in Fact, Totalitarian

In a recent interview about his new film on Edward Snowden, director Oliver Stone warned about the potential for data-mining on the part of major companies to lead to “totalitarianism.” Partly speaking about the data collected by the popular app Pokémon GO, he said, “What’s happening is a new level of invasion… They’ve invested a huge amount of money in data mining – what you are buying, what you like, your behavior. It’s what some people call surveillance capitalism.”

False equivalence is a deep disease in American thought.The implication here is nuanced, but important: while speaking about a movie which depicts a whistle-blower for unconstitutional government surveillance, Stone drew a parallel between “surveillance” by tech companies and the horrifying contents of Snowden’s leaked documents.

This notion is mistaken and dangerous, but symptomatic of a much deeper disease in American thought: the false equivalence between power leveraged by “Big Government” and “Big Business.”

This microcosm of conceptual chaos is what Ayn Rand called a “package-deal”: a fallacy in which one uses one word or phrase to group conceptually opposed or dissimilar things. Under the umbrella of “power,” for instance, our culture has paired both political and economic power – or, in other words, we consider as identical both massive economic influence and the government’s legal monopoly on the use of force.

Continue reading at FEE.

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Newt Gingrich Wants a Muslim Test — Okay, Here’s What It Would Look Like

In the aftermath of the ISIS-claimed attack in Nice, France, that killed more than 80 people and wounded over 200 more, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proposed a solution: “We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.” By Sharia, Gingrich is apparently referring to a diverse body of Islamic prescriptions that cover personal, group and state behavior which vary according to region and scholar.

As The Atlantic noted the morning after his statement, “Sharia” doesn’t mean what Gingrich thinks it means. But if Gingrich wants to explore what it would mean for the United States to enact such a policy, it’s a worthy thought experiment to perform, since the former Speaker of the House has been promised a spot in apotential Trump administration.

First, we’d need to determine who is to handle such a feat. Presumably, this would be a matter for the Department of Homeland Security; deporting as many as 3.3 million peaceful American Muslims would be tough, but they could handle it with enough firepower.

But then who designs the test? According to Gingrich, Sharia is incompatible with “Western civilization,” so presumably the test would need questions about both Sharia and Western philosophy. But Sharia is complex, so one would need to recruit experts to make sure the test contained the necessary questions. One might ask, though, “What if these scholars were of ‘a Muslim background’?” What test do they take, before they’re permitted to help the US combat terrorism? Otherwise, one could rely on discredited hatemongers like Robert Spencer, who draws sweeping and dangerous conclusions about Islam, despite no academic training. Continue Reading 

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A black Republican’s Donald Trump dilemma

Being a black Republican growing up in Los Angeles is tough. I somehow survived, despite feeling like the only other nearby Republican of color was Carlton Banks all the way out in Bel-Air.

Now that Donald Trump is officially the GOP nominee for president, being a black Republican is an existential crisis.

One of the benefits of being the lone black Republican is that I learned how to articulate conservative positions to people who otherwise would have been hostile to those ideas. My family, of course, is black, and I grew up in an L.A. suburb that is 70 percent Latino, so everyone around me was a loyal Democrat. Due to the daily conflict of being an ideological outlier, I have been able to craft arguments to my friends and family that expressed how limited government, free markets and individual liberty best served the interest of black and Latino communities.

I eagerly articulated to my friends and family how conservative policies on school choice and charter schools, deregulation of housing policies and occupational licensing, and lower taxes on business and individuals more effectively promote economic progress of minorities than the collectivist policies of the Democratic left.

In February, I even brought my mom and my sister to Washington, D.C. to attend a black Republicans gala. At the event they heard from and met black Republicans such as former Florida lieutenant governor Jennifer Carroll, who promoted a conservative message of economic opportunity that my family had never heard before from a Republican politician. My mom left D.C. eager to embrace the GOP… and then Donald Trump became the Republican presidential nominee.

By embracing Donald Trump’s noxious form of politics, the GOP is declaring to voters across the country that they do not want to be the party of economic opportunity for all Americans. Instead, they are signaling that they would rather defend a backward, antiquated view of America.

Moreover, Donald Trump’s vision would directly harm minorities. His calls for mass deportation would use the government force to remove illegal immigrants from the lands that they and their children have made their home. His proposals to spy on mosques and ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. only serve to amplify Islamophobia and would bar new immigrants who can work and contribute to the U.S. economy for no other reason than they worship differently. Donald Trump’s thoughtless denunciations of protesters of police brutality undermine legitimate complaints about the injustice of the criminal justice system at a time when conservatives are desperately needed to help advance comprehensive reform. Continue Reading