Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Senator Alexander Statement on Motion to Instruct Conferees On the Budget Conference to Preserve Choice in Student Loan programs

Senator Alexander Statement on Motion to Instruct Conferees On the Budget Conference to Preserve Choice in Student Loan programs

April 24th, 2009 - This should be a relatively easy motion for our colleagues to support because it simply instructs the conferees to support a position that the entire Senate adopted unanimously. That provision during our budget debate was to accept the position of maintaining a competitive student loan program that provides students and institutions of higher education with a comprehensive choice of loan products and services.

Madam President, there are three reasons in support of maintaining a competitive student loan system. The first is that 12 million students rely on it today in New Hampshire, in Tennessee, in North Dakota -- all across our country.

Second is that now is not the time to be creating a new half-trillion-dollar national bank that would run up the debt, a bank that would replace 2,000 private lenders, and make $75 billion in new loans a year. That is not a proper function of the U.S. Department of Education.

And third, the cost savings that is alleged is -- and I will be gentle in my words -- a trick on students to make Congressmen look good. What we are going to be doing if we do not preserve this choice is saying to all the students who get a loan that we are going to take money from them and then give it to other students so that Congressmen can go home and brag that he or she has increased the amount of the Pell grants. Let me be specific in what I say.

I was the U.S. Secretary of Education in 1991 and 1992 when we created something called the Direct Loan Program. We have a federal student loan program. Most people who go to college are familiar with it. About two-thirds of the students at our 6,000 different institutions from the University of New Hampshire to the Nashville Auto Diesel College to Harvard to San Francisco State have a Federal grant or a loan. When you get a student loan, you take it to the institution of your choice.

We now have 2,000 lenders who help provide all those different kinds of loans. They give financial aid counseling, they give interest rate deductions, they help students and families plan on how to pay for college. In other words, they service the loans and then the Government supports that by guaranteeing almost all of the loans.

We set up a separate program which we called direct lending. That was, you could come straight to the Government to get your loan. In other words, we created a government bank run by the Department of Education. We said to the students and to the institutions: You make the choice. You may either have a private student loan guaranteed by the Government through your local bank or financial institution, or you may come to the U.S. Department of Education to get your loan.

We have had more than 15 years of experience with that now, and what have the students and institutions said? Three out of four say we like the regular student loan program, we like the choice, we like the private lender. Since we are getting the loan, we like the idea of going to a bank to get a loan because that is what banks do. If you want a car, you go to a car dealer. That may be changing. You may have to go to the Department of Treasury to get a loan the way the country is going. For 15, 16 years we market tested this and so we have that direct loan program.

The situation right now is we have 12 million students at 4,400 different institutions getting $52 billion in loans by their choice from banks instead of from the Government. One-fourth get it from the Government. It has been that way for a long time.

What the President's proposal wants to do is to take all those choices away from the students and say: Line up outside the Department of Education to get your student loan, all 15 million of you. There will be 4,400 institutions and 12 million students who may not like that.

Second point. Is a national bank a good idea? We read in the paper that the Government is going to take stocks in the biggest banks. So we are going to nationalize the banks. Then we read in the paper the Government is going to take stock in General Motors and Chrysler -- hopefully that is not true -- so we are going to have the Government deciding what kind of car we are going to be making, what kind of plants we will have, where the plants are going to be. I cannot think of a worse organization to do that. This is a proposal to say: All right, now the Government is going to be your bank. It is going to be the bank for your student loans. We are going to create a new national bank. It would have over a half trillion dollars in outstanding student loans. It would make 15 million student loans every year, $75 billion in loans a year.

We will run all this out of the U.S. Department of Education, a wonderful Department. I was myself there for 2 years. But what do we know about being a national bank? Not very much. Andrew Jackson would roll over in his grave about the idea of a national bank of this size.

My final point. This proposal, with all due respect, is a trick on students to make Congressmen look good, and here is why.

The budget we originally got said we will take $94 billion in savings and we will spend it on Pell grants. Let's think about that a minute. Common sense will tell you that the Department of Education is not going to know more, is not going to be able to replace 2,000 lenders at a cheaper cost. That simply is not going to work. That is what common sense would tell you.

The Congressional Budget Office has told us that in order for the Department of Education to administer these loans, it would cost about $28 billion over the next 10 years. That is the computation I have made. They estimate that the cost of administering the current Direct Loan Program is about $700 million a year. So if they did them all, that would be at least $2.8 billion a year.

Conservatively speaking, you don't have $94 billion in savings; you have 94 minus 28. So you have around 66. So you have $66 billion that goes somewhere out to banks, maybe to reduce loans, maybe to reduce interest rates, maybe to administer the loan program. But the bottom line is, if the Government takes this program over, it is going to be borrowing money at one-half of 1 percent and loaning it out to 15 million students at 6.8 percent. Borrowing at one-half of 1 percent and loaning it out at 6.8. On every student loan -- and I hope all 15 million students listen to this -- your friendly Government is going to take back 6.5 percent of the 6.8 percent interest you are paying. What is it going to do? The Congressman or Congresswoman can go home to Tennessee or wherever and say: I increased Pell grants. But they won't tell you: I took money from this student to give it to that student. That is not the way to do it.

What we should do, if that spread is too high right now, is let's cut it down -- if the savings is estimated at $90 billion. We know it is closer to $60. Maybe it is $20, maybe it is $30, maybe it is $35. Maybe we should lower the interest rate to 3 or 4 percent or 5 percent or whatever is the appropriate rate.

But that does not justify creating a national bank in the Department of Education to try to handle 15 million loans.

So my argument, Madam President, is this: There are colleagues on both sides of the aisle -- and there are a number of Democrats -- who strongly support the idea of competition and choice in higher education. That is why we have the best higher education system in the world. We have competition and choice all the way through it. The grants and the loans don't go to colleges; they go to the students, and the students choose the college. They can go to Nashville Auto Diesel College if they want or they can go to Harvard; it follows them to the school of their choice. They ought to be able to go to the lending institution of their choice and not line up outside of the Department of Education to get 15 million loans every year. That is not right. It is not the way our country ought to work. So the first is to preserve choice for the 15 million students who now have it at 4,400 institutions.

The second reason is, let's not be creating another nationalized asset in America. We need to be thinking of ways of getting the Government out of the private sector. I mean, this recession is not for the purpose of the Government taking over every auto company, every bank, all the student loans, and every business that is in trouble. We need to be thinking of ways of going the other direction. That is the America we know. That is the America we want.

So we don't need a new national bank.

Arne Duncan is the new Secretary of Education. I think he is the President's best appointee. He ought to be working on paying teachers more for teaching well, creating more charter schools, helping states create higher standards. That is his agenda. I don't think he came from Chicago to Washington to be named banker of the year, which is what he would be doing if he became a national bank president for student loans. That is what this proposal would do unless the Senate sticks to its position.

Finally, I don't want to be a part of any situation which has Congressmen and Senators playing a trick on 15 million students and saying: I am going to borrow money at a quarter of 1 percent and loan it to you at 6.8, and then I am going to take credit for giving the rest of it away. I think that will come home to roost, and it ought to come home to roost.

I appreciate the opportunity to make this motion to instruct, and I hope it will come to a vote. I hope it has the kind of bipartisan support it had before. I hope the President will think of all the other things there are to do that need attention, such as fixing the banks, getting credit flowing, restoring the auto companies, and leave the student loan system to continue to work in the way it should work.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Minors- you can't go on a field trip without a parent's permission but here take an abortion pill, it's like candy!

I often wonder how many people pay attention to the world around them. How many people go beyond the news stories and actually think and formulate opinions for themselves? How many Americans care enough about the world and their community to act when something needs action? It doesn’t appear to be too many.

I live in the great state of Tennessee. My views and opinions are among the majority here. Country-wide I am in a smaller group yet still mostly the majority. Why is it our voice is never heard though? I think it has to do with our lazy attitudes. We have taken for granted that we have the ability to be vocal and change our community if we feel the need for it. Pretty soon, we will be in the minority as we are stepping ever closer to socialism.

Amazing as I was listening to Power 96, a radio station in Miami, I discovered there are people just like me in Miami. Miami is filled with many differing cultures and people. I was amazed to hear a female radio DJ be against allowing minors to obtain Plan B. While our views are not on point in all areas concerning abortion, it was great to hear another female who formulated her own ideas and stuck to them regardless of who might be in opposition. So first before I go into the FDA and Plan B, I want to thank Ivy at Power 96 for suggesting people take personal RESPONSIBILITY for their own actions. It is an amazing simple concept that so few people get and I am pleased to see that in other more diverse areas of the United States, that concept is still alive.

Back to the topic at hand: now, thanks to a decision by a US Court, 17 year-olds can obtain Plan B, also known as the morning after abortion pill, without a prescription. The FDA had requested this be limited to adults 18 years and up. Now this is the FDA mind you, not a judge without medical training who is making the decision to allow a minor to obtain an abortion without a prescription and without parental consent.

If your child is going to go on a field trip, a parent or guardian must sign a permission slip. If your child (under 18) is going to have a surgical procedure, a parent or guardian must sign forms permitting the doctor to perform the procedure. If a 17 year-old walks into a gas station to buy cigarettes, they are denied because they are a minor. However, the courts believe it is ok for them to obtain a pill to prevent pregnancy? This is not Tylenol. It amazes me that people actually think this way and that so few people are upset enough to do anything about it.

I suppose the next solution is Plan C; kill your children after they are born. Oh wait, that has already happened. Surprised? Don’t be, just read this article: http://www.suite101.com/blog/marilynnhughes/mother_tells_story_behind_baby_born_alive_left_to_die_in_clinic Note in particular the woman’s description of the baby:
Sycloria said she stood against the wall, glancing in horror at her newborn baby. "She wasn’t moving much. Twitching, gasping for air. She wasn’t crying though, just hissing. Hissing sounds only."
But what did the staff do to help this child- born and alive?!?
According to Williams, Gonzalez, the clinic’s owner, who has no health care licensing, came into the waiting room, cut the umbilical cord, and scooped Shanice’s body into a red biohazard bag, sealed it and tossed it into a trash can

“An actual baby”

Sycloria told the Florida Catholic that she still recalls the most startling part: Her 23-week-old pregnancy looked like an actual baby. "They never said anything to me that would make me think it was a baby. They never said anything like ‘baby,’ ‘fetus.’ Nothing. They only said things like ‘termination’ and ‘pregnancy’ and ‘termination of pregnancy’," "They cheated me because they didn’t tell me everything and the doctor wasn’t there."

Can you really wonder why Columbine happened? Can you really question why society has a lack of respect for human life? We teach our children that life has no value when we promote the killing of an unborn child and call it a choice. Why should we be surprised when our children reflect what we have taught them and choose to kill another human being? It is, after all, their choice isn’t it.

Also on the Fox News site

FFELP Elimination- sounds like socialism

In a recent letter to the Secretary of Education, a friend of mine received a response that bothered me. So in response to his email, I wrote the following letter to Secretary Duncan and have yet to receive a response; wonder why. Perhaps it is because they have figured out I am a 'terrorist' under the DHS new guidelines about pro-life supporters.

Secretary Duncan,

The Obama Administration has recently proposed to eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Eliminating this program would not only hurt students but also cut nearly 35,000 jobs! In the current tumultuous job market, how does the Administration plan to supply those family’s basic needs once their income is removed? Surely, the Administration does not want these laid-off employees to become another statistic in the increasing unemployment rate and look for more government handouts.

It has been said that the FFELP is “barely functioning” and I question that statement. There are many FFELP lenders and servicers who are functioning and due to the poor economic situation are actually functioning better and more efficiently as they have cut unnecessary items from their budget. I also question the statement that the elimination of the FFELP will save the tax payers any money let alone $4 billion. It is going to cost the taxpayers nearly one-half trillion dollars in new Treasury debt over the next 5 years to even originate the federal student loans. Where exactly is that money going to come from, China again? We cannot borrow from Peter to pay Paul any longer. The elimination of the FFELP is not going to help American students it is going to hurt America by increasing the national debt once again with borrowed money from China.

It appears the past and current Administrations do not understand that in real companies (such as student loan lenders) and households, we have to deal with real money and real numbers. At the end of the month, we cannot have a $11,199,755,734,764.56 debt. We have to deal with real numbers not fictitious “play money”. I again ask where is this money going to come from to originate these student loans?

I have worked for a student loan lender and currently work for a higher education school. The FFEL Program has helped students and parents, not hurt them. It has increased competition and as a result, borrowers have reaped the benefits. The cost of loans for students is lower because each lender wants to compete for their business. They offer incentives in regards to repayment or discounted/no origination fees. Have you ever called the Direct Loan Servicing line? I have. I have a loan with both Direct and with EdFinancial. Direct’s customer service, or lack thereof, is evident from the unpleasant voice that “greets” your call. You receive the same treatment at the DMV or other government-run agencies. Pardon me, but do you ever hear any citizen who enjoys going to a government agency? Do they praise the efficiency or do they dread the trip and the people they will encounter? This is not the case with private lenders. They have to be pleasant because they are competing with others. Competition fosters customer service. Democracy is about competition; socialism loves government control and monopolization. To quote studentloanfacts.org, “Competition in the private sector student loan program has driven down the cost of this program to the point that in both 2003 and 2004 the lenders participating in the FFELP managed the entire program at no net cost to taxpayers – making it the only federal entitlement program to break even.”

America needs LESS nationalization of private corporations and entities and more corporate and government responsibility locally and nationally. I urge you to reconsider your position on eliminating the FFELP and 35,000 jobs of men and women who no doubt have families to support in these tough economic times. We cannot abandon the FFELP and turn our back on the people who have provided the means for students to attend college.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I am a terrorist? Does the DHS think you are too?

It puzzles me that pro-life groups are considered terrorists by the Department of Homeland Security. Pro-life groups do NOT bomb or kill pro-abortion facilities or leaders. There are extremists out there but anyone who murders another is not pro-life. How is my prayer for the end of abortion terrorism. Please explain this to me; how is my appreciation for human life terrorism?

How is it that people cannot see the correlation between abortion and stories like this http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h-zVt9ohBMtzzXZN3EM4guLGy-zgD97K7DUG0 The woman stabbed herself to kill her unborn child and successfully killed her 9 year old. How could a mother do that? The same way a mother can walk into an abortion clinic and kill her unborn child. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad they are charging her with the death of two people but the sad fact is if she walked into an abortion clinic 7 ½ months pregnant and killed her child, it’d be called a choice. The difference is what? Can anyone rationally explain this? No, because killing children is completely irrational.

So please, Department of Homeland Security…let me know how I am the terrorist here and not the pro-abortion groups and facilities? They shout obscenities and threaten us when we peacefully protest during the 40 days for life campaign. No disturbing, yet true images of abortion, just signs reading pray to end abortion. I never knew how hate filled pro-abortion people were until I was cursed at by a passing car for praying across the street from an abortion clinic.

I sure feel safer now that the DHS is watching out for people like me instead of the hate filled pro-abortion groups.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Obama and the actor famous for playing a druggie

Can you imagine if Bush did this? The media would have a field day....barely a blip for Obama. And they say there is no media bias.


Penn resurfaces in White House after "suicide"
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood star Kal Penn has swapped television's "House" for the White House. The 31-year-old actor, who made his mark as the pot-smoking Kumar in the "Harold and Kumar" feature film comedies, will become associate director in the White House office of public liaison, Entertainment Weekly reported on Monday. For the past two seasons, Penn played Dr. Lawrence Kuttner on Fox's medical-mystery drama "House." His character exited the show in a violent fashion on Monday's episode by committing suicide for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Commentary: Don't confuse money with happiness

I had to share this great article on money and happiness. I hope it helps you realize what life is truly about. We all need this from time to time.

By Peter BregmanSpecial to CNN

Editor's note: Peter Bregman is chief executive of Bregman Partners Inc., a global management consulting firm, and the author of
"Point B: A Short Guide to Leading a Big Change". He writes a weekly column, How We Work, for HarvardBusiness.org.

Peter Bregman says good times persuaded people to sacrifice what they loved for money.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- I started my consulting business 11 years ago with a laptop computer in a living room. It grew quickly.

The first year I made more money than I had in the previous three combined, the second year I doubled that and by the third year I began to fantasize about retiring within the decade.
Then everything crashed; the dotcom revolution, the financial services industry and my business.

I had a large number of subcontractors and a small number of employees who had become friends. I also had a bad feeling things wouldn't turn around quickly.

My wife and I were in a tough spot. We had one child and another on the way, bills that were accumulating and hopes for the future that were moving out of reach.

However bad it was then, these days it's worse. Back then the recession hit certain sectors and left other ones alone. Home prices were going up, so people felt protected, and there were loans to help. Today, everything's been hit, nothing's going up and credit is frozen.

Many have already lost jobs, homes, self-identities, luxuries and necessities. And there's more to come.

That's especially true for many older Americans, who might not have 10 years to recover and who don't have sources of income other than their savings -- which have dwindled dramatically. They don't deserve to live with the fear they now feel.

I'm still living in a rental apartment because I didn't want to take out a loan I couldn't pay back. I saved money. Invested it. And now my investments are down 70 percent.

But it is what it is.

And when we wake up in the morning we are left with the question, "Now what?"

It's actually a great question, because in a situation in which we've lost control, it gives us a little back. "Now what?" means we have a choice, in this moment, to do something. What's it going to be?

I think it's a mistake to try to rebuild what we've lost. We have less now and I think we can do better with less. Having less forces choices. And consciously making those choices can bring us closer to the things we care about. Which can make a poorer life richer than a rich one.

Because the research is clear. Above a basic threshold, more money doesn't make us happier. But we think it will, so we do all sorts of things that make us unhappy in order to get it.

A senior leader in an investment bank called to tell me she was leaving her job. She realized she wouldn't make much money in the next few years and didn't want to miss her children growing up. Did you get that? She was willing to miss her children growing up if the money was good enough.

People act in ways they'd rather not in order to make money that doesn't make them happy.

Maybe, if we do this downturn right, we can get out of that cycle.

So, what makes you happy? Is it spending time with people you love? Working on a pet project? Having the time to exercise? Being part of a community and feeling cared for? Knowing the answer enables you to make decisions that will prioritize those things.

Of course, losing money can break people apart; we fight about money, people lose jobs and get depressed; tension rises as mortgage bills sit on the kitchen table unpaid; resentment builds when one person doesn't live up to his own and others' expectations.

But I am also seeing the opposite. Losing money can bring you closer to your values; can actually bring people together. It's hard to appreciate in the midst of our loss, but embracing the forced reduction in lifestyle can be positive.

I know of a couple whose marriage was saved when they moved from a bigger house into a smaller one and actually began talking to each other again.

Last weekend, two people had a beautiful wedding in Central Park surrounded by family and friends, months before they had planned, avoiding thousands of dollars of expenses and all the tension that goes with it. Why? Because she lost her job and needed to get onto his health insurance.

Friends of mine held their daughter's bat mitzvah at another friend's house, avoiding tremendous expense while creating the warmest community celebration, filled with gratitude and tears, that I have ever seen.

In 2003, after my business crashed, my wife and I decided to move to Savannah, Georgia, where she grew up and life was much cheaper. Had my business continued to grow we could never have afforded to make that choice. When the business crashed, we couldn't afford not to.
While there, we spent priceless time with her family, had another child, made lifelong friends and rebuilt my business -- this time very differently. I love consulting and writing and speaking, but the bigger the business became, the less I did those things and the more I managed others doing it.

Eventually we returned to New York. Now I'm back to a laptop in a living room and I love it again. It's smaller, more sustainable and a lot more fun. And I have the time to spend with my family and friends. My fantasy is no longer to retire; it's to keep doing what I'm doing for as long as I can.

Life is not a linear path of increasing wealth, accumulation and achievement. Don't let the money crisis draw you apart from people you love and things you love to do. Use it to draw you closer.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Amazing Article


Back on Uncle Sam's plantation
Star Parker - Syndicated Columnist

Six years ago I wrote a book called Uncle Sam's Plantation. I wrote the book to tell my own story of what I saw living inside the welfare state and my own transformation out of it. I said in that book that indeed there are two Americas -- a poor America on socialism and a wealthy America on capitalism. I talked about government programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS), Emergency Assistance to Needy Families with Children (EANF), Section 8 Housing, and Food Stamps.

A vast sea of perhaps well-intentioned government programs, all initially set into motion in the 1960s, that were going to lift the nation's poor out of poverty. A benevolent Uncle Sam welcomed mostly poor black Americans onto the government plantation. Those who accepted the invitation switched mindsets from "How do I take care of myself?" to "What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?"

Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems -- the kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others.. The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools, and broken black families. Through God's grace, I found my way out. It was then that I understood what freedom meant and how great this country is.

I had the privilege of working on welfare reform in 1996, passed by a Republican Congress and signed 50 percent.. I thought we were on the road to moving socialism out of our poor black communities and replacing it with wealth-producing American capitalism. But, incredibly, we are going in the opposite direction. Instead of poor America on socialism becoming more like rich American on capitalism, rich America on capitalism is becoming like poor America on socialism.

Uncle Sam has welcomed our banks onto the plantation and they have said, "Thank you, Suh."

Now, instead of thinking about what creative things need to be done to serve customers, they are thinking about what they have to tell Massah in order to get their cash. There is some kind of irony that this is all happening under our first black president on the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

Worse, socialism seems to be the element of our new young president. And maybe even more troubling, our corporate executives seem happy to move onto the plantation. In an op-ed on the opinion page of the Washington Post, Mr. Obama is clear that the goal of his trillion dollar spending plan is much more than short term economic stimulus.

"This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America 's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, healthcare, and education."

Perhaps more incredibly, Obama seems to think that government taking over an economy is a new idea. Or that massive growth in government can take place "with unprecedented transparency and accountability." Yes, sir, we heard it from Jimmy Carter when he created the Department of Energy, the SynfuelsCorporation, and the Department of Education. Or how about the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 -- The War on Poverty -- which President Johnson said "...does not merely expand old programs or improve what is already being done. It charts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty."

Trillions of dollars later, black poverty is the same. But black families are not, with triple the incidence of single-parent homes and out-of-wedlock births.

It's not complicated. Americans can accept Barack Obama's invitation to move onto the plantation.. Or they can choose personal responsibility and freedom.

Does anyone really need to think about what the choice should be?

Great quote on socialism:
"The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."