Universal Student Debt Forgiveness Is Regressive, Say Economists

“Wiping out student loan debt for American college graduates would benefit the wealthy much more than it benefits less privileged students, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. “Blacks and Hispanics would also benefit substantially less than balances suggest,” the authors say.

In the paper, titled “The Distributional Effects of Student Loan Forgiveness,” economists Sylvain Catherine and Constantine Yannelis conclude that universal student loan “forgiveness would benefit the top decile as much as the bottom three deciles combined.””

“”There are a number of ways in which debt can be discharged, with important distributional implications. For example, forgiveness can be universal, capped or targeted to specific borrowers. These debt cancellation policies can benefit different socioeconomic and ethnic groups. This paper explores their distributional impacts. We find that the benefits of universal debt forgiveness policies largely accrue to high-income borrowers, while forgiveness through expanding income-contingent loan plans instead favors middle-income borrowers.””

“full or partial loan forgiveness regardless of income and loan size would be “highly regressive, with the vast majority of benefits accruing to high-income individuals,””

Biden’s Covid team grapples with a basic question: Where’s all the vaccine?

“Biden has made ending the pandemic a centerpiece of his early presidency, vowing an all-out federal effort to turn the tide of the crisis within the next several months.

But even as he signed a flurry of directives laying the foundation for that response, White House officials have sought to tamp down expectations — blaming the Trump administration for leaving behind a situation that they insisted was far worse than expected, despite months of transition meetings and planning.

“What we’re inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator, told reporters Wednesday night. “We don’t have the visibility that we would hope to have into supply and allocations.”

Biden officials complained during the transition that their efforts to gather information on the coronavirus response were stymied at times by Trump administration political appointees. Biden aides for weeks were unable to access Tiberius, the central government database used to monitor vaccine distributions, according to one transition official. They were also denied access to certain standing meetings related to the government’s response until a few days before Biden was sworn in.

Yet while few disputed the transition was rocky, officials working on the transition or familiar with its work said it was patently obvious that the Trump administration response was severely lacking, and it should have been no surprise to Biden’s team.

That is particularly the case with the vaccine pipeline, which has been at the center of weeks of finger-pointing between states and the federal government over the slow pace of vaccinations.”

Liz Cheney’s problems pile up

“Liz Cheney was once considered the future of the GOP. Now she’s fighting to keep her political career alive.

After voting to impeach Donald Trump last week, the highest-ranking woman in the House GOP finds herself at risk of losing her leadership post; staring down a pro-Trump primary challenge; and censured by some of her own party back home in Wyoming.

The most immediate threat to Cheney — a push by Trump loyalists to oust her as conference chair — has gained momentum inside the House GOP, although the process is complicated and could still sputter out. But at least 107 Republicans, or just over a majority, have communicated to the leaders of that effort that they would support removing Cheney from leadership on a secret ballot, according to multiple GOP sources involved in the effort. Others are threatening to boycott future conference meetings if she remains in power.”

“If Cheney does lose her post, it will be the latest sign that the Trumpification of the Republican Party isn’t stopping anytime soon, even after the ex-president flew off to Mar-a-Lago with a disgraced legacy in Washington. Some say the Cheney fight has already become a proxy battle for the heart and soul of the splintered GOP.”

Report: Capitol Police knew Congress might be targeted days before attack

“US Capitol Police were aware of the potential for violence specifically targeting Congress on January 6, at least three days before pro-Trump insurgents overwhelmed USCP officers and stormed the US Capitol, according to a Friday scoop by the Washington Post.

A January 3 memo from the Capitol Police intelligence division, parts of which were obtained by the Post, highlights the threat of violence by supporters of President Donald Trump in striking detail — and only adds to confusion about how the attack occurred anyway.

According to the memo, “supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021” — the day Congress convened to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory — “as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election.”

“This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent,” the portion of the memo obtained by the Post continues. “Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th.”

The USCP memo also warned that the presence of “white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence, may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened.”

“The memo from the Capitol Police’s intelligence division isn’t the only warning law enforcement agencies gave leading up to the violent events of January 6. On January 5 — just one day before the attack — an internal report produced by the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, Virginia, warned of online calls for “war.””

“Sund was privy to the Capitol Police intelligence assessment ahead of January 6, and he reportedly asked the sergeants at arms for both chambers of Congress to put National Guard forces on emergency standby.

Sund’s request was ultimately denied, and National Guard troops were slow to respond as the attack unfolded, due at least in part to restrictions imposed by the Pentagon, which were first reported by the Washington Post.

In addition to Sund, both sergeants at arms have resigned their positions over the attack.”

Biden is ending Trump’s travel ban

“The policy, colloquially known as the “Muslim ban,” first went into effect in January 2017 and became one of Trump’s signature immigration policies. The ban has slowed or altogether halted legal immigration from certain countries that the former administration deemed to be security threats, keeping families apart and even stymieing refugee resettlement.”

“The ban was amended several times in the face of numerous court challenges arguing that Trump did not have the legal authority to issue it and that it unlawfully discriminated against Muslims. The third version of the ban, ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, barred citizens of seven countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea — from obtaining any kind of visas, largely preventing them from entering the US. (Chad was taken off the list of countries subject to the ban in April 2019 after it met the Trump administration’s demands to share information with US authorities that could aid in efforts to vet foreigners.)
Trump expanded the ban last February to include additional restrictions on citizens of six more countries: Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. While they could still visit the US, citizens of these countries were, for the most part, barred from settling in the US permanently.”

“The human cost of the travel ban has been devastating. Not only has the policy torn families apart, but it has also contributed to crises including doctor shortages in rural America and a dramatic drop in enrollment among foreign students from affected countries.

More than 41,000 people have been denied visas due to the ban. Citizens of any of the banned countries could qualify for a waiver that would grant them entry to the US if, for example, they needed urgent medical care or were trying to reunite with their immediate family in the US. But those waivers proved exceedingly difficult to obtain.

Data from the State Department suggests that fewer people have been applying for visas since the ban was enacted: In fiscal year 2019, immigration authorities granted about 39,000 visas to noncitizens from the original seven countries covered by the ban as compared to almost 338,000 just three years prior — about an 88 percent drop. Iran and Venezuela saw the biggest declines.”

“National security experts have argued that the suffering of those like Alghazzouli was largely in vain: The travel ban has not made America safer, despite the Trump administration’s arguments to the contrary.
The Trump administration claimed that all the affected countries pose threats to US national security based on the findings of multiple government agencies. But the agencies’ findings were never made public, meaning the nature of those threats remains unclear. The administration broadly cited terrorist activity, failure of the countries to properly document their own travelers, and insufficient efforts to cooperate and share information with US authorities as justification for the ban.

But dozens of former intelligence officials have opposed the ban. Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Homeland Security Department under the Trump administration, said in a press call earlier this month that the ban has hurt America’s relationships with foreign governments, which are critical to US national security interests. The US government should have worked with foreign governments to improve their own security procedures and information-sharing structures, without punishing them for not already being up to standard, she said.”

Biden will pause deportations for 100 days

“The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday night that it would pause deportations of certain noncitizens for 100 days starting on January 22”

“Given that immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, presidents typically identify what classes of immigrants should be prioritized for deportation. Under former President Barack Obama, that included people who posed a threat to national security, immigrants convicted of serious crimes, and recent border crossers.
Trump essentially eliminated those priorities. The moratorium is supposed to give Biden a chance to reevaluate where the immigration agencies should dedicate their resources.”

“Noncitizens can still be deported if they have engaged in terrorism or espionage or are suspected of doing so, or if they otherwise pose a threat to national security. The head of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement can also intervene in an individual case to order their deportation.”

The US is back in the international climate game

“On Wednesday, Biden kicked off the process to undo Trump’s prolific environmental rollbacks — totaling nearly 100 during his presidency — and jump-start new climate regulation. One executive order covers a broad range of policies including methane regulations, energy efficiency standards for appliances, fuel efficiency standards for cars, and blocking the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It will take months for agencies to review and rescind Trump’s environmental decisions, but tackling all these regulations at once shows the new administration’s commitment to climate action.”

“The US will have to play catch-up once it rejoins the Paris agreement. Countries are supposed to impose stricter targets on themselves every five years, with the goal of limiting emissions to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels. Several top emitters, including the European Union, submitted new targets on schedule last month, five years after the first round of targets in 2015.
Biden says he will reestablish the US as a global climate leader, implying that the US will set a new, ambitious 2030 target. But years of inaction under Trump have delayed US emissions reductions, making Biden’s job more difficult.”

“new legislation for investment and standards will be essential to achieve the rapid emissions cuts the climate emergency calls for. With the narrowest Democratic majority in the Senate, climate legislation will be dependent on the will of the most conservative members of the party, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and the intricacies of the budget reconciliation process”

Biden’s new national plan to fight Covid-19, explained

“Biden is releasing a national plan. It’s a broad outline, but the general idea is that the federal government should take a more hands-on strategy: providing reliable guidance to the public; proactively supplying states with the resources they need to test, contact trace, and vaccinate; taking a stronger global role on pandemic response; and emphasizing equity in all aspects of the administration’s work.

At the top of the agenda is the overarching goal: 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days. Some experts argue that goal doesn’t go far enough, but the Biden administration says it’s faster than the current vaccination rate and only the start of a process that will span months.

Biden’s team repeatedly acknowledged to reporters that they’ll need Congress’s support to get all of this done, including meeting the administration’s vaccination goal. But Biden is trying to get the ball rolling with a suite of executive actions that, in the administration’s view, chip away at some of the current gaps in the federal response.”

President Biden’s international restoration project has begun

“Biden, in the first hours of his presidency, rejoined the Paris climate accord and recommitted to the World Health Organization, fulfilling promises he made during the campaign.

He is also taking the first steps toward achieving his larger foreign policy agenda of restoring American leadership abroad.

But these day one orders are the easy part. Now Biden begins the difficult task of rebuilding trust among allies, and trying to prove America can be a reliable partner.”

There’s Still No Evidence Antifa Was Significantly Involved in the Capitol Riots

“Antifa is a real threat, and I’ve spent years documenting its illiberal activities. Most recently, antifa protested a book store for daring to sell a book by the antifa-critical writer Andy Ngo. (The predictable result of their efforts was that Ngo’s book surged to the top of the Amazon bestsellers list.)

But that doesn’t mean it’s fair to pin every example of mob violence on antifa. We know who caused the Capitol riots: supporters of the president who heard his call to protest the outcome of the 2020 election and took action.”