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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Russ Feingold Launches Student Loan Campaign, and More

Are college graduates really at fault for massive student loan debt?

In today’s On the News segment: Russ Feingold launches a campaign to ease the burden of student loans; AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is speaking out on Donald Trump and working people; the renewable revolution is gathering apace according to new research; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here on the Labor and Economic News….

You need to know this… John Olen is writing at and asking — are college grads really at fault for massive student loan debt? He writes that it’s clear almost all Americans, including our elected leaders, believe that the student loan debt issue is getting worse and worse. More loans are going into default as graduating students have a difficult time paying off debts because they can’t find jobs. Many conservatives argue that if you took the loan, you have to pay it back — even if it’s hard to pay it back because there aren’t any good paying jobs anymore. Olen uses the example of Columbus, Ohio which once was a great city known for its amazing job opportunities. Flash forward to present day and now the city’s poor and nearly poor population has risen 50 percent between 2000 and 2013. So, are our children responsible for student debt when conservatives have ruined the economy? Maybe they should send an invoice for the their debt to every conservative congressperson.

Here’s “student loan debt” part two. Russ Feingold has launched a campaign to ease the burden of student loans. As former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold aims to unseat GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, he is promoting a social media campaign advocating for a proposal that would allow students to refinance their loans. Johnson has called student loan refinancing a “big government giveaway proposal” and also referred to student loans as “free money.” The Republican senator voted against Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to allow student loan borrowers to refinance their loans at significantly lower interest rates. To prevent the bill from adding to the federal deficit, it would enact the “Buffett Rule,” imposing a minimum tax rate on millionaires. Yeesh. Sen. Ron Johnson apparently doesn’t mind saddling students with more debt — so long as the fortunes of millionaires aren’t imposed upon.

Tam Nguyen, a member of the city council of San Jose, California, spent his Memorial Day weekend in Portland, Oregon, sleeping in the “Right to Dream Too” homeless encampment. Nguyen has been on the council for a year, and in that time he says his colleagues have constantly dismissed the idea of supporting encampments, arguing that they foster crime and other social ills. They have been, instead, talking about building permanent housing for the homeless. But Nguyen says those discussions have dragged on and on for years and he’s had it with all the talk and no action. He accepted an invitation to visit Right to Dream Too “out of frustration,” he said, and “to experience for myself the good and the bad of it.” He says what he found was a highly functional community, and one that could use improvements. People living there told him, “we want safety, we’re tired of being beat up and kicked and harassed on the street, we want a safe night’s sleep, a good night’s sleep,” he said. “It’s very safe and it’s very desirable for people who need a place to sleep. Of course it could be improved in many ways.” Now he’s going to bring his experience back to share with his colleagues in San Jose as a way to explore the option of supporting encampments while plans for more permanent housing slowly grind on.

Are you female? Subtract $2,400. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a professional association that represents most of the country’s animal doctors, apologized last week for posting a salary calculator that assumed female veterinarians would make $2,400 less than their male counterparts in their first job out of school. The group clarified that, of course, it doesn’t believe that men should make more than women, but was merely trying to give students an accurate picture of what to expect in the job market. “You should be upset over the gender disparity in starting salaries, just as we at the AVMA are upset by it. Unfortunately, it’s a reality, and one we have reported on in the past, just never in calculator format,” the group said in a lengthy statement. “The AVMA actively encourages students who use this calculator to run a few scenarios and then utilize all the information gained to strategically advocate for themselves during salary negotiations.” The pay disparity is particularly galling, considering that a majority of veterinarians — 58 percent — are women, according to the association’s own data. Indeed, about 80 percent of the students enrolled in veterinary school are women.

Here’s your Economic and Labor news quickies…

  • AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka is speaking out on Donald Trump and working people. he said, “When you look at Donald Trump you have to say three things — one, he’s unfit to be president. Two, he would make it harder for working people to make ends meet. And three, he would tear our country apart. As a result of that we’re going out and educating our members. And we give them the facts about him and you get past the bluster.” Trumka’s comments came to the French media outlet France 24.
  • President Obama said last week that not only should Social Security not be weakened by cuts, but it’s time “we finally made Social Security more generous and increased its benefits.” President Obama said increasing Social Security benefits is possible if the wealthy pay a little more into the program.
  • The renewable revolution is gathering apace according to new research. Last year was an “extraordinary” record year for the sector, with “the largest global capacity additions seen to date.” An estimated 147 gigawatts of renewable power capacity was added in 2015, according to the annual report of REN21, the renewables policy organization made up of energy experts, NGOs and governments, which is based in Paris.”
  • We’ve heard of vertical gardens, but what about vertical forests? The Mountain Forest Hotel in Guizhou, China’s Wanfeng Valley is a carbon-sucking, sky-high marvel created by Milan-based architect Stefano Boeri. “It’s a symbol of restitution,” Boeri told TIME of the Mountain Forest Hotel that’s opening fall 2017. “Buildings have to take care of nature. Symbiosis is the goal. Sustainability not only depends on energy conservation, but on a wider biodiversity. The symbiosis between man, architecture and nature is the real sustainability.” Wow … is all I can say.

And that’s the way it is — for the week of June 6, 2016 — on Labor and Economic News….

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