The defeat of student loan refinancing

Updated: Friday, June 13, 2014
The defeat of student loan refinancing story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Twenty-five million Americans saddled with high-interest student loans lost a chance Wednesday to have their rates lowered when Senate Republicans shot down legislation that would have allowed them to refinance their debt.

The bill was defeated, even as concerns are growing that mounting student debt is hampering economic recovery from the great recession because former students are so financially strapped and starved for higher paying jobs that they can't participate in our economy.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's another example of our growing great, partisan shaped economic divide.

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So many things in this world are the result of to whom you are born. At birth you don't choose whether you're going to be a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. You don't choose to be poverty-stricken or wealthy. You don't get to choose the color of your skin. Nor whether you live winters in a deep freeze or in warmth and sunshine.

You pretty much become a product of your environment.

It's the accident of birth.

So  its nobody's fault that 70 percent of the college students in this country have to borrow money to chase dreams of being engineers, scientists, social workers, programmers, pharmacists, cops, prosecutors, defenders, entrepreneurs and so on.

So with the student debt burden up around $1.3 trillion, with the default rate approaching 15 percent, and with so many young people unable to buy homes, cars, start businesses--unable to participate in and contribute to our economy in any meaningful way--it stood to reason that our Congress  would ride in to the rescue.

Not to wipe our their debt. But to restructure it so students could save thousands of dollars with lower interest rates.

After all, we do it all the time. We want people to give to charity, so we offer tax breaks for donations; we want people to own homes, we devise tax breaks. We give deductions for children to encourage families. Corporations get tax breaks on things most of us can't comprehend.

And who needs the help more right now? The banks and lending companies that ran our country into the sewer a few years ago? Or young Americans who are going to be leading the charge in the years ahead?

I thought I knew the answer to that. But I was wrong.

The Senate shot it down. It needed 60 votes to carry--it got 58.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who surely must have come to us from some parallel universe, said "Senate Democrats don't actually want a solution for their students. They want an issue to campaign on."

Seems to me he just gave it to them.

Now, there was a catch to the bill that was introduced by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren: to take up any slack the refinancing of student debt might have created, the bill would have added a small tax on wealthy households. Not the kind of burden that would have altered anyone's life style.

"With this vote," Warren said, "we show the American people who we work for in the United States Senate: billionaires or students."

After years of speculation, now we know.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on November 25, 2014 18:10 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.9 percent annual rate in the July-September period, even faster than first reported, giving the country its strongest back-to-back quarters of growth in more than a decade.

The Commerce Department says the third quarter growth rate climbed from an initial estimate of 3.5 percent because of greater spending by consumers and businesses. The figure followed a 4.6 percent surge in the spring, which resulted in the biggest consecutive quarters of growth since 2003.

Analysts believe growth could slow to around 2.5 percent in the current quarter but then accelerate again in 2015. They expect growth of around 3 percent, representing a sustained acceleration in activity six years after the Great Recession.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

PARIS (AP) -- A major international organization is calling on Europe to relax its fiscal rules and for governments to spend more money, saying Europe's sluggishness is dragging down the global economy.

Tuesday's report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a gathering of the world's richest countries, says Europe has consistently underperformed economically and risks remaining economically stagnant unless demand picks up. The report also calls for major reforms in Japan, saying its debt is unsustainable.

EU requirements that members keep budget deficits below 3 percent of GDP are coming under increasing pressure as the bloc's economy fails to pick up.

Germany, a fierce defender of the budget rules, was taken to task in the report, which called on the government to invest more in childcare and infrastructure.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A fresh survey finds U.S. consumer confidence down in November following a big gain in the previous month.

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index fell to 88.7 in November, down from a seven-year high of 94.5 in October.

Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says that the decline primarily reflects reduced optimism in the short-term outlook, as consumers expressed less confidence in current business conditions and the present state of the job market.

But she adds that expectations about future income remain virtually unchanged. With gas prices falling, this should help boost holiday sales.

NEW YORK FED-HOUSEHOLD DEBT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans are slowly but steadily borrowing more money, bringing to an end a five-year effort to cut household debt that has slowed consumer spending and the economy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says total household debt increased $78 billion in the July-September quarter to $11.7 trillion, led by rising mortgage and auto loans. That is the fourth increase in household debt in the past five quarters.

Total debt is still below the peak of nearly $12.7 trillion reached in the third quarter of 2008. But it has risen 5 percent since bottoming out in the second quarter of last year.

The sustained increase is a sign that Americans are more confident and willing to spend more, trends that could fuel faster economic growth.

HOME PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose in September at the slowest pace in more than two years, reflecting modest sales gains and a rising number of available homes.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 4.9 percent in September from 12 months earlier. But that's down from 5.6 percent in August and the smallest gain since October 2012.

Home price gains have slowed this year after rapid, double-digit increases in the previous two years. Investors helped drive the strong gains by bidding up prices but have started to cut back on their purchases.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The September figures are the latest available.

BANK EARNINGS

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. bank earnings rose 7.3 percent in the July-September quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and continued to lend out more money, which help drive up revenue.

The data issued Thursday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed a robust picture as the banking industry continues to recover from the financial crisis that struck six years ago.

Banks and other financial institutions insured by the FDIC earned $38.7 billion in the third quarter, up from $36.1 billion a year ago. The percentage of unprofitable banks fell to 6.4 percent of institutions, versus 8.7 percent a year ago.

The agency said the number of "problem banks" fell to 329 during the quarter, the lowest since the first quarter of 2009. Only two insured banks failed last quarter.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING-THANKSGIVING

NEW YORK (AP) -- Thanksgiving could be the best day to shop all year.

An analysis of sales data and store circulars contradicts conventional wisdom that Black Friday is when shoppers can get the most and biggest sales of the year.

Turns out, shoppers will find more discounted items in stores that are open on Thanksgiving. An analysis of promotions for The Associated Press by researcher MarketTrack, for example, shows a total of 86 laptops and tablets deeply discounted as door buster deals at Best Buy, Wal-Mart and others on the holiday compared with just nine on Black Friday.

And on the Web, discounts will be deeper on the holiday. Adobe, which tracks data on 4,500 retail web sites, finds online prices on Thanksgiving are expected to be about 24 percent cheaper compared with 23 percent on Black Friday and 20 percent on Cyber Monday.

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