Senator Marco Rubio:  Workers Get Little Benefit from Tax-Reform Bill Passed Last Year!

Dear Commons Community,

Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio told the Economist magazine there is “no evidence whatsoever” that the massive tax reform law significantly helped American workers.  As reported by Reuters:

“There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,” Rubio said in the interview published Thursday.

“In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

The tax overhaul, which sailed through the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress in December without Democratic support, permanently cut the top corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. Tax cuts for individuals, however, are temporary and expire after 2025.

Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have said their tax overhaul will lead to more take-home pay for workers and have touted the bonuses some workers received from their employers as evidence the law is working. Rubio voted for the proposal even though he had lobbied party leaders for a larger child tax credit.Companies that have given bonuses, increased pay

Rubio’s staff did not deny he made the statement.

“Senator Rubio pushed for a better balance in the tax law between tax cuts for big businesses and families, as he’s done for years. As he said when the tax law passed, cutting the corporate tax rate will make America a more competitive place to do business, but he tried to balance that with an even larger child tax credit for working Americans,” Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said in an email.

The tax law is Republicans’ only significant legislative achievement since Trump took office as they head into the midterms, when all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and about a third of the 100-member Senate’s seats are being contested.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said earlier this month that the tax bill, as written, is projected to add $1.9 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.”

Senator Rubio is the only prominent Republican so far to admit the truth about the Republican tax bill.  It remains to be seen if other Republicans do the same. I doubt it.


Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner Address!

Dear Commons Community,

The comedian, Michelle Wolf, addressed the audience at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday and she caused an uproar as she roasted Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Congress, and others.  A major discussion on several of the Sunday morning news shows yesterday was whether she should apologize to some of the people who had to bear the brunt of her comments.  Her complete address is above.  Below are a sample of her zingers.


 “Just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes, I have no agenda, I’m not trying to get anything accomplished, so everyone that’s here from Congress you should feel right at home,”

“I would drag him here myself, but it turns out that the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab”

“It is kinda crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan.”

“I’m 32, which is a weird age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.”

“I actually really like Sarah [Sanders]. I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

“He [Trump] wants to give teachers guns, and I support that because then they can sell them for things they need like supplies.”

“It’s 2018 and I am a woman so you cannot shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.”


NY Times Editorial Pleads with Supreme Court Justice Kennedy Not to Retire!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times editorial this morning is a plea to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy not to retire in the coming year. Kennedy is eight-one years old and has been on the Court for thirty years. He is conservative but not an ideologue and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He is often seen as a swing vote between four conservatives and four liberal justices. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

“Sitting between the four liberal justices and the four conservatives, you are the most powerful member of the most powerful court in the country, as you have been for at least a decade. Your vote, more than that of any other justice, has delivered landmark legal victories for Americans of all political stripes, from gays and lesbians seeking equal rights to African-American college students seeking a better education to deep-pocketed corporations seeking to spend more money influencing politics.

You have sent mixed signals about your intentions, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans in Congress from referring to your departure as a done deal. (Of course, they said the same thing last year.) They smell blood — if they can install another rock-ribbed conservative like Neil Gorsuch, the court will have a locked-in right-wing majority for the rest of most of our lifetimes. They won’t even have to steal a seat to do it.

Have past justices given a thought to politics when considering the timing of their exit from the court? Of course they have, whether or not they copped to it. But this moment is about so much more than partisan jockeying. We can’t know what is in your heart, Your Honor, but we do know what your departure right now would mean for the court, and for the nation. It would not be good.
There are two ways to think about this decision: The safeguarding of your legacy, and the safeguarding of the Supreme Court itself.

Start with the legacy. Across your 30 years on the court, your most important opinions — and there are many — have altered not just the lives of millions of Americans but the course of the nation’s history. A sampling: Protecting reproductive rights, and saving Roe v. Wade from being essentially overturned, in 1992. Recognizing the equality and dignity of gays and lesbians multiple times since 1996 and, in 2015, granting same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry. Preserving the use of affirmative-action policies at public universities. And, in 2008, rejecting the executive branch’s attempt to create a legal black hole at the Guantánamo Bay detention center, and giving the prisoners there the right to habeas corpus.

You’ve also recognized the continuing travesty of the nation’s broken criminal justice system, voting to strike down excessive sentences for juveniles and the intellectually disabled and forcing states to shrink their overcrowded prisons.

Of course, part of your charm is that you’re an equal-opportunity disappointer. In 2010, you wrote the majority opinion in the Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates to unlimited spending in political races by corporations and labor unions. In 2013, you signed on to an opinion — a deeply misguided one, we believe — that gutted the Voting Rights Act and allowed states across the country to make it harder for people, especially minorities, to vote. In the next two months, you may well upset liberals again by casting the deciding vote to uphold President Trump’s travel ban, or in favor of the Christian baker who doesn’t want to make cakes for same-sex weddings. At the same time, you would most likely be the key vote to rein in partisan gerrymandering, one of the most corrosive and anti-democratic practices in modern America.
And none of us outside the court can know how much your mere presence affects which cases the justices choose to review — or not review.

Your record is more conservative than liberal, but there’s no question that you are less of an ideologue than anyone President Trump would pick. How do we know? Look at his first nominee, Justice Gorsuch. Perhaps you were comforted by this choice — a well-qualified judge who clerked for you, and who would have been on any Republican’s short list. But Justice Gorsuch has already made it clear that while he’s a fan of individual liberty, at least in some cases, he is unlikely to go to great pains to protect your most cherished values — equality and human dignity. While a court with two Gorsuches would be quick to vote in favor of religious bakers, it would not be eager to broaden the constitutional rights of gays, lesbians and other vulnerable groups — let alone protect women seeking to control their own bodies.

Justice Gorsuch replaced Antonin Scalia, a move that didn’t disrupt the balance of the court. Replacing you with a hard-line conservative, in contrast, would have enormous consequences for the nation’s laws and Constitution for decades to come. Just ask Sandra Day O’Connor, your onetime fellow swing justice who left the court in 2006 and now watches helplessly as her replacement, the arch-conservative Samuel Alito Jr., votes to tear down her legacy.

As Justice O’Connor would tell you, legacy isn’t only what you do when you’re on the court; it’s also the circumstances in which you leave it. To put it bluntly, did you spend a lifetime honoring and upholding the Constitution and the values of civility and decency in American public life only to have your replacement chosen by Donald Trump?

Do you want to give your seat to a president whose campaign and administration are under criminal investigation, whose closest aides have been indicted or have pleaded guilty to federal crimes? A president with so little regard for or understanding of the role of the judiciary, the separation of powers and the rule of law? A president who nominated to the federal bench someone who called you a “judicial prostitute”?

There is also the institutional legitimacy of and public respect for the nation’s highest court, which we know you cherish even beyond your own legacy. Right now that legitimacy is eroding. The audacious decision by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to hold a court seat hostage and use it as an electoral tool “places the court in a position of real institutional peril,” as The Times’s Linda Greenhouse wrote last year.

You know as well as anyone that the Supreme Court’s authority depends on public confidence. When that fails, the consequences can be dire.

This is where you come in, Justice Kennedy. You’re a conservative from a time when conservatism was a more or less coherent political philosophy, not a tribal identity. You’re a believer in free markets and individual liberty, and also in human rights and equal justice. A defender of the rule of law, of civility and decorum — those time-honored values now desecrated daily by the current inhabitant of the Oval Office.

In short, you’re as close to a centrist as anyone on the current court, and so you, more than anyone, are in a position to protect its good standing. The American people are desperate for someone who is not polarizing, and your continued service would be an encouraging sign to them that the court can still operate outside politics. It could also be a model for future justices, though we’re not holding our breath. If you leave, the dam breaks.

Now that Republicans have killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, they’ve cleared the path for anyone the Federalist Society — pardon us, we meant President Trump — wants on the bench. Remember, the court has had a Republican-appointed majority since the early 1970s. If Mr. Trump gets the chance to fill your seat, it will be the most conservative court in nearly a century.

We realize this isn’t an entirely fair request. Every 81-year-old, especially those who have devoted their lives to the service of their country, should have the freedom to retire without worrying that the nation’s future may hang in the balance. But this is the world we live in.

Mr. McConnell is probably correct that blocking President Barack Obama’s third Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, was his biggest success as a politician, and that the possibility of another conservative on the court was the single most important factor in “bringing Republicans home” during the 2016 election. Yet he may find this was a Faustian bargain. By stealing the seat for short-term political advantage, Mr. McConnell has inflicted institutional damage from which the court, and the Senate, may never fully recover.

It’s worth remembering that Mr. McConnell wouldn’t have been in a position to pull off such a harmful stunt if more people had turned up to vote in the 2014 midterm elections. As it was, 64 percent of eligible voters stayed home — the worst showing in more than 70 years. A higher turnout could well have preserved the Democrats’ Senate majority, meaning Judge Garland would now be Justice Garland, and your retirement would pose less of a danger to the legitimacy of the court.

Regardless, that’s not what happened. This is your court, Justice Kennedy. It is facing an institutional crisis, and it needs you.”

The Court does need Kennedy to stay!


Teacher Walkouts Are a Feminist Issue!

Dear Commons Community,

Rebecca Klein, the education reporter for The Huffington Post, has an article today entitled, Why The Teacher Walkouts Sweeping The Country Are A Feminist Issue.  Here is an excerpt:

“Yes, the teacher strikes that have swept states such as Arizona, West Virginia and Kentucky in recent months are a matter of substandard labor conditions. Teachers involved in the protests are seeking higher wages, better classroom funding and improved work conditions.

But underneath the outward fight for these workplace improvements, a more indirect fight for women’s equality is also driving the strikes, say some leaders involved with the walkouts.

An overwhelming majority of teachers are women, and leaders who have participated in the walkouts say they believe many of the reasons they have been forced to protest ― low pay, declining resources, lack of respect from legislators ― might be a function of their gender. It’s no coincidence either that the walkouts are coming at a time when women have been driving conversations about workplace conditions with campaigns like the Me Too movement.

“I think it is absolutely no accident this is happening to an industry, to a field, that is predominantly women. An industry that is seen as serving children, which is ‘women’s work,’” said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona, an education advocacy group that has been involved with the protests. “There’s that societal expectation of, like, you don’t need to be compensated, you don’t need to be regarded as a skilled professional, you’re doing this because it’s in your genes, this is what you do.”

In 2015, public school teachers, on average, made about $1,092 per week, compared with the higher weekly wages earned by all college graduates of $1,416, according to an analysis from the liberal Economic Policy Institute. Because the research compares teachers with all college graduates, the pay gap likely differs from what it would be if educators were compared with other graduates working in the public sector, and the gap varies vastly by state. But the analysis does show how much the gap has grown over the years.

Over the past several decades, the weekly wages of teachers have fallen drastically compared with those of other college-educated professional workers. In 1994, the weekly wages of teachers were about 2 percent lower than those of college-educated professional workers, but by 2015, this gap had increased to over 11 percent.”

The teacher walkouts combine and overlap two important social issues – feminism and government support for public education.



Paul Ryan Fires House Chaplain – Father Patrick Conroy!

Dear Commons Community,

A small uproar has evolved over Speaker Paul Ryan’s abrupt decision to dismiss the House chaplain, Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest.  As reported by the New York Times:

“Mr. Ryan moved quietly two weeks ago to remove the chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy — so quietly that some lawmakers assumed the Catholic priest was retiring. But in an interview on Thursday with The New York Times, Father Conroy said he was blindsided when Mr. Ryan asked him to resign, and suggested politics — specifically a prayer he gave in November when Congress was debating a tax overhaul — may have been a factor in the speaker’s decision.

Father Conroy prayed then for lawmakers to “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” Shortly after, he said, he was admonished by Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin, who is also a Roman Catholic.

“Padre, you just got to stay out of politics,” he recalled the speaker saying.

As reports of the dismissal circulated in the Capitol, some Republicans, in a closed-door meeting on Friday morning, demanded an explanation from Mr. Ryan, while Democrats commandeered the House floor in a boisterous, if unsuccessful, attempt to force the House to investigate Mr. Ryan’s decision.

At the House Republican meeting, Mr. Ryan told lawmakers that complaints about Father Conroy’s pastoral care — not politics or prayer — led to his decision, according to several who attended. The speaker’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said simply that he had “made the decision he believes to be in the best interest of the House.”

But the dismissal appears to be an unforced error in a political year when Republicans cannot afford mistakes. The controversy exposed long-simmering tensions between Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians over who should be lawmakers’ religious counselor. And a public clash between Southern evangelical Republicans and Northern Catholics could play to the advantage of Democrats, who are pressing hard to bring working-class Catholic regions in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin back into the Democratic fold.

The controversy was heightened when Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and a Baptist minister, said Thursday in an interview with The Hill newspaper that he hoped the next chaplain of the House might come from a nondenominational church tradition who could relate to members with wives and children.

Catholic Democrats quickly called his remarks anti-Catholic, as Catholic priests are celibate, and Mr. Walker’s spokesman later said Mr. Walker was not excluding a particular faith group. One Republican, Representative Peter T. King of New York, took issue with the comments.

“To be excluding one religion up front, that has all sorts of connotations coming from the evangelical community,” Mr. King said in an interview. He said he had received several inquiries from priests about Mr. Ryan’s decision, and he told the speaker, “This issue is not going to go away that quickly.”

The poltical and religious aspects of this Congressional episode have several layers that seem a bit odd.  It remains to be seen if this story has legs. 


Red Wave Continues:  Thousands of Teachers in Arizona and Colorado Walk Out!

Dear Commons Community,

The red wave of teacher activism continued yesterday in Arizona and Colorado as thousands of teachers walked out of their classrooms to demand more funding for public schools.   This is the latest surge of a teacher protest movement that has already swept through three states and is spreading to others.  As reported by the New York Times:

“Hundreds of public schools were shut down in Arizona because of the walkouts, which turned the streets of Downtown Phoenix into seas of crimson as educators and their supporters marched to the State Capitol wearing red T-shirts and chanting “Red for Ed,” as the movement is known here.

Widespread teacher protests have in recent months upended daily routines in the conservative-leaning states West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. But the sight of public workers protesting en masse in the Arizona capital, one of the largest Republican strongholds in the country, and demanding tax increases for more school funding, spoke to the enduring strength of the movement and signaled shifts in political winds ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

“I’ll be voting for anyone who supports public education,” said Jamie Woodward, a curriculum coordinator from Cottonwood, Ariz. “We have impoverished teachers living in camper trailers.” Ms. Woodward, 40, was a registered Republican for 17 years, she said, but recently became an independent.

Teachers and their supporters began gathering on Thursday morning around Chase Field, a baseball stadium in Phoenix. From there, they marched to the Capitol to hold a rally calling for restoring education funding to pre-Recession levels, raising their pay, and halting tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average.

The march unfolded peacefully, with many teachers walking with their children and other supporters; nearly everyone was wearing the red shirts symbolizing their movement. Their signs read: “This Republican family supports #RedforEd,” “History is Watching,” and “Arizona’s top exports: Citrus, Copper, Teachers.”

Much of the protesters’ ire was directed at Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, who has resisted demands to end tax cuts to bolster public education spending. Teachers pressed ahead with the walkout despite a promise by the governor to increase their salaries 20 percent by 2020. Betting that a growing economy will bolster revenue, Mr. Ducey said he could provide the raises and reinforce school budgets without tax increases, a proposal that many teachers and lawmakers doubted.

In a statement Thursday, the governor urged citizens to contact their legislators to urge approval of his pay plan. “Without a doubt, teachers are some of the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona children,” Mr. Ducey said. “They need to be respected, and rewarded, for the work they do — and Arizona can do better on this front.”

Arizona spent $8,141 per pupil in 2017, well below the national average, according to the state’s auditor general. The average teacher salary in Arizona was $48,372 last year, also well below the national average. Younger and less experienced teachers can make far less than the state average.

“This isn’t just a political issue but a moral issue as well,” said Patience Sharp, 43, a writing teacher at a public middle school in Phoenix. Ms. Sharp, who has three children, said she earned about $40,000 a year and had filed for bankruptcy protection two weeks ago.

Teachers called for more education funding and higher pay.CreditCaitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

“My 17-year-old daughter recently told me she also wants to be a teacher,” Ms. Sharp said. “And I just cried.”

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said that the starting salary for teachers in Arizona was about $35,000, which for many in the profession made paying off student loans or starting a family difficult. The organizers of the walkout, Mr. Thomas said, sought to show political leaders how much educators were hurting financially in Arizona, where Republicans control the State Legislature and years of tax cuts have drained education budgets.

“A teaching certification used to secure landing in the middle class,” Mr. Thomas added. “That’s not the case anymore in Arizona, and we need to do something about it now.”

It remains to be seen how Arizona’s leaders will respond to the teachers’ movement, and how long it could last. Teachers in Oklahoma picketed the Capitol for nine days, calling for funding that largely did not materialize, though they did get a $6,000 raise. The statewide teachers’ strike in West Virginia shut down schools for almost two weeks.

Regional Carrillo, a first-grade teacher at Academia del Pueblo, explained the strike to his class before he and his colleagues walked out on Thursday. The school is a Title I institution, serving mostly low-income students, and stayed open with substitute teachers to provide free breakfast and lunch.CreditCaitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

In Colorado, about 2,000 teachers, students and parents descended on the steps of the gold-domed Capitol in Denver on Thursday, where they urged lawmakers to increase classroom funding. At least 27 districts in Colorado canceled classes, saying they would not have enough teachers to accommodate students on those days.

Anna Petersen, a special-education teacher from suburban Denver, was once a staunch Republican who attended Tea Party rallies and other conservative events. But Ms. Petersen, 28, said her experiences in the classroom in Jefferson County, west of Denver, had helped nudge her political leanings away from the Republican Party.

She spoke of living on take-home pay of about $24,000 a year, furnishing classrooms and failing to persuade her school to provide $300 for new calculators for students.

“I make less than kids at McDonald’s,” Ms. Petersen said. “I have a bachelor’s degree and I’m halfway through my master’s.”

Teachers pressed ahead with the walkout despite a promise by the governor to increase their salaries 20 percent by 2020 without raising taxes.CreditCaitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

Colorado, which has a Democratic governor and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, is more socially liberal than West Virginia, Oklahoma and other Republican-dominated states where teacher protests have erupted. But the state has a long anti-tax history. Voters enshrined strict limits on taxes and spending in the State Constitution in the 1990s, and four years ago, they roundly rejected a $1 billion proposal to raise income taxes to pay for all-day kindergarten and other education priorities.

On Thursday, as protesters waved signs declaring that “Teachers Make America Great!” and marched around the Capitol, some said they hoped the teachers’ movement would chip away at that history of fiscal austerity.

Stephanie Pierce, the parent of a third grader, a preschooler and a high school sophomore, did not vote when the $1 billion education bill came on the ballot in 2013. Because Colorado does not fund full-day kindergarten, Ms. Pierce said her family will have to pay $310 a month for her son to attend kindergarten next year. As she stood on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday, she said she now saw school funding as a top political priority.

 “I don’t have specific political beliefs, but I do know the teachers need more,” she said.

Colorado’s economy is booming, but the state teachers’ union, the Colorado Education Association, says the state has shorted the education system $6.6 billion since 2009.

Half of the districts in the state now have four-day school weeks. Kerrie Dallman, the union president, said that the state’s low teacher pay has helped create a 3,000-person staffing shortage. Colorado teachers, she added, are working two or even three jobs, buying their own school supplies or turning to GoFundMe to pay for new textbooks.

“We are collectively fed up after years of doing more with less and being promised it will get better in the future,” Ms. Dallman said. “We can’t afford to wait anymore. The students in Colorado can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Power to the teachers!



Video: Donald Trump’s 30-Minute Rant on Fox and Friends!

Dear Commons Community,

The media was on fire after Donald Trump went on a 30-minute rant on Fox and Friends yesterday morning talking about all kinds of topics that were bothering him including James Comey, Robert Mueller, the F.B.I., Michael Cohen, etc.  It got so bad that the overly partisan Fox and Friends hosts had to pretty much beg him to end. 

Last night, Anderson Cooper gave  his opinion on the Trump Fox session while discussing it with Alan Dershowitz.  Here is a summary of their exchange.

“CNN’s Anderson Cooper didn’t mince words when it came to President Donald Trump’s wild 30-minute Fox News interview on Thursday. 

After guest Alan Dershowitz warned that it would “go down a very bad road for us to start parsing the president’s words” from his public statements, Cooper let loose: 

“Don’t you think that it’s kind of surreal that we are in a place now as a country where we’re, like, ‘Oh, don’t listen to the president,’ like he’s a crazy person on a park bench with an onion tied to his belt, just mumbling incoherently? You’re saying, ‘Don’t parse his words,’ you’re saying, essentially, don’t listen to him, don’t pay attention to the words that come out of his mouth because they really have no meaning.”

Dershowitz insisted that’s not what he meant and said Trump is “entitled to express views,” but also admitted that the president “sends conflicting messages” and wished that he didn’t do so.  

“It was like listening to the rantings of Richard Nixon on the tapes,” Cooper said. “Except this is on live television, he’s calling in screaming, yelling into the telephone.” 

Trump came across as unhinged and at times, incoherent.


Student Loan Expert Drew Cloud Not a Real Person!

Dear Commons Community,

Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt.  Drew Cloud’s story was simple: He founded the website, an “independent, authoritative news outlet” covering all things student loans.  He surveyed loan companies and students for The Student Loan Report to provide  the most recent news and information.  He became ubiquitous on all things regarding student loans. The only problem is that he is not real.  He is the made-up character of a student-loan refinancing company.  As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Educaiton:

“LendEDU, the student-loan refinancing company that created a fictional expert who was widely quoted by media outlets, has apologized for hiding the fact that it created “Drew Cloud.”

That announcement was posted on the company’s website, the Student Loan Report, on yesterday.

“I want to apologize for a couple things,” wrote Nate Matherson, chief executive of LendEDU, the parent company of the Student Loan Report. “We never disclosed that ‘Drew Cloud’ was a pen name that represented a group of us writing these posts. I really regret that. We are proud of our personal backgrounds and where they have brought us today. We should’ve chosen to be clear about who was authoring the posts. We have made a change on the site, effective immediately, to use each author’s real name for every post. We will also retroactively notate posts by Drew Cloud.”

That statement comes after The Chronicle published an article on Tuesday that revealed Cloud was a fiction, despite having authored numerous reports and spoken to media outlets over email as if he were a real human being.

Cloud recently made headlines for writing a report that suggested that nearly one in five students was investing extra student-loan money in cryptocurrencies. He had published similar surveys in the past that often drew attention.

Before Drew Cloud was scrubbed from the Student Loan Report website, on Monday, he was listed as the site’s founder — complete with an elaborate backstory. He was described as having “a knack for reporting throughout high school and college where he picked up his topics of choice.” There was a photo, too, which Matherson said on Wednesday was one of his friends. “When we pictured what Drew Cloud looked like, we pictured a friend of ours from college, so we used his photo (with his permission) to round out the pen name,” he wrote.

Matherson said in the statement that LendEDU created the character as the main author of the site and to be a “shared pen name through which we could share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face while funding their education.”

He also defended the accuracy of the content and stories on the site, saying, “all of the data we published on The Student Loan Report was vetted, accurate, and licensed from the related polling companies.”

Cloud had been quoted in many media outlets, some of which added notes to their articles following the publication of The Chronicle’s story.

Matherson told The Chronicle that he was unsure whether the Student Loan Report would continue to operate. And he said he had updated the website with the statement in an effort “to address our mistakes and to offer additional context.”

God save us from those who use the Internet for their self-serving purposes and prey on the vulnerable.


White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney: “If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Dear Commons Community,

As reported by Slate:

“White House budget czar Mick Mulvaney told banking executives that while he was serving in congress before joining the Trump administration, he enacted a pay-to-play scheme for lobbyists looking to meet with him. “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you,” Mulvaney explained to the 1,300 banking industry officials at the American Bankers Association conference. “If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

This alarming anecdote came as part of a larger call by Mulvaney encouraging banks to aggressively pursue their agenda with lawmakers. The comments raise a number of pretty clear cut ethical, much less legal issues, one of which is that Mulvaney currently presides over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the interim director of the very body that’s supposed to protect individuals from unseemly (and illegal) banking and lending schemes. Mulvaney’s comments Tuesday laid bare the conflicts of interest present in his running of the Obama-era financial regulator into the ground, while also raising obvious questions about his time as a legislator. The Trump administration generally, and Mulvaney specifically, have not done much to hide their disdain for the consumer protection mandate given the CFPB in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and have intermittently worked to roll back its authority where possible and sabotage it elsewhere.”

Trump’s Swamp just keeps expanding!


Democrats Win Two Senate Seats in New York – Have Majority BUT!

Dear Commons Community,

There were two special elections in New York yesterday for state senate seats and wins by Democrats have resulted in their have a 32-31 majority.  However, Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn has decided to continue to caucus with Republicans.  As reported by the New York Times:

“In a special election in New York that was thought to hold the key to Democrats’ capturing the State Senate, Shelley B. Mayer, the Democratic candidate, sailed to victory in Westchester County on Tuesday, buoyed by a large turnout of progressive voters angered by the Trump presidency.

Ms. Mayer, a state assemblywoman from Yonkers, defeated her Republican challenger, Julie Killian, a deputy mayor of Rye, in the 37th District, which covers much of the eastern portion of the county. With 78 percent of districts counted, Ms. Mayer led Ms. Killian, 58 percent to 42 percent.

Her victory — coupled with another Democratic win in a special election in the 32nd Senate District in the Bronx — gave the Democrats a theoretical one-vote edge over the Republicans in the Senate, 32 to 31.

But theory gave way earlier on Tuesday to Simcha Felder, a Democrat of Brooklyn who has caucused with Republicans.

Mr. Felder announced that he had decided to continue his relationship with Republicans, thus allowing the party to retain its Senate majority by one vote.

Both Democrats and Republicans had spent millions of dollars on the Westchester contest, airing hostile television ads, in an effort to win the seat, which was vacated in January by George Latimer, who won his bid for county executive. Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in the county, but Ms. Killian mounted an energetic campaign.

The importance of the race was underscored by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s involvement in the race: He stumped for Ms. Mayer in Mamaroneck on Sunday morning to help get out the vote, and was at her election watch party on Tuesday night.

“All of us are part of something bigger, a movement for change, a blue wave rising in special election after special election,” Ms. Mayer said in a statement released after she declared victory. “This race was about finally bringing a Democratic majority to the State Senate so that New York can once again be a progressive leader.”

Progressive activists pledged to work even harder to unseat Republicans in the Senate this fall to give Democrats an unassailable edge.”

The Democrats will have to wait until November.