THE BLOG
05/13/2013 04:08 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 15

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This week on the national scene -- the student loan crisis, and President Obama meets with two female heads-of-state. In the meantime, Emily's List launches a campaign for a woman president in America.

Graduating With a Mountain-Load of Debt

The president gave the first of his three 2013 commencement addresses at Ohio State this past week. (He will also speak at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and Morehouse College in Atlanta.) He encouraged the students to engage in public life and join the national debate on issues of concern.

They may want to take heed... especially when it comes to student loan debt. Back in February of this year HuffPost described two reports on the mushrooming debt:

An analysis released on Tuesday of 10 million credit files from Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO) found the average student debt load ballooned 58 percent from 2005 to 2012 -- from $17,233 to $27,253. In the same period, the number of consumers with two or more open student loans on their credit report grew from 12 million in 2005 to 26 million in 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This past week, Politico ran an op-ed by Rohit Chopra, the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, entitled "Excessive student loan debt drains economic engine." Chopra describes the fall-out from the high student debt load and how it affects the economy in the areas of housing, career choice, employee retention, entrepreneurship and even retirement security.

A CNN Report this week continued the story, even suggesting students are putting off getting married because of student loan debt:

About three-quarters of student loan borrowers surveyed said they -- or their children -- have been forced to make sacrifices in order to keep up with student loan payments, according to a survey from the American Institute of CPAs.
Forty-one percent of the more than 200 people surveyed said they have delayed saving for retirement, 40% have put off buying cars, while 29% have postponed home purchases. Even marriage has been put on hold, with 15% of respondents saying they delayed tying the knot because of student loan debt.
The majority of borrowers said they didn't anticipate having such a difficult time repaying their loans, and 60% feel some amount of regret about the decision to fund their education this way.

African-American and Latino students may be carrying even more student loan baggage, as reported by the Center for American Progress last October:

African American and Latino students are especially saddled with student debt, with 81 percent of African American students and 67 percent of Latino students who earned bachelor's degrees leaving school with debt. This compares to 64 percent of white students who graduate with debt. With $864 billion in federal loans and $150 billion in private loans, student debt in America now exceeds $1 trillion.

The rate on new subsidized loans is set to DOUBLE on July 1 -- from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Last July 1, an election year, students were given a one-year reprieve. Probably not so lucky this year....

It would require an agreement by Congress -- and we know those are hard to come by these days.

There is a movement in Washington to reduce the interest rate on student loans. Newly-elected senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) wants students to get the same rates offered to big banks by the Feds -- .075 percent. Warren has introduced a bill calling for this action.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) is proposing the Student Loan Fairness Act of 2013 and a permanent cap of 3.4 percent on student loans. In a HuffPost piece entitled "Time To Get Serious on Student Loan Debt," she says:

I have proposed the Student Loan Fairness Act of 2013 as an initial step toward a comprehensive fix to the student loan debt crisis. This bill attacks the problem in a number of ways including allowing borrowers to have their loans forgiven up to $45,000 after making 10 years of payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. Interest rates would permanently be capped at 3.4 percent and eligible borrowers would be able to convert their private loan debt into federal direct loans.

Will there be any changes? Students and their parents may need to lead the outcry. This is one of those 'national debate' issues that cries for public involvement.


Still Trying to Get Along

The president golfed with two Republican senatorsthis past week -- Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). They say 'business' wasn't discussed much. (Yeah, right... and if not, what a waste). The biggest news that came from it was a hole-in-one by Chambliss.

Maybe the president had better luck at mutual agreements during last week's visit to Mexico and a first appearance in Costa Rica. He stressed joint economic interests in each locale.

Women Presidents

Speaking of Costa Rica... While there, President Obama met with their president, Laura Chinchilla.

Also, this past week he met with the president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye.

Hmmmmm. Two women presidents. What does our future hold?

Hillary Clinton? Condoleezza Rice? And here's one to ponder: Would African-American women -- a sizable and DEPENDABLE voting bloc for the Democratic party -- consider Ms. Rice?

This week, Emily's List, an organization which supports women candidates, launched its Madam President Campaign. Cute video.

Washington Watch is a weekly look at President Obama's second term -- and related news on the national scene. For prior weeks of Washington Watch visit: Our-Gov.com

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