Political MoJo

These Schools Saddling Students With Tons of Debt Aren’t the Ones You Expected

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 6:16 PM EDT

The student loan crisis may bring to mind 22-year-old graduates from four-year colleges trying to figure out how to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And while this image may have been accurate before the recession, today's reality is more complicated: According to a recent report released by the Brookings Institution, the rise in federal borrowing and loan defaults is being fueled by smaller loans to "non-traditional borrowers," or students attending for-profit universities and, to a lesser extent, community colleges.

As Mother Jones has reported in the past, compared with four-year college graduates, nontraditional borrowers are poorer, older, likely to drop out, and, if they do graduate, unlikely to face bright career prospects. The median for-profit university grad owes about $10,000 in federal loans but makes only about $21,000 per year.

The report, based on newly released federal data on student borrowing and earnings records, shows just how much the economics of higher education have transformed since the recession. In 2000, the 25 colleges whose students owed the most federal debt were primarily public or nonprofit, with New York University taking the lead. By 2014, 13 of the top 25 were for-profit universities. In the same period, the amount of student debt nearly quadrupled to surpass $1.1 trillion, and the rate of borrowers who defaulted on loans doubled.

So what happened? During the recession, students poured into colleges to make themselves more marketable in a crummy economy. Community colleges, depleted from plunging state tax revenues, couldn't expand to account for this exodus from the job market, so many students—and their loans—ended up at the quickly expanding for-profit universities, which promise short courses in tangible skills.

But students graduating from these colleges have notoriously dim job opportunities—some of the colleges have shut down in recent years after Department of Education probes found them to target low-income students and misrepresent the likelihood of finding a job post-graduation. So with the subsequent influx of students back into the job market—and, for many of them, into low-wage work or unemployment—thousands are stuck with debt.

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Does Donald Trump Send His Own Tweets? An Investigation

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 2:51 PM EDT

Donald Trump tweets a lot. He's pretty good at it too! Personally, I love his Twitter account. It's a mix of insanity and self-promotion and insanity and, well, self-promotion. But it's endearing!

I've always assumed that Trump sends his own tweets. This is not because Twitter is a holy place and everyone sends their own tweets, but his account tweets so many weird things that I figured he couldn't have a professional ghost tweeter at the helm. That person would never let him send half the things he sends. But then a few weeks ago my colleague Ian Gordon pointed me to a Washington Post profile of his media handler, Hope Hicks, which had me in tears:

On his plane, Trump flips through cable channels, reads news articles in hard copy, and makes offhanded comments. He's throwing out his signature bombastic, sometimes offensive tweets. Hicks takes dictation and sends the words to aides somewhere in the Trump empire, who send them out to the world.

Dictating is still tweeting in a sense, but it really isn't the same. This means he's not scrolling through his timeline, checking his mentions, having the full Twitter experience. He's broadcasting.

Last night, however, the Wall Street Journal said that Trump is, in fact, tweeting:

Mr. Trump doesn't use a computer. He relies on his smartphone to tweet jabs and self-promotion, often late into the night, from a chaise lounge in his bedroom suite in front of a flat-screen TV.

Now it's possible that it's a combination of both: Sometimes he dictates, and sometimes he tweets.

While this is an answer, it begs a new question: How much of his tweets are his? To figure this one out, we put on our social-media detective hats and took a trip to Twitonomy.com.

Since April 23, @realDonaldTrump has tweeted 3,197 times. (Twitter's API limits how many tweets analytics tools can access, so we can't go further back than that.)


A majority of those tweets (1,707) have come from Twitter for Android. Another 1,245 have come from Twitter.com. Ninety-nine have come from a BlackBerry, and another 99 have come from an iPhone.


From the above WSJ article, we know Trump doesn't use a computer, so Twitter.com is out. Those are being done by someone else. The question is: What smartphone is Trump using? Once upon a time, Trump made his dissatisfaction with the iPhone very clear when he demanded that Apple manufacture a larger screen. This is something Apple ended up doing with the iPhone 6 and the still larger iPhone 6+. It's unclear if this enticed Trump back into the fold. There are some massive smartphones out there! Maybe he has a Galaxy Note 5.

An email to the Trump campaign was not immediately returned. But a second Washington Post article tells us that Trump does in fact tweet from an iPhone.

So, if that is accurate, only 3 percent of Donald Trump's last 3,197 tweetsat mostactually came from his fingers. (Possibly less if one of his aides also uses an iPhone.) The rest were apparently dictated or, in the case of the Nazi image, sent out by an intern. He's obviously a busy person (and old, at that), so I understand why he doesn't send all his own tweets. But still, it takes some of the magic away.

Below are some more charts from Twitonomy about Trump's tweets:


Rick Santorum Doesn't Know What to Focus on During Wednesday's Debate

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 1:16 PM EDT

Today, Rick Santorum sent me an urgent email. He needed my advice! So of course, I had to open the email to see how I could help. It turns out that Santorum, one of the back-of-the-pack 2016 GOP contenders, was soliciting suggestions on what he should focus on during the GOP presidential debate on Wednesday. Oddly, this seemed to indicate he doesn't have a strategy of his own.

He wrote:


I clicked on the links and found that Santorum was offering a poll giving his supporters a chance to tell him what he should concentrate on when it's his time to speak during the debate. The list of possibilities included "fighting radical Islam," dissing Common Core, and combatting "immoral government spending." (The website incorrectly stated that the debate is Thursday.)

I picked stopping radical Islam, hoping that once I'd voted, I could see the results of the poll. Alas, I was immediately directed to a donation page. I'll have to wait until Thursday—er, Wednesday—to see if Santorum takes my advice. But for now he deserves credit for a new campaign tactic: crowd-sourcing debate planning.

Shooting Reported at Delta State University

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 1:02 PM EDT

Update: September 15, 2015, 8:10 a.m.: Authorities say the suspected shooter, Shannon Lamb, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Update: September 14, 2015, 3:30 p.m.: The victim has been identified as history professor Ethan Schmidt, according to Bolivar County Deputy Coroner Murray Roark.

One person is dead after a shooting at Delta State University in Mississippi, the school confirmed on Monday. The Clarion-Ledger reports the victim is a professor of the school. Approximately 4000 students attend the school in Cleveland, Miss.

As of this time, the shooter remains at large and the school is under lockdown.

This is a breaking news post. We will update with more information as it becomes available.

California Is About to Fix Democracy

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 12:59 PM EDT

On Thursday, California's Senate advanced a new reform bill that would automatically register all state residents to vote when they apply or renew their driver licenses.

Residents will also be able to opt out of automatic registration.

The 24-15 vote, which follows the Assembly's approval in June, now awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to adopt the measure. If signed, California will become the second state in the country to have automatic voter registration, after Oregon.

Supporters of the bill say it would dramatically increase voter turnout in the state. Secretary of State Alex Padilla reminded his fellow lawmakers on Thursday that nearly 6.7 million California residents remain unregistered, despite being eligible to do so.

"We ought to do anything and everything possible to ensure that people participate," Padilla said ahead of the vote.

In March, Oregon became the first state to pass an automatic registration law. Soon after that, lawmakers in 17 states proposed similar measures. While speaking to an audience in Texas back in June, Hillary Clinton announced her support for universal automatic registration.

California Republicans voted against the bill, citing warnings of potential voter fraud. However, such claims have been overwhelmingly disproved. Restrictive voting laws, as demonstrated in the last midterm elections, have been found to create significant obstacles that prevent minorities and the poor from voting.

Germany Closes Its Border With Austria, Hoping to Stop the Refugee Flow

| Sun Sep. 13, 2015 2:23 PM EDT
A German policeman accompanies refugees in the Munich central train station on September 13.

Two weeks ago I wrote about what might happen if Germany decided to start policing its borders again in response to the huge numbers of refugees and migrants entering the country. Now we're going to find out.

The German government has announced that the country is closing its border with Austria and also suspending train traffic to and from its southern neighbor, the route by which tens of thousands of refugees have entered Germany in recent days. Those borders have been open for nearly 20 years under the Schengen Agreement, which turned most of the European Union into one large free-travel zone with no internal border checks. Until now, you could go from Berlin to Amsterdam or Paris much like you were going from New York to DC. Along with the euro, the Schengen zone is considered one of the European Union's most important achievements, a powerful symbol of European unity as a well as a major booster of trade and tourism. All of that now hangs in the balance as the refugee crisis strains internal EU politics.

German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have been hinting at closing German borders for weeks, hoping to get the European Union moving on a quota system that would send more of the refugees to other countries. Germany is currently taking in the majority of asylum seekers and migrants, while other EU countries are resisting. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel newspaper that Germany is "reaching the limits of its capabilities" and called for an EU-wide response to the refugee influx. "By the time thousands of people are walking on the Autobahn, it's too late," he said.

Reinstating border checks is sign of how frustrated the German government is with its neighbors—and how divisive the refugee problem is within the European Union. "The migrants have to accept that they cannot simply choose an EU member country," Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said while announcing the new policy.

Germany says the border closure is temporary. But it's the first major EU country to take such a step to deal with an ongoing crisis like this, and many are wondering whether it will prompt other Schengen countries to do the same.


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Here's the Most Offensive GOP Response to Obama's New Syrian Refugee Plan

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 5:08 PM EDT
Rep. Peter King (L), and Syrian children at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers in southern Hungary, on Thursday.

As my colleague Tim McDonnell reported earlier today, the Obama administration has announced that the United States will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees starting October 1, in what the White House described as a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to the ongoing migrant crisis.

Cue the terrorism-conflating saber-rattling of one Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who issued the following statement this afternoon:

There's evidently much wrong with King's statement, not least of all the fact that the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed Boston spent time growing up in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, and were part of a family originally from war-torn Chechnya. Not Syria.

It also takes a long time for a Syrian refugee to apply for a coveted spot in the United States—precisely due to the fact that the United States is going to extraordinary lengths to prevent terrorists from slipping in, according to the Washington Post:

The United States has so far lagged far behind several European countries in this regard, largely due to the time-consuming screening procedure to block Islamist militants and criminals from entering the United States under the guise of being legitimate refugees.

As a result, it takes 18 to 24 months for the average Syrian asylum seeker to be investigated and granted refugee status. The process takes so long that the UNHCR takes biometric images of some applicants' irises to ensure that when refugee status is eventually granted, it goes to the same person who applied.

King hasn't been the only politician warning of an increased terror threat if the United States allows more Syrians into the country. But fellow Republican Marco Rubio struck a less incendiary tone this week. "We would be potentially open to the relocation of some of these individuals at some point in time to the United States," he said, according to CNN, but added that, "We'd always be concerned that within the overwhelming number of the people seeking refugee [status], someone with a terrorist background could also sneak in."

According to an investigation by Mother Jones in 2011, Rep. King might possess one of the most hawkish voices in Washington, but his record on terror has raised some eyebrows. King was one of the nation's most outspoken supporters of the Irish Republican Army and a prolific fundraiser for the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NorAid), allegedly the IRA's American fundraising arm. (King's office didn't respond to a request for comment on that article.) You can read Tim Murphy's fascinating report here.

King had previously told the Daily News, "Obviously, we have to take refugees... But we have to be extremely diligent, very careful."

James Bond Gives $50,000 to a Sketchy Bernie Sanders Super-PAC

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 3:58 PM EDT

James Bond's latest attempt to save the world didn't involve blowing things up or chasing down bad guys. Instead, Daniel Craig, the Englishman who plays Bond, acted with his wallet, making a healthy donation to support his preferred presidential candidate: Bernie Sanders. But in doing so, he may have played into a villain's hands.

Over the summer, Craig donated nearly $50,000 to a super-PAC called Americans Socially United, which claims to support the Vermont senator's dark-horse bid for the Democratic nomination, according to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The pro-Sanders super-PAC is run by a self-described lobbyist, Cary Lee Peterson, who "has routinely run afoul of creditors and the law," with two outstanding warrants in the state of Arizona. The group was initially called “Ready for Bernie Sanders 2016” and “Bet on Bernie 2016," both illegal uses of the candidate's name that caused confusion for Sanders supporters who accidentally donated to Peterson's PAC instead of the campaign. Peterson's group has not filed the legally required campaign finance disclosures, CPI reports.

Moreover, Sanders, who supports campaign finance reform, doesn't want super-PACs supporting his campaign and has asked Americans Socially United to stop its efforts on his behalf. His campaign sent Peterson a cease and desist letter in June, which Peterson continues to disregard.

But Peterson contends that he is simply trying to support his favorite candidate. “You don’t need to look back on my past,” Peterson told CPI. “I’m going out there trying to make a difference.”

Thus far, Craig is sticking to his guns, too. "Currently, I have been informed of no evidence to question that my donation has not been used as intended," he told CPI. "Should that situation occur, then clearly, I will review my position.”

Super-PACs, which are largely unregulated by the Federal Election Commission, can get away with a lot. As attorney Paul Ryan explained to CPI, the people running these super-PACs could legally use the money they raise “to buy a yacht and sail off into the sunset.”

Breaking: The US Will Accept 10,000 Syrian Refugees

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 2:53 PM EDT
A boy sits on a bus on Wednesday after his family arrives in Athens from the Greek island of Lesbos.

After weeks of mounting pressure, the Obama administration has finally agreed to raise the quota of Syrian refugees allowed into the US to 10,000 in the next fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The US has so far played a pretty small role in the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis, and Syrians are fleeing war in their home countries in search of a better life elsewhere—prompting dramatic scenes as migrants use any means possible to get to countries across Western Europe.

So far, only about 1,500 Syrians have been allowed into the US—out of roughly four million that have poured out of the country to escape attacks by ISIS and their own government since the start of the civil war. Meanwhile, European countries are accepting many more, as they open their borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants: Germany alone approved 42,680 Syrian asylum applications in 2014, according to the Guardian.

Germany expects to receive 800,000 refugees in total this year, according to CNN.

Today, President Barack Obama opened the door a crack more, announcing the US will be prepared to handle 10,000 Syrian migrants, according to Reuters:

The number reflects a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to accept refugees from the war-torn country and to provide for their basic needs, White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

That influx of Syrians, in addition to refugees from other parts of the world, would push the total number of refugees taken in by the US to around 100,000, according to the New York Times.

Sanders Leads Clinton in Iowa in New Poll

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 1:24 PM EDT
Bernie Sanders in Grinnell, Iowa, last week.

Bernie Sanders is steadily creeping ahead of Hillary Clinton in the early nomination states. The Vermont senator has led Clinton, the presumed front-runner, in the past few polls in New Hampshire, posting a 9-point lead in an NBC/Marist poll from last weekend. Now, a new poll shows Sanders leading Clinton for the first time in Iowa, albeit by a narrow margin.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday finds 41 percent of likely Iowa caucus voters supporting Sanders, with Clinton right behind him at 40 percent—still well within the poll's margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. Quinnipiac's numbers weren't too encouraging for Vice President Joe Biden, who had just 12 percent support in Iowa, a state that doomed his last presidential campaign.

Sanders has invested heavily in the earliest caucus and primary states, banking on a string of early victories to transform him from novelty challenger to legit contender. His campaign currently has 53 field organizers in 15 offices in Iowa. Clinton, in turn, bumped up her number of paid organizers last week from 47 to 78.

Even if Clinton trails in the first two states in the nomination process, she's still crushing Sanders in national polls. RealClearPolitics' average of national polls puts Clinton ahead of Sanders by a whopping 25 percent. Sanders isn't even the second choice of national Democrats, with Biden pulling in 22 percent to Sanders' 20 percent in the most recent nationwide poll, released by Monmouth University earlier this week.

Still, Clinton's struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire must be troubling to the front-runner. No presidential candidate has won either party's overall nomination after losing Iowa and New Hampshire since...Bill Clinton in 1992.