Author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” challenges those who want to stop kids from reading her book

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, has a message (in the current issue of The Atlantic) for right-wing nuts trying to ban her book: “Go ahead and ban my book. To those who seek to stop young people from reading The Handmaid’s Tale: Good luck with that. It’ll only make them want to read it more.”

Hmmm, I wonder why the right wing would feel threatened by a book depicting the fascist theocratic takeover of America by a government that enslaves women?

Study: people who can’t spot fake news tend to be bullshit artists who can’t tell fact from fiction

Some of the findings in this PsyPost article — “New research identifies a cognitive mechanism linked to reduced susceptibility to fake news” — feels like a “Well, duh” moment, but it is interesting nonetheless because it confirms through an actually study what many of us suspected: people who are susceptible to “fake news,” and who overestimate their expertise on topics on which they know little about, tend to not be very good problem solvers and have issues with logic in general.

The article notes how researchers at John Cabot University (Rome, Italy) and the University of Texas at Austin tried to gauge what traits made people susceptible to fake news, and what cognitive skills helped people to discern what is real information, and what information probably needs follow-up or is outright false.

The study included 61 right-handed, native American English speakers, who were 25.5 years old on average.

The researchers used Compound Remote Associate problems to assess insightfulness. To solve the problems, participants needed to connect three seemingly unrelated words in order to find a shared theme. This type of problem forces individuals to think creatively and openly while relying on insight. For example, the participants might see the words “crab,” “pine,” and “sauce.” The solution to the problem is “apple.”

“Tackling complicated problems requires continuous reframing and changing the initial representation of a problem to see it in a new light (i.e., when we have an insight). Solving a problem, specifically via insight, entails generating novel and original ideas by exploring unusual reasoning paths, a skill that is associated with the ability to filter out irrelevant distractions which might bring advantages when reasoning about information coming from an overcrowded environment like the internet.”

“We hypothesized that such mental exercise — that includes questioning the status quo, considering alternative information as well as filtering out distractions — impacts other information processing skills such as assessing news veracity.”

The participants were presented with 20 news items (consisting of a headline, a thumbnail image, and a preview text) and were asked if they were familiar with the article, how accurate they believed the article was, and if they would share the article on social media. Half of the news items were fake. In addition, the researchers administered a test of the propensity to believe pseudo-profound bullshit. The participants were shown randomly-generated meaningless statements such as “Infinity is a reflection of reality” and asked to rate their profundity.

The researchers found a positive relation between insightfulness and discernment. Those who scored higher on the measure of insightfulness tended to be better able to identify fake news and differentiate meaningful statements from pseudo-profound bullshit. Importantly, the findings held even after accounting for cognitive reflectiveness, meaning the tendency to think critically about a problem rather than “going with your gut.”

“This is the first one in a series of studies where we look at parallelisms between cognitive and social rigidity. We know that problem-solving is a form of cognitive flexibility and expresses an overall tendency of questioning the status quo and considering alternative information when reasoning. This shape of thinking is expressed not just when we solve problems but also when we assess information on the internet for example.”

“The relationship between being a good problem solver and detecting fake news we found may also be explained by the willingness to invest time and effort in going beyond the default information. Problem-solving capacity may engender a greater tendency to question the information in news by investigating its accuracy further or by considering alternative and non-obvious explanations.”

Greater insightfulness was also associated with reduced overclaiming. In other words, those who scored higher on the Compound Remote Associate problems were less likely to claim to be familiar with people, events, and topics that had been made-up by the researchers.

The findings were published in the journal Thinking and Reasoning.

Of course, all of this makes perfect sense. Just in my own family I can say that the people who are most hardcore Trump MAGA are the same people who never seemed interested in the nuances of the information they were taking in, when they took in any new information at all. These have always been relatives who, more or less, knew what they believed and refused to believe anything that deviated from their own opinions, no matter how strong the contrary evidence.

There are lots of pundits who say that America’s deepest political divides are as much about tribalism as they are about actual differences of opinion, and once you are in, say, a right-wing tribe, you tend of stick to those beliefs.

But what the 2022 mid-term elections taught us is that Republican votes outnumbered Democratic votes and the reason that Republican gains were kept to a minimum is because so many Republicans split tickets by voting for what passes for “mainstream” Republicans these days, while rejecting outright MAGA Republicans when they had a chance to vote in races containing both. Some Republicans even split their votes by choosing Democrats over MAGA Republicans.

I’d be willing to bet good money that those Republicans who split tickets in this way would be the same people in this study who showed a heightened ability to tell bullshit from fact.

It also points to the importance in education in not just telling students what to think, but also how to think more deeply.

Employers starting to buck the trend toward valuation of college degrees over technical and on-the-job skills training

Wikipedia’s entry calls it “Credentialism and educational inflation,” and describes it as “any of a number of related processes involving increased demands for formal educational qualifications, and the devaluation of these qualifications. In Western society, China, and India, there has been increasing reliance on formal qualifications or certification for jobs. This process has, in turn, led to credential inflation (also known as credential creep, academic inflation, or degree inflation), the process of inflation of the minimum credentials required for a given job and the simultaneous devaluation of the value of diplomas and degrees. There are some occupations that used to require a high school diploma, such as construction supervisors, loan officers, insurance clerks, and executive assistants, that are increasingly requiring a bachelor’s degree.”

I have one friend who tells me that all the higher-level administrative assistants in the graduate school where she works have master’s degrees. You could peruse job sites and apps and easily find medium-level jobs — non-technical, non-scientific jobs — of all sorts which require a bachelor’s degree (doesn’t matter what your major was) that previously required only related experience and a high-school diploma.

The reasons for this are varied, but one of the big reasons has been HR people — many of them degreed themselves when they need not be — who use the possession of a bachelor’s degree as a stand-in for the ability to work hard and be productive. This is despite all evidence that having a college degree alone does not translate into increased productivity or skill in these types of jobs that do not require any special training beyond the ability to learn quickly, synthesize large amounts of administrative information, be super-organized and get along with people.

The great harm this does to society is obvious because it forces people whose earning power will never exceed a certain level to take-on all manner of debt for a college degree they did not need in order to be proficient at these jobs.

Employers, including some of the largest in America, are starting to scale back degree requirements for jobs for which experience and technical skills learned on-the-job are more important than a degree, as this WSJ article by Austen Hufford explains:

Some occupations have universal degree requirements, such as doctors and engineers, while others typically have no higher education requirements, such as retail workers. There is a middle ground, such as tech positions, that have varying degree requirements depending on the industry, company and strength of the labor market and economy.

Lucy Mathis won a scholarship to attend a women in computer science conference. There, she learned about an IT internship at Google and eventually dropped out of her computer science undergraduate program to work at the company full time. The 28-year-old now makes a six-figure sum as a systems specialist.

“I found out I had a knack for IT,” she said. “I’m not good at academics. It’s not for me.”

More than 100,000 people in the U.S. have completed Google’s online college-alternative program that offers training in fast-growing fields such as digital marketing and project management, the company said. It and 150 other companies are now using the program to hire entry-level workers.

The majority of its U.S. roles at IBM no longer require a four-year degree after the company conducted a review of hiring practices, IBM spokeswoman Ashley Bright said.

Delta eased its educational requirements for pilots at the start of this year, saying a four-year college degree was preferred but no longer required of job applicants.

Walmart Inc., the country’s largest private employer, said it values skills and knowledge gained through work experience and that 75% of its U.S. salaried store management started their careers in hourly jobs.

“We don’t require degrees for most of our jobs in the field and increasingly in the home office as well,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart executive vice president, said at an online event this fall. The company’s goal is to shift the “focus from the way someone got their skills, which is the degree, to what skills do they have.”

This is a very good thing to be happening.

Many of the country’s largest employers are starting to scale back the number of jobs for which they require a college degree, choosing instead to value specific job skills training over broad-based degrees from 4-year institutions.

New lawsuit opposes student loan forgiveness because it helps too many non-white people

It’s crazy how much the ascendancy of Donald Trump has allowed right-wing lawyers to say out-loud all the things they used to only say in private.

A Republican legal group in Wisconsin has filed suit against the student loan forgiveness plan because it help non-white people too much.

A group in Wisconsin claims President Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt violates federal law by intentionally seeking to narrow the racial wealth gap and help Black borrowers.

The allegation is among the claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by conservative legal outfit Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on behalf of the Brown County Taxpayers Association. The complaint largely relies on arguments of executive overreach that have been raised in other legal actions to block Biden’s plan.

It stands out, however, by also bringing race into the mix.

In promoting the debt forgiveness plan, the White House has said it could help narrow the racial wealth gap and advance racial equity. But the lawsuit argues that those statements constitute an “improper racial motive” and violate the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

“The White House has indicated that one reason to do this is that they believe it would disproportionately benefit certain racial groups,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. “The racial motivation supports these taxpayers standing to challenge [the policy] and informs yet another constitutional difficulty with the program.”

The president’s policy would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year, or less than $250,000 for married couples. Those who received Pell Grants, federal aid for lower-income students, could see up to $20,000 forgiven.

There are no racial criteria for loan forgiveness. But because of the disparities in who holds student loans, the cancellation policy could have an outsize effect on Black borrowers, who shoulder a disproportionate share of the debt and frequently receive Pell Grants because of a lack of financial resources to attend college.

Lord almighty, we are truly going backwards in this country.

I’m old enough to remember a time when making these kinds of arguments would have drawn denunciations from members of both parties.

Authorities in Missouri seek immediate closure of right-wing Christian ranch for boys

The Agape ranch boarding school in Missouri describes itself as “a non-profit boarding school designed to show God’s love to teen boys struggling with behavior issues that can threaten their future.”

In what surely must be starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to right-wing religious institutions which abuse children, Agape is being described by authorities in Missouri as a place so dangerous to kids it should be closed immediately:

The Missouri Attorney General and state child welfare leaders filed an amended complaint Friday afternoon, saying students must be removed from Agape Boarding School because of a long pattern of abuse.

The complaint, filed in Cedar County Circuit Court, contained additional details that the AG’s office said provided explicit evidence of systemic abuse of students at the unlicensed school near Stockton that has gone on for years.

Those new details also include allegations that Agape provided “incomplete information” to the state in recent days. And it said multiple people still working at the school are appealing their substantiated findings from the Missouri Department of Social Services that they physically abused students. State law allows the staffers to keep working while they appeal the findings.

The Kansas City Star has independently learned that Agape director Bryan Clemensen is one of those who was notified by DSS that he had a substantiated report of abuse against him. Multiple sources also said that Scott Dumar, the school’s longtime medical coordinator, also is among those appealing a substantiated DSS finding. Dumar is also one of five staff members who were charged last year with physical abuse of students.

Speaking of broken records, must anyone point out again that the reason members of the extreme religious Right see grooming sexual abusers behind every liberal curtain is because so many of the right-wingers turn out to be abusers themselves?

I should stress that many of these charges are still allegations. But it’s not every day that law enforcement officials seek the immediate closure of an established Christian boarding school, so they must feel something is terribly amiss.

If the allegations turn out to be true…well, the abuse of kids who’ve already had such tough lives must involve the worst kinds of people.

I was in foster care for the latter part of my childhood, and I had a couple of male authority figures who tried to take advantage of me at different stages of my adolescence. Fortunately, I was cynical and street smart enough to realize they were grooming me. I toyed with them by appearing as if I was falling for their ham-handed attempts to lure me through trust and deception. It was pedophile cat and mouse. Except the cat didn’t know the mouse was in control.

I should have contacted authorities, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time. I thought they were pathetic and put them out of my mind once I got rid of them by becoming angry and making it clear I knew what they were doing. Nothing chases away a pedophile faster than calling them what they are to their face.

But I also ached for the father figure I never had in my life, and I can understand how, if I were a little more naïve and trusting, those encounters could have gone south pretty quickly.

And to do these things under the guise of “God’s love”?

Horrible. Just horrible.

It’s not just loan forgiveness; Biden also re-wrote loan repayment terms for many students

One of the things I try to stress to conservative boomers my age is the fact that, when we were young in the 1960s and ’70s, corporations paid something resembling their fair share of taxes, at least with federal taxes.

The federal corporate rate was graduated, with top rates on corporate income over $25,000 topping out between 48 and 52 percent. (It’s now 21 percent tops.)

And that system in the 1960s and ’70s seemed perfectly normal to everyone, and a lot of corporations just paid their taxes because there weren’t all of the overseas tax havens where corporations could claim a post office box in Malta as their headquarters.

(An aside: Malta had been effectively taxing foreign corporations at a rate of 5% even if their “headquarters” was a single-person office above a laundromat. Malta is being punished, at least for now, because of the way it encouraged these kinds of tax crimes. Great article here.)

The point of all of this is that, when corporations were good civic citizens, cities and towns and states had plenty of money to have people on their payrolls who were paid livable wages. Teachers weren’t paying for school supplies, schools had plenty of books and school nurses and guidance counselors and music/art programs. Public parks and street/bridge repairs were adequate to what was needed.

Public universities and colleges were well-funded by the state and federal governments and, in fact, got much of their operating budgets from public funds. So tuition was also low.

Then the Republican Party started to be taken over by right-wing billionaires who financed candidates and ad campaigns to convince Americans that corporate taxes were too high, that private sector workers were somehow inherently more efficient than government employees (they’re not) and that every dollar spent on government was a dollar that corporations could not spend to improve their profits that those corporations would magically “trickle down” to average workers.

Of course none of that money trickled down and today we know that record corporate profits end up nowhere remotely close to average workers, but instead make fabulously rich people even richer.

I bring all this up because my fellow boomers seems to forget how well government functioned before Ronald Reagan was elected. How much more fair it was– to everyone.

And once you realize how much better you had it than college students today, perhaps you can actually be happy about the things outlined in this CNBC article:

The day the Biden administration unveiled its highly anticipated student loan forgiveness plan was a “celebratory day” for Justin Short.

Short, 34, graduated from the University of Missouri in 2012 with a degree in hospitality management, $47,000 in federal student loans and $5,800 in private student loans. Like many borrowers, his college debt has plagued his personal and financial decisions for years.

So while he found relief in many of the announcements coming from the White House on Aug. 24 — $10,000 in debt forgiveness, another payment pause extension through the end of the year — Short was most interested in the announcement of proposed changes to income-driven repayment plans.

The Department of Education’s new plan would cap monthly payments on undergraduate debt to 5% of discretionary income, down from the usual 10% to 15% on existing plans.

The proposal also raises the amount of money considered non-discretionary income and shielded from being used to calculate student loan payments.

It would cover any accrued unpaid interest so that no borrower’s balance would grow if they made a qualifying payment.

And it would forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of the usual 20, for those with original loan balances of $12,000 or less

This “sleeper” detail of the loan forgiveness plan could be “a game-changer” for millions of borrowers with remaining balances, says Julie Peller, executive director at Higher Learning Advocates, a bipartisan higher education nonprofit.

“I wish people were talking about this more than the $10,000 piece,” Short says, “because this will put more money into the pockets of everyday, middle-class Americans who need that extra help, especially when student loan payments resume on Jan. 1.”

“This has huge implications,” he adds.

As I said earlier, college was cheap for most boomers who attended public universities. So cheap that student loans tended to be small — if you had one at all — and the terms favored students instead of the banks. Unlike today where even some student loan borrowers who pay regularly on their loans watch in horror as the principal barely goes down. (See this article about student loan borrowers who are now paying on student loans into their retirement years.)

If you had suggested to boomers when we went to college that we would have to borrow $100K or more, on terms that meant we would be paying until after we retire, we would have thought you were crazy.

So loan forgiveness seems like simple fairness to today’s students whose only real mistake is that they were born too late to benefit from the way things used to — and still should — operate.

Because, even those of us boomers who had students loans and paid them off were still recipients of government educational assistance. We just never saw it because it went to the universities and colleges to subsidize our low tuition.

College students in the 1970s.

Why have the Republicans not yet filed suit against Biden’s student loan forgiveness program?

Thus far no Republicans (or their conservative front groups) have filed suit against President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, although they are preening for any reporter who will listen about how the program is the end of constitutional government as we know it.

The New Republic’s Matt Ford takes a look at the reasons why the GOP might have a hard time coming up with ways to battle the student loan forgiveness program in court — including a law originally meant to forgive the student loans of people directly affected by 9/11:

Student loan relief appears to be different. No such lawsuit has been filed against the Biden administration to stop the order from taking effect. It’s far from clear whether one can even be properly filed to challenge it. And even if one is filed, the Biden administration has good reason to think it can win. For this apparent victory, Democrats can thank the unlikeliest of duos: former President George W. Bush and the “war on terror.”

From where does Biden claim the power to wipe away so much student debt? The White House pointed to the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, or HEROES Act for short. The law sprang from the September 11 attacks and a temporary measure passed by Congress in 2001 to allow the president to waive certain student loan requirements for those affected by the attacks. In 2003, Congress passed a broader version of the law in light of the then-ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the large number of U.S. servicemembers who would have to repay loans while serving overseas. Though it was temporary at first, Congress later extended it in 2005 and then made it permanent in 2007.

From their we go to another TNR article, this time by Julian Epp, who writes that he is one of the fortunate who will be aided by the loan forgiveness program. But Epp also writes of the people who will be left behind. Good piece.

And, finally, Epp links to this New Yorker article I managed to miss: The Aging Student Debtors of America: In an era of declining wages and rising debt, Americans are not aging out of their student loans—they are aging into them.

Crazy how the student-centered student loans from when I went to school have morphed into the blood-sucking vampires of debt that I never would have faced or even thought possible to face.

Two-thirds of Americans think Biden’s student loan plan is correct or didn’t go far enough

The Republican playbook since the time of Reagan has been to take a bunch of billionaires and use their money to elect pro-Wall Street politicians from Harvard and Yale, then teach those politicians to espouse rhetoric about their love of the working class and “real Americans” those same politicians ultimately despise and work against.

Ted Cruz is currently on tour saying about student loan forgiveness, “What President Biden has, in effect, decided to do is to take from working-class people, to take from truck drivers and construction workers right now, thousands of dollars in taxes in order to redistribute it to college graduates who have student loans.”

The New York Times‘ always excellent Jamelle Bouie has a column posted that reminds all of us how ridiculous this is for so many reasons:

Now, as I noted over the weekend, this way of thinking betrays an ignorance of working-class life in this country. To work as a truck driver or a medical technician or a home inspector or any number of other similar blue-collar jobs, you need training, licenses, certifications. People go to school to meet these requirements. They apply for the same federal student loans and take on the same debt as someone going to college. And many of these Americans labor under the burden of that debt because of high costs and lower-than-expected earnings. (To say nothing of those who attended college, took on debt, but didn’t graduate.)

The idea that student loan relief is a handout to a small minority of affluent college graduates is simply a myth.

But even if you put all this aside, there is also the fact that these would-be spokesmen for working-class and blue-collar Americans aren’t actually speaking for working-class and blue-collar Americans. The polls, so far, make this clear.

The first poll since the plan was announced, from Emerson College, shows broad approval from across the electorate. When asked about loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 for borrowers making under $125,000 a year — one of the key planks of Biden’s plan — 35 percent of respondents said it was “just about the right amount of action.” This might not seem like much, but then consider the 30 percent of respondents who said $10,000 worth of relief was “not enough.” Presumably, this group will support the current plan but wishes it would go even further — bringing the total number of supporters to almost two-thirds of Americans. Just over a third of respondents, by contrast, said that Biden’s plan went too far.

That’s right: 2/3 of Americans think that Biden’s student loan plan was “just about right” or didn’t go far enough. Don’t let the right-wing tell you otherwise.

You can read the rest of Bouie’s column at this link.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), the Harvard-educated lawyer who falsely portrays himself a hero of the working class, shown as he was famously escaping to Cancun while people in his state were freezing to death.

A bit of good news about Catholicism and Omaha

People love to bash the Catholic Church. But, Catholicism in America is, operationally speaking, controlled largely by each diocese and its bishops and cardinals. Those leaders exist across the left-right spectrum.

Then there are the Jesuits, who ultimately answer to the Pontiff and Rome, but who often chart a more progressive path independent of local diocesan bishops who do not control the Jesuits or their schools.

Such is the case in Omaha, of all places, where the panic over transgender students reared its ugly head when the Diocese of Omaha issued an edict about transgender issues in local schools.

Under the new policy — set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — students may be expelled, and teachers could be fired, if they ask to be identified as transgender. 

But the biggest names in Catholic schools in Omaha, including Duchesne (all girls) and Creighton Prep (all boys) have made it clear they will not be following the rules of the archdiocese:

“We exist to care for our kids. That’s why we’re here,” said Father Matt Spotts, president of Creighton Prep High School.

Spotts told 6 News he’s had to emphasize this point repeatedly after the Archdiocese of Omaha issued a new transgender policy requiring staff to treat people according to their biological sex at birth.

Spotts said Creighton Prep has different guidelines and doesn’t plan to make any changes.

“Every single student that walks through our doors is created in the image and likeness of God. That’s one of our most important and fundamental values,” he said.

Like most Catholic high schools in the Omaha metro area, Spotts said, Creighton Prep is independent and not required to follow the new policy.

“That is something that’s hard for a lot of folks to grasp,” he said.

Other independent Catholic high schools in Omaha include Duchesne, Marian, Mercy, Mount Michael, and the Jesuit Academy. Only three high schools are governed by the Archdiocese of Omaha: Gross, Roncalli, and Skutt.

The new transgender policy has caused so much confusion that many schools are sending out emails to parents to clarify.

It should also be noted that 9,000-student Creighton University, arguably the most prestigious 4-year university in the region if you’re not considering football prominence, had last year its first openly gay undergraduate student body president. That didn’t cause so much as a ripple in the area.

Creighton also was a leader in local COVID responses, requiring all students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated. The university fought (and won) when several students took Creighton to court over the requirement.

You can read the rest of the article about the trans policy, and the schools’ letters sent out to parents, at this link.

Catholics and Catholic thought are not monolithic, although they are often presented as such. That these schools and this university are pushing back against conservative policies proves that.

An aerial view of part of the Creighton campus.

These WSJ reporters do a good job of answering student debt forgiveness questions

I’ve seen a few articles thus far which purport to give you “Six Takeaways About Student Debt Forgiveness” or something like that.

However this Q&A with Wall Street Journal personal-finance reporter Julia Carpenter and WSJ podcast host host J.R. Whalen cleared up more questions I had than any other:

J.R. Whalen: All right. So first of all, Julia, who’s eligible to have part of their student loans forgiven?

Julia Carpenter: Borrowers with federal student loan debt are eligible for up to $10,000 in relief if they earn less than $125,000 a year or under $250,000 a year for couples. The other thing is people who received Federal Pell Grants in college will also be eligible for up to $20,000 in forgiveness, and Pell Grant recipient graduates hold about $4,500 more in debt than other graduates.

J.R. Whalen: Yeah. And usually Pell grants are usually awarded only to undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need. Now, how about people with private loans?

Julia Carpenter: Unfortunately, only federal student loan borrowers are eligible for this loan forgiveness.

J.R. Whalen: Okay. So how about Parent Plus Loans, where families borrow money to help a student pay for their education? How do they work into this?

Julia Carpenter: So the forgiveness applies to borrowers of both Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS programs. Families can borrow the total cost of attendance, that’s room and board, other expenses. And this forgiveness applies to federal loans for both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as to Parent PLUS Loans.

J.R. Whalen: Now, we should also mention that the pause on student loan repayments that’s been in place since early in the pandemic, that’s also been extended. And now the date that payments are set to resume is December 31st. But I want to ask about the timing for the debt forgiveness. When does that kick in?

Julia Carpenter: The Department of Education says we’ll get more details in the next few weeks, but the timing’s a little unclear right now. We know that this will definitely happen before student loan payments are set to resume in January 2023.

J.R. Whalen: Okay. So what does a borrower have to do to take advantage of the forgiveness?

Julia Carpenter: Nothing yet. Wait until you receive a notification from your loan servicer. Before that happens, beware of any friendly-sounding phone calls or suspicious-looking emails from addresses you don’t recognize. Even before the announcement was made official on Wednesday, I personally received two different phone calls with voicemails and friendly-sounding people saying, “Hi, I’m your student loan servicer. Just call me. I have to confirm some details with you.” So this might be an opportunity for some scam calls, spoof messages, anything from people trying to get your personal data. And in the meantime, double check the information you’ve already shared with your loan servicer and the studentaid.gov website. If you’ve recently moved, or if you’ve changed any of your contact information, you’re going to want to make sure that they have the most up-to-date addresses.

J.R. Whalen: Oh, okay. Now what if somebody owes less than $10,000 in federal loans?

Julia Carpenter: So if you owe less than $10,000 on your loan, congratulations! You’ll now be student debt-free.

J.R. Whalen: Well, that’ll be a relief to some people. Now how about those who have already paid off their student loans?

Julia Carpenter: Unfortunately, the forgiveness isn’t retroactive and won’t apply to balances that have already been paid off.

J.R. Whalen: Julia, debt forgiveness is often treated as income and has to be accounted for on tax returns. What’s the situation in this case?

Julia Carpenter: Fortunately for borrowers, this canceled student debt is federally tax-exempt, and we’ve seen that in other federal student debt forgiveness programs. And so in this case, you would not have to account for this federal forgiveness on your tax return.

I had student loans I paid off, and I do not feel at all cheated that someone else is going to get something I didn’t. That is how the world works, time marches on, and I am happy that anyone is able to spend $10K or $20K in what are likely to be more productive ways for the economy than sending the money to loan servicers every month.

After all, as many others besides me have noted, Wall Street and the GOP didn’t think twice about giving massive economy-busting tax breaks to business in 2017. And some of the loudest voices in the right-wing echo chamber screaming about a piddling $10K to students, got hundreds of thousands of dollars in government COVID relief loans forgiven 100% — just wiped out. They didn’t have to pay a penny, no matter how much profit they are making.

Conservatives and big business love when the government gives them money. When it goes to average Americans? That pisses them off.