“I Will Be Paying It Until I Die”

"It seems like the administration has actually made this issue worse by proposing an idea and then having zero followup"

Hey, it’s Eoin from The Flashpoint. Here’s a snippet from a story I published this morning about the restarting student loan repayments that begin again on February 1. 

Check out the full piece here.

“Your payments will restart after Jan. 31, 2022."

That’s the message that was sent to tens of millions of Americans last month, letting them know that the Covid-related student loan repayment freeze is coming to an end. It’s already causing stress and frustration. 

President Joe Biden could erase the debt with the stroke of his executive pen. But he doesn’t seem prepared to do that. That waffling on loan forgiveness has angered many people. For borrower Nick DeSisto, the prospect of loan forgiveness now having been "realistically floated," the idea of paying it off in bulk doesn't make much sense. Instead, he told me, he intends to wait in hopes that some—or all—of the debt is forgiven.

"If anything, it seems like the administration has actually made this issue worse by proposing an idea and then having zero followup," DeSisto said. "There should be closure before payments are restarted or everyone is going to either not make payments or just pay the minimum—like I will—which will tank credit scores and add to the debt with more interest accumulating."

Many of the people I talked to for a story on the looming crisis felt that Biden's promises were empty—and that he had betrayed them. Nathan Melby, a public school special education teacher, told me he felt "abandoned by Joe Biden and his garbage promises that he cared about student loan debt." With $50,000 still owed for his MA in special education, Melby said, "I have basically resigned myself to the fact that I will be paying it until I die. I only make enough to pay the minimum every month."

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I’ll have more infuriating stories this month about police misconduct, anti-vaxxers, and more. 

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Okay, now here’s what the rest of the gang’s been up to.



Welcome to Hell World

Luke O’Neil

The Rube Goldberg Machine of Pain is a concept I return to often in Hell World:

Technically denying life saving and desperately needed money to people during a pandemic isn't killing them in the same way that shooting them would be it's just inserting the ball into the Rube Goldberg machine of pain that provides an exonerating and distancing sleight of hand between cause and effect.

This is how governance works in America. Setting violence and suffering into motion through policy or indifference to policy is fine and civil and within the bounds of decency because it takes longer and is done from far away. We all know this of course.

In that regard last week I turned my sights on Kyrsten Sinema, currently being chased into a port-a-potty as we speak one hopes, and modest not all that expensive yacht-owner Joe Manchin.

How are people like this walking around out there not constantly bedeviled? I am routinely bedeviled and I haven’t even done anything harmful!.. yet these people whose job is to represent our interests seem to float freely through the world unbothered and unmolested by either conscience or grief. What has it got to be like to be able to live like that?

Read it here.

Then yesterday I wrote a really fucking meandering and messy one on dead fathers and Catholic horror and Midnight Mass and the Sandman comics and how quickly we’ll all be forgotten someday. :)

There was some Vox piece about Midnight Mass that everyone was really pissed off about the other day in which the writer was disappointed that the show is too religious and that makes it less effective horror or something who even knows people can write anything they want out there these days. One of the typical responses to the piece I saw on Twitter was how it seemed to overlook that Catholicism Is Real is like an entire genre of horror unto itself maybe one of the most iconic and that is true for sure. There’s good reason for that too because if all of the Catholic shit were real it would be just about the most terrifying thing I can think of besides for one other thing which is what if absolutely none of it is.

Read it here.

Foreign Exchanges

Derek Davison

In the second part of his first Foreign Exchanges column (part one is here), Alex Aviña looks at the history of the US Army’s Fort Huachuca base and the role it’s played in militarizing the US-Mexico border:

First built in 1877, Fort Huachuca represented one part of the Army’s counterinsurgent strategy against the Apaches: the building of an estimated 50 forts and camps in Arizona—along with reservations—that allowed for the rapid deployment of cavalry to locate and fight Apache warriors. This was a classic guerrilla war. “Fighting the Apache,” wrote the fort’s biographer, “was like fighting the wind.” In the final battles against Geronimo in 1885-1886, the fort served as the main headquarters for the last commander of the campaign, General Nelson Miles.

With extensive experience waging war against indigenous communities in Texas and the Great Plains, Miles bought a technological innovation into the Geronimo campaign (borrowed from British colonial efforts in Africa and India): the use of heliographs (mirrors) to signal messages across long distances between dispersed forts located on mountain tops that could locate and communicate the location of Apaches moving in the valleys below. These were the first “drones,” one of the first counterinsurgent technologies that attempted to resolve the issue that still beguiles “border enforcers” today: how to render the borderlands and border crossers as legible—or, in other words, how to translate surveillance into social control.\

Wars of Future Past

Kelsey D. Atherton

Being a military reporter means having a misaligned schedule with other reports covering the doings of Congress. As all eyes in Washington turn to see if the Democratic Party can deliver a spending bill worth $350 billion annually over the next decade, the big defense spending bill sailed through at over twice that. The FY 2022 NDAA is at $770 billion, and cleared the House easily with 316 yeas and 113 votes against. It’s expected, like every defense spending bill for as long as I can remember, to easily clear the Senate.

My specific part of the military beat is mostly robots and weapons, the end stages of contracts and how they end up in service. There’s others far better versed in the particulars of the budget math, but even just the numbers I see show a budget reality divorced from that over hard fights over how cruel Manchin wants to make handouts.

Ghost Fleet Overlord, a program to test robot ships for future naval war, spends tens of millions on hulls alone, to say nothing of the labor and weapons and automation that go into the process. HAWC, or the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, is a DARPA program for a category of missile that doesn’t really have a specific use case yet. In 2016, HAWC-maker Raytheon received a contract worth up to $174 million to develop the weapon. These programs, just a couple in my coverage from the last month, involve sums of money trivial by Pentagon standards but ones that would loom large in virtually any other budget.

In the next Wars of Future Past, I’m going to take some time to dive into this weird parallel budget world, and talk about the sort of affirmative industrial policy the United States has. There’s money for jobs and capital-intensive projects, but those projects have to be intimately bound to the security state and the production of corpses to sail through Congress.

All Cops Are Posters

After an accidental hiatus, ACAP came back Tuesday with a bit of a grab-bag—I talked about the implications (or maybe lack thereof?) the Gabby Petito media frenzy has for the nature of policing, a bizarre TikTok trend where beautiful European 19-year-olds are pretending to get arrested for acts of romantic valor, and dropped in a quick mention of one cop’s burrito-fueled joyride as a kicker. Here’s a bonus example of that TikTok trend, in which parents pretend to arrest a very upset-looking baby. Disgusting!

I’m working on some slightly more focused installations for the next few weeks, so stay tuned and thanks for being patient—and, as always, I love tips

Forever Wars

Spencer Ackerman

Last week we documented the Biden White House’s senior counterterrorism official laying out a template for the Biden era of the War on Terror. Surprising no one, it looks a lot like the Obama-era template. Then I had some things to say about WikiLeaks and press freedom but also promoting my unexpected appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Tomorrow we’re going to go into a surveillance issue.

BORDER/LINES

Gaby Del Valle & Felipe De La Hoz

One of the most common refrains among those who don’t know much about immigration law (and among those who try to use the general public ignorance of immigration law to justify restrictionist policies) is that deportation officers are just “enforcing the law.” There’s a conflation of immigration proceedings, which happen in a civil context, with criminal law. In the popular imagination, undocumented immigrants committed the “crime” of entering the U.S. without permission or overstaying their visa (which, for the record, is not actually a crime), and deportation is the punishment for these offenses. 

But the truth is a lot more complex than that. Immigration enforcement is highly discretionary, and every presidential administration makes decisions about how to enforce immigration law and to whom the law applies. In last week’s edition of the newsletter, we analyzed the Biden administration’s recently published enforcement priorities, and contextualized them within the broader history of discretion as it relates to immigration enforcement

Discourse Blog

Hello everyone and welcome to Kyrsten Sinema week, the week where it’s all Kyrsten Sinema all the time. Is this what Kyrsten Sinema wants? Probably. But it is nice to sometimes see her confronted with the consequences of her (in)actions

Last week we wrote quite a bit about consequences. Sam Grasso wrote about Texas’s legislature refusing to accept responsibility for their treatment of the state’s energy grid, and I wrote about the other shoe that is still yet to drop after Democrats successfully averted a government shutdown. Jack Mirkinson wrote about Sinema’s free PR hit on Axios, and Paul Blest wrote about the bizarre evolution of Occupy Democrats, one of the worst outfits on the web.  If you’re looking for lighter fair, Rafi’s piece on Donald Trump’s obsession with showtunes is a real banger. That’s it for us this week!