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As we reported on Tuesday, Qorvis Communications, a top public relations firm in Washington, has taken the lead in the student loan industry's efforts to manufacture grassroots student opposition to legislation that would eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program. But getting students to rally behind an unpopular industry that profits from their indebtedness has not proven to be an easy task. The firm's desperation has become all too evident in recent weeks.
Take, for instance, the case of Patrick McBride. In a press release announcing the launch of its "Protect Student Choice" public relations effort, Qorvis officials listed McBride, a student at Vanderbilt University, as one of four "local campaign members" -- with the others being leaders of non-profit student loan agencies.
But who is McBride? A former colleague of ours, the enterprising Ben Miller of Education Sector, sought to find out. In an interview he conducted with McBride, Miller learned that he was a first-semester freshman who got interested in the issue while doing research on the Internet. McBride, who would not say whether or not he had taken out student loans (although he added that he "did not have a stake" in the issue), was initially "ambivalent" about the student loan reform legislation. But after talking to David Mohning, the university's financial aid director and a longtime supporter of the FFEL program, he was convinced that the bill was a bad idea.
Seventy percent of practicing physicians in Massachusetts -- specialists and primary care doctors -- support health reform, and 75 percent want to continue the policies (although nearly half want some changes), according to the Harvard School of Public Health study funded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.
Only 13 percent of physicians in the state oppose the health reforms created through the legislation, and just seven percent believe the policies should be repealed.
The findings suggest that it is possible to provide near-universal coverage of the population and have a resulting system that most physicians believe improves care for the uninsured without undermining their ability to provide care to their patients," said Harvard professor Robert Blendon, one of the study's authors, (and as our regular readers know, a favorite go-to guy for insights into to the politics of health reform.)
Tuesday, October 20th I attended a summit pulled together by the National Disability Institute as part of their "Real Economic Impact Tour." The REI tour is "is a national, public/private initiative assisting low income persons with disabilities with asset building strategies, free tax preparation and filing assistance." Worthwhile stuff and very interesting, there's a lot of work to be done in the assets field for people with disabilities and special challenges faced because of some of the bureaucratic barriers created by programs serving those individuals.
Regardless, one of the presenters at the summit was from the Veteran's Administration (Sunil Gupta) and he began his remarks in Admiral Stockdale-like fashion, asking "Who Am I? Why is the VA here?"
We'll have much more on yesterday's Bernard Schwartz Economic Growth Symposium, "The Jobs Deficit," in the days to come (in the meantime, photos and video of the panels and Jared Bernstein's keynote address are available here). But one idea that was much-discussed at the symposium, and has been getting a lot of play recently in the national media, is Timothy Bartik's proposal for a job creation tax credit...
The Nationals may have never had a shot at the playoffs, but Washington's senators are still playing hardball in October.
Much of the action centers on the public plan, which has reemerged as one of the central issues in merging the Senate's HELP and Finance bills.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus told reporters on Monday that he believed a "pure public option" did not have the votes to pass the Senate, but that there were many options on the table that could form the basis of a compromise.
In a speech on global imbalances, Fed Chairman Bernanke again warned about the need to put the U.S. on a sustainable fiscal path, saying: "The United States must increase its national saving rate. Although we should deploy, as best we can, tools to increase private saving, the most effective way to accomplish this goal is by establishing a sustainable fiscal trajectory, anchored by a clear commitment to substantially reduce federal deficits over time." This is very similar to the advice CRFB has been recommending...
It's no wonder Americans are deeply suspicious of special interest lobbyists in Washington. Take the student loan industry's latest efforts to kill legislation pending in Congress that would end the Federal Family Education Loan program. It's a prime example of special interest lobbying at its worst.
In 2007, shortly after President Bush signed into law a bill cutting government subsidies to lenders and guaranty agencies, the student loan industry bought into a new strategy to thwart any future Congressional action that might reduce its subsidies further: manufactured grass roots opposition (otherwise known as astroturfing). With Democrats firmly in control of Congress and in a good position to take back the White House in the upcoming presidential election, industry officials knew that the FFEL program was in jeopardy.
Enter Qorvis Communications, a prominent Washington-based public relations firm that had gained notoriety earlier in the decade for its work on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government. Eager for the loan industry's business, one of the firm's partners made a pitch for the company at the 2007 legislative conference of the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs, a trade group that represents guaranty agencies and non-profit lenders. In a power-point presentation entitled "What Just Hit Us?", this Qorvis executive said that the loan industry had lost the loan subsidy battle because it "had no organized constituency" to "counter" its critics.
People hear "medical home" and they aren't exactly sure what it means. Judith Graham of the Chicago Tribune explains.
It's a new model of primary care that can address a lot of what drives us crazy in U.S. medicine (at least those of us with doctors and insurance). There isn't yet precise agreement on what a medical home is, or who it should serve, but usually the idea is a way to improve primary care, with particular emphasis on prevention and control of chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
So instead of long waits and rushed visits, Graham writes, imagine this:
The White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) this week released the report "Educational Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act." The report paints a rosy picture of the effect of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds on state education spending and reform.
ARRA funds have no doubt helped states make ends meet during the economic downturn. But our work (here and here) suggests that, despite a positive impact on education spending, the full effects of ARRA remain to be seen due to the slow rate at which states have disbursed funds to school districts.
"I am a Republican who did not vote for President Obama," writes John Hewko, public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, however, "I support his health-care initiative because I have just experienced first-hand our system's dysfunctional wrath -- and it isn't pretty."
As we've written before, our health care system fails the people that need it the most when they need it the most. But it also fails -- as Hewko argues -- the "lucky ones" who are healthy and financially secure. And that tells us that the system is indeed in big trouble.