Speaking Of Punitive…

One of the cases the Supreme Court will decide this term is a lawsuit brought by Republican Attorneys General opposed to cancellation of a portion of student loan debt. Evidently, Indiana isn’t the only Red state with a despicable and arguably dishonest Attorney General, as a Brookings Institution study documents.

The AGs aren’t the only opponents of giving students some fiscal breathing room –the House of Representatives recently voted to repeal the program. But as Brookings  researchers write in the linked New York Times essay, the lawsuit  brought by six Republican-led states has received inadequate scrutiny.

So we decided to do the fact-checking ourselves. We filed public records requests and reviewed almost a thousand pages of internal financial documents, emails and other communications from the parties in the case, as well as court filings and the transcript of oral arguments at the Supreme Court in February.

We found that the states’ most fundamental justification for bringing the case — that canceling student loans could leave a Missouri-based loan authority unable to meet its financial obligations to the state — is false. As our research shows, and the loan authority’s own documents confirm, even with the new policy in place, its revenues from servicing loans will increase.

That this claim is manufactured–that it is a lie– is important.

Unlike legal systems that permit advisory opinions, in America, if there’s no injury, there’s no right to sue. The legal term is standing, and according to Brookings, the plaintiffs don’t have it. They simply said they did. (With our current Court–a Court that demonstrably privileges litigants with status and power –that may be enough.)

As the researchers note,

The ease with which the state attorneys general were able to make claims that contradict basic facts, void of any rigorous stress testing, is all the more striking when compared with the endless hoops that ordinary people have to jump through to prove their eligibility for financial aid or debt relief. This is what the sociologist Howard Becker calls the “hierarchy of credibility”: Those at the top of the social hierarchy don’t have to prove their claims; they’re just taken for granted. But claims made by those on the bottom are burdened by skepticism and demands for proof. In this instance, that difference may deprive millions of people of much-needed relief….

Compare that with the lengths that normal people must go to in order to prove they are eligible for debt relief. They have to submit mountains of documentation. Their claims are often denied for the most trivial of technicalities — a form filled out with green ink instead of black or blue, an electronic signature instead of an inked one.

Applicants for the older Public Service Loan Forgiveness program have to get paperwork signed from employers they had a decade ago. If a loan servicer transfers the account, the borrower may lose her payment history, and therefore her eligibility for relief. People who attended predatory for-profit colleges have had to submit extensive applications for relief, documenting their schools’ false allegations and misrepresentations. Even the Biden plan required an application.

The linked essay goes into detail, thoroughly debunking the damage claims that support plaintiffs’ standing, and I encourage you to click through and read that analysis. But I want to focus on a different–albeit related–question: what policy position does this dishonesty serve?

To put it another way, why are so many Americans–mostly but not exclusively Republicans–so opposed to relieving student debt?

In the final paragraph of the linked essay, the researchers write that an affirmation of the plaintiff’s claim would

effectively be confirming a fake plaintiff, false facts and an unjust claim. Falsehoods about falsehoods would be a hard way to lose the debt relief the president promised to 43 million Americans and their families. And a Supreme Court that doesn’t scrutinize basic facts would be a further disgrace for a body already plagued by scandal.

I’ve previously noted how punitive today’s GOP has become. Here in Indiana, we’ve seen our Attorney General wage a petty vendetta against a doctor who legally aborted a ten-year-old rape victim. We’ve seen legislators go out of their way to harm trans children and dismiss the very notion that women are entitled to bodily autonomy and effective health care.

Nationally, we’ve witnessed GOP efforts to punish the poorest Americans by curtailing social welfare programs (while protecting the rich against attempts to audit them or–gasp!–make them pay their fair share.)

American lawmakers used to argue about the “how”–what’s the most effective way to help this or that population, or solve this or that problem? But “how” has given way to “why”–why would we want to help the less fortunate?

When did the cruelty become the point?


  1. Cruelty is the primary reason Jim Crow laws were put in place to begin with. No difference for Jim Crow 2.

  2. “To put it another way, why are so many Americans–mostly but not exclusively Republicans–so opposed to relieving student debt?”

    I don’t believe the opposition is against “relieving student debt”, it is the opposition against what was termed “forgiving student debt” and has now become a confusing issue taken to the Supreme Court by Republicans filing lies to take before their Republican based justices. Once in the Supreme Court; actions cannot be taken on those particular cases. That loans come from profit-making sources assures a fight to protect profit at any cost and by any means…including filing lies.

    Is anyone investigating the source of the level of student fees resulting in loans which take almost as long as a mortgage on a home to pay off? Students signed on to repay the loans being aware of the full amounts; it has been (I think) less than 10 years ago that student loans began requiring co-signers which puts the debt on family members or friends who are now the ones seeking “relief” for these debts in many cases. Too often the student didn’t complete their education or there were no jobs for their chosen field. The student’s end result was never part of the loan agreement.

    “American lawmakers used to argue about the “how”–what’s the most effective way to help this or that population, or solve this or that problem? But “how” has given way to “why”–why would we want to help the less fortunate?” That “why” translates to the dreaded word “deserving”, leaving another faction of the “less fortunate” in the hole.

  3. In relation to your cruelty argument, I think we ought to examine the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County’s grasping–shall we say cruel?–attempt to yank away from millions of Americans their right to sue a government entity and in effect kill Medicaid. The US Supreme Court just ruled 7-2 that their effort was beyond the pale. A good analysis of the case and ruling is here https://www.vox.com/scotus/2023/6/8/23754267/supreme-court-ketanji-brown-jackson-medicaid-health-hospital-talevski Should there be a serious shake up in the HHC–the people who run our county hospital–in light of their attempt to save a few bucks but destroy the social safety-net?

  4. Like a cage full of birds,
    So their houses are full of deception. That is why they have become powerful and rich.
    They have grown fat and smooth;
    They overflow with evil.
    They do not plead the legal case of the fatherless,That they may gain success; And they deny justice to the poor.”
    (Jeremiah the 5th chapter)

    Psalm 82:2
    2 “How long will you continue to judge with injustice
    And show partiality to the wicked?”

    Isaiah 1:23
    23 “Your princes are stubborn and partners with thieves. Every one of them loves a bribe and chases after gifts. They do not grant justice to the fatherless, And the legal case of the widow never reaches them.”

    Deuteronomy 27:19
    19 “‘Cursed is the one who perverts the judgment of a foreign resident, a fatherless child, or a widow.’

    James 1:27
    27 The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.

    In the Mosaic law, or the law of Christ, there is supposed to be compassion and empathy for those struggling. Unfortunately these politicians who claim to be religious seem to miss the point. Either that, or they don’t really believe in their so-called beliefs. I think the latter is the truth of the matter.

    Whether one chooses to believe it or not, scripture gives us a moral outline, and, it has nothing to do with these hypocritical religious individuals and entities. They don’t follow scripture anyway, they reproach it!

    2 Thessalonians 2:3
    “Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.”


    1 John 2:18
    “Young children, it is the last hour, and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared, from which fact we know that it is the last hour.”

    I see many that conduct themselves as antichrists today, because they refuse to follow his law, Even though they claim to be followers!

  5. Today’s blog is almost like Part Two of yesterday’s, which addressed the abysmal state of healthcare and denying access to low-income folks if even a pittance is owed. It’s almost gone beyond simply ensuring that wealthy people are immune from such trivialities like paying their fair share of taxes—which they could do and never miss the money, except they love seeing all those zeros in their ledgers—but almost like they lie awake at night wondering, What can we do to make life more miserable for the little guys? Cruelty, indeed.

  6. The R’s have always been cruel, at least in my adult lifetime (i.e., starting with Nixon…). They just used to be more charming, e.g., Ronnie Reagan and the Bush’s.

  7. Sheila,

    Micah 2
    2 “Woe to those who scheme what is harmful,
    Who work out evil on their beds!
    When morning light comes they carry it out,
    Because it is in the power of their hand.
    2 They desire fields and seize them;
    Also houses, and they take them;
    They defraud a man of his house,
    A man of his inheritance.”

    Proverbs the 6th chapter states The description of reprobates in authority.

    “Haughty eyes,
    a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
    18 A heart plotting wicked schemes, and feet that run quickly to evil,
    19 A false witness who lies with every breath,
    And anyone sowing contentions among brothers.”

    There’s no decency in the above mentioned people, they’ve completely immersed themselves in self-righteous moral debauchery.

  8. The correlation between cruelty and evil is undeniable, and self-centeredness often accompanies them. It’s natural to question the sincerity of those in the church who claim to follow Jesus and God when their actions contradict their words. Many continue to live a life of sin despite their professed faith.

    To be “woke” means to recognize and overcome hypocrisy, self-centeredness, and darkness. It requires acknowledging that you are not the center of the universe and that there is a higher power beyond yourself. As John taught in Christianity, evil people behave cruelly, but light overcomes darkness.

    Wokeness involves loving everyone and seeing yourself as interconnected with others, rather than viewing life as a competition. Unfortunately, many are turned off by the hypocrisy of religious individuals, leading to a decline in Christianity’s following.

    It’s essential for woke individuals to prioritize loving their neighbors rather than condemning or judging them. While achieving pure wokeness is a lofty goal, it’s a gradual process of moving from darkness into light.

  9. John, since the reprobates “swear upon a bible,” they should follow God’s moral law. They can’t achieve that simple command.

    There is an abundance of reprobates in both political parties. Only a handful advocate an end to perpetual wars – thou shall not kill. 😉

  10. The reason, or at least one of the major reasons, that Republicans don’t trust the poor is that they know that they have lied and cheated (George Santos anyone?) to get where they are and continue to do so at every opportunity for advantage. If they are lying and cheating, sure the poor must be also, so it’s imperative that they be triple checked to make sure that we keep our privileges as people with money.

  11. One of the hallmarks of humanity is the capacity to produce falsehoods. The references to the bible
    remind me of so many falsehoods that have led to the birth of various religions, from Scientology, to this, to that..
    just fill in the blanks.
    People lie for a variety of reasons, and one of the biggest seems to be for gaining, and holding onto power. The cruelty
    seems to be almost a giddy-making by-product for these sick people.

  12. Speaking of cruel AGs… Ken Paxton of Texas comes immediately to mind. He is so corrupt even Texas Republicans kicked his sorry ass out of his office.

    Yes, Republicans have now openly codified cruelty if their wealthy donors whine that they aren’t getting enough profit to satisfy their even greedier stockholders. This is yet another brick in the wall to capitalism’s self-immolation that Marx discussed in “Das Capital”.

    The major question is: When will American voters stop voting for hypocrisy and cruelty and rid our beloved nation of anything and everything Republican?

  13. Republican leaders want to be funded by we the people as consumers but don’t want to fund the same group as citizens. Republican followers are easily persuaded by mythology.

    The situation is not new at all. It’s as old as civilization is.

  14. When will most of the folks on this blog understand that the majority of Americans are NOT comfortable with handing out money to those who already have it and/or don’t desperately need it? Yes, it takes bureaucracy to sort out the needy/deserving, but, that creates many jobs working for the common good while possibly assuring public acceptance of the “handouts”.

  15. If it can be shown that an attorney, AG or other, has brought a case based on lies to the court, isn’t there a punitive consequence for them? Contempt of court? Disbarrment?

  16. Lester, the issue is that the bias towards keeping money out of the hands of the undeserving is largely an educational thing. I’d argue it’s also largely the fault of learned biases. The prosperity doctrine teaches that the wealthy deserve their money because god is blessing them, and conversely, the unfortunate deserve their fate because god has determined it. Then, the poor resent the rich so much that giving the rich a few peanuts (which is what they’d think of the money) is abhorrent to them. If the reality can be explained–give the pittance to the rich, and claw back way more in taxes–then it’s more acceptable.

    Once, not very long ago, most people were against gay marriage, too. Should the world have not done it? Once something like a UBI was explained and implemented, people would see how well it worked for them. It would gain common acceptance, just like other social programs aimed to help the less fortunate.

    You’re right, though, to pacify the skeptical at the beginning, it would be critical to show that additional taxes on the rich meant they were only getting that money temporarily. Basically, the easier bureaucratic solution is just to give everyone the money initially and claw it back from those UNDESERVING rich folks at tax time. This cannot be accomplished with the GOP having any power, of course, as one of their “planks” involves making sure poor people stay poor and desperate, and rich people reap the easy benefits.

    You argue that it would create bureaucratic jobs? So, create them in an existing bureaucracy instead, the IRS.

    JoAnn, I could easily have written that last sentence of yours. 🙂

  17. Please tell me someone has filed an Amicus brief pointing out the lie. If not, why not?

  18. John H – my chosen optics are different than yours: government making sure that rich people aren’t sent funds that are intended to reduce inequality v/s government trying to take money from rich people who got a “universal” handout intended to reduce inequality. BTW, have you ever seen the stats on the IRS trying to get rich people’s money?

  19. Todd, True that!

    That’s why they’re all hypocrites, and they’re all in league with each other! These powerful religious entities, the the so-called corporate citizens or as you say oligarchs, and the politicians! It’s a triune “man of lawlessness.” The three-headed monster! All three have to be lopped off for there to be any change at all. In Greek, hypocrisy meant the theater. Actors putting on faces. Being something that they were not. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

  20. @Vhertzb “The R’s have always been cruel…”

    Agreed, the R’s always seemed bent on punishing the poor or different (from them). It must be something in their particular strain of so-called “Christian” upbringing. The concept of an AVENGING God has never been appealing to people who actually want to follow in the footsteps of and behavior of Jesus. Cruelty is most definitely the point.

  21. Lester – I was given this tidbit that my grandfather once told my father – If you give to a beggar and he is faking his need, that is his sin; If you pass up the beggar and don’t help someone who may need it, that is your sin. He was religious and old-country. His point was that we shouldn’t worry so much if someone is a mooch, especially if it makes it impossible for us to help the needy.

    Sheila – I am not certain that the parties only disagreed on “how to help”. I think a lot was the “purpose of government”, whether it was to protect property rights, or help the most citizens. That is an honest discussion to have, but sometimes we have to step back and realize that the debate isn’t about means, but about ends.

    The MAGA crowd is different. They seem to enjoy cruelty, perhaps as a means to elevate their low self-esteem, but I don’t want to engage in arm-chair psychology.

  22. I am not saying that cruelty is not the point … I wonder if having ignorant poor people, scrambling for underpaid jobs might be part of the ‘conservative’ motives?

    Might it be that a larger, more encompassing idea underlies what on the surface seems simply cruel?

    There is ample evidence that an under educated and broke population is part of a cheap labor force. For ‘conservative’ motives to be a long range aim is imaginable.

    Adam Smith, (June 5, 1723 – July 17, 1790) the pioneer Scottish economist and philosopher hallowed as ‘The Father of Modern Economics,’ and ‘The Father of Capitalism,’ told of the eternal struggle between capital and labor in his seminal books ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ and ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.’

    Smith’s magnum opus, abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, treats economics as a comprehensive system and an academic discipline. This book describes the natural, political, social and technological factors and the interactions between them as economics. Smith’s idea is that capital can have an absolute advantage.

    This was a reaction to the policy of protecting national markets and merchants. “Crony capitalism” – mercantilism – led Smith to the foundations of classical free market economic theory.

    He spoke of ‘the invisible hand’ that today is ballyhooed as meaning that Smith opposed regulations.

    Smith spoke of regulations are a necessity due to crony capitalism: mercantilism.

    Smith today is been used to support mercantilism … with no sense of irony, merchants have declared that The Wealth of Nations’ invisible hand means that regulations are an unnecessary interference in business; that if markets are left alone, that capitalism will provide, and that what has happened is that regulations have made people poor and unable to compete; that merchants aims have been fettered by regulations.

    NOTHING could be further from the truth.

    Indeed, Smith has firmly stated such things as:

    “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.”

    “A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him.”

    “Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”

    “It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expence, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.”

    “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

    That Smith is used today to support crony capitalism is clearly a corruption.

    Smith speaks clearly that regulations are a requirement in business due to the power of capital.

    So, I suggest that cruelty may not be the only idea behind ‘conservative’ motives – it may well be that to dominate and subjugate a vast undeveloped population may well be to the advantage of those seeking cheap labor?


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