Discover more from The Jackal
A Quiet Biden Renaissance
...and a fresh look at Trump's legal issues.
Happy Friday my beautiful babies. A few weeks ago I said the Jackal would be a little touch and go in August because of vacation+moving. We moved last Thursday, so it has been more “go” than “touch.”
Therefore, after I say I’m sorry for not giving you a Jackal last week, I also have to give you a much shorter Jackal this week because house is still a little chaotic.
The big news this week was Biden fulfilling his Campaign’s promise to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for each borrower. Like a lot of the Administration’s policies, the real nuggets are under-the-hood. The part of it that stands out most to me is limiting the student loan monthly payments to 5% of a person’s income, as opposed to the current 10%. That will open up college to more people who forego higher education simply because they are afraid to take on the loan burden.
Critics of the policy have pushed variations of usually three arguments:
This is unfair because I paid off my student loans and got no forgiveness.
This will be unpopular with voters.
Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a college graduate’s fiscal irresponsibility, especially since it will benefit people with high salaries.
None of these arguments make a lick of sense to me. The first one is truly bizarre.
This is akin to saying it is unfair that Apple comes out with a new iPhone every year and you have to continue using your iPhone X (yes, my phone is that old). When the government first passed Social Security benefits, was there any argument that doing so was unfair to the millions of dead senior citizens from the 1800s, who just stopped being able to afford food after they stopped working? The government enacts new policies all the time, and the economy also frequently changes. When we signed up for a new mortgage, our rate was much higher than it was previously due to rising interest rates. I didn’t demand that we return to the older rates so that I could benefit; sometimes things change and those are the breaks.
The second point is usually made by the NeverTrump set, who ultimately want Biden to succeed but have doubts about the political benefits of such a policy. While I’m sympathetic to that argument and would have probably done this after the midterms so as to not even throw a tiny socket wrench into what could be a good election for Democrats (more on that below), there is no evidence to support this theory. Polls show that only 34% of Americans think the government should stay out of student loan forgiveness, and support for forgiving some or even all student loan debt reaches 60%. That is a big number. While anything is possible, I don’t think it will have a major effect on the midterms because most Americans are indifferent, or actually support it.
A lot of the reasons it has support is related to point three. There has been a narrative going around that this is the middle class paying for a benefit to wealthy, higher educated Americans, and that just flat out isn’t true. 87% of the borrowers who benefit from this policy will be making less than $75,000. Right now, the middle class income for an individual caps out at $90,000 a year. For a couple it hits $127,000 a year. Again, the under-the-hood analysis is a big factor: Pell Grant recipients are eligible for up to 20K in loan forgiveness. Cue the music:
Then, a bunch of people (even non-political!) that I know were talking about the absolute fire the White House brought with this thread:
Which, of course, led to absolute clownish tweets like this:
To say this is the most “stomach turning thing” in modern politics is pretty hilarious, but a quick point on that:
The reason the White House and the Left are citing to PPP forgiveness received by people like Marjory Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz is because they are obvious hypocrites. The major complaint is that doing student loan forgiveness is paid for by taxpayers, but in the same sense, so was PPP. The fundamental difference is that people on the Left think both student loan forgiveness and PPP forgiveness were good, and people on the Right only think student loan forgiveness is bad. Here is the other problem with the PPP argument:
Again, that is not a strike against the program; if the government gives out free money, sometimes rich people benefit. But the policy directive with student loan forgiveness is aiming small so they can miss small: They put in an income cap (which there are some good arguments against) so that the primary beneficiaries of the forgiveness are middle class Americans, not the “Harvard elite” that was spun by so many on the Right. Will some people who make $124K a year benefit? Yes, but the majority of the benefits will go to the middle class.
This is a good time to talk about the Biden Administration’s pretty incredible August:
The Administration killed long sought-after target and leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
Congress passed the CHIPS Act, which will boost manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States.
Congress passed S.437, addressing the burn pits, which will further expand healthcare to Veterans.
Biggest of all, they passed “Build Back Smaller,” a.k.a., the Inflation Reduction Act.
These are policy achievements that most Administrations could only hope to accomplish over eight years, let alone less than two. Tack on the infrastructure bill from last year and the COVID relief bill, and you can easily say the Biden Administration - policy-wise - is the most significant Democratic Administration since Lyndon B. Johnson’s. To put it more succinctly:
It is a significant string of hits, and it partially explains why Biden’s approval rating is up significantly (the highest it’s been in a year), and why Democrats’ fortunes are looking brighter this Fall.
Don’t look now, but the midterms are seeming more and more like a tossup:
There were a few indicators that the environment had changed post-Dobbs, and I sort of ignored it, but the real huge one came earlier this week in New York’s 19th Congressional District, where Democrats flipped a seat from being favored for Republicans to an outright win (holding an important seat Biden won in 2020). Democrats are, overall, overperforming. And don’t tell yourself it’s just Dobbs: In Pat Ryan’s race in the 19th, he focused heavily on abortion rights, but also took shots at the growing Republican indifference towards insurrection and preserving American democracy. In other words, the Trump factor is pulling down Republicans.
A great podcast on this is over at FiveThirtyEight, where Nate Silver explains that basically his model shows that the GOP is favorites to win the House in November only because it assumes that the environment - which is currently favorable for Democrats - will shift back to the mean, where the opposition Party does better. But he concedes that he doesn’t know if that will happen. And that is all before you get to the Senate:
I really try not to do polls anymore, but I will note that I repeatedly said on the Jackal that I thought Republicans would clean up in November. But that was prior to Dobbs. Midterm elections are largely about the ability to turn out your base, and Democrats are clearly doing that thanks to the Court overturning Roe.
I want to end by highlighting two stories. Shortly after the raid on Monday of last week, a man in Ohio stormed the local FBI office. He got into a shootout with police officers and ended up dying.
You can probably guess what’s coming next: He turned out to be a huge Trump supporter who was upset about the FBI’s raid of Mar-A-Lago. He posted on Truth Social - Trump’s social media app - about putting out a “call to arms” to attack the FBI, and it looks like he posted right after he tried to get into the FBI building. It’s tragic to read now, but he said, “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops.” Shiffer’s story is somewhat related to the arrest of another Trump supporter in Florida, who threatened to murder FBI agents.
These are real people who are being amped up and basically encouraged by both Republican politicians and conservative media. Fox News lately has been basically wall-to-wall propaganda with alarming rhetoric about the FBI. Tucker Carlson said President Biden “declared war” on Americans with the Mar-A-Lago search. Steve Bannon said, “We have the police’s back. The FBI is not police.” Mark Levin called it the “worst attack on this Republic in American history.” Buck Sexton called it a “preemptive coup.” Then you have actual Republicans in Congress, like the human manifestation of hemorrhoids, Marjory Taylor Greene, and walking STD Lauren Boebert, who have both called for defunding of the FBI.
With rhetoric like this, it was only a matter of time before someone like Shiffer would get violent. Reporters who monitor right-wing forums said they haven’t seen such extreme language since the days before January 6th. Conservative media is an ongoing problem, and it’s ruining the lives of GOP voters. This ties into COVID as well, where Trump voters were more likely to die of the disease thanks to vaccine denialism pushed by prominent conservatives.
I thought this was a short one, but now it says I am near the email length. Whatever. YOLO. MAZEL TOV. BRB I have to go check on my horse. I’ll see all of you next week.