What You Need to Know About the Budget Deal

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Photo courtesy of http://www.upi.com

President Obama will have a shiny new budget deal to sign when he sits at his desk on Thursday morning as the United States Senate approved a two-year budget deal late Wednesday night.

The deal was approved by the House last week and is considered bi-partisan as it was supported by Democrats and Republicans.

That’s all well and good, but for most Americans interested in this story, what does it do for them?

Here are the main takeaways from Wednesday’s budget deal.

-“Domestic agencies” will receive a $22 billion increase in funding.

-Though sequestration remains alive with the new budget deal, the hit of the across-the-board spending cuts will be eased as the deal includes a $63 billion sequestration provision.

-Additionally, sequestration will graduate into 2023 in an effort to reduce the deficit.

-Spending for the Pentagon in 2014 will be $1.01 trillion.

-$6 billion in reduced payments to student-loan debt collectors.

-A $12 billion reduction in contributions to federal pensions.

-Airline security fees for passengers will increase by $12.6 billion.

A full budget summary is available via The Washington Post but some of the more important aspects of the deal are listed above.

-JH

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Are For-Profit Colleges Harmful to African-Americans?

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Photo courtesy of http://www.bellcurves.com

From the woman walking on a bridge touting how great her for-profit college degree has been to her to a man urging you to get off of your couch, are for-profit educational institutions really that great?

We may have found the answer. A report via the Huffington Post exposes how some for-profit higher educational institutions operate.

According to the piece, Everest College will pay different companies a certain amount to hire one of its recent graduates. The amount paid from the college to the company is only good for 30 days, and once that period expires, the company is free to let the employee go.

But the dire warning of this story regarding Everest is that the school used the faux job placement strategy as a way to gain access to federal student aid funds. Without this money, companies like Corinthian, the parent company of Everest College, would have a tough time operating as they have received almost $10 billion in federal funds.

So, are these types of schools harmful to African-Americans?

According to the Atlantic, 13 percent of students who began to pay back their student loans in 2009 have already defaulted. Taking that further, 96 percent of all enrolled in for-profit educational institutions take out student loans and are saddled with over $12,000 more in debt compared to students who in enroll at a public colleges or universities.

Lastly, African-American enrollment in for-profit institutions shot-up a staggering 264 percent between 2004 and 2010. Couple that number with the percentage of students who leave school with student loan debt and we have our answer.

While education is a pathway to a greater life and success, nothing that comes with such a high price tag and so little pay-off is worth the financial hardship down the road.

-JH

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Why Santa’s Color Matters to Fox News

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Photo courtesy of Foxnewsinsider.com/Anchor Megyn Kelly

The legend of Fox News grew a little more today after a video clip surfaced of host Megyn Kelly claiming that both Santa and Jesus are white men. Kelly underlined her point about Jesus by claiming that his hue is a “verifiable fact” and that Santa “just is white.”

In a pseudo-intellectual manner, Kelly dryly talks about the story and said that she’s only debating this “because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Without debating the invalid historical context of Kelly’s assertion about Jesus and Santa, I simply want to discuss her dismissal of the original debate, which is simply skin color.

By the way, this story of Kelly talking about Santa and Jesus being white men started when Kelly mentioned Aisha Harris’s article on Slate.com about changing the perception of Santa Claus.

How this turned into an idea of dogma is a little perplexing, but we’ve arrived here, so no turning back now.

Harris slightly defends her article in another piece on Slate.com titled “What Fox News Doesn’t Understand About Santa Claus” where she basically says what most, at least I hope most, people are thinking: Santa isn’t real; therefore our perception of him isn’t either.

But this argument about Jesus and Santa is the step-child of the “race themed” movie discussion from a few weeks ago. When the movie “Best Man Holiday” was released and it performed better than expectations, USA Today promptly called it a race themed movie. That moniker means that when movies with an all-black cast do well at the box office, it’s because they are only themed toward the color of the folks who star in the movie.

I guess it’s the same for Santa and Jesus, no? Santa only gives good gifts to white kids and the colored babies are left with the throw-a-ways. And Jesus will only turn water into wine for grown white people. For the rest of us, we’ll just get a few shock bottles of Fireball whiskey and Thunderbird.

For people of Megyn Kelly’s ilk, certain things are just as they are and need not be changed. James Bond, as noted by Ms. Harris, has to be a white man because he’s, well because he’s always been a white man.

The host of Jeopardy? Well it’s been hosted by a white man for my entire life, why change now?

This frame of mind speaks to the lack of Caucasian imagination. The first 43 presidents where white men and the head of Yale’s famed  “Skull and Bones” is probably still a white man. Power in this country has always been wielded by white men, and to imagine a world ruled by anyone other than a Caucasian is scary for some.

For little minority babies, seeing people in power who look like them is vastly important.

Maybe for Megyn Kelly, her fear isn’t that of a black Santa crawling down her chimney covered in soot or an olive-skinned Jesus with wide-lens sunglasses and leather jogging pants. It’s the loss of power associated with the change in demographics in America.

-JH

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Student Loan Giant Sallie Mae in Hot Water

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Photo courtesy of Huffington Post/Sallie Mae

If not for student loans and Pell Grants, I’m really not sure how I would have attained my college degree. The monetary aid I received was genuine to me; it provided an avenue so that I may earn a higher education.

Yet the other side of that is this: 13 percent of students who began to pay back their student loans in 2009 defaulted within three years. There is either a money management problem going on in America or a lot of these students aren’t being properly educated on the services available to them.

Well, that and that dog on Sallie Mae. Through the fantastic electronic mail service Yahoo, I still receive e-mail updates from Ms. Mae about “lowering my payments” or simply “viewing my account.” I’m sure that when I open one of those e-mails one day there will be a message with letters cut-out from a magazine asking for the money that’s owed to them.

At any rate, disposing of my student loan horror stories, there is some news that everyone should know about.

According to the Huffington Post, Sallie Mae is being investigated for “violating borrowers’ rights.” In one of the accusations, the debt giant may have violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This law protects active-duty military from way to aggressive debt collectors from garnishing checks or collecting funds in an un-fair manner.

In addition to its practices against military members, Sallie Mae’s discrimination extended unto civilians as Sallie Mae “incorrectly calculated borrowers’ incomes” and did not properly adjust accounts.

While Sallie Mae hasn’t been officially charged with any wrong doing, the findings against the company are disturbing. As of this moment, the federal government will not punish Sallie Mae and has chosen to renew its contract with the debt organization.

-JH

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