In This Episode
- Interest on federal student loans has officially resumed, and payments are set to restart on October 1st. On Tuesday, however, a group of Senate Republicans introduced legislation to block President Biden’s Saving on Valuable Education Plan — or SAVE Plan — from going into effect, despite how it could help millions of people struggling to pay off their debt. For more, we’re joined by Braxton Brewington from the Debt Collective, a progressive organization fighting for full student debt cancellation.
- And in headlines: a court struck down Alabama’s Republican-drawn congressional map again, the impeachment trial of Texas’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton started yesterday, and a pair of construction workers severely damaged a part of the Great Wall in northern China.
- The Debt Collective – https://debtcollective.org/
What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
Crooked Coffee is officially here. Our first blend, What A Morning, is available in medium and dark roasts. Wake up with your own bag at crooked.com/coffee
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/crookedmedia
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, September 6th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day, the podcast that is home and safe from Burning Man.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, the burners that got stranded for a few days at the festival because of the rain, but luckily we were able to avoid that.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, it helps a lot that we didn’t go. You know, there’s that. [laughter] [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, a court struck down Alabama’s Republican drawn congressional map once again. Plus, we recap Beyonce’s epic tour leg in L.A. It seemed like everybody was there but us.
Juanita Tolliver: Massive FOMO, massive FOMO.
Priyanka Aribindi: Massive.
Juanita Tolliver: But first, interest on federal student loans has officially resumed and payments are set to restart on October 1st after being on pause for over three years. This comes after the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for low and middle class borrowers back in June.
Priyanka Aribindi: Shortly after that, his administration announced the Saving on Valuable Education plan or SAVE plan for short. It is an income driven repayment plan that promises lower monthly payments for borrowers. People who make under $15 an hour don’t have to make any payments at all, and loans under the program will not accrue interest as long as borrowers keep up with their monthly dues.
Juanita Tolliver: Over 4 million people have already been enrolled in the SAVE program and another 1.6 million people have applied. But the GOP is already trying to get that plan shut down too. A group of Senate Republicans introduced legislation just yesterday that would block the SAVE plan from going into effect, despite how it could help millions of people struggling to pay off their debt.
Priyanka Aribindi: To learn more about what borrowers are feeling right now and what student loan activists are doing to prepare for the payment pause to end we spoke to Braxton Brewington. He is the press secretary for the Debt Collective, which is a progressive organization that’s fighting for full student debt cancellation. Braxton, welcome back to What A Day.
Braxton Brewington: Thanks so much for having me.
Juanita Tolliver: All right. So you’re joining us just days after interest on federal student loans officially resumed. What are you and your fellow organizers hearing from borrowers right now, given that payments will be due in about a month?
Braxton Brewington: We’re hearing so much. We’re hearing some people’s balances are simply incorrect. As you know, a lot of people had one student loan servicer maybe a couple of years ago and now they have another. And so a lot can happen in that type of transfer of paperwork. We’re hearing from people who started signing up for the SAVE plan and it gave them a monthly payment that was twice or three times [gasp] what they were paying before the payment pause. And then we’re also hearing from people who are saying, I don’t really have any good option. I’m just not going to pay and I’m going to take advantage of what’s called this onramp, where basically if you miss a payment or you don’t make a payment, the interest will still accrue, but you won’t be subject to any type of financial harm. For example, there won’t be any ding on your credit. You won’t fall into default, you won’t fall into delinquency. And so some people are simply saying, I’m just not going to pay.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, you mentioned the SAVE plan, that is Biden’s program that he introduced to, you know, lower borrower’s monthly loan payments. More than 4 million people were already enrolled in the program as of yesterday, and another million have applied for it since. What are your thoughts on this sort of plan?
Braxton Brewington: For people who make under $33,000 a year or make minimum wage, for people who can keep up with their payment, that’s really great for them and for millions of people this is going to be one of the most, you know, quote unquote, “affordable” student loan payments they’ve ever had. So that’s really great for them. We’re hearing from another chunk of people who say this just really isn’t something that is actually working for me. And the reality is this is how income driven repayments work, right? It’s not a catch all solution to the student debt crisis. It definitely helps those who are on the lowest of the low income scale. But for everyone else, it’s still a difficulty.
Juanita Tolliver: And we also know that the GOP is already rushing to stop the SAVE plan from going into effect, with Senate Republicans introducing a measure to block it on Tuesday. They claim that it’s, quote unquote, “unfair” to people who have already paid off their student loan debt. What’s your response to this argument that we keep hearing again and again against student loan forgiveness?
Braxton Brewington: You know, a lot of those Republicans who are against the SAVE plan or who are against relief weren’t very vocal when their PPP loans were being canceled just a couple of years ago.
Juanita Tolliver: Ooh name it.
Priyanka Aribindi: So I think we’re seeing a lot of hypocrisy here from people on the far right who are talking about a bailout for hard working, working class Americans. We also think that there’s something to be said for education being a fundamental right. And when we burden generations of people in crushing student loan debt, it actually saps their potential to purchase a home to be able to save for retirement, to be able to start a family or a small business.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Braxton Brewington: Or just live a life of dignity. And so that’s why we are demanding relief.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. So the debt collective launched a new program last week that is aimed at helping borrowers request federal debt relief. Can you talk a little bit more about that initiative? You know how it works, how effective you think it’ll be in relieving borrowers of their debts?
Braxton Brewington: Yeah. So just last week, we announced our student debt release tool, which for the first time ever, you can use this tool and file an appeal directly to the Department of Education requesting your federal student loans be canceled. Now, this is something that you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, right? You can’t call your servicer or just call the government and ask for your debt to be canceled. But now you can using this tool, the history of this tool goes back to 2015 where we did something very similar. There were thousands of people who were being defrauded by these predatory for profit colleges. And there was a little clause in the Higher Education Act that says if you were defrauded or scammed, you’re entitled to relief. But there was no process, no form, no application in which someone could pursue that relief. And so in 2015, the debt collective created our own application, and we sent thousands to the Department of Education and said, you need to pursue these applications and make good on your promises within the Higher Education Act. The long story short of that is, well, they copied our form, made a couple of tweaks, and now they’ve canceled tens of billions of dollars through their own application, which is called the Borrower Defense. The tool uses the exact same legal authority that the Biden administration announced that they would be using on their second round attempt at relief.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, And just for listeners who might not be as familiar with your work through the Debt Collective, can you explain, you know, what else you guys are doing to support borrowers even outside of this new tool?
Braxton Brewington: So the Debt Collective is the nation’s first union of debtors. And so we have people from all around the country and across the world who band together and say, we’re going to get through this together to fight for relief every step of the way. We offer certain services to people to help them make the best decision that is available for them, for example, whether they should consolidate on their loans or not, or whether they should continue to pursue public service loan forgiveness. We also have our rolling Jubilee effort, which is our sister organization, that for pennies on the dollar, purchases debt and then erases it.
Juanita Tolliver: Oh.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow.
Braxton Brewington: We also do debt erasure on our own, which is a crowd funded source for people who give when they can that can literally go sometimes 100 fold.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s awesome.
Juanita Tolliver: We will definitely be dropping that link in the show notes. So [laughter] y’all–
Priyanka Aribindi: Big time.
Juanita Tolliver: If you are interested in this type of support, check it out. As we get closer to October 1st what is your advice to borrowers who haven’t had to worry about making a payment on their loans for three years or even borrowers who’ll be making a payment on their loans for the very first time ever?
Braxton Brewington: Find a way to pay as little as possible, at least for the next year. So in some ways, we’re on this waiting game, right? The Biden administration announced a second attempt to administer relief through this sort of longer negotiated rulemaking process. The hope is that they will sort of come to some consensus about a rule about how much relief sometime next spring or next summer. I think people should wait until then before they go off trying to pay every dime they can and just find something that works for you. If that’s $20 a month or $0 a month or whatever you can afford until we get to a time where we have some more official announcement on where we are with relief next year.
Juanita Tolliver: I’ll be real. Based on what you’ve shared and what I’m hearing from my own networks, ain’t nobody in a rush [laughing] to pay this back. For real for real. But Braxton, thank you so much for joining us and sharing more information about the Debt Collective.
Braxton Brewington: Thank you so much for having me.
Priyanka Aribindi: We will link to the Debt Collective in our show notes. You can learn more about their work and where things stand in the fight to cancel student loan debt. But that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Federal judges yesterday struck down Alabama’s congressional map because Republican lawmakers failed to draw a second majority Black district. And instead, the three judge panel ordered a court appointed special master and cartographer to draw up three potential maps. The judges wrote Tuesday that they are, quote, “deeply troubled that the state enacted a map that the state readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires.” I mean, as they should have written, it’s absolutely bananas that they got instructions and just did not follow them, decided to throw them out the window and presented them with something that was just the opposite of what they asked for. It is wild.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, all in the name of disenfranchizing Black and Brown voters. So still very true to the history of Alabama.
Priyanka Aribindi: As you’ll remember, the state’s Republican led legislature drew up a revised map earlier this summer that had just one majority Black district and increased the percentage of Black voters in another district to about 40% from about 30%. If you know anything about math that is nowhere close to a majority. And that redrawn map came after the Supreme Court in June upheld the panel’s earlier ruling that the map likely violated the Voting Rights Act. Next, the court appointed special master and cartographer have until September 25th to file their proposed plans, and all sides have three days from then to object to the proposals. A tentative hearing on those objections should there be any is set for October 3rd.
Juanita Tolliver: The impeachment trial of Texas’ Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton started yesterday. It’s alleged that he tried to protect a wealthy donor from the FBI and that he attempted to thwart whistleblowers in his own office. For that, Paxton is charged with bribery, obstruction of justice, and disregard of official duty. It’s not going to be easy for him to keep his job either. His party may control both halves of the Texas legislature, but over 60 Republicans in the House voted with Democrats to impeach him last May. Here’s one of those Republicans yesterday, during opening statements, Representative Andrew Murr, who’s the chief impeachment manager.
[clip of Andrew Murr] Mr. Paxton has been entrusted with great power. Unfortunately, rather than rise to the occasion, he has revealed his true character. And as the overwhelming evidence will show, he is not fit to be the attorney general for the state of Texas.
Juanita Tolliver: This trial in the state Senate is expected to last at least two weeks.
Priyanka Aribindi: Former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was sentenced yesterday to 22 years in prison for his role in organizing the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. His sentence is the longest prison term so far among the more than 1100 Capitol attack cases. And he is the last Proud Boys leader convicted of seditious conspiracy to be sentenced. Just last week three other proud boys were each sentenced to between 15 to 18 years in prison. Prosecutors asked for 33 years behind bars for Tarrio, whom they described as the ringleader in the January 6th attack. While Tarrio wasn’t in D.C. that day, prosecutors said that he orchestrated and directed the attack from a distance. He had been arrested only days before for burning a Black Lives Matter banner during an earlier pro-Trump rally in the nation’s capital. And prosecutors said he, quote, “strategically calculated his arrest as a means to inspire a reaction by his followers.” As U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly handed down Tarrio’s sentencing Tuesday, he said, quote, “Mr. Tarrio is the ultimate leader, the ultimate person who organized, who was motivated by revolutionary zeal. That conspiracy ended up with about 200 men amped up for battle encircling the Capitol.”
Juanita Tolliver: And for a Georgia racketeering case that we did not ask for, 61 people were indicted yesterday in the state on racketeering charges related to protests of the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, better known as Cop City. The charges were brought by Republican Attorney General Chris Carr. The indictment claims that the Cop City protests are part of a broader violent movement that stems from the 2020 racial justice protests. Ooh, it’s giving racism and lies. Like c’mon.
Priyanka Aribindi: It really is. It really is.
Juanita Tolliver: The majority of those indicted already face charges over their involvement in the Cop City demonstrations. More than three dozen people were charged with domestic terrorism in connection to violent protests. And several leaders of the bail fund have been charged with money laundering. As a reminder, local residents have been voicing concern over the $90 million dollar Atlanta area training center for more than two years now, saying they’re fearful of greater militarization of police and environmental damage in underserved neighborhoods.
Priyanka Aribindi: A part of the Great Wall in northern China has been severely damaged by a pair of construction workers using an excavator, of all things. The incident was reported to the Chinese government on August 24th, according to a report released late last week. Authorities said that two people, a 38 year old man and a 55 year old woman, caused irreversible damage to the wall and left a gaping hole while seeking a shortcut for work nearby. It is unclear exactly what kind of work they were doing. Those two people have been detained in northern China and charged with destroying a cultural relic, as they should have been. The Great Wall spans over 13,000 miles and the part that most tourists see was likely constructed by the Ming Dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries. A 2015 government report said that perhaps as much as 30% of the original structure has disappeared, prompting the country to take more measures to preserve the wall. But tourism, vandalism, and stolen bricks over the years have made that more challenging. Last month, a tourist was detained and fined for carving on the wall with a hairpin. Okay. So much to say here. One got to know what the job was. What were we like in such a rush [laughter] to go do? Why did we think this was a good idea? I feel like that’s number two. Three is just that how did nobody notice? They were just dismantling parts of the wall and you didn’t notice until the point it became irreversible. I know there’s 13,000 miles, but like what? Number four is, aside from the construction workers damage. What the fuck is with people trying to etch their names into, like, the Great Wall, the Colosseum–
Juanita Tolliver: Straight up ignorance.
Priyanka Aribindi: What are you doing? It is crazy. That’s what bathroom stalls are for. Please. [laughter]
Juanita Tolliver: How about we don’t deface any property? But okay, I do wonder what the hell that conversation between the two construction workers were like. Yeah, just ram through it. No, nobody’s going to notice just ram through that shit. Like, is that what they said to each other?
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, we have to imagine. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with how every holiday weekend is better with Beyonce.
Juanita Tolliver: Period.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday WAD squad and for today’s temp check the WAD squad loves Beyonce. And her latest tour stop in L.A. last weekend was so epic that we just had to talk about it. For instance:
[clip of Diana Ross] Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Beyoncé. Happy Birthday to you!
Priyanka Aribindi: The person leading the singing to Beyoncé on her actual birthday, that was one Miss Diana Ross. Juanita, what stood out to you the most from the reports about Beyonce’s leg in LA? I mean, aside obviously, from the presence of Diana Ross on stage.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. She gave L.A. all three nights. The full show I’m talking about justice for thique. L.A. got it. They got the Dubai Drunk in Love ending, L.A. got it. I didn’t get that. So I’m a little salty about that. But they got it. And she delivered on her birthday. Look, I guess I’m of the school. If I don’t want to work on my birthday, I won’t. But Beyoncé is making me challenge that notion.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right?
Juanita Tolliver: She did her best work on her birthday. And then to see her up there with Diana Ross. Yes, I shed a tear. Yes. I’m an emotional girl. Yes. I love the legacy of Diana Ross paving the way for Beyoncé and just like them having that moment. But what else got me was the fact that Beyoncé took the time to thank her fans who’ve been with her since 1997 and all her bandmates. And I’m not just talking about Kelly and Michelle. She went all the way back to LaTavia and LeToya.
Priyanka Aribindi: All the way.
Juanita Tolliver: And was like, girls, thank you. And she’s just a real one for that. Like, I love her. I love her. I love her.
Priyanka Aribindi: Really.
Juanita Tolliver: Priyanka, what’d you think?
Priyanka Aribindi: I love it too. I mean, the birthday brings out all feels. It was very fun to see, between Beyoncé and Taylor this summer, does L.A. just get the shows of the century? Like–
Juanita Tolliver: I’m jealous.
Priyanka Aribindi: We all got to go to L.A. for our shows.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m jealous.
Priyanka Aribindi: I also love that she, for L.A., had a specified dress code. I like that.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: She had a vision.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: For what she wanted the audience to show up with. They were playing a role in the show and she was like, listen, this is what you got to wear. And they did it and everyone loved it.
Juanita Tolliver: And when the queen says, delight me with your silver sequins, you deliver, right?
Priyanka Aribindi: They deliver, they deliver.
Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] Like you gonna do it.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m holding out hope. Hopefully one day it will be streaming. It will be in a theater. It will be somewhere where I can pay to see it several times.
Juanita Tolliver: The rumor girls are talking, apparently she’s in negotiations to get visuals out. It’s unclear which visuals, concert or other prerecorded content. Either way, I will be delighted to see more from Beyoncé.
Priyanka Aribindi: Exactly. Just like that, we have checked our temps. They are as hot as Beyoncé’s whole wardrobe for the tour. Just–
Juanita Tolliver: Period.
Priyanka Aribindi: –absolutely burning up. [laughter] [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Get home safe burners and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just every stop of Beyonce’s tour like me. What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And make the wall great again?
Juanita Tolliver: Question mark?
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Juanita Tolliver: What?
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Juanita Tolliver: Absolutely Not. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: Too soon. It’s too soon, guys. [laughter] [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]