Higher education debt suddenly has become one of the nation's hottest domestic issues. In response, a number of lawmakers believe they have a way to preserve both the integrity of the financial system and the opportunities to attend college. Several weeks ago the House and Senate introduced legislation to enable adults to discharge outstanding student loans in bankruptcy court that had been underwritten by private-sector lenders. The bills, the Fairness for Struggling Students Act (S.114) and the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act (H.R. 532), would repeal the portion of the 2005 bankruptcy law overhaul that removed this option.
The Chevy Volt has inarguably been the poster child for President Obama's push to electrify America's auto fleet. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to produce and subsidize the plug-in electric car. For years we have heard about the supposedly amazing technology for the Volt which would lead America to energy independence, be a "game-changer" for General Motors and provide a multitude of new green jobs. Proclamations were made that supply for the wonder-car could not keep up with the demand. Well, March's sales figures are in and give further confirmation that the lofty claims were all lies.
There has been an important story brewing over the past several months regarding General Motors' flawed bankruptcy process that has been widely ignored by the media. GM may have to readdress its 2009 bankruptcy settlement due to a lawsuit by a group of GM creditors against hedge funds over a settlement involving the company's Nova Scotia debt. The creditors brought to light the fact that the company did not have its ducks in a row at the time of its 2009 bankruptcy filing and allege that GM was still in the middle of backroom negotiations with hedge funds beyond the deadline. A court decision is now imminent.
Bin Laden is dead and Twinkies are alive! That might have been the rallying cry if we were in an election year and if the Bakers Union was deemed as important as the UAW to the parties seeking reelection. But the Obama Administration is not as dependent on smaller unions, like the Bakers Union, for contributions and votes. That fact allowed the Hostess bankruptcy to proceed in an unimpeded manner in which such processes were designed to.
I recently wrote about how government-owned Ally Financial was the only big bank that failed the Federal Reserve's stress test and how that ties in to General Motors' operations. The bailed-out bank formerly known as GMAC received about $17 billion of taxpayer money as part of the auto bailout (aka bankruptcy) process. It is now possible for GM, which relies on the auto lending unit of Ally Financial, to buy back the best segment of the bank on the cheap after taking advantage of the taxpayer largesse that saved the lender.
The Federal Reserve's latest round of stress tests for the banking industry showed only one bank remaining on a shaky financial foundation. That bank was government-owned Ally Financial (the bailed-out company formerly known as GMAC), which also happens to be General Motors' prime source for financing.
That the cost of higher education is escalating is hardly news, least of all to families who borrow to pay for it. Less understood is that the relative ease of availability of college loans is a major reason for those rising costs - and resulting defaults. Late in January, FICO Labs, a San Jose, Calif.-based credit research company, released a report detailing a number of disturbing trends in the student lending industry. During 2005-12, the average outstanding loan balance rose by nearly 60 percent to over $27,000. And default rates were highest for recent originations. "This situation is simply unsustainable and we're already suffering the consequences," said FICO Labs analytics chief Andrew Jennings. Yet the Obama administration, in seeking to make college universal, may be fueling the problem to the point of inviting a bailout potentially rivaling that of home mortgages.
General Motors released its disappointing earnings report last week to the sound of crickets. While financial TV news networks (along with most analysts and journalists) ignored the negative aspects of the release, share price has fallen over 5% in less than a week since the news hit. The earnings release and subsequent SEC 10K (annual report) expose the fact that GM's recovery is not the success that the Obama Administration and media portray. The lack of the fanfare that typically comes with GM earnings releases is as good an indication of the meaning behind the numbers as is the decline in share price.