Comment Of The Day: “Robert Bowman Redux, Times Two, But Ohio’s Nicer Than New York”

And now for something completely different, or at least not involving pandemic freakouts or politics. Isn’t that refreshing?

Reacting to the tale of the aspiring Ohio law grad with over $900,000 in student loan debt, Chris Marschner offered some guidance on how to look at student debt.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Robert Bowman Redux, Times Two, But Ohio’s Nicer Than New York:

I would suggest a different approach. Instead of financing students’ education, we begin allocating funding that gives preference to programs that develop talent. This is not to say that if a person truly wants to go into some esoteric field that may have little market value they cannot do so.

I only mean that those programs should not be subsidized, to keep tuition down as we could use those funds for those in programs of study that in fields that are graduating too few to keep pace with demand for those fields.

We always seem to approach labor cost issues from a demand management side instead a supply side. What if government subsidized the cost to become a medical doctor, engineer or scientist to equilize the cost of those programs to equal the upfront costs of an MPA, MFA or MBA. I would have no issue if the baseline subsidy rate was the cost associated with obtaining a quality Liberal Arts degree that included proficiency exit exams in math, science, reasoning, English and foreign languages.

We do not need thousands of General Studies majors that require no organized program of study. If you want to get a degree in Gender Studies or “Sports Management,” go for it— but don’t ask to have taxpayers subsidize it by guaranteeing your student loans and a reduced interest rate when the market for such occupations is relatively minute. Continue reading

Robert Bowman Redux, Times Two, But Ohio’s Nicer Than New York

For several years I chronicled the frustrating travails of aspiring lawyer Robert Bowman. He was the New York law student repeatedly turned down for membership in the bar by  a panel of New York judges, who determined that he did not have the requisite good character to be admitted to the practice of law in New York because he owed nearly a half-million dollars in student loans. Not paying back financial commitments is one of the specific components of “moral turpitude,” which will block anyone from becoming a lawyer, though it will seldom get one kicked out of the profession after one becomes a lawyer. Go figure. The panel kept rejecting Bowman  because they felt his debt was per se proof of  irresponsible and negligent financial management, making him an unacceptable risk for any client.

A New York bar association subcommittee investigated, and  concluded that far from being of dubious character, Bowman was an individual of “exceptional character,” with unusual perseverance, humility and tenacity. It strongly recommended him for admission to the New York Bar, despite the outstanding debts. Ireaclize now that I never told Ethics Alarms readers “the rest of the story”: Bowman is a New York lawyer now. He finally won his appeal, though the news media, which chronicled his failures, decided that his ultimate success wasn’t newsworthy.

How do I know this? Bowman contacted me himself to tell me. He said he was grateful to all the people who had supported his quest, and was telling each of them, individually, in person.

Now comes the story, also with a possible happy ending, of another frustrated lawyer-to-be with similar issues, this time in Ohio, although I must say that her circumstances seem a bit more difficult to excuse. Cynthia Marie Rodgers (above) is a Capital University School of Law graduate whose Ohio character and fitness application was rejected because she has nearly twice as much school loan debt as Bowman, almost $900,000. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter III: The Martin Luther King Day Essay”

In today’s Comment of the Day, Michael R explores the effects of college costs, student loans and ideological indoctrination on schools’ ability to provide an the valuable education students think they are paying for. Some of the factors he mentions I didn’t know about; I’m not sure  I’ve ever read about them anywhere else.

Here is the veteran Ethics Alarms contributor’s  Comment of the Day on the post, “The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter III: The Martin Luther King Day Essay.”

I don’t think all universities have become worthless. There are a lot of problems with the universities and much of it has to do with student loans and leftist indoctrination.

Student loans make people forget about how much college actually costs. Students go to colleges with nicer dorms, bigger ‘Wellness Centers’, and more activities because they can ‘afford’ it with loans. This resulted in an ‘arms race’ to ditch traditional dorms for suites, and now full apartments for students. It resulted in big ‘Wellness Centers’ instead of gyms. It resulted in vast Student Activities staff and budgets. It resulted in more and more sports. I would estimate that only about 1/3 of college costs these days go to academics and academic support (academic buildings, utilities, janitorial, etc). The rest is sports, activities, and administration. If you had a lean college with good academics, but old-style dorms, no student life, and no sports, it would go bankrupt quickly. College is expensive these days because the students and the parents DEMAND it be that way. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Hero: Robert F. Smith”

So much has happened since I designated the African-American mogul an Ethics Hero for spontaneously  announcing that he would pay off an entire graduation class’s college debt that I almost forgot  about Leslie’s provocatively contrary Comment of the Day. Triggered by the backlash against Oprah Smith’s generosity provoked, Leslie launched a critical barrage against Smith, or what his gift symbolizes. She backed down a bit in a later comment on the thread, but her original post is thought-provoking.

In addition, Leslie gets special credit for the Mansa Musa reference. I would include the Mali ruler in the cultural literacy list except for the fact that our culture almost completely ignores major Islamic historical figures.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Hero: Robert F. Smith:

Don’t belittle Oprah– she bought everybody KFC. Robert Smith isn’t even feeding anybody. Robert Smith isn’t even teaching anybody how to fish in order to feed themselves for a lifetime.

I’m sure he means well, but I don’t think that paying off somebody’s college loans is helping that person become independent and self-reliant. They’re getting out of the contracts they signed in order to finance their careers. Maybe they’ll remember that and pass the favor on and the world becomes a better place.

Or maybe the college education market will be thrown into MORE disarray with a flood of copycat donations the way it was thrown into disarray by government subsidies and the cost of education will go up AGAIN because students are not responsible for the cost of their education. When Mansa Musa passed through Cairo, he gave away so much gold that the economy collapsed and the next time he passed through, he had to buy it all back to restore the economy. If he wanted to do some good, he should have just helped some poor people. That’s the nice thing about poor people– giving your money to them is fairly harmless. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Robert F. Smith [UPDATED]

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If your reaction upon seeing the headline above was “WHO?” then it is fair to say, is it not, that that the mainstream news media has not sufficiently publicized the news made by Smith of late to permeate your consciousness. After you have read about him, it would be prudent to ponder why this might be.

The reason Smith is an Ethics Hero is this: He was the  Morehouse College  class of 2019 Commencement speaker, and after receiving his honorary degree, announced that he would pay off the entire class’s student debt.

The gift to the all-male, “historically black” college in Atlanta appears to to be worth about $40 million, and will affect nearly 400 students. It is the  largest individual donation to a historically black college or university. [ Not to inject a sour note, but if previously racially exclusive white colleges cannot continue their discriminatory ways by designating themselves “historically white colleges,” then the “historically black college” dodge to encourage and justify racial discrimination in both admissions and institutional marketing ought to be retired permanently. The so-designated colleges now have a collective student body that is about 22% white. ] Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca)

When did you first realize Maxine Waters was an idiot? I remember when I did. She was involved in the Block For Bill efforts by House Democrats during the hearings on potential impeachment for then-President Bill Clinton.  Maxine made many jaw-droppingly stupid statements but the best was when she said that we had to do something about “all these young women” tempting male law-makers and leaders, referring to Monica Lewinsky.

You know, the people of Watts have enough problems. They don’t need the added burden of a fool as their representative in Congress. On the other hand, who keeps voting for Maxine, term after term, decade after decade?

But I digress.

The latest display of Maxine’s intellectual limitations and lack of diligence and seriousness occurred to tried to engage in some anti-bank grandstanding sure to cheer the anti-capitalist Democratic base. Waters is the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee , which regulates banks. Nancy Pelosi gave her the post. Think about this next time your favorite Democrat mocks one of Donald Trump’s appointments.

During a hearing on the practices of  the nation’s biggest banks, Waters pointed an accusing rhetorical finger at a panel of seven bank CEOs  because, she said, “more than 44 million Americans that owe … $1.56 trillion in student loan debt…Last year, one million student loan borrowers defaulted, which is on top of the one million borrowers who defaulted the year before.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/21/17: Dead Ethics Alarms All Over, And This Just In…Ana Navarro Is Still Stupid

Good Morning, all!

1 Dead Ethics Alarms on the Hill. Just as I cannot conceive of what kind of ethics alarm malfunction allows any man to think that parading his reproductive organs before unconsenting women in a work-related setting is anything but gross and wrong (Charlie Rose???), I cannot comprehend by what tortured logic an elected member of Congress reaches the conclusion that I should pay for his sexual harassment hobby. The latter is the height of arrogance and abuse of the public trust. Yet the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over the past 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment, and now we have at least one name and specifics: John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary. Perfect.

From Buzzfeed:

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic….The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.

Well, this section of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is doing some good, by throwing some light on this unethical practice. Congressional sexual harassers need to pay their hush money out of their own pockets. That’s the least they can do.

2.  Live from New York! It’s Double Standards Live! Although Saturday Night Live did have the integrity to mock alum Al Franken following the Senator’s sexual harassment accusations regarding his conduct when he was just an obnoxious comic, 36 SNL staffers, including original cast members Lorraine  Newman and Jane Curtin, felt it was appropriate to release this letter:

SNL Women Offer Solidarity in Support of Al Franken

We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL). What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant. That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.

We send our support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Ugh. This is blatant Ethics Accounting, as if the fact that Al was fun to work with has anything to do with his misconduct, or mitigates it in any way:

21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”. You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

Even more ridiculous is the “he never harassed me!” bit. This is reminiscent of Greta Van Susterin’s embarrassing defense of Roger Ailes, where she “stood up for” her boss and cast skepticism on his accusers because Greta had never been abused. The SNL letter drips with similar skepticism and bias. It is “appropriate” for Al to have apologized—never mind that the apology itself stunk on ice—and Al’s conduct may have been “stupid and foolish,” but come on, it wasn’t the worst thing.

What does standing up “in solidarity” mean, when it is in support of an accused harasser? It means “we don’t believe the victim, and anyway, we like the accused sufficiently that we will give him a pass.” I’m just guessing here, but I bet there are many, many women Harvey Weinstein worked with that he never molested, and that Louis C.K. hasn’t masturbated in front of every women he ever encountered. Those lucky women should sign a letter.

3. ” Gee, you mean I really have to pay it back?” In 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts, while South Dakota suspends driver’s licenses for the same provocation.  The tone of the New York Times article on the topic is disapproving, even though seven of the 19 states don’t use the laws that allow such suspensions, and the others mostly employ them as threats to get deadbeats to take their responsibilities seriously. Nobody in any of the states loses a license who sets up a payment schedule. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/22/2017: My Unfair College Admission, U. Penn’s Bigoted Grad Student, Fox News Imitates The Weinstein Company, And THIS Is An Unethical Lawyer…

Good Morning!

1 Yesterday’s ethics  bombshell was the news that Fox News extended its contract with star bloviator Bill O’Reilly earlier this year, knowing that he had agreed to a $32 million settlement with a woman who accused him of  repeated harassment, a non-consensual sexual relationship, and other offenses. Nonetheless, it decided  it decided to sign him a four-year, $25 million a year, contract extension. The New York Times scoop reported that Rupert Murdoch and his sons,  decided that it was worth it to keep O’Reilly even as Fox News was trying to recover after having to fire Roger Ailes for multiple sexual harassment claims. Fox added to the O’Reilly’s extension a clause that allowed for his dismissal if new allegations of harassment or other relevant information came out regarding the previous accusations.

Boy, am I glad that I didn’t lift my personal Fox New boycott after O’Reilly left.

This is unconscionable conduct by Fox, equal in its slimy ethics void to what the Weinstein Group did when it acknowledged its founders sexual predator proclivities in his contract. Fox News, by keeping O’Reilly knowing that he had harassed its employees (and worse),

  • demonstrated to its staff that it cared more about ratings and profits than principles and the safety of its female employees and guests
  • sent the message that if you were a big enough cheese at Fox you can get away with abusing women
  • proved that the sick and sexist culture nurtured by Roger Ailes from the beginning was still flourishing.

Ugh. But I can’t say I’m surprised. [Mr Kimble (Alvy Moore) on Green Acres: ” I can’t say I’m surprised. Actually, I can say I’m surprised. I’m surprised! But I’m not surprised.”]

How many other companies tolerate sexual harassers in their executive offices outside of Hollywood? A lot.

O’Reilly, demonstrating again that he is a liar as well as as a sexual predator, absolutely denies that he ever harassed anyone. He needs better lawyers, then. Harvey Weinstein paid off an actress he raped for just $100,000, and poor Bill had to fork over 32 million bucks for something he didn’t do!

2. This morning’s “Wait—WHAT?” ethics headline is this one, from the ABA News: “Lawyer who blamed ethics case on mother can’t discharge $500K in student debt, federal judge rules.

Illinois lawyer Donald Rosen argued that his three-year license suspension for misappropriating over $85,000 in client funds made it impossible to find appropriate work and so should be allowed to discharge his $500,000 student debt. (How did he end up with a $500,000 student debt?). ‘Uh, no,’ ruled U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, perhaps because Rosen had paid only about $11,000 in student debt over the previous 37 years.

Why did Rosen blame Mom? He claims his 82-year-old mother, who worked at his firm, inadvertently used client funds to pay business expenses.  Rosen said his mother was embarrassed by her actions and falsified bank statements to cover it up. Then, Rosen says, he innocently provided those fake bank statements to police and the hearing board considering the ethics case against him.

3. How can this happen? Why is it happening? Who defends this? How long will it continue? Continue reading

Signature Significance: Bernie Sanders’ Ignorant Tweet

Bernie tweet

Yesterday, the Democratic candidate for President of the United States, a long-time member of the United States Senate, tweeted this message to his “followers,” and also, given the nature of Twitter, the nation:

“You have families out there paying 6, 8, 10 percent on student debt but you can refinance your homes at 3 percent. What sense is that?”

Now, if you don’t instantly recognize why this is an astoundingly ignorant statement, especially for a Presidential candidate running on a platform of economic restructuring, that’s okay. Don’t feel badly. It’s a weekend, you’re probably groggy from all the holiday cheer, and most important of all, you aren’t presuming to hold yourself out as qualified to be President, or constantly lecturing about the evils of capitalism. Sanders is, however, and this cretinous statement is signature significance. Nobody who understands loans, interest, collateral, banking, or economics would say, write or publish such a fatuous statement, even once. This is signature significance: an informed, logical, attentive, competent individual will not make such a bone-headed mistake…never. Sanders, however, has said this at least twice; in October, he tweeted a variation on the same economically ignorant theme:

“It makes no sense that students and their parents pay higher interest rates for college than they pay for car loans or housing mortgages.”

Actually, it does, Senator; it makes perfect sense, unless you are twelve. The concept is called “collateral.” That is something of value that  a lender can take if a borrower defaults on the loan. The deal is interest, plus security, the collateral. A house or a car are tangible collateral, so the interest rate can be lower. When the loan is for college tuition, however, there is no collateral. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the bank can’t take the student’s diploma, or education, or download all of the alleged knowledge the loan paid for from brain to laptop. Of course the interest rate is higher. That is, “of course” if you know anything at all about finance.

The unavoidable and shocking conclusion: Sanders is holding himself out as the leader to revolutionize how the U.S. economy works, stimulate growth and jobs, and show the way to a fairer and more just financial system, yet he is stunningly uninformed about the basics of finance, hasn’t learned a thing in all his years in the Senate, and worse, lacks the diligence to learn what he has an obligation to understand in order to justify having a vote on economic matters in the U.S. Senate, never mind setting policy as President.

This is bad.

Is there any excuse or defense for that tweet? No. Should anyone trust an elected official this ignorant and so lazy and arrogant that he makes no effort to disabuse himself of financial illiteracy? No. Does such a bone-brained misunderstanding mean that no intelligent person should listen to or take seriously any of his pronouncements about the economy? Yes.

To be fair to the Senator, let’s try to find some explanation for this that doesn’t prove that he couldn’t pass Economics 101 at a community college: Continue reading