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student loans

President Biden To Forgive $7.4 Billion In Student Loan Debt For More Than 270,000 Borrowers

President Biden’s administration announced last week that it will be using existing student loan forgiveness programs to cancel more student loan debt. They’re planning on forgiving $7.2 billion for around 277,000 borrowers, according to reports.

The Department of Education has seemingly made it easier for groups like public sector workers to qualify for loan forgiveness. The administration also launched a repayment plan to make it easier for low-income borrowers to pay back their loans. 

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The Biden administration has authorized, in total, the $153 billion in student loan debt cancellation for around 4.3 million people; more than 9% of all outstanding federal student loan debt. 

The Biden administration has eagerly been showing how much student loan debt they’re canceling especially due to the election in November. Around $3.6 billion of student loan debt relief will be delivered to individuals enrolled in the SAVE plan. 

“Republicans in 18 states want to prevent their own constituents from benefiting from the SAVE plan. They want to end SAVE, make their constituents’ payments go up and keep them under mountains of loan debt with no end in sight,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The SAVE plan launched last year and around 8 million borrowers have enrolled with about 360,000 people getting their remaining debt canceled.

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Biden has previously attempted to implement a student loan forgiveness program in 2022, however, it was rejected by the Supreme Court before it could actually deliver any debt relief. 

Biden has, however, canceled more student loan debt than any other president, and he’s mainly been utilizing existing programs. The administration has used the existing programs but made it easier to access for more US citizens. 

“Since the fall, the Biden administration has been working on set of new proposals, based on a different legal authority, to deliver relief to certain groups of borrowers.
For example, those whose student loan balances are bigger than what they initially borrowed could see their accumulated interest wiped way,” wrote Katie Lobosco for CNN

“Those proposals have yet to be finalized, but some could go into effect as soon as this fall, according to administration officials.”

home

President Biden’s New Affordable Housing Plan 

The housing market in the US has been hitting historic lows within the past few years. Sales are slow, current homeowners are unable to move because they don’t want to lose the record low mortgage rates they got during the pandemic, and first-time homebuyers are finding starter homes to be less and less affordable. 

In a recent survey from Redfin, 53% of respondents stated that the housing affordability issues in the US will impact who they vote for in the next presidential election. The White House is aware of these potential impacts on the upcoming election, and President Biden is hoping to combat these issues with a new proposed housing plan. 

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According to reports from Forbes, Biden’s plan to make housing more affordable will involve rent relief, tax credits for homebuyers and sellers, and plans to develop 2 million homes as a means of addressing the housing shortage. 

Freddie Mac Housing Experts have estimated that the US is short about 4 million homes, so by adding 2 million the nation, home pricing and rent growth would slow down and affordability will improve. 

Mortgage rates have been fluctuating constantly since the pandemic especially. During the initial months of quarantining mortgage rates hit a record low, which increased demand and pricing. In 2022 and 2023, however, mortgage rates increased again, so existing homeowners who were able to lower their rates are now reluctant to sell. 

Biden’s new housing plan places a focus on first time homebuyers looking for their starter home, and those looking to move out of what once was their starter home. The proposed plan includes a one-year tax credit of up to $10,000, according to Forbes. This credit will ideally encourage homeowners to sell their first home to then free up that space for other first-time homebuyers. 

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It’s also been reported that another proposal from Biden would be a mortgage relief credit for first-time homebuyers in the middle-class. The credit would be up to $5,000 for two years, and would help make homeownership more accessible by reducing the buyer’s mortgage rate by over 1.5% points for two years, according to Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist at Redfin. 

“This policy and Biden’s plan to provide down payment assistance for first-generation homebuyers would increase demand for homes. In places where the supply of homes has been increasing, such as Texas, there is enough capacity to meet increased demand. However, in places with limited supply, these credits would mostly lead to buyers competing for a limited number of existing homes and bidding up home prices,” Fairweather wrote for Forbes. 

Marshall Park, the Redfin market manager in Washington D.C., recalled how homebuyer tax credits, like the one being proposed from Biden, motivated more homebuyer’s to buy during Obama’s first year as president in 2009.

“Homebuyers who qualified definitely took advantage, and I recall a surge in demand and motivation to purchase while the tax credit was available,” said Park. “I do think that a homebuyer tax credit might bring more buyers into today’s market, but the main issue with the market right now is the lack of inventory,” Park stated.

 The biggest solution to helping the housing market will be the increase in supply and development of 2 million homes that Biden is planning on implementing. The presidential and congressional elections this year, however, will impact how much of that plan actually gets done.

Amid Multiple Protests, Israeli Lawmakers Move To Vote On Weakening Supreme Court

Israeli lawmakers are gearing up to vote on the government’s overall plan to weaken the nation’s court system, despite nearly six months of protests from citizens, and waves of urgent warnings from the White House.

nato

President Joe Biden States NATO Won’t Consider Ukraine Membership Until War With Russia Ends

President Joe Biden was recently interviewed by CNN, where he discussed how Ukraine is not going to be able to get a membership with NATO until the war with Russia ends. 

Biden spoke with Fareed Zakaria of CNN to discuss how the US and its allies in NATO would continue to provide Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky, and his forces the security and weapons needed to end the war with Russia. 

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“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Biden said

“For example, if you did that, then, you know – and I mean what I say – we’re determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It’s a commitment that we’ve all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”

“I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO,” Biden said, stating that he “refused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands before the war for a commitment not to admit Ukraine because the alliance has an open-door policy.”

“But I think it’s premature to say, to call for a vote, you know, in now, because there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues,” Biden said.

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Biden is also gearing up for a weeklong trip to Europe that will include a NATO summit in Lithuania, where the war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as Zelensky’s push for NATO membership, will be discussed. 

Biden also discussed key foreign policy challenges involving China, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, stating that he feels like Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to replace the US as the nation with the largest economy and military capacity in the world, however, he also stated that he believes the US can have a working relationship with Beijing. 

“I think there is a way to resolve, to establish a working relationship with China that benefits them and us,” Biden said. 

“And the last thing I’ll tell you, I also called him after he had that meeting with the Russians about this new relationship, etc. And I said, ‘This is not a threat. It’s an observation.’ I said, ‘Since Russia went into Ukraine, 600 American corporations have pulled out of Russia. And you’ve told me that your economy depends on investment from Europe and the United States. And be careful. Be careful,’” Biden explained.

government

President Joe Biden Signs $1.7 Trillion Bill Leading Into 2023

President Joe Biden signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill this week that will keep the federal government in full operation, and allocate necessary funding to various sectors.

Inflation

Retail Sales Drop 0.3% In May As Federal Reserve Prepares To Hike Interest Rates Further

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, retail sales fell 0.3% in May, wiping out any progress made by a 0.7% rise in April. It comes as a 8.6% inflation jump has forced millions to focus their money on food and gas, the latter of which now sits above $5 per gallon nationally.

U.S. Consumer Confidence Slips In May Among Inflation

On Tuesday, The Conference Board reported that its consumer confidence index decreased slightly in May to 106.4, a score that — while still a strong number — is down from 108.6 in April (which saw a small increase itself from March).

Meanwhile, the group’s present situation index, which is based on consumers’ assessments of current business and labor market conditions, declined from 152.9 to 149.6. The expectations index, based on consumers short-term outlooks for income, business, and labor, decreased from 79.0 to 77.5.

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“The decline in the present situation index was driven solely by a perceived softening in labor market conditions,” Lynn Franco, The Conference Board’s senior director of economic indicators, said. “By contrast, views of current business conditions — which tend to move ahead of trends in jobs — improved. Overall, the present situation index remains at strong levels, suggesting growth did not contract further in Q2.”

“That said, with the expectations index weakening further, consumers also do not foresee the economy picking up steam in the months ahead. They do expect labor market conditions to remain relatively strong, which should continue to support confidence in the short run.”

The dip in confidence comes after April saw an 8.3% year-over-year rise, which was down from March’s 8.5% year-over-year hike. Also not helping is the producer price index, which saw a jump of 6.9% in April. That’s down from March’s 7.1%, but up from February’s 6.7%.

Even with the Federal Reserve’s attempts to fight inflation by raising interests rates by 0.5% to 1.00%, the soaring prices will likely continue to be a burden to Americans over the coming summer months. One area consumers are being tortured in are rising gas prices, which now sit at a national average of $4.6 per gallon.

The labor market continues to remain a question mark for consumers even after employers added 428,000 jobs in April, keeping the unemployment rate at a pandemic-low 3.6%. Those numbers helped the country keep a 12-month streak of 400,000 or more jobs added.

However, that steady improvement may be misleading. Politico noted that data released by the Ludwig Institute suggests the “true rate of unemployment” (or TRU) is higher than national or local figures show and accounted for 23.1% of the labor force in April.

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“We think it misleads the American people to say, ‘Oh, we’ve got 3.6 percent of America that is unemployed, ergo, a huge percent of the population is employed,’ when in fact they can’t make above a poverty wage,” Ludwig told Politico.

Additionally, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has previously called the labor market “unsustainably hot,” and — in an interview with Marketplace — explained that the demand of labor is inconsistent with low inflation. “What we need to do is we need to get demand down, give supply a chance to recover and get those to align,” he said.

President Joe Biden met with Powell Tuesday, saying afterwards that inflation has become his top domestic priority. “My plan to address inflation starts with the simple proposition: Respect the Fed, respect the Fed’s independence, which I have done and will continue to do,” Biden said.

How Biden deals with inflation could significantly impact his odds of possessing a second term in two years. According to FiveThirtyEight, the President currently sits at a 54.0% disapproval rating (up from 52.4% May 1), with just 40.8% approving of his work. Biden has pointed to the Ukraine invasion and supply chain issues as culprits of inflation woes.

Gun Control Laws

Following Uvalde Shooting That Left 19 Children Dead, Calls For Stricter Gun Laws Intensify

For the over 16,000 citizens of Uvalde, Texas, waking up every day since Tuesday has been an unending nightmare after 19 children and two teachers were shot dead at Robb Elementary School by Salvador Ramos, who had shot his grandmother earlier that morning. 17 others were injured.

Ramos — who has been referred to by residents as a loner who dropped out of high school — was armed with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle, which he purchased two of for his 18th birthday. While his past and personality clearly pointed to a disturbed individual, investigators have yet to find any sort of motive for the attack.

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The attack is the deadliest school shooting since 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. It also comes just 13 days after a shooter killed 10 in a Buffalo grocery store.

Since January, there have now been more than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. These countless tragedies have sparked outrage and emotional displays across the country, with gun laws coming into intense spotlight.

On Wednesday, Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke interrupted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a press conference, telling him the time to stop the next shooting is now and he is “doing nothing.” After being escorted out by law enforcement, O’Rourke slammed Abbott, stating the children died because of Abbot’s inaction.

“Because if we do nothing, we will continue to see this. Year after year, school after school, kid after kid. This is on all of us, every single one of us to do something.”

Texas gun laws have been particularly criticized. In the state, there have been eight mass shootings the last 13 years, with 102 deaths since 2017. In June of 2021, Abbott — declaring to keep Texas a “bastion of freedom” — signed several laws that eased weapon restrictions, including one that legally allows law-abiding Texans, who are 21 or over, to carry handguns without a license.

Fellow politicians have echoed O’Rourke’s concerns, with President Joe Biden saying now is the time to “turn this pain into action.” “As a nation we have to ask, ‘When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name do we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” Biden questioned.

Biden — who expressed his condolences and prayers at the beginning of his speech — focused on the purchasing of assault rifles and claimed when those styles of rifles were banned in 1994, mass shootings went down. When the ban expired 10 years later, Biden said shootings tripled.

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Studies on the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban have shown that criminal use of banned guns declined temporarily, while evidence suggested that the ban contributed to a reduction in gun murder rates. However, the ban failed to bring down the total number of victims per gun murder incident.

It remains to be seen how the long-heated debate will play out, with Republican stances making it difficult for gun reform, like expanded background checks for gun purchases, to gain traction in Congress.

Regardless, the cries for change won’t die silently. Protests are expected to take place at the the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Houston from May 27-29, where a number of high-profile Republican speakers — including Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz, and former President Donald Trump — will be in attendance.

If China Invades Taiwan, Biden Confirms U.S. Military Would Intervene

While United States government officials already have set opinions on how to proceed in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, it appears not everyone is on the same page. On Monday, President Joe Biden stated that if such a situation developed, the U.S. would intervene military.

Biden gave his remarks during a joint press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida when asked if the U.S. would go further to help Taiwan in an invasion than it did with Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.

“Yes. That’s the commitment we made,” Biden stated. “We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is [just not] appropriate.”

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Biden gave further thoughts on the rising tensions between the two territories, saying a conflict would dislocate the entire region, similar to how Russia’s attacks have had shockwaves throughout Europe. Biden also stated that China is “already flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the maneuvers they’re undertaking.”

However, the White House downplayed his statements, saying they don’t reflect a change in policy. It’s the third time in past months Biden has made a comment about Taiwan protection, only for the White House to give opposing views.

“As the President said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

According to the One China policy, the U.S. recognizes China’s position that there is only one Chinese government and that Taiwan is a part of China, but the U.S. hasn’t recognized the country’s claim to the self-governing island. China, meanwhile, believes a reunification between Taiwan and the mainland is a necessity – one that would likely take an armed conflict to make happen.

According to administration aides speaking to CNN, several of Biden’s top administration officials were caught off caught by his remarks. Biden running off-script and giving unexpected statements has become a running occurence in recent weeks. In late April, the President said that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” causing a media stir. The White House and allies backtracked those claims afterwards.

Responding to Biden’s comments, China expressed its “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition,” noting it would not allow any external force to interfere with its internal affairs. Speaking to reporters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that Taiwan is an “inalienable part of China’s territory.”

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“On issues touching on China’s core interests of sovereignty and territorial integrity, China has no room for compromise or concession,” Wenbin said. “No one should underestimate the firm resolve, staunch will and strong ability of the Chinese people in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

As CNN noted, the U.S. has supplied Taiwan with defensive weapons, similar to the help it has given Ukraine throughout the Russian invasion that is now in its third month. Taiwan — which consists of a population of over 23 million — would certainly need help in a conflict.

China’s armed forces dwarf any potential resistance thanks to its expected 2022 spending of 1.45 trillion yuan ($230.16 billion USD) on defense. In terms of activity duty personnel, China possesses around 2 million while Taiwan boasts just 163,000.

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates By 0.5% In Largest Move Since 2000

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates by 0.5% to 1.00%, marking the largest increase in over two decades as it attempts to fight the ever-increasing inflation that has continued to cause financial burdens for Americans.

Since 2000, the Fed has only raised interest rates in increments of 0.25%. “Inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher energy prices, and broader price pressures,” the Fed said in a FOMC statement. “The Committee is highly attentive to inflation risks.”

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In March, inflation rates rose to 8.5%, up 0.6% from February’s 7.9% and 1.5% from December’s 7%. It’s now the highest inflation rate the country has seen since the 1980s, though forecasts project a downturn over the coming months. The increased interest rates will take time to lower the inflation, however.

The Fed explained it’s monitoring the situation of the 10-week-old Russian invasion of Ukraine — citing “tremendous human and economic hardship” — among other global issues that have essentially stalled production and sent the supply chain spiraling.

“The invasion and related events are creating additional upward pressure on inflation and are likely to weigh on economic activity. In addition, COVID-related lockdowns in China are likely to exacerbate supply chain disruptions.”

As for what this all means for the average citizen, borrowing will become more expensive. Higher interests rates will occur for mortgages, student debt, car loans, credit cards, and business loans for both small and large companies.

Higher mortgage rates are a particularly hard pill to swallow for those in the already difficult-to-navigate real estate market, as home prices alone have shot up during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, the average home sold for $507,800.

Currently, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate sits at over 5%, up from 3.10% in early-December and 4.16% in mid-March. The Fed will now discuss increased interest rates between 0.75% to 1.00% in June and July, while some officials have advocated for raising rates to 2.5% by the end of 2022.

Following the Fed’s announcement, the Dow Jones Industrial Average spiked up 900 points to 34,064 before dropping 1,000 points Thursday morning, or 2.9%. The S&P 500 saw a 3.3% drop, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 4.6%. Similarly, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, had a 5.3% slide.

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Speaking Wednesday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell attempted to relay that the bank understands the financial hardship Americans are going through, and explained the raising interests rates were done in order to relief that inflation tension. “Inflation is much too high, and we understand the hardship it is causing,” Powell said.

Powell also emphasized his belief that the economy can withstand the higher rates, with unemployment rates dropping by 0.2% from February to March and total job openings rate at 7.1%, a year-over-year increase of 1.6%. “Nothing about it says it’s close to or vulnerable to a recession,” he said.

President Joe Biden has previously supported the Fed’s monetary decisions. “The Federal Reserve provided extraordinary support during the crisis for the previous year and a half,” he said back in January. “Given the strength of our economy and pace of recent price increases, it’s appropriate — as Fed Chairman Powell has indicated — to recalibrate the support that is now necessary.”

The actions aren’t without concerns, however. As the Associated Press notes, many have criticized the Fed for taking too long to tackle inflation, leading to doubt from analysts that a recession can ultimately be avoided.