Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Was the “Defund Acorn Act” Amendment (HR 3221) A Farce?

Last week in the wake of the release of videos that revealed various divisions of Acorn assisting in illegal activity, the Senate and the House both passed legislation that would cut Acorn off from federal funding. The Senate version was attached to HR 3288, as Senate Amendment 2355, which blocks House and Urban Development from giving Acorn housing grants. This has passed both the House and Senate and is just waiting the Presidents signature to become law. The House version calls for a complete defunding of Acorn and was attached to HR 3221 the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. (SAFRA) as an amendment. This all sounds fantastic until you start pulling back the layers.

As we have grown to expect, SAFRA is just another huge spending bill and federal take over of the financial aspect of education. So there were two things that did not make sense to me. First, why is the federal government taking over the student loan industry and second why would GOP Leader John Boehner be willing to attach the “Defund Acorn Act” to it as an amendment. This has all the characteristics of a government shell game. As I was writing my representative (Eric Cantor) to “call them out” to explain why on earth the “defund Acorn Act” was attached to a massive spending bill. A friend tipped me off the following statement from an organization call Demos.

Demos Applauds House Passage of The Student Aid Financial Responsibility Act

Nancy K. Cauthen, Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, a national research policy center that examines the financial barriers to post secondary success amound community college students, issued the following statement:

This bill represents a major step in the effort to help more Americans enroll in -and complete- the higher education programs that have become essential for getting a decent job and entering the middle class. Too many community college students are sidelines by the financial burden of paying for school while meeting their other financial obligations. This act will allocate significant new resources to community colleges to boost completion rates and improve critical student support services, make Pell Grants available to hundreds of thousand more students; and strengthen the low-cost Perkins Loan program. We urge the Senate to pass the measure and ease the economic burden of earning a degree.

Maybe it is the skeptic in me and, I admit, these days I am VERY skeptical of anything done by congress. Demos, who are they? A quick google search turned up their website. They are a public policy research and advocacy organization. Founded in 2000 by Charles Halpern who wanted to challenge the status quo and chart a new set of priorities for America. Demos core program objectives include “strengthen democracy in the United States”, “address the severe economic insecurity and inequality that characterize American society today” and “re-envision the role of government.” Is this another Acorn organization? Demos President, Miles Rapoport, was an outspoken defender of Acorn when in 2008 election they were accused of voter registration fraud.

What does this have to do with SAFRA and Defund Acorn Act? Nancy Cauthen and Viany Orozco, a Demos policy analyst, are authors of a soon to be released report entitled Work Less, Study More and Succeed. This report will apparently show, that college cost are up over the last 25 years and students are forced to work part-time, which could contribute to them dropping out.[paraphrased] Additionally, one of the objectives of the Demos Economic Opportunity Program is “creating a broad policy agenda to reform student financial aid”. So the fact that they are applauding the passage of the SAFRA should really not be a surprise to anyone, until we pull back another layer.

It turns out the Van Jones, former Green Jobs special advisor to the president, is on the Board of Directors of Demos. To refresh everyone’s memory, Van Jones resign his post because, well the official reason is he signed a 9/11 “truther” petition. The next layer of discovery is that in 1999, then State Senator Barack Obama, was chosen to participate in the working group to develop Demos. So it is probably fair to say the Demos has an “in” at the White House. In fact, at their Demos Celebration 2009, Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Programs talks about “meeting with senior officials at the White House and Department of Justice to make a case for more energetic enforcement of National Voting Rights Act” that the White House agreed to their proposals. The same week they had a meeting with Timothy Geithner to talk about the Administration support for cracking down on wide spread credit card abuses. Does the “Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act 2009” sound familiar? Demos has influence, even Oprah has listed them as a resource in O magazine, according to Draut.

So what does this all mean, well the SAFRA legislations has many components that Demos has been advocating, Pell Grants expanded and tied to the CPI + 1%, eliminates Federal Family Education Loan program and shifts all student loans to a government-run and taxpayer financed system under the Direct Loan program, and funding for renovations for “greener” schools among other things. Could Demos have had a hand in writing the legislations? Possibly. Is Demos an Acorn organization? If they aren’t they are certainly in partnership with Acorn and with Project Vote. I don’t have the clear answers to these questions, but I think we need to boldly ask them. If Demos is an Acorn organization and they are writing the legislations, then the “Defund Acorn Act” amendment is a joke. I’m sure that Bertha Lewis is not losing any sleep about it. We must continue to ask these questions, don’t accept the status quo, especially from leaders and representative. This post is just the first on this subject. There are many more layers. My next step is going to be to finish my letter to Eric Cantor.

Related Videos about Demos.

From Demos Celebrations 2009

In her own words: Tamara Draut:

1 comment:

  1. It's troubling to consider just how corrupt and unscrupulous our government has become. It's getting to the point where lobbyists and special interest groups run the country through elected puppets.