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We discuss the student debt crisis with Anthony Fiorentino, attorney and advocate featured along with Ralph in the documentary series “Scared to Debt: America’s Student Loan Scam.” And Consumer Federation of America’s Robert Hunter joins to remind you that your auto insurance companies probably still owe you money for not driving so much during the Covid quarantine. Plus, Ralph offers up another Congress Club letter, this one aimed at Medicare for All.

Anthony Fiorentino is an attorney, who currently represents plaintiffs in the national class action lawsuit ongoing against federal loan servicer Nelnet. He was also featured in Scared to Debt, a docu-series that investigates the policies that have led to the current student loan debt crisis. 

“I’ve always agreed with the ‘public good’ theory of education. I don’t think you can have a functioning citizenry unless they’re educated. And in any advanced industrialized economy, and particularly the 27 O.E.C.D. countries, education is treated as a public good… we should be doing that. We should be investing in people having an educated citizenry. But instead we’ve created a predatory lending system that is not about creating pathways to education, it’s about enriching large for-profit corporations and banks. And unfortunately it’s also about taxing the middle class.”

Anthony Fiorentino, attorney

“I tried to enroll in an income driven repayment plan [for my own student loans]. And because it’s based on your income, you have to provide documentation of your income… each year, once a year to your loan servicer. And like I said, these are private entities that get millions of dollars from the Department of Education to service the loan. Well, what I was noticing was, for three years in a row, for some reason, my application to renew my plan was rejected for one reason or another. Sometimes I would be told that the income documentation was insufficient, even though I followed all the instructions on the application to a T. Sometimes I would be told “Well you checked this box here, but this box here, and those are inconsistent, so we can’t accept your application. Or sometimes the loan servicer would just delay processing the application until months after the plan expired, because it only runs for one year at a time… this is one of the ways that the debt starts to spiral. So we had to bring these class actions against these companies to ensure that that wouldn’t happen anymore.”

Anthony Fiorentino, attorney

“I would think… that [student loan debt] would be a good political issue for the Democrats. Because the Republicans hate to change this. They love to have these creditors sit on the back of millions of student loan debtors. Don’t you think this would be a good issue for 2022? You’re talking 45 million people stuck in this student loan craw.”

Ralph Nader

Robert Hunter is the Director of Insurance at the Consumer Federation of America. He has held many positions in the field, both public and private, including being the Commissioner of Insurance for the State of Texas being the President and Founder of the National Insurance Consumer Organization and as an underwriter for Atlantic Mutual and Centennial Insurance Companies.

“In every state, the law says rates cannot be excessive. I mean, the law and every state says exactly that. And yet, the insurance commissioners in all but one state are ignoring it. It’s bad enough that then they’re not protecting consumers generally, but here they’re not even enforcing a law.”

Robert Hunter, Consumer Federation of America

“Some companies have been paying huge dividends to stockholders instead of paying the money back to policyholders. For example, Progressive had its largest ever dividend– $2.6 billion– to stockholders. And AllState had its largest dividend– ever. And they’re acting like “Oh look at the money we’re making for you.” Instead of saying look at the money we’re stealing for you.”

Robert Hunter, Consumer Federation of America

“This should be good politics. You would think state legislators would want to take credit for sending good size checks back to their constituents in rebates. You would think that editorial writers would think this is good copy… It seems to be a no brainer type of consumer justice. I fail to understand why people aren’t taking up the cudgels here. It’s such an easy, slam dunk, clear legal requirement that our insurance commissioners– waiting for a possible job offer after they leave the state government– are ignoring.”

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 386 Transcript (Right click to download)

11 Comments

  1. NooN says:

    I have just come from the Mountains of Tennessee
    where internet is “per spot” if at all. Public
    Broadcasting is thru the “so call internet” also, so “News” is “whatever the Congress Reps day it is.
    “The people are Disgusted with War & the Sickness
    our Globe & OUR 2 &.4 Legged Animals must endure with the DAILY EXPLOSIONS of POISIONS into a CONSTANTLY STRESSED .&.0XYGEN STARVED ATMOSPHERE that Montsanto & all its Global SUBsidiarys produce for the Depatrtment of Defense
    @ Each University’s PhD Laboratories, per Instructions.

    What is Necessary to Acquire Loans & Possible Grants
    are Students who take out Loans; Study, Teach, Have their Research TAKEN & Not only Receive NO PAYMENT OF DEBT = We are dealing with a $70,000 Loan & (I think) Lost the ability to $ELL the RESEARCH from Five (5) Consecutive Years of WORKING IN & doing VIRUS RESEARCH in a closed environment on VIRUS.

    I very much look Forward to this SERIES of CHAPTER
    by CHAPTER RESEARCH & CONSIDERATION and
    WHAT WE COLLECTIVELY can do about it.

  2. Lola says:

    My auto insurance gave me $15 back for the lockdown rebate. 😐
    Thank-you to Ralph Nader for your tireless consumer advocacy over many decades. Wish you were president but the oligarchy wouldn’t allow that.

    • Ann says:

      Geico gave me 15% of my premiuim payment back (two cars, $960 = $144 back).
      Then in the very next premium they raised my bill to $973–another $26/year.
      Thank you for calling attention to both student loan & auto insurance rebate issues.

    • Skro35 says:

      Lola, did you mean $15 or 15%?

  3. Don Harris says:

    Ralph,
    You don’t have to worry about the Deathocrats using student debt as an issue in the upcoming elections. They have run on that, medicare for all and many other issues and will do it again in 2022.

    One reason they don’t do any of those things when they could is so they can continue to run on the need to do those things. Another reason for not doing is it gets them the big money for their campaigns.

    Your letter to Bernie on medicare for all is too late. It should have been started months ago to get Bernie and rest of the medicare for all campaigners such AOC to actually fight for it like they said they would by participating in the medicare for all rallies.

    What you should be adding to the Congress Club is a link to One Demand so citizens can work together to demand small donor candidates and enforce that demand with our votes as these candidates are more likely to do what they say they will do than big money candidates like Bernie (there is no difference between Bernie getting 2000 dollars from one donor making many contributions that average 27 dollars and Biden getting 2000 dollars from one donor in one contribution).

    You missed the opportunity when it was offered for 2018 and 2020. Please don’t make the same mistake for 2022.

    Let’s get this started now before it too late for 2022.

  4. Wendall Rogers says:

    I have been victimized by this scam. I support total SL forgiveness.

  5. Interestingly, the democrats really are already running on the student loan issue…and winning!

    Consider Georgia: The state budget of Georgia is $48 Billion, but the PEOPLE of Georgia owe $82 Billion in student loans. In 2020, Biden was promising student loan cancellation and the return of bankruptcy protections. Trump, meanwhile, had nothing. This issue won the state for Biden, and also won the two senate seats for the democrats.

    The problem is: Biden has blatantly abandoned his campaign promises. The nearly 2 million people in Georgia (most of whom were never going to be able to repay their loans) who listened to those promises and came out for him are now realizing that it was a cheap campaign trick.

    This is going to come back to bite them if Biden continues to mislead, stall, walk-back, and ultimately do nothing. Frankly, the republicans need to seize this issue if they want to be relevant. After all, this really is a big-government lending scam that no true conservative should support!

  6. DrSummer says:

    I’m wondering how many universities are in collusion with federal lenders. As a recent doctoral student I noticed that my federal loan payments “arrived late” each semester to my university. Each time I was charged a late fee of around $150. It took me a couple semesters to realize the pattern and fight to reclaim my money! $150 times 15000 students… times 3 semesters a year…that’s millions of dollars!

    This issue was above and beyond the 7% interest and other fees that also blow my mind!

    Let’s fight to expose these crimes and create change! No more taking advantage of American students!

    Thanks for the informative discussion!

  7. Jill Steen says:

    Thank you, Ralph for hosting this discussion, and thank you Tony and Alan for continuing to push this issue. Several things to note about student loan debt to keep in mind based on this discussion:
    1) the vast majority of student loan debt is held by those in their 50s! These are the FFELP loan borrowers who weren’t even told about the debt conversion program for forgiveness with the dept of Ed who originally in fact steered borrowers to consolidate privately with a fed guarantee in the mid to late 1990s.
    2) since there was no standard of consumer protection imposed on servicers, borrowers in this age group were not told about programs offering relief. I for example have worked in non-profits and think could have qualified for debt forgiveness now that I’ve been working in excess of 25 years of which 13 years were with non-profits offering public benefit and service, but because I’m in 50s don’t have time to start over after paying for over 20 years. I couldn’t get a straight answer over the years either if my loans are public or private given the structure so what you have are loans that are both or neither depending on who you ask, and are predatory since there is no clear path or solution for borrowers. When I mention FFELP loans to financial advisors or attorneys they truly run the other way and say they can’t help.
    3) Many people have continued to pay since these loans are federally backed, and many professionally successful people don’t want to lose everything and the perception is the federal government can take everything. What’s crazy is there truly is no “end term” of these loans because the repayment plans were never designed to be able to be repaid and there is no end because of the govt guarantee! I for example have paid for years in excess of $170k on a $50k loan and am not down even down to principal balance. Ive paid according to the plan and debt goes no where; I’ve applied bonus checks in fact over the years and at the whim of the servicer was applied to interest when my loan was current! Keep in mind too that before 2007 there was no online access for borrowers to see how payments were even applied to know and challenge it and also, borrowers have no loan agreement for these early consolidated loans to know how interest compounds which is truly extraordinary and worse than credit card debt with no transparency or truth in lending standards imposed.
    4) since there is no oversight by the fed govt of its servicers and servicers really don’t have a fiduciary responsibility to act on behalf of the fed government to properly manage and advise fed student borrowers, this is the most predatory lending system that exists. The fact is people don’t organize to fight because it’s overwhelming, and involves fighting the fed govt practices and it’s lack of oversight or accountability. Because it’s so complicated it’s also nearly impossible to get proper guidance or help from attorneys or advisors. I think the fed govt knows that once this is truly investigated, they too will be out trillions of dollars so the most predatory, aggregious loans won’t be addressed and the excuse is they are private. They are not truly private since they were initiated by the fed government and are guaranteed by the federal government. They are privately held federally guaranteed predatory loans that by design only benefit the private servicers not the low and middle income borrowers that these loans were intended to help but have instead crippled financially.
    Thank you for shedding light on this but please also focus on the FFELP loans that still exist and I believe given the age of those still owing student loans are the core reason for the student debt crisis. Because these loans can’t be repaid, those in 50s with children also can’t afford the educational expense of their kids or to even buy a house or properly save for retirement. This is a huge issue that will continue to impact the economy overall and hope the focus is not just those that are in school now or those that did transition their loans to the fed direct program that could qualify for forgiveness. The FFELP system needs to be investigated along with the service provider practices who benefitted from this predatory structure for years. Thank you!

  8. John Puma says:

    In “2005 with a Republican president and congress,” I assume that WHATEVER, apparently helpful, legislation Biden may have written/championed was done precisely because it had NO chance of being passed. The Dems are generally very legislatively frisky in such position.

  9. Mark Taylor says:

    Since this broadcast Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — who, along with her husband has made millions on insider trading in her position in Congress — has dismissed any idea of reducing or eliminating student debt. She and the Democrats in Congress have grabbed millions in donations from the banks.

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