Wandering Eye: The Ravens are screwed, hope for student-loan debtors, and more

Everyone knows by now that student-loan debt is the next huge financial crisis on the horizon—and that student loans are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. Now Bloomberg Business Week tells us about a 65-year-old former executive who might change the game. Robert Murphy is in bankruptcy in Boston, trying to erase about a quarter-million bucks of student-loan debt. He's operating pro se. "It could be a really dangerous thing for them if the First Circuit announces a rule for debtors to discharge their loans in bankruptcy," Rafael Pardo, a law professor at Emory University who filed a brief in Murphy's case, told Bloomberg. "That would call into question how much of this $1.2 trillion [in student debt] is collectable." You're probably cheering by now, as most of us have or had student-loan debt that bordered on unpayable. But check it: "From 2001 through 2007, Murphy took out several Parent PLUS student loans—federal debt parents can use to finance their kids' education—to send his three children to college," Bloomberg explains. "After accruing interest, the bill ballooned to $246,500. In 2002, Murphy lost his job as president of a manufacturing company when it closed shop to move overseas. He hasn't found work in the last 13 years . . ." Read that again: For five years after he lost his high-powered job, the man continued to sign for loans to finance his kids' education. Apparently the kids themselves owe none of it. What sort of person goes $246,000 into debt when they have no income? The lawyers arguing the other side of the case said in court documents that Murphy's appeal "smacks of gamesmanship," Bloomberg reports. A ruling for Murphy "would suggest that any debtor nearing retirement can borrow as much money in federal student loans as possible, only to turn around a few years later, upon retirement, and have that obligation discharged due to the debtor's 'unemployment.'" But that seems too simplistic too. Murphy didn't retire, he lost his job to neoliberal economic orthodoxy—and probably thought he'd get another cushy executive gig soon enough. "The idea of bankruptcy is to give people respite and relief," Pardo told Bloomberg. "The question is a really simple one: can you pay back your debts in the future? And if the answer is no, then why aren't you giving relief to a person?" (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Today's Columbus Day, and with that comes the annual debate about why we celebrate a man responsible for the death and enslavement of thousands of people. Many cities and states have altered the holiday or chosen not to celebrate it at all, but the federal holiday still persists. Now here comes The Washington Post to explain how some of the stuff every child learns about Columbus Day is plain wrong. For example, nobody really thought the Earth was flat—the Greeks disproved that centuries earlier. Christoper Columbus didn't even really discover North America. His multiple voyages took him to what we now call the Bahamas and the costs of Central and South America, but his feet never touched these here United States. It's likely the first Old World voyager to reach North America was Leif Erikson, who explored Canada some 500 years before Columbus was born. So why is this an American holiday at all? The short answer is to appease some Italians and Catholics. Happy Columbus Day! (Brandon Weigel)

 

The Ravens went from really fucked to really, really fucked with their overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns yesterday. The Sun's Mike Preston sums it up this way: "It's a sign that the Apocalypse is upon us and life as we once knew it is over. The Ravens had been to the playoffs six of the past seven years, but this isn't the time to talk about playoffs." Baltimore football: It's getting apocalyptic, y'all. Preston goes on to say that it would be unwise for general manager Ozzie Newsome to trade for a wide receiver and mortgage the future on a team whose prospects are so grim. And that means the Ravens, a preseason Super Bowl favorite, are going to have to settle for a transition year. His evalutations of the offense and defense are not so rosy either. Hey, there's always next year. (Brandon Weigel)

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