Run by the Department of Education, the program became infamous for being a jumble of bureaucratic rules that hurt those it was designed to help. When consumer protection officials first probed the program in 2017, Trump’s Education Department simply canceled it — with hundreds of thousands still in it — and was sued by the American Federation of Teachers.
Last April, the Government Accountability Office issued a scathing report. And CBS’ “60 Minutes” got on the case. Joe Biden’s Education Department surely knew where this story was going.
Stahl’s piece shows us the faces and told the infuriating tales of impressive public servants our government had shamelessly shafted. They weren’t naïve and defenseless victims; all were skilled military lawyers. All had been officially assured that they had met the rules and paid as required for a decade. But there was always a technicality: wrong kind of loan company; wrong kind of loan.
Last week, hours after the “60 Minutes” piece aired, Secretary Cardona announced a temporary program designed to make things right for all who were unfairly rejected by the botched and boggled bureaucracy. Teachers, military members and other eligible public servants will now have until Oct. 31, 2022, to re-apply, show their proof of 10 years of good-faith payments — and then get the rest of their student loan debts wiped off the books.
Now, let’s return to our intersection of the news media, policy and politics. Think about how good governance just might have happened if our all-news cable networks were still back in the business of having teams that do enterprise journalism.
What if the all-news cable nets routinely reported original stories in Washington and especially in the field? What if they hadn’t virtually abandoned that role to do it on the cheap, paying talking heads to tell us the same old stuff about what they think about the old news everyone already knows?
What if, years ago, CNN, MSNBC and Fox had all been airing their own Lesley Stahl/“60 Minutes”-type versions of this failure of governance? What if we all had seen our most deserving public servants telling us how they had been misled and rudely rejected by the government they loyally served?
Isn’t it possible that Republicans and Democrats might have united to at least end that absurd injustice long ago?