Good Reads: From student debt, to Bloomberg’s last stand, to the Russian justice system
This week's round-up of Good Reads includes predatory college lending, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last term, an expat's return to the United States, the tangle of Russia's justice system, and why Egypt is no longer a regional leader.
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine has a penchant for over-the-top, flame-throwing invective. So who better to stir up some outrage over America’s escalating student-debt burden? You don’t read Mr. Taibbi to understand. You read Taibbi to get motivated to understand.Skip to next paragraph
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The average student loan is now $28,000. Some loans are close to mortgage-level amounts, saddling students with heavy payments for decades. Taibbi fingers two villains. First, tuition levels at colleges and universities continue to run laps around inflation in the rest of the economy. Very little of the increased cost is for education per se. Instead, much of it is “gilding,” building more attractive health clubs and dorms and bringing on celebrity professors to compete for students.
But why not compete by cutting prices? Because the growth of student loans has brought vast new sums of money into the system – supplied by young people from the least-affluent families among the college bound. The greater villain is the highly profitable government-run lending program itself. Taibbi calls it “a government-sponsored predatory-lending program that makes even the most ruthless private credit-card company seem like a ‘Save the Panda’ charity.”
Bloomberg's last stand
As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg nears the end of his three terms in office, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta assesses a career that defies categorization. With a net worth estimated at $27 billion, Mr. Bloomberg never needed to raise money to campaign, and he prides himself on being able to say no to special interests. On his watch, crime has fallen dramatically and post-recession employment has grown much faster than the national average. His “stop and frisk” policy has set liberal teeth on edge. His ban on selling large sugary drinks has made conservative eyes roll. His effort to promote gun control nationally has put conservatives on the warpath. “Now he is clearly vexed by the challenges of envisaging his own future and a City Hall without him,” writes Mr. Auletta.
A return to ‘awesome’ America
After 18 years in London as a correspondent for The New York Times, Sarah Lyall has returned to the United States and offers readers some compare-and-contrast observations. The British have become more American over the years, she notes, but retain their traditional reserve. “Sometimes in London I felt stupidly enthusiastic, like a Labrador puppy let loose in an antique store, or overly loud and gauche, like a guest who shows up at a memorial service wearing a Hawaiian shirt and traumatizes the mourners with intrusive personal questions.”