Presidential debates on international affairs almost always invoke a lot of tough talk, and Oct. 22’s debate was no exception, as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney used the topic of Iran to burnish their macho credentials.
Negotiating directly with Tehran doesn’t sound tough, which may be why both candidates evaded it when the subject came up. But direct U.S.-Iran talks must at least be attempted before war becomes the only remaining option to halt Iran’s quest for bomb-grade nuclear material.
The New York Times reported that Iran and the United States had agreed to direct negotiations. That would mark a bold and potentially perilous move by the Obama administration, which says the report isn’t true.
As the Bush administration’s chief Iran negotiator, former undersecretary of state R. Nicholas Burns told The Times negotiations make sense.
“What are we going to do instead? Drive straight into a brick wall called war in 2013, and not try to talk to them?”
The regional consequences of a war with Iran would be horrific. Oil shipping through the Strait of Hormuz would probably shut down, leading to shortages and global economic catastrophe. There is no guarantee that other nuclear powers, such as India, Pakistan, China and Russia, would support the United States. A broader international conflict of world-war proportions isn’t hard to envision.
So, yes, the two absolutely should talk directly. But that must not be confused by Tehran as signaling a collapse of the international resolve that has led to unprecedented harsh economic sanctions.
The Dallas Morning News
Repaying student loans
Loan debt incurred by the average college student jumped to a record $26,500 last year, 5 percent over 2010, so new Obama administration rules aimed at easing payback schedules are welcome. The only problem, according to a report published recently, is that the one-size-fits-all rules will end up benefiting people with high incomes disproportionately more than those with low ones. That’s not how it should be.
One of the president’s big campaign talking points is about helping the middle class. The new rules — which reduce the percentage of discretionary income factored into loan repayment schedules, as well as the length of the repayment term — would certainly do that. But according to an analysis by the New America Foundation independent think tank, they would help people with high incomes the most and those with low incomes the least.
Starting this month for some recipients, instead of capping monthly payments at 15 percent of income, they will be capped at just 10 percent; and instead of forgiving the principal after 25 years of payments, it will do so after just 20. Smaller payments over shorter time frames mean larger bills for the government. And that might not be so bad if the arrangement were structured to help people who need it most; instead, it’s tailored so students who borrow the most and make more money (i.e. graduate students) pay proportionally the least.
The foundation report claims the skewed arrangement has emboldened financial planners to encourage graduate students to borrow to the max, pay the smallest they can get away with, then walk away after 20 years, leaving the government holding the bag.
Clearly, the rules need to be changed so that a lawyer or other professional earning well into six figures is not allowed to do that.
The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y.