Spreading Suppression: Restrictive Voting Laws Across the United States

Our friends at Campus Progress partnered with the Fair Elections Legal Network to produce a voter suppression map of the United States.Wow. Isn't that weird that I had to type that? Actually, isn't it even stranger that we have a need for an entire map of voter suppression laws in America?The map includes legislation that's been passed and legislation that is pending. It's divided into five categories that are considered suppression: Voter ID, proof of citizenship, early voting, voter registration, and other restrictions.

Lessons in Disloyalty: Eduardo Saverin and The Facebook IPO

Ilyse Hogue, a Rebuild the Dream advisory board member, writes some great stuff for The Nation. Most recently, Hogue writes of yet another 1%'er making an effort to avoid paying their fair share:

"..It was revealed last week that Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his US citizenship... The move allows the thirty-year old Saverin to avoid paying a significant chunk of the taxes he will owe on the windfall coming his way with the impending Facebook IPO."
We believe that when millionaires do well in America, they should do right by America -- it is their patriotic duty to pay taxes. As Hogue hopes,
"Saverin's craven selfishness will help us rethink not only enforcement of our tax code, but also how we recognize and define loyalty and patriotism for all of us, immigrant and native-born, who call America home."

Republicans get in the way, again

Today at noon, 44 Republican Senators voted to allow the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans to double in July.Why? Because Republicans couldn't bring themselves to finally -- for once -- vote in favor of middle- and working-class Americans. Republicans have an issue with the "pay for," or how a bill gets financed. Here's what they have a problem with:

The Democrats’ bill would finance it by requiring law, accounting and other professional services firms with three or fewer shareholders to pay withholding taxes on annual income of more than $250,000. The firms, known as S corporations, currently can treat their income as profit and avoid the withholding tax.
And what did Republicans propose as a "pay-for"?Senate Republicans want to deplete the Prevention & Public Health Fund. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post writes about the Prevention Fund:
The Prevention Fund’s biggest investments have been in two areas: Increasing the size of the health care workforce and implementing community-based, health care interventions.
So there you have it, folks. On a bill that should be a no-brainer, Republicans bring to the table a plan to literally abolish a public health care fund. Abolish. Get rid of it. Deplete.Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had this to say:
“We all agree we’re not going to allow the interest rate to go up... It’s ridiculous that we’re having these kind of show votes on the floor when we could sit down and negotiate an outcome, and that’s what will happen. It ought to happen sooner rather than later.”
Senate Republicans didn't want a "show vote" so that they could quietly offer a pay-for that completely screws over America's middle class and not get flak for it.So now we're going to keep pushing. We know who the enemy is. We're going to keep the pressure on Republicans to come up with a serious proposal -- not depleting public health funds. Students across America should feel insulted that the Republicans came up with such a sorry pay-for... they must not be taking this vote seriously.

Senate Rejects Don't Double To Save Corporate Tax Loophole

Student loans are shackling millions. //Photo by ThisisBossi
There are not too many issues that are political no-brainers. Helping millions of student pay for college by preventing student loan interest rates from doubling was one of these issues.Today, Senate Republicans voted to defeat a bill to prevent student interest rates from rising. The impasse: whether Congress would pay for the bill by closing a tax loophole for corporate stock-holders or cutting preventative health care for poor Americans.With student debt surpassing $1 trillion dollars, it's clear where Congress's priorities are.“Republicans in the Senate just voted to expedite America’s new financial crisis and ensure that an entire generation of young Americans will graduate one step closer to poverty. Across this country, there are millions of students and graduates working two jobs while struggling to pay off student loans. For many of them the system is rigged. With their vote today, Republicans rejected their own party’s nominee as well as millions of young voters around the country that have been devastated by tuition rates that have tripled while receiving no relief," stated Rebuild the Dream's CEO Natalie Foster.Since February, Rebuild the Dream has been running a grassroots and media campaign in support of keeping the interest rate low on these loans. Rebuild the Dream members made approximately 4,000 phone calls to their Senators on Friday and Monday. We collected 1,100 stories of student debt from our members and developed some of the best ones into spokespeople in the key swing states for Senate votes. Previously, our members wrote 130,000 letters to their members of Congress and made 4,000 phone calls to the Senate in support of the legislation.

Rebuild the Dream On the Radio

You can now listen to Rebuild the Dream on your morning jog! Rebuild the Dream has launched a talk radio station on Stitcher.Stitcher is an online talk radio application with over 4 million users. Rebuild the Dream is participating in their new Election Center along with partners like Slate News, CBS, MSNBC and Bloomberg. Find us by searching for "Rebuild the Dream" on your Stitcher application; new pieces will come out each week.Our program will feature the latest updates from Rebuild the Dream's campaigns and partners. You can Get the latest updates first by subscribing to Rebuild the Dream on your Stitcher smartphone app.Catch up with the latest Stitcher podcasts right now by listening to pieces from Van Jones, Molly Katchpole and Rory O'Sullivan of the Young Invincibles.Episode 1: Welcome to Rebuild the DreamRebuild the Dream president and progressive leader Van Jones gives an introduction to Rebuild's new radio station.Episode 2: Meet MollyAn introduction to your plucky narrator, Molly KatchpoleEpisode 3: The Young InvinciblesMolly interviews Rory O'Sullivan from Young Invincibles, an advocacy group from DC whose focus is on issues affecting 18-34-year-olds.

Student Loan Stories. Coming To An Op-Ed Page Near You.

*Next week on May 8th the Senate will be voting on this issue. Call your Senator to let him or her know that they cannot allow the interest rate to double. Click here to get your Senator's numbers.Everyday, each congressional office brings out the editorial page from small towns across their district to see what issues matter to their voters. With a vote on student loan rates coming as early as next week, we want to make sure each Senator gets a letter from their home district.Five years ago, Congress slashed the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans from 6.8% to 3.4%. Almost 8 million students use subsidized Stafford loans to pay for school and make it to graduation. But interest on Stafford loans will double this July if Congress doesn’t pass a plan to keep interest rates down. Without the new plan, students who borrow the maximum amount of subsidized Stafford loans could pay almost $5,000 more through the repayment of their loan.For the last couple months, Rebuild the Dream joined USPIRG, USSA, and Campus Progress to deliver Valentine grams from all over the country to deliver to members of Congress, calling on them to keep Stafford loan interest from doubling, getting coverage in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia. A few weeks later, Rebuild the Dream members filled up the congressional phone lines with phone calls calling on Congress to extend the 3.4% rate.Rebuild the Dream has been campaigning on this issue since February. Our members wrote 130,000 letters to Congress, calling on them to keep Stafford loan interest rates from doubling. A few weeks later, Rebuild the Dream members filled up the congressional phone lines with phone calls calling on Congress to extend the 3.4% rate. We've been partnering and coordinating with U.S. PIRG, U.S. Student Assocation, Campus Progress, Credo Action and other groups in this campaign.In the stories they shared, people talked about their dreams:

My whole life, I was told that the only way to get a good job was to go to college. After attending a 4-year university and accumulating massive amounts of debt, I'm unable to find any job at all. Because of my student debt, I've had to put pretty much every plan for my future on hold... I've been so stifled by my financial worries that I feel like I'm not even allowed to dream about my future.

Amber T. from Massachusetts

The challenges they face in finding a job and making payments for their student debt:
I am a current student for a private career college. When I graduate, I will be in about $40,000+ worth of student loan debt. Once I graduate I do not know how I will make my loan payments and be able to keep a roof over my family's head when my degree in Medical Assisting will net me job starting out at about $15 an hour.

Stephanie O. from Florida

And their obstacles and triumphs:
I am a first-generation college student, from a working-class single parent home in south Louisiana. College was never really something that I saw in my future, mostly because it seemed so daunting for someone "like me;" everyone I knew in college had a stable family structure, they were financially more secure than my family, and they had parents who were in college before them...  I am a recipient of Pell grants and several scholarships, but that still isn't enough. Therefore, I must take out student loans every semester.I don't want to have to choose between paying massive loan payments or providing for my children's needs.

                                                      Hope M. from  Louisiana

Keep an eye out for more student loan stories coming to a small time paper near you. To help submit your own student loan story, send your student loan story to your local paper using our Letter to the Editor tool and get your story published before the Senate votes on student loan interest rates.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Student Debt Across the United States

Over the last week, more than one thousand brave Rebuild the Dream members shared their student debt stories. What do 1,000 voices calling for change look like?They look something like this. We created a map, where you can read hundreds of student debt stories. This is a small sample of the millions of people impacted by student debt across the country. You can still submit your student debt story today and also write a letter to the editor about the importance of keeping student loans affordable. Let's get these stories out across the nation.

Arrested For A Sharpie Marker?

As part of the 99% Power movement, thousands of shareholders have been demonstrating against corporate greed at shareholder meetings across the country.In response to the highly successful shareholder actions, the City of Charlotte is taking a stand. A stand against dangerous Sharpie markers.Charlotte Police will be given special "emergency" powers for the upcoming Duke Energy and Bank of America Shareholder Meetings. These special emergency powers will grant law enforcement "unlimited discretion" and permission to search all bags for prohibited items and arrest those who have them. The ACLU has raised concerns over non-protestors getting arrested for refusing a search while walking through the city.

Law enforcement will be given broader powers during these events to search backpacks, coolers, satchels and messenger bags. That includes briefcases and carry-on luggage — the kind with wheels often used by lawyers to transport reams of documents.The new ordinances also detail a list of items that are grounds for arrest. Among them: spray paint, permanent markers, hammers, crowbars, box cutters, utility knives, chains, padlocks, lumber, plastic pipe, pepper spray, mace and police scanners.ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Katy Parker says the Charlotte’s security rules place “unlimited discretion” in the hands of Walton.“We have a concern about that much power in the hands of the city manager — it could really chill free speech,” Parker says.
Protests or no protests, you might want to keep your kid cousin's Sharpie collection away from Charlotte for awhile. You can also visit The City of Charlotte's Facebook page to air your opinion on the new policy.

Rebuild The Dream Responds to FHFA's Delays: We Can't Wait

With over 11 million families drowning from underwater mortgages, homeowners need solutions yesterday. Today, Ed De Marco delayed relief for millions by announcing the FHFA was indefinitely postponing its decision on principal reduction. Read Rebuild the Dream’s statement on the delay:

Rebuild the Dream response to FHFA's delays:Ed DeMarco's foot-dragging is irresponsible and unjustifiableThe FHFA announced today that they are indefinitely postponing a widely anticipated decision regarding whether they will implement principal reduction as a solution for underwater homeowners.Rebuild the Dream finds this delay irresponsible and unjustifiable, in the face of a mountain of evidence favoring principal reduction, and after calls for principal reduction from economists, experts, HUD Secretary Sean Donovan, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and countless members of Congress. Even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- the enterprises Mr. DeMarco oversees -- disagree with him on the issue of principal reduction. Studies released a month ago by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac show that principal reduction is a workable, net-positive solution for taxpayers and for struggling homeowners."Rebuild the Dream's membership includes thousands of underwater homeowners across the country. These struggling homeowners tell us they are appalled and deeply distressed by how slowly FHFA is moving on this critical issue," said Ian Kim, Director of Campaigns at Rebuild the Dream. "These homeowners and their families are drowning, and Mr. DeMarco has a lifeline, called principal reduction. He should be moving heaven and earth to help save these homeowners. Instead he's dragging his feet and taking his time."Since February, Rebuild the Dream has been calling on Mr. DeMarco to move forward on principal reduction, or else be removed as Director of the FHFA."With or without Mr. DeMarco, the Obama Administration must implement broad-scale principal reduction, without delay," said Ian Kim. "Principal reduction is key to allowing underwater homeowners to stay in their homes and communities, and it is key to unshackling our nation's economic recovery."

We Said Don't Double. President Obama Says #DontDoubleMyRate

For months, Rebuild the Dream, along with US PIRG, Campus Progress and the US Student Association, has been campaigning so Congress stops Stafford loan rates from doubling. Rebuild the Dream members wrote 130,000 letters to members of Congress and made 4,000 phone calls to their Senators. It's on now. The White House is responding by jumping in and bringing national attention to this important issue.President Obama has launched a campaign to support the efforts to stop Congress from letting student loan rates double this summer. Starting with events in North Carolina, President Obama gave a speech on college affordability at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. This was followed by a visit to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.Here's the round up from Obama's student loan interest rate push.