SCOTUS, Throw Us A Loan | Crooked Media
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February 28, 2023
What A Day
SCOTUS, Throw Us A Loan

In This Episode

  • The Supreme Court heard arguments over President Biden’s plan to cancel more than $400 billion in federal student loans, and whether his administration has the authority to do so. We cover the two cases challenging the loan relief program, and how the court’s conservative majority responded.
  • And in headlines: a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey, California ended its statewide coronavirus emergency order, and President Biden announced that he will nominate Julie Su to be the next Secretary of Labor.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, March 1st. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What A Day where now that it’s Women’s History Month, we’re looking to open up the canon y’all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Me telling a friend what I ordered at lunch. That is at least one woman’s history. 


Juanita Tolliver: And Real Housewives reunion panels. That is absolutely women’s history. I don’t want to hear any arguments. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Regardless of us opening the canon or not. That just is a fact. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, California ended its statewide coronavirus emergency order. Plus, a new addition to the Oscars performance lineup promises to bring some epic dance moves to the stage. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, the Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday over whether President Biden has the authority to cancel federal student debt. Namely, the $400 billion in student loan forgiveness that his administration offered to millions of Americans in the wake of the pandemic. 


Juanita Tolliver: All right. We know this is a hot topic. So what arguments did the court hear yesterday, Priyanka. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So there are two cases that are challenging the plan. One came from six Republican led states who sued to stop the plan last year. They’re saying that Biden was overstepping his authority. Those states include Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina. If you are a person living in one of those states and you would actually like your student loans forgiven, now might be a good time to make your voice heard. The other comes from two individual borrowers who didn’t qualify for the plan and are mad about it basically. They are being backed by a conservative advocacy group and are arguing that the policy can’t stand because it didn’t allow the public to weigh in on the forgiveness plan and how it would work. The administration, on the other hand, has been saying that this is authorized under the 2003 Heroes Act, which gives the Education Secretary the authority to change federal student loan programs during national emergencies, i.e. COVID. But the states argue that this oversteps the Heroes Act and that Biden is using COVID as an excuse to cancel this debt. They also argue that their states could suffer financially from this decision. 


Juanita Tolliver: Now, those arguments are wild in my mind, and I know there was some spicy exchanges during the oral arguments. So walk us through how the justices responded to this stuff. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so as we all know, conservatives have a 6-3 majority on this court. It a has not been a very good time, to put it very mildly. They seem to be skeptical of the Biden administration’s authority to cancel this debt. They came back to this theory called the major questions doctrine. And it’s actually a legal theory that basically posits that agencies in the executive branch have to get approval from Congress before doing anything that would have large economic and political consequences. The current court has used this logic a few times already to invalidate other major Biden administration policies, like when they tried to let the EPA regulate carbon emissions from power plants, when they tried to implement federal COVID vaccine mandates for large companies, and when they tried to let the CDC extend eviction protections for renters back in 2021. This court is very fond of falling back on this theory. Chief Justice John Roberts also tried to raise questions about the fairness of the policy for people who didn’t go to college. He asked why someone who didn’t go to college and got a bank loan to start a business instead wouldn’t get loan forgiveness. But someone who did attend college and ultimately went on to make more money should benefit instead. 


Juanita Tolliver: Hold on. Hold on. How are we just going to ignore the fact that PPP happened? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right? 


Juanita Tolliver: Like money was given to our entrepreneurial friends? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. So Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson countered very quickly with the point that this is just one of several other government programs. Some may help the business owners specifically. This one specifically is targeted towards people with student loan debt. There actually can be programs to help any people. It just really depends on who you’re voting for. 


Juanita Tolliver: That part. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This case is definitely considered to be one of the biggest that the court will tackle this term. But a ruling isn’t expected to come before the end of June. So a little time before we know the final verdict here. 


Juanita Tolliver: A little time. But these pending Supreme Court decisions could mean the difference between making some progress toward closing the racial wealth gap and helping older Americans retire in peace or setting up the 45 million people who are struggling with student loan debt for a huge financial loss. When President Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the student loan debt forgiveness program last August, 26 million people flooded the online portal to apply for relief, and 16 million people received a notification that they were, in fact, eligible. Now we know how much the right loves to argue that none of these people actually need student loan debt relief and that people who took out student loans years ago are all well off and should be required to pay their student loan debt. But based on an analysis from Politico of the people who submitted those 26 million applications, more than 98% of those applications came from zip codes where the average income is less than $75,000, and about two thirds were from neighborhoods with an average income below $40,000. So it’s pretty clear these folks could use some relief, especially when we know how much relief the government has given to the wealthy and corporations over the past few years. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, totally. The idea that everybody who goes to college and had student loan debt is now making boatloads of money, super rich, can’t be helped by this is completely false. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It also erases all the people who had student loan debt, got student loans, but didn’t end up graduating from college because– 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is also a significant number of people who, you know, this convenient little narrative just ignores. You mentioned that Biden’s student loan debt relief could help close the racial wealth gap and help older Americans. Tell us more about that. How would that work? 


Juanita Tolliver: So the data has shown for years that Black, Indigenous and Latina women carry disproportionate amounts of student loan debt. And when you add in the reality of pay inequity, high interest rates and problematic income based repayment plans, Black and Brown borrowers have been on the losing end of student loan debt for decades. According to the Roosevelt Institute, cancelling student loan debt would have a measurable impact on closing the racial wealth gap and immediately increase the wealth of Black Americans by 40%, for example. And according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, as of 2019, borrowers who are 50 years old and older hold about 20% of all student loan debt and balances are growing fastest among people between the ages of 60 and 69. So this isn’t just something that the youths are complaining about. It has implications across multiple demographic groups. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. And so looking ahead, what happens if Biden’s student debt relief plan is struck down? Is there any other way that we can get student loan forgiveness or is that just gone if this doesn’t work? 


Juanita Tolliver: Look, there are a couple of options on the table for the White House if the Supreme Court strikes down Biden’s debt relief plan. The White House could try to modify the existing relief plan to address the components that the court deems unconstitutional. It sounds a little bit petty, but it could yield a positive outcome that works around whatever legal parameters are set in the court’s decision. Though it could also end up back in court due to additional challenges from opponents. In the meantime, the Biden administration has been working for months to reconfigure its income based repayment plans to lower the monthly payment amounts and limit the timelines for repayment. And this could help both past and future borrowers. The administration is also updating the Public Service Student loan forgiveness program to make it easier for government workers and nonprofit employees to receive relief. So there are a few options on the table. But what sticks with me is a comment that Justice Sonia Sotomayor said during oral arguments yesterday, quote, “Everybody suffered in the pandemic, but different people got different benefits because they qualified under different programs and–.


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: –politically speaking. You better believe that every person who was struggling with student loan debt and could be denied relief will remember who tried to help them out and who didn’t.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is what’s absolutely wild to me about all of this. Like– 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We all know who’s doing this. Who is trying to deny this from, what? Like 40 million people like– 


Juanita Tolliver: 45 girl. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You don’t think this is going to have effects? Like it’s just insane to me. People will remember. People will be mad and people will know who took that money, took that debt forgiveness away from them. 


Juanita Tolliver: When I tell you that vengeance is one of the greatest political motivators. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I believe you. 


Juanita Tolliver: Come on. Y’all know we’re going to be watching the courts like a hawk on this. So stand by for more updates in the future. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yet another large earthquake has rocked Turkey and Syria this week. On Monday, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck in southern Turkey near the epicenter of the major tremor that hit last month. Officials in Turkey said that this latest earthquake killed at least one person and injured dozens of others as it destroyed several already damaged buildings. Over 10,000 aftershocks of varying intensities have been recorded in the region since February 6th. And the death toll has now passed 50,000 victims. 


Juanita Tolliver: California’s COVID-19 emergency declaration expired yesterday, almost three years after it was issued. The Golden State was the first in the nation to institute a statewide stay at home order in the early days of the pandemic. It gave Governor Gavin Newsom extra legal power to temporarily change or suspend various laws to fight the virus, including an order that allowed hospitals to put patient beds and gift shops and other spaces to treat an overwhelming number of COVID patients during the first winter surge. Though most statewide restrictions have already been lifted, health officials say the virus is still killing about 22 Californians per day. Similar COVID emergency orders are still in effect in five other states, though President Biden announced that the federal coronavirus order will expire on May 11th. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Some media tea is brewing, this time at the Washington Post. It involves Pulitzer prize winning journalist Jonathan Capehart’s exit from the Post’s editorial board back in December. We should note that Capehart, who is Black, was the only remaining person of color on the panel. According to a report from Axios. The split came after a dispute over an editorial that ran on December sixth about the runoff election in Georgia between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker. Capehart resigned shortly after the piece was published, and while he remains a columnist, associate editor and podcaster with The Post, the news just adds to the existing tensions within the paper over diversity within its leadership ranks. A spokesperson for the Post told Axios that the paper is, quote, “committed to diverse representation in all its pages,” which just does not seem to be the case here. But okay. 


Juanita Tolliver: As we say in my community. Mmm. [laughter] 


Priyanka Aribindi: What? 


Juanita Tolliver: Michigan Representative Elissa Slotkin announced Monday she’s running for retiring Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow’s seat next year. Slotkin, who was also a former CIA analyst, is the first Democrat to enter what will likely be a highly contested race in the battleground state. And political strategists thinks she has a good shot considering that she beat her Republican opponent in one of the most competitive races in the 2022 midterms and unseated a GOP incumbent when she was first elected to Congress in 2018. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Looks like the Department of Labor can finally take down the help wanted sign in the window. President Biden announced yesterday that he will nominate Julie Su to be his next secretary of labor. She is currently serving as deputy secretary to outgoing Secretary Marty Walsh. Previously, she led California’s Labor Department and as a civil rights attorney in the nineties, she represented dozens of undocumented Thai workers who were enslaved in an L.A. area sweatshop. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first Asian-American to join Biden’s cabinet at the secretary level. 


Juanita Tolliver: The Oscars announced Tuesday that the high energy dance track Naatu Naatu from the film RRR will be performed live at this year’s ceremony. The Best Original Song nominee, which will be competing against compositions from films like Top Gun Maverick and Everything Everywhere, All At Once, is a favorite to win the award, having already won the Golden Globe in the same category. The nomination is the lone nod from the Academy for the Indian blockbuster, which grossed $170 million dollars worldwide at the box office. As we touched on last week, Rihanna will also take the stage to perform her nominated song Lift Me Up from Black Panther Wakanda Forever. Additionally, Lift Me Up is what Rihanna told Apple Music she wanted for her Super Bowl halftime performance. When I tell you, homie was 60, 70 feet in the air, just getting it. Okay. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Is she flying again at the Oscars? Because that would be very cool 


Juanita Tolliver: I don’t know how far along she’ll be in her pregnancy at that point, so, I’m sure the doctor will not recommend any more flying. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. At what point in your pregnancy are you not allowed to fly on a– 


Juanita Tolliver: On a platform. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A very small stage anymore. These are questions I probably will never need to know the answer to. But now I’m curious. 


Juanita Tolliver: Very curious. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads. 


[music break]. 




Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we are talking about wild animals on controlled narcotics getting the Hollywood bump. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh my God. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The aptly named R rated horror comedy Cocaine Bear came to theaters last weekend, topping the Friday box office in its debut and grossing $28 million dollars worldwide. That is $28 million dollars more than uh we are grossing right now. [laughter] So I feel like we have no legs to stand on, Cocaine Bear’s a hit. The movie, directed by Elizabeth Banks, impressive, is very loosely based on the true story of a real black bear in Georgia who fatally ingested 40 pounds of cocaine– 


Juanita Tolliver: Ugh. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –when a plane transporting narcotics from a drug bust fumbled a package from the sky. I don’t know about you Juanita, but to me this movie has everything. [laughter] Cocaine, a bear doing that cocaine. The late great Ray Liotta. And in this version, the bear doesn’t immediately overdose from the 40 pounds of cocaine, he lives. I’m judging by the trailer. Boy, does he live. He truly is the boy who lived. So, Juanita, will you be seeing this? Certainly insane, but– 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh, my god. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –probably amazing and very entertaining movie in the theaters? 


Juanita Tolliver: Absolutely not. And I’m wondering about all the millions of people who paid money to see this mess. But I do think our E.P. had the best response. Cocaine is one hell of a drug. [laughter] But Priyanka, are you going to see Cocaine Bear? Because I just can’t bring myself to do it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I think you might be alone on this one. Cocaine Bear kind of sounds like, yes, it’s so wild. Like, I just have to see it. It just seems like it’ll be funny. It’ll be hysterical. 


Juanita Tolliver: I disagree. Jackass was hysterical. Cocaine Bear will not be hysterical. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Grab a few friends, go to the theater on like a weekend. See Cocaine Bear. The crowd there. You know the crowd there is there for a good time. 


Juanita Tolliver: You know, the crowd there– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Could be fun. 


Juanita Tolliver: –is probably going to be like– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Could be fun. 


Juanita Tolliver: –14, but okay. Okay. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Well it’s rated R, so they would need to be with a parent. So. [laugh]


Juanita Tolliver: Did you never sneak into a movie Priyanka? For real.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I think they card them at the Grove. 


Juanita Tolliver: What? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay. That must only happen in California. That never happens over here on the East Coast. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: No, I think moviegoing is like. I mean, obviously price wise has changed significantly, but I think it’s changed a lot since– 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –we did that as kids. Like now, you aren’t even allowed to, like, do the little double feature. I mean, you were never allowed to do it, but like, you could. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh, Priyanka. Stop snitching on yourself, girl. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Who didn’t? Who didn’t do the double feature? 


Juanita Tolliver: Raises hand timidly. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: But just like that, we have checked our temps. I mean, mine’s hot. Juanita? Juanita’s a little ice cold on this, but mine, spiking. 


Juanita Tolliver: Frigid cold. Keep the Cocaine. Keep the Bear. Keep it all. [laughter] [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Stay above the influence of the Cocaine Bear or don’t. Who am I to tell you what to do and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just Julie Su’s highly impressive resume like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And make some women’s history today. 


Juanita Tolliver: They just had the second part of The Real Housewives of Potomac Reunion Air. So catch up if you missed it. That is women’s history. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This might be the March that I start my Real Housewives journey. 


Juanita Tolliver: What do you mean start? 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s overwhelming. There’s so much of it. 


Juanita Tolliver: Choose one franchise. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’ll do it. I have to recognize Women’s History Month somehow. 


Juanita Tolliver: Bless. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.