Business & Economy

On The Money — Partial student loan forgiveness ‘still on the table’

The Hill illustration, Madeline Monroe/iStock

President Biden may still use executive action to wipe out some student loans, according to Jen Psaki. We’ll also look at how Twitter is defending itself against Elon Musk and how a Texas immigration crackdown is snarling supply chains. 

But first, John Legend has some endorsements. 

Welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. For The Hill, we’re Sylvan Lane, Aris Folley and Karl Evers-Hillstrom. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Psaki: Student debt decision could come in months

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said President Biden’s use of executive action to cancel some federal student loan debt is “still on the table” and that a “decision” could be made in the coming months.  

Between now and the end of August, Psaki said the current moratorium on student loan payments is “either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision, as [White House chief of staff Ron Klain] referenced, about canceling student debt.”  

  • Biden last extended the pause earlier this month amid mounting pressure from advocates, borrowers and members of his own party to provide further relief.
  • Biden during his campaign called for federal student loan debt cancellation, and supported forgiveness of at least $10,000 per borrower. However, some top Democrats have pushed for him to go beyond that, canceling up to $50,000 per borrower or wiping out federal student loan debt entirely.
  • The White House called on Congress to send legislation canceling debt to Biden’s desk, but Democrats are not optimistic about their chances of doing so in the 50-50 Senate given staunch GOP opposition. Sixty votes would be needed to overcome procedural hurdles. 

The background: The current pause on federal student loan payments was first implemented under the Trump administration at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. It has since been extended six times.  

Biden last extended the pause earlier this month amid mounting pressure from advocates, borrowers and members of his own party to provide further relief.  

Aris has more here.


Abbott border inspections threaten US fresh food supply  

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) order to increase inspections on commercial trucks entering the state from Mexico could threaten the supply of fresh produce in the U.S. and raise food prices for weeks after traffic begins flowing again.  

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fruits and vegetables hauled through the southern border are at risk after the new inspection program and ensuing protests caused miles-long traffic jams.  

“The damage has been done. I’ve got members reporting that trucks are finally starting to show up that were stuck in those lines for three to five days, and some are saying that product is just unusable, rotten and leaking out of trailers,” said Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association.  

  • Stores and restaurants will struggle to get their hands on Mexican-grown avocados, limes, tomatoes, mangos and cucumbers that primarily travel through Texas, and some stores won’t be able to replenish their stocks until next weekend. 
  • The U.S. relies on Mexico for nearly half of its vegetable imports and 40 percent of fruit imports, and two-thirds of all trade between the two nations goes through Texas. 
  • Abbott has reached agreements with Mexican governors to end the additional inspections and bolster coordination over border security, moves that will eventually restore the supply chain but came too late to stop some goods from spoiling. 

The ensuing shortage will likely drive up food prices that were already soaring. Wholesale food prices jumped 2.4 percent from February to March, with the cost of fresh and dry vegetables climbing by an astonishing 42 percent.   

Karl has more here


Twitter adopts poison pill to prevent Elon Musk takeover  

Twitter adopted a so-called poison pill Friday that would help prevent it from undergoing a hostile acquisition after Elon Musk put in an offer to buy the social media company for $43 billion.  

The board unanimously adopted the limited duration shareholder rights plan. Under the plan, if any person or group acquires 15 percent or more of Twitter’s stock without the board’s approval, other shareholders are allowed to purchase additional shares at a discount. The plan is set to expire in one year. 

  • The move is Twitter’s counterattack to an offer Musk filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to buy the company.
  • Musk’s bid to take over Twitter came after he declined a spot on its board of directors, offered after he acquired a 9.2 percent stake in the company last week.  

Dan Ives, an analyst at WedBush Securities, said the poison pill is a “predictable defensive measure” for the board, and it will “not be viewed positively by shareholders given the potential dilution and acquisition unfriendly move.” 

The Hill’s Rebecca Klar has more here.  


Fed’s industrial output gauge reaches 101-year high 

The Federal Reserve’s monthly gauge of industrial activity reached its highest level in more than 100 years of the index’s history, according to data released by the central bank Friday, thanks to a jump in automobile production. 

The Fed’s index for industrial production rose to 104.6 in March, an increase of 0.9 percent despite supply chain disruptions and shortages driven by the ongoing war in Ukraine.  

How it works: The index measures how much industrial output has increased or decreased compared to the average in a specific year—currently 2017. That means industrial production last month was equal to 104.6 percent of its 2017 level, the highest level since the Fed began calculating the index in 1919. 

“The strong performance of the industrial sector should give gross domestic product growth in the first quarter a needed boost especially with consumption hampered by elevated inflation,” wrote Tuan Ngyuen, economist at audit and tax firm RSM. 

Sylvan has more here

Good to Know

Restaurants, gyms, assisted living facilities and other businesses devastated by the pandemic are mounting a final push for federal relief.   

Advocates scored a momentous win last week when the House passed a bill to provide $55 billion in aid to restaurants and other hard-hit industries. They now face the challenge of garnering 60 votes in the Senate after several Republicans signaled their opposition to additional COVID-19 relief for businesses. 

Here’s what else have our eye on: 

  • The Interior Department on Friday announced another round of oil and gas lease sales on public lands as well as an increase in royalty rates.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now has oversight to regulate e-cigarette products from vaping companies operating under a loophole that was closed by a new law.
  • President Biden on Friday announced that he would nominate Michael Barr to be the Federal Reserve’s top banking regulator, making a second attempt to fill the role after his first nominee did not have the votes to be confirmed in the Senate.
  • Ukraine is reportedly using facial recognition technology from U.S. company Clearview AI to identify dead Russian soldiers and send the images to their families in an effort to turn sentiment against the war.
  • A federal judge ruled that a fundraising committee associated with Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams cannot yet begin to raise unlimited sums of money under a state law passed last year. 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Monday. 


Tags Biden Elon Musk Greg Abbott Jen Psaki Joe Biden John Legend

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