Featured Music

Hugo: Loyle Carners’ 3rd Studio Album is a Musical Magnifying Glass

 What Loyle Carner did with ‘hugo’ was an unprecedented stroke of genius, but a stroke of genius nonetheless

Born and raised in South London, Carner used ‘hugo to enhance not only his old sound but his societal commentary. His typical jazz-influenced sound has dug its heels into the majority of the album’s tracks, but with a speed and intensity that we haven’t yet heard from Carner. With singles and first tracks “Hate” and “Georgetown” setting the tone for the album as something that is not only deeply personal but inquisitive; a man that is clearly angry with the view of society his magnifying glass has shown him. 

‘hugo’, Carner’s third studio album, takes on the role of exploring identity with issues of race and family co-existing at the forefront, ignited by the more recent birth of his son. To which Carner has dedicated a song, ‘Homerton’. The song represents a self-discussion that sees him come to terms with the mistakes he has made as a father, as well as taking on a new understanding and forgiveness towards his own father, having seen him make similar mistakes. “Sometimes, the parents need their kids more than the kids need the parents”. It is a track that emulates the start of a journey of reconciliation, with himself and the man that came before him.

Whilst ‘Homerton’ starts the journey of forgiveness, ‘HGU’ finishes it. The track takes on another introspective approach and sees Loyle finish the album with a clear message; in what is a short story of the forgiveness he has recently experienced towards his father for the mistakes he made, Carner forgives himself. It is a much bigger message than what it may initially seem and is a message that a lot of people will be able to relate to, especially with such an unmistakably sincere and urgent quality of production. Carner does not only want us to listen to his words, but to carry them with us in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of ourselves and, perhaps, our familial relationships. 

Hugo Loyle Carner
© Christopher Currence

These sharp and insistent tracks do not stop at exploring his identity as a father, but also his identity as a mixed-race man. The most notable of which is “Georgetown”, a track featuring and born out of Afro-Guyanese poet John Agard and his well-known poem “Half-Caste”. Both explore the metaphor of a piano, and how its black and white keys are necessary to constitute a full instrument. It is a metaphor that highlights Loyle’s eventual self-acceptance of his mixed-race identity, as well as suggesting a reassuring self-love for his heritage. A piano is full and whole with its black and white keys, and so is he. It is a necessary and loving message but is not one that ends there. Tracks such as “Plastic” and “Blood On My Nikes” create a running commentary on societies handling of race-related issues. Particularly, the desensitising the media has created towards the violence young, black and mixed-race men experience in London, whilst the world continues to spin with its focus on shiny, ‘plastic’ things to take away from the real issues at hand.

And finally, Loyle, of course, does not shy away from exploring how his father’s identity as a black man played a role in impacting their relationship. We return to “HGU” to delve into such a connection; the opening lyrics “I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you” provide finality to a complicated relationship between father and son; forgiveness. But we’re not left with just that, we are shown an understanding that could come from self-introspection. Carner illustrates a notion that those with difficult upbringings may all hope to understand, “Hurt people hurt people.” But he takes it one step further, “Especially the ones who weren’t equal/the burnt treacle.” The black man, the men who were not equal to their white counterparts and by that logic were left waking up on the wrong side of the bed every day by society’s standards. Simply, it is harder to be black in contemporary Britain. We have not yet reached equality, and that kind of pain trickles through generations and relationships. It appears Carner, through his own battle with his identity, has discovered and come to terms with this notion in regard to his own father/son relationship. 

hugo‘ is a hugely successful album that takes a magnifying glass to society, to fatherhood, and most importantly, to how these affect Carner as an individual. It is a captivating, soulful album in both production and lyricism, and one that we should pay thanks to merely for its existence. Loyle Carner does not shy away from anything, perhaps in hope that, eventually, no one else will either.


Featured Gaming & Tech

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Under Fire For Bad Graphics

The new Pokémon Scarlet and Violet Games can make a case study for a truly critic-proof game.

Both Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have sold ten million units in three days. And, despite being almost universally panned due to its abysmal performance for an AAA Nintendo Switch Game in 2022, the game has even broken records for Nintendo. 

The games have some of the best storylines from any Pokémon game, are more open-world than Pokémon Legends: Arceus (the de-facto open world Pokémon game), and have some interesting additions to the ever-growing Pokédex. They also had incredible marketing, which we covered in previous articles. The starters were almost universally loved, and the Iberian Peninsula-inspired Paldea seemed gorgeous, at least in the trailers. And, if the games didn’t run like a PowerPoint slideshow at some points and had a full Pokédex, they would probably be hands-down the best Pokémon games ever.

The game’s graphical flaws are glaring, and it’s almost impossible to play Pokémon Scarlet and Violet without feeling affected by its low quality at some point. Even gamers who don’t care about the graphics feel like Game Freak is trying to get away with far too much. Their predecessor, Pokémon Sword and Shield, was also met with similar criticism due to cutting out Pokémon, barebones story, and excessive hand-holding. 

Pokemon scarlet and violet
@ Nintendo

Fans of the games have shared funny clips of the game’s bugs and glitches, including one where the player becomes a giant Slenderman-like creature while riding the game’s mount or minor graphical bugs where NPCs phase in and out of existence spontaneously. This is also the first time that many gamers who pre-ordered the game actually went to request refunds from Nintendo. Those who pre-ordered either copy of the game already had it downloaded on launch day and paid for it once it finished.

Many of these gamers took to Reddit, Twitter and Instagram to vent their experiences with the game. Gaming YouTubers also praised the game. Not only that, but the game had a mix of new features that increased quality of life while also removing other features that were a mainstay from past games. Pokémon breeding is much easier and faster, while the games removed status effect animations on Pokémon battles, a feature that’s been in the game since Gen 5. Now, Pokémon also go to sleep and have their eyes wide open.

But, overall, while Gen 9 made several steps in the right direction, every other video game company is walking for miles.

Pokémon is the highest-grossing media franchise in the world, worth $118.5 billion. It doesn’t seem like Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Game Freak are paying attention to the gamer’s concerns and might be more focused on milking their cash cow. But, that doesn’t mean many gamers have enjoyed the game. You can identify a game’s flaws while still having fun out of the many new things added.

And, of course, more children and young teenagers only care about the Pokémon, so it’s not like the game’s target audience will care if a couple of fictional birds look pixelated in the distance.

Community Featured

Maryland Named the Best State for Gender Equality

recently released analysis Reveals Maryland is the best state for gender equality

The study by the U.S. News and World Report indicates that Maryland is the most gender-tolerant place in the US. The other states ranked in the Top 5, coming behind Maryland were Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Illinois. The states ranking in the lowest positions were Wyoming, Utah, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Alabama, with Idaho in last place.

The ranking is based on five categories: economy, education, health, representation and power and family planning and care. The state of Maryland’s overall ranking was largely boosted due to ranking first in the education category and many of the state’s educational institutions prioritize equal opportunities and encourage female enrolment in university programs, especially in historically underrepresented fields such as STEM.

Maryland also ranked high, in 4th place in the representation and power category, which compared the percentage of men and women in positions of power within the state government and managerial positions. It was found that in nearly every state, men hold more management positions than women, with Vermont, Maine and Maryland having the smaller disparities while South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska have the largest. Nevada is the only state with more women in state legislatures than men.

@ Shutterstock

The most unbalanced state regarding state legislatures is West Virginia, where 88% of legislatures are men and only 12% are women.

In regards to earnings, Maryland also ranked higher than the national average, with women earning 86 cents to the male dollar, compared to the national average of 82 cents. Connecticut ranked as the highest state regarding earnings, with women earning 97 cents to the male dollar. The study also highlighted that states in the Northeast, West Coast and those to the west of the Great Lakes, consistently outperform the states in the Midwest and the South of the country, when it comes to gender equality.

While abortion access is not measured in this study, a separate analysis by U.S News found a high correlation between states with abortion access and those with the best gender equality rankings, with states with abortion protections scoring higher for gender equality overall.

Featured Self Care

Cuffing Season Is Coming: 5 Pro Tips To Prepare Your Love Life

Summer’s over and cuffing season is finally here

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, the weather is changing, and the Pumpkin Spice Lattes are emerging. All of that can only mean one thing, cuffing season is here. Yes, friends, with the changing of the weather comes the changing of the romantic season, as we shift from summer fun in the sun to committed partnerships, almost overnight.

Cuffing season is the time of year usually starting around September when there is a sudden scramble among single people to find a partner. So, what causes this almost imperceptible shift in the romantic climate? It usually comes down to the fear of facing the impending winter months and various important holidays alone. And, let’s be real, bringing a partner home for the holidays not only guarantees you a seat at the adults’ table, but it also might just keep your Uncle Joe on his best behaviour. It may even temporarily stave off the when are you going to meet a nice (girl or guy) and settle down questions. Not to mention you have a couch potato partner for all those cold, lonely, and generally desolate winter nights between holidays.

We get it, it’s tempting. But, the catch to cuffing season is that many people are just interested in a partner, not necessarily the partner. And, being a placeholder simply to fill a seat at a table or the hole of someone’s loneliness can get old pretty quickly.  So, how can you stave off the siren song of this season? Check out these 5 Pro Tips below!

1. Figure Out What You Want

Cuffing Season
@ Getty Images

Being in a relationship during cuffing season isn’t a bad thing, but being in a relationship because of cuffing season, well that’s something else. So, before the musical chairs’ madness of the seasons begins, take a moment to think about what you genuinely want.

If you do want a partner, then think about what qualities would create long-term compatibility. You want to be with someone for a reason, not just a season. Making a list can help you get your thoughts organized and figure out the details that are actually important to you in a relationship. What qualities do you want your partner to possess? What do you need and want out of a relationship? And then think about why you even want to be in a relationship at this time in your life. If the answer revolves around anything about staving off loneliness or the seat at the adult’s table scenario, then maybe this isn’t the right time for partnership.

Timing in life can be everything, and there are times in our lives when partnership just isn’t a good option for us. So much of having a good relationship with others revolves around us having first and foremost a good relationship with ourselves. And maybe that is the relationship you will need to work on this cuffing season.

2. Don’t Settle

Cuffing Season
@ Getty Images

So, now that you’ve figured out what you genuinely want, stick to your guns! If the choice is between coupling up with someone you aren’t that interested in, or who doesn’t seem that interested in you, or being single. Stick with being single! While partnering up may seem like a solution to some of your winter month problems, generally cuffing relationships turn out to be far more trouble than they are worth.

Once the season ends one or both parties are in a relationship they quickly realize they never wanted to be in. Hurt feelings, harsh words, and hurtful behaviors generally ensure causing all sorts of chaos. So, go with your gut. If something inside you says that getting with this person feels an awful lot like settling, then go with that feeling. It is better to be single than to be the wrong person, trust us on that one.

3. Fill Your Calendar

@ iStock

Ready–Set–Book! Finding a few (or many) things to fill your calendar with is a great way to ward off loneliness during the fall and winter months. Even if you end up not attending all the events or parties you initially plan to, at least you will have the option. And, sometimes that is all it takes.

Sometimes the winter months can feel bleak, with shorter, darker days and more people spending their evenings in instead of out, the loneliness of singledom can feel amped up. But having a few things on your calendar gives you some things to look forward to.  It provides assurance that you will not waste away alone in your cave, which, let’s be honest, is sometimes how winter months can feel. Many cities and towns have all kinds of fall and winter events, lots of people plan parties and you can even offer to host a few of your own! And remember, you don’t have to do every single thing you come up with on your list, but even having the option can really help with the winter loneliness.

4. Feather Your Nest

Cosy home
Stock Image

Feathering your nest is all about making your home and life as comfy as possible before the cold winter months arrive. With shorter days sometimes our energy is just not the same. Think about it, the winter is generally a time of rest. The animals are hibernating, the plants are tucked away for the winter, and everything is resting. That means sometimes we just aren’t as motivated to go out on the town as we are during the active summer months. We tend to stay close to our cave, aka our homes. So why not make that home as comfortable and entertaining as possible? Fill your home with fun activities and crafts, stock up on books from your must-read list, and check out upcoming Netflix series. Then you can think about how to make your cave comfy, some fall candles and decor paired with some fuzzy blankets can make your home feel warm and inviting. Make your home a place you really want to be, and then it will feel more like a pleasure than a punishment to stay in.

Feathering your nest means not just filling your home with things that make you feel comfy and cozy, but that you fill your life with people that make you feel that way too. Then you know that if loneliness starts to call, you can put it on hold and call a friend instead. Reach out to your friend network or attend some festivities to make a new one! Make sure you have friends or family nearby to create an impromptu holiday movie fest with, to grab a coffee and a hike with, or to create a trivia or game night crew! Making sure your nest is feathered with fun, festivities, and friends is how you can and will make it through cuffing season single and thriving!

5. Make Alternative Plans

Cuffing seasonOne of the top reasons for Cuffing Season is the allure of not having to face family functions alone. Which, while understandable, begs the question, why? If family functions are that much of a downer for you, is attendance really mandatory? A lot of people in the Millennial and Gen Z generations are taking a good, long look at if facing the family fortress, is really in their best interest. Because here’s the thing, there is no law that says you have to go home for Christmas. There is no rule that says interaction with family over holidays is mandatory.

You get to choose how much or little time you spend with your family. So, if you find yourself going to drastic lengths to ease the pain of family functions, such as beginning an entire relationship you’re not that into, then now is the time to re-examine your plans.

Many people opt, instead of white-knuckling their way through a family holiday, to instead enjoy time with friends at events like Friendsgivings. You could also check out what events your neighbourhood, town or city has going on during the holidays. There could be day festivals and volunteer opportunities or, if you don’t see anything you like, why not create your own? Maybe you can be the answer that others are looking for! It’s a great way to get creative, meet new people and avoid the annual family feud. Maybe you could have a luau-themed Thanksgiving, or a Christmas Day BBQ, why stick to tradition? And doesn’t all of that sound like a lot more fun than an awkward holiday with your family with a partner you’re not that into by your side? It does! So, put on your planning hat and start making alternative plans!

Cuffing season can be tricky, but with these 5 Pro Tips, you can navigate this time with festivities and fun instead of cuffing and chaos! Give these tips a try and see how you not only can survive cuffing season, you can thrive in it!

Featured Sustainability

Coral Reefs Can be Revived Through Dolphin Poo Reveals New Study

Who would have thought dolphin poo could save the coral reefs across the world?

Coral reefs are dying due to climate change and ocean acidification. But, an unlikely substance could be the panacea to save the Atlantic and Pacific coral systems: dolphin poo.

Coral reefs are constantly stressed due to declining water quality, pollution, and harmful coastal development, causing them to bleach and die. Should coral reefs disappear, many marine ecosystems would slowly cease to exist, and biodiversity would crumble.  

Corals provide food, shelter, and spawning grounds for many marine organisms. On top of that, coral reef ecosystems support several million people’s livelihoods and protect coastlines from storms and erosion. So, there’s no doubting their importance

In the “Spinner dolphin residency in tropical atoll lagoons: Diurnal presence, seasonal variability and implications for nutrient dynamics (Letessier et al., 2022) published this week, it is reported that the nitrogen absorber by spinner dolphins could actually boost coral reef productivity and resilience.

Spinner Dolphin
Spinner Dolphin The Applied Ccologist

Spinner dolphins (Stella Longirostris) are a species of small dolphin found in off-shore tropical waters, such as around the Hawaiian Islands and on the Pacific Ocean coast of Central America.

These dolphins gained their name due to their uncommon acrobatics and aerial behaviors. They come out of the water and twist their bodies as they rise into the air, then drop back down to the water and land on their sides. These functions are performed as acoustic signaling and communication and to remove ectoparasites. 

Spinner dolphins play an instrumental role in mitigating the effects of coral bleaching through their excrement. Their poo has reef-enhancing nutrients that provide coral reefs around the world essential support to stay afloat, or in this case, underwater.

Coral Reefs
Coral Reefs © Unsplash

One pod of these dolphins can excrete around 288kg of reef-enhancing nitrogen in atoll lagoons and they often spend half of the day resting in these ring-shaped coral reefs before leaving to hunt for food at night in the afternoon. 

Simply by excreting around these pods and coral reefs, spinner dolphins are providing the corals with enough strength to sustain themselves despite the dangers posed to them by human activity.

Best of all, spinner dolphins are not considered endangered on the IUCN red list. However, human activity tends to harm most marine species, endangered or otherwise and they do face threats from ghost nets, marine debris, and ship noise disturbance. 

Currently, scientists are yet to determine a method to leverage the spinner dolphin excrement in ways that can benefit more bleached coral reefs worldwide. Despite this, the discovery remains intriguing and exciting and could serve as the cornerstone for the next step in the Save the Reefs movement.


Community Featured

The New Seattle: To Stay or Go?

The houseless crisis on the west coast has reached a fever pitch in Seattle

In 2020, I returned to my adopted home of Seattle, Washington. I had left Seattle for the Washington D.C. area, particularly an area of West Virginia where some friends lived and I was excited to experience the East Coast and a lower cost of living. I was fortunate in that I met someone while I was out there. I didn’t really save any money, but the relationship was good. However, when we broke up just before the pandemic, I found myself on the road.

Then, in September 2020, I returned to Seattle. I didn’t really intend to live in Seattle again, moreover, I didn’t intend to live in downtown Seattle. But, there was so little to rent that when I found a place that was reasonably priced, I took it on sight unseen. It’s been a mixed blessing. What it has done is put me right on the front lines of what is going on in downtown Seattle. You’ve likely heard quite a bit on the news about downtown Seattle and other West Coast cities. So, I want to give you a perspective of someone on the front lines. 

Seattle skyline
Seattle skyline © Vecteezy

Houselessness and Crime

I would like to start this section off by saying that in February, my car was broken into. The passenger side window was busted in, and they got some clothes, a blanket, and little else. The cost to replace the window and get all the glass out of my car and my transmission tunnel was $1,200 and the insurance company didn’t really pay for the repair. As there is no parking at my building, I park on the street and this particular night there was no street parking to be found. So, I parked in an area that is always full during the day but is often empty at night. It also happens to be between two tent cities where our houseless neighbors live under tarps and other forms of asymmetrical shelter. I wasn’t particularly angry about the situation. I knew my turn was going to come. I saw the glass on the pavement regularly and I had seen other cars with broken-out windows. 

The reality on the ground is not quite as dire as many news stations would have you believe. Is there crime? Yes, I was a victim! Are there drugs being done in the open air? Yes, sometimes depending on where you drive and where the houseless neighbors are living right now. Are stores having to hire security or move people along more? Yes, that’s the reality of living in the downtown of a major city in most places in America. For Seattle, the drug problem is long-term and pronounced. We are the last stop for heroin coming up the West Coast and other drugs are made locally and also abound. The bus station on 4th, which also connects to the light rail system, is a market where any drug can be bought. KOMO 4, our local ABC affiliate, did a story on this and I can verify that is a real thing. That transit station is rough. 

There are streets south of town full of RVs and other vehicles where people are living. There is one person who has created a two-story condo in the back of a truck behind a marijuana dispensary on 3rd, next to the rail yard. Honestly, it’s quite impressive. In the houseless city nearest my building, there’s even a gentleman who has installed both heating and air conditioning. It is a rather ingenious set-up between two trees.

Driving around downtown, you will see people from all walks of life. And, the crime situation is real, but it’s not the cesspool that some news outlets would have you believe. The city is not collapsing. The water still works, the power stays on, the trash is getting collected, and the mail is delivered. 


One of the things I’ve noticed since I moved back was how much more diverse Seattle had become. There were so many more people around me that weren’t white. It was a bit jarring at first, but I’ve grown quite used to it. I am brown myself, so I have no reason to fear. If anything, it’s rather nice. I asked another local about the change in demographics, and she remarked that “…during the pandemic, a lot of the professionals moved out of town or to the east side (meaning Bellevue/Renton/Auburn).” 

I noticed it first when I arrived in 2020, but as I’ve lived here, it has become even more pronounced. I think in time it will make the city more vibrant! Seattle is already is a diverse city, and over a dozen languages are spoken, but it still has more white residents than other cities of comparable size. 

As much as we don’t like to say it, I’m confident that the situation with houselessness and crime has only contributed to professionals’ move to the east side, which is where T-Mobile, Microsoft, and other tech companies congregate. There is also the cost of housing, which, around the Seattle area, is sky-high. Rents start at $1,600 and the price of the average house is over half a million dollars. Prices on the east side aren’t that much better, but there are deals to be had, far more than in Seattle property. And, with the 520 bridge and the I-90 bridge, it’s easier to commute for people still working in Seattle. The light rail that will link Bellevue to Seattle opens next year too. It is easy to see why people moved out. 

Seattle housing
Seattle housing © Wonderland

Stay or Go?

Taken together, I’ve enjoyed living in downtown Seattle. It is very cool to be near all the venues. Although the pandemic has decimated restaurants and bars in downtown Seattle, I have been able to enjoy some great places like The Purple Cafe. I’ve also had a chance to see Fran Leibowitz and Kathleen Madigan and have Lewis Black tickets in October. I can leave my car behind and walk (if I want to do the hills) or it’s a cheap Uber ride and I can walk from there. It’s been a fun and delightful experience to be close to that. I can get all the food I want delivered in minutes. It has been great fun. 

I want to stay in Seattle, but I am looking to our suburbs for something that is bigger and that has proper parking. I will be able to come and go as I please with safety. Will I miss the vibrancy of the city and being so close to everything? Yes. Will I miss being situationally aware when I walk three blocks from where I park back to my building? No. I have enjoyed my time in downtown Seattle, but like many others, I think it’s time for me to flee to the suburbs.

Community Featured

Marijuana is Now Available for Delivery in Toronto

Marijuana was illegal in Toronto just four years ago, now Uber Eats will deliver it to your door

It’s now possible to order marijuana through Uber Eats, the first time Uber Eats has signed up for this type of delivery.

Uber Eats has partnered with an online marijuana marketplace, Leafly, as per a CBC News report. The program will begin this week, allowing Toronto customers aged 19 and older to place cannabis orders on the Uber Eats app.

Leafly is an independent company with 160 employees, founded in California and headquartered in Seattle. Their website focuses on cannabis use and education, with more than 120 million annual visitors and 10 million monthly active users. And, the company provides a wide array of information on cannabis, along with 1.5 million consumer product reviews, more than 9,000 cannabis articles and resources, and around 5,000 verified strains in its database.

The deliveries will be from licensed retailers and fulfilled by staff from CanSell, an Ontario-based cannabis retail education program. This partnership is meant to tackle the underground marijuana market and encourage people to not drive while high.

Leafly CEO Yoko Miyashita expressed his thoughts on the breakthrough in a press release: “Leafly has been empowering the cannabis marketplace in Canada for more than four years and we support more than 200 cannabis retailers in the GTA. We are thrilled to work with Uber Eats to help licensed retailers bring safe, legal cannabis to people across the city.”

Marijuana now delivered by Uber Eats
@ Getty Images

To order cannabis products, Toronto residents have to select the ‘Cannabis’ option and will see nearby retailers, just as if they were going to order any other type of product from the delivery app. Upon selecting their retailer, they’ll be asked to verify their age. 

That’ll allow users to select from the retailers menu, just as if they were ordering food, and this will trigger notifications when their order is accepted by the retailer.

Upon delivery, customers will have to also verify their age and sobriety to CanSell certified staff.

This sudden approval led to speculation that the partnership could expand to the rest of Canada or even the United States. Recent breakthroughs in the legalization of marijuana in the US lend credibility to this theory.

Some users expressed on social media that Uber Eats and the partnering companies won’t be able to compete with the black market. Marijuana from the black market is usually cheaper and delivered faster. 

Many of the downtown dispensaries also have free deliveries within the hour. For those who don’t live near a dispensary, the update would be well-received.

Community Featured

Social Security: The Next Big Fight after Roe v. Wade

Is Social Security the next big concern for US residents?

On August 14th 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the necessary legislation for the creation of the Social Security program. The program sends out checks to 64 million Americans over the age of 65. W-2 workers pay into the program their whole lives. Incidentally, money earned by workers after $147,000 a year isn’t taxed for Social Security. This is an important fact to remember because in 2035, one hundred years after the program’s inception, Social Security will run out of money and will be only able to pay around 80% of promised benefits. 

Now, Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and John Larson of Connecticut have proposed Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust. The bill would expand the program for the first time since LBJ’s Great Society reforms. 

Social Security 2100?

According to CNBC, the bill would do the following: “It calls for increasing all checks by about 2% of the average benefit. At the same time, it would also set the minimum benefit above the poverty line and tie it to current wage levels.”

Annual cost-of-living adjustments would be calculated differently to better reflect the real costs of living as a retiree. In addition to those changes, Widows and widowers would also receive more generous benefits, student benefits would extend to age 26 (like healthcare coverage under ACA), and children who live with relatives would have better access to benefits. The bill would also eliminate reductions for public workers, including the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset. It would also can the five-month waiting period for disability. 

All this sounds expensive, and they have solved that by increasing the Social Security payroll tax on wages above $400,000, which would affect an estimated 0.4% of wage earners. Employers and employees each pay a 6.2% tax on wages, for a total of 12.4%. A small group of people would be taxed more, and it would lead to new money pouring into the ailing system. 

social security administration USA
@ Social Security Administration

The Elephant in the Room

It all sounds like a good idea and something Americans need, however, the GOP is already aligning its interests against the idea. Republicans have long wanted to abolish the system, or at least starve it. Paul Ryan raised the retirement age for earners born after 1975 to 67 and back in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich reduced government budget deficits by borrowing money from the program back when it was flush with cash ahead of a new wave of retirees from the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1945 and 1964). 

It’s not just Republicans that have ideas about the bill. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, on the Senate side, are working on a proposal that would not just extend benefits to 2038, as in the original bill, but would extend benefits to 2096 by increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay into the program. The details on the senate proposal are slim. Although Jayapal and Larson want a vote this fall, it appears that there is much wheeling and dealing to be done.

That said, if democrats could land the bill heading into the midterms, they would be able to campaign on not only saving Social Security but improving the program for millions of seniors. 

How to Save Social Security

This is a problem that congress has been kicking down the road for thirty years. Approaching program reforms is difficult. Entitlement spending like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is political “third rails.” No politician is going to suggest entirely cutting benefits or ending the programs. However, many feel like it’s politically risky to do anything and expanding the program is simply too expensive. The reality is this: 2035 seems like a long way away, but it is not. 

In 13 years, the Social Security fund won’t be able to send out checks to everyone. 13 years ago, it was 2008. That’s the distance we have between the present and cheques not going out. It seems like there’s time, but when it comes to ensuring retirement funds for millions of Baby Boomers and a few older Generation X folks, time is something that the government does not have.

Social Security 2100 doesn’t entirely solve the problem. Demographics are also not on the government’s side. The Baby Boomers had plenty of children (Millennials and early Gen Z) but workforce participation is low, wages are low, and younger people are having far fewer children than their parents. This means that from here on, there will be less money flowing into the program. Even with their new taxes, this new bill extends Social Security by only three years.

What can be done?

The new deal reforms were meant to last about 100 years. They were intended to improve the lives of the people alive in 1935 and their children. It looks like the program might not even make it that long. The time to save Social Security was about 30 years ago when it was used as a government piggy bank to solve budget problems without having to raise taxes. The reality is that the Republican Party got us into this mess, and they will be intractable while the democrats attempt to fix it. However, despite the democrats’ best efforts, the program is unlikely to be saved. 

Community Featured

What Student Loan Forgiveness Means to You 

Student loan forgiveness means you are no longer required to repay some or all of your loan

In August, President Biden directed the US Treasury to begin a federal student loan forgiveness program, as well as implement some significant changes. Students who received pell grants will get $20,000 in forgiveness, and those without pell grants will get $10,000. He also completely reformed the student loan payment protocols. Interest will be limited, undergraduate loans will have a lower income ratio for calculating payments, while loans for graduate school loans will remain the same. 

So, what does this student loan forgiveness mean for you?

Getting forgiveness

Let’s get the basics out of the way. The first thing anyone with student loans should know is that this program does require an application through the Department of Education. The application opens in October. The pandemic pause on student loan payments will end on 31 December 2022. This forgiveness program is separate from other forgiveness programs for public service or disability. One of the changes President Biden has implemented is how the payments for other forgiveness plans are calculated, which may lead to some people getting their loans forgiven sooner. 

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© Reuters
Politics and rich handouts

One of the criticisms of the forgiveness program is that it is essentially a handout to those who went to college and will end up richer than those who did not. However, this criticism falls flat because there are many people who went to college, and took out a loan but didn’t complete their program, leaving them in the worst possible world: debt and no degree. For many of those students, their debt will be wiped out entirely. For everyone else, a reduction in balances, better income calculations and a kinder interest rate policy will enable people to pay off their student loans faster. 

Ultimately, the reason this is a good idea is that it will put money in the pockets of people who took out loans to go to college. That is where this program really shines. People will be able to buy houses and cars, pay for child care, have children return to the workforce, and stimulate the economy. With inflation the way it is right now, it doesn’t seem like the economy needs much stimulus, but given our economic headwinds, the US economy can use all the help it can get. 

Obviously, Republicans have rushed to criticize the President for this move. They have predicated their critique on defending working-class people who didn’t bother to get a degree, useless or otherwise. All the usual suspects, from Ron DeSantis to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, have been front and center of their ‘disgust’ over the move. In many social media comments, the canard has been the same, why should we pay for people to get useless degrees that don’t make money? The answer is simple: it’s better for the economy. This forgiveness will be the best thing that has happened to anyone under 45 in their lifetime, at least financially. 

The present student loan system is an outgrowth of rising tuition costs due to a lack of government funding for higher education. Over the past 40 years, state governments have trimmed higher education budgets. The federal government has done likewise. This means that schools had to invest in other ways to bring in revenue. Fundraising worked for some, while others chose to raise prices and spend money on amenities and perks for students that would have been unthinkable in previous decades. The reality is that until the 1990s, higher education was funded primarily by the government. Students paid very little to go to college. When that funding disappeared, tuition rose and students were forced to take out loans to cover the increasing costs. 


President Biden has already seen some backlash on this new direction for the federal student loan program. Contrary to what most people think, he did not do this via executive order, but rather a 2003 law passed by the Bush administration giving the president power to change student loans. Before 2009, the student loan system was a combination of federal government subsidized loans, grants, and unsubsidized loans through private borrowers. After the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration cut the private banks out of the question and the program began to be administered by the federal government through servicers like Great Lakes and Nelnet. 

One of the complaints on social media is that working, non-college-educated people are now paying the $300 billion bill for student loan forgiveness. Noah Smith of the popular, ‘Noah Opinion’ substack has pointed out that Democrats may end up paying electorally for this hand-out to their base of urban, college-educated, professionals. He argues that we sent too many people to college in the first place and that many of the political problems on the Left have to do with the overproduction of elite people. He need not worry about that issue in the future: Gen Z is rejecting college in droves. 

People who go to college have expectations of what happens on the other side. Education was billed as an investment. Sadly, in our modern economy, that investment really only pays off in a select few fields. Someone who took computer science or business was glad they went. Someone who took psychology but did not go to grad school but instead ended up working as an administrator in a health clinic, on a working-class salary, with essentially no pay-bump for going to college; likely feels like college was an unnecessary step onto the employment ladder and an expensive one at that. 

student loan forgiveness
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So what is Student Loan Forgiveness really all about?

Student loans and their associated costs have been a topic of national political discussion since Occupy Wall Street in 2011. 30% of Americans went to college and graduated with a degree. Unleashing millions of people from compounding interest loans will pay dividends back into the economy for decades. President Biden’s reforms will help make the system fairer. However, it does leave one problem unsolved: funding higher education. Tuition prices need to come down so that people who want to go to college can afford to do so. Most people won’t go to college, but those with the talents, chops, and ability should be able to make that investment in themselves and rise without being forced to carry the chains of the cost for the rest of their lives. This was not a controversial idea in 1975 but in today’s politics, it’s now a political football. You can bet republicans will be using this to campaign in 2022 and in 2024. 

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Black Americans say Racial Reckoning Hasn’t Brought Change

Unfortunately, we haven’t achieved racial reckoning

A new report from the Pew Research Center states that two-thirds of black Americans still see racism as a persistent challenge in their lives, claiming that the recent racial reckoning has not brought about any substantial change. 

The Pew Research Center poll, conducted last fall, surveyed a random nationwide sample of 3,912 Black Americans online. The survey, which included interviews, found that 82% of those surveyed considered racism to be a major problem in the United States. 79% of people reported to have personally experienced racial discrimination and of those, 15% state they experience this discrimination regularly. 

The majority of people surveyed say black people in the United States today are significantly affected by the legacy of slavery and 77% say repayments should be made, in some way, to all descendants of people enslaved in the country. 

Racial Reckoning protest
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The report’s authors, Khadijah Edwards and Kiana Cox say, “Overall, Black Americans are clear on what they think the problems are facing the country and how to remedy them. However, they are skeptical that meaningful changes will take place in their lifetime.”

The survey’s findings are particularly disappointing in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial reckoning which intensified in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd. 

In September 2020, a similar survey found that 56% of Black Americans believed that the intensity of the movement, which sparked a series of protests around the world, would lead to added attention and social and institutional change in order to address racism within the nation. 

Sadly, the Pew Research Center’s most recent poll reveals that 65% of Black Americans say no such change has occurred, marking a huge indication that racial relations in the United States still have a long way to go to reach equality.