Twenty times we got a good look at Silicon Valley’s dark side

Companies in Silicon Valley have pioneered personal computers, smartphones, biotech, and more. But perhaps the greatest creation of technology industry located between in the Santa Clara Valley between San Francisco and San Jose is its image as the engine of progress for both the United States and the world.

Read more from Sergey Brin…

Zimbabwe High Court Reverses Central Bank’s Cryptocurrency Ban

Multiple regional news outlets and individuals on social media have reported that the Zimbabwe High Court has lifted the RBZ ban against cryptocurrency activities … not censor any comment content based on politics or personal opinions.

Read more from Bing News on Cryptocurrency…

What explains this incredible bubble?

Dear reader,

Our May issue was all about the state of education in America…

And today, we bring you an essay that we couldn’t fit in the magazine… It’s the “missing chapter” that explains the history and rationale behind the incredible rise in student-loan debt.

Read on for more…

Good Intentions and Fiscal Recklessness

By Bryan Beach, financial analyst

Over the past 10 years, students (most of whom have virtually no income) have racked up enormous debts. As of 2017, student debt totals more than $1.5 trillion – the second-largest source of household debt after home mortgages.

Incredibly, that’s what our entire federal government owed a little more than 30 years ago. Virtually all this money was borrowed in only the last 10 years.

The average college student graduates with more than $30,000 in debt… and by his late twenties, has racked up more than $6,000 in credit-card debt. Meanwhile, median earnings for Americans aged 25-34 are $36,000-$40,000.

Can you imagine starting out your adult life with a personal debt-to-income level at close to 100%? What does this say about the state of our economy? What does this say about the state of our culture?

All the signs show that the debt piled on our youth will become another catastrophic bubble in the American economy.

This expansion had nothing to do with real supply and demand or the creation of value. Instead, it was simply an outgrowth of the government’s good intentions and fiscal recklessness…

The government first got into the student-loan business in the late 1950s. President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower decided the U.S. needed to mint a lot of new engineers and scientists to catch up with the Soviet Union’s first successful efforts in space. So the federal government began providing low-interest-rate college loans to America’s best and brightest…

Then in 1965, Lyndon Johnson changed the focus from national defense to social welfare. As part of the “Great Society” initiatives, the new Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) gave loans to low-income students.

More important, Johnson changed the way the government financed the loans. Instead of loaning students money directly, FFELP loans would be made by banks… but the government would still pick up the tab on defaults. That created an environment where banks could recklessly lend, without any risk of default.

In 1972, Richard Nixon and Congress created the Student Loan Marketing Association (better known as “Sallie Mae”) to service these debts. In 1984, its shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Ultimately, Sallie Mae “privatized,” formally cutting its ties with the U.S. government. As we’ll show you, no entity would profit more from Johnson’s gravy train.

Student loans grew steadily and – for the most part – slowly, until around 1992, when the U.S. Congress decided to include for-profit institutions in the official definition of “institution of higher learning.” Suddenly, “for-profit” colleges were eligible to receive financial aid. Two years later, the for-profit University of Phoenix went public… backed by Wall Street’s money.

By 2000, for-profits were spending tens of millions of dollars lobbying in Washington, and the government began encouraging more citizens to pursue higher education.

How Lenders Can Exploit a Broken System

As the 2007-2008 mortgage crisis showed… when you shield lenders and borrowers from the consequences of reckless behavior, they act recklessly. This is the definition of “moral hazard.”

And as you’ll see, the student-loan program has become one vast moral hazard…

For years, Sallie Mae’s business model churned out mountains of cash. It was impossible not to. Sallie Mae got to borrow from government agencies at miniscule rates, loan it to borrowers for high rates… and if the deal went bad, the taxpayers were on the hook.

Starting in the 1990s, politicians began pressing to eliminate the system’s moral hazard by going back to the Sputnik-era direct-loan system. But Sallie Mae and the for-profit colleges were a powerful lobbying force and fended off legislative changes for nearly 15 years.

By 2010, the gig was up. As part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Congress established that the only entity able to issue government-backed loans would be the U.S. government. That meant Sallie Mae could no longer originate loans backed by the U.S. government. Its gravy train had ended.

To fill the void left by originating FFELP loans, Sallie Mae turned up the heat on another revenue stream – servicing loans held by others. Uncle Sam doesn’t want to be bothered with actually collecting payments. Sallie Mae was happy to do that for a fee.

Sallie Mae quickly recognized that collecting payments on active accounts was a lousy, low-margin business. To really make money in the servicing business, you had to collect delinquent accounts.

This created a new moral hazard… Sallie Mae had no incentive to keep loans current. So it treated the borrowers like dirt. According to various filed and settled claims, Sallie Mae employees intentionally sent confusing or misleading correspondence. They neglected to tell borrowers about loan relief they were entitled to. They called them dozens of times, day and night.

The company’s “bad cop” tactics infuriated borrowers, often making them even less likely to pay. This played right into Sallie Mae’s hands. Once a borrower moved from the “small fee” service-revenue bucket to the “fat percentage” delinquency bucket… Sallie Mae turned on the charm. It brought in its “good cops,” who cooperated with the customers and collected the cash.

It worked. Sallie Mae regularly generated $300 million-$500 million a year in “Contingency Revenue.”

The Tide Turns Against Sallie Mae

Eventually, Sallie Mae’s tactics caught up with it. Frustrated constituents began writing their congressmen. Various media outlets reported on Sallie Mae’s deplorable customer-satisfaction statistics. Thousands of people followed the “I HATE SALLIE MAE” Facebook page. Finally, when it became news that the company had specifically targeted 78,000 military servicemen with its predatory practices… Sallie Mae was officially in Washington’s crosshairs.

The government passed various measures – primarily from 2007-2013 – to ease the borrowers’ burden, including:

  • Allowing students to put off payments if they attend graduate school.
  • Capping the exorbitant “Contingency Fee” plan.
  • Holding servicers accountable for how they treated customers.
  • Implementing “Income-Based Repayment” (“IBR”) and “Pay as You Earn” plans, which cap payments at a percentage of disposable income… or allow borrowers at a certain income level to cease payments altogether. Often, any balances not repaid after 20 years will be forgiven.
  • Allowing graduate students to essentially borrow unlimited amounts under various federal programs (in contrast to capped undergraduate loans).
  • Creating a “not-for-profit loophole,” which forgives the entire outstanding balance after 10 years for any graduate student who becomes a teacher, public defender, or works at a not-for-profit organization.

As always… the government’s best intentions simply gave borrowers license to act recklessly. It shifted the “moral hazard” from the lenders to the borrowers.

Take Bonnie Kurowski-Alicea, a chronic borrower who managed to run up a $209,000 tab earning a doctorate from Capella University in “Industrial Organizational Psychology.” Bonnie couldn’t find a job after earning her online undergraduate degree, so she compounded the problem by piling one useless degree on top of the other. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “Dr.” Kurowski-Alicea’s main motivation for earning master’s and doctorate degrees was to postpone repaying her student loans. Her unemployed husband has $75,000 of student loans himself.

Then there’s Virginia Murphy. Her tuition at Tulane Law School was nearly $150,000, and she racked up federal loans of around $250,000 to take care of living expenses. According to the Wall Street Journal, Murphy never had any intention of paying the money back. Loan forgiveness was “the only reason (she) even considered” going to law school. Thanks to the IBR program, Murphy’s monthly payment doesn’t even cover the interest… which means her outstanding balance actually increases every month. As a public defender, her loan balance will be forgiven after 10 years… at which point the outstanding balance will have ballooned to more than $300,000.

The “not-for-profit loophole” was intended for folks like Murphy who, by serving the community as a public defender, is presumably forgoing more lucrative opportunities in the private sector.

But most of the forgiven “not-for-profit” loans will benefit doctors and surgeons. People like Emily Van Kirk and her husband, who managed to rack up $700,000 of debt while attending medical school in St. Maarten. Much of this balance will be forgiven as – like a lot of doctors – the couple plans on working in hospitals. (Uncle Sam must have forgotten that almost 80% of hospitals are “not for profit”… leaving a loophole a mile wide for some of the workforce’s highest wage-earners.)

Many student loans went to honest people who plan on paying back every penny they borrowed.

But some… an awful lot, in fact… had no such plan. Hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt is out there that won’t be or can’t be repaid. And the result is going to be a disaster.

Regards,

Bryan Beach

***

 

If you’re interested in reading more about America’s debt bubble, we recommend the new book, The American Jubilee

Massive amounts of debt have been piled on the weakest in our society. The poor – and especially the young and poor in our country – have no hope of being able to afford the American dream anymore.

When this bubble breaks, it will be an entire generation of young Americans who will suffer.

And it’s not just the size of Americans’ debts that’s the problem… It’s who owes the money that’s the bigger concern. When the rich get in trouble with debt, it’s an economic problem. But when the poor and middle class get in trouble with debt, it’s a political problem.

That’s what makes a national “Debt Jubilee” inevitable. To read more about this problem, click here.

Now on to the latest news…

Far more Americans are having trouble “keeping up” than you realize…

Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics

At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits, and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle.

A fantastic read from American Consequences contributor Matt Labash about writer and reporter Charlie LeDuff in Detroit…

A Little Bit of Real People

“I got love for people,” he says without guile, not a pronouncement you hear generally misanthropic reporters make every day. Charlie saw the Hole getting deeper – more and more falling prey to the effects of corporate greed, government neglect, or personal dissolution.

In the meantime, the New Yorker is reporting on rich folks eating gilded food…

Twenty-Four-Karat Chicken Wings and the Allure of Eating Gold

The whole point of eating Ainsworth’s wings (or the gold-leaf donut that was once sold in Brooklyn, or the maki roll dressed in gilded nori in Tokyo), by contrast, is the languid extravagance of destroying value.Robert Shiller warns on cryptocurrencies with a look back at the rise of “time money” in the 1800s…

The Old Allure of New Money

New ideas for money seem to go with the territory of revolution, accompanied by a compelling, easily understood narrative…Infighting and disorganization inside a left-leaning grassroots group… 

Bernie’s army in disarray

‘Our Revolution’ has shown no ability to tip a major Democratic election in its favor — despite possessing Sanders’ email list, the envy of the Democratic Party — and can claim no major wins in 2018 as its own.

 

Read our latest issues of American Consequences by clicking here.

And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].

Regards,

Steven Longenecker
With P.J. O’Rourke and the American Consequences Editorial Staff
May 23, 2018

Read more from American Consequences…

Op-Ed Thinks Founding Fathers Would Support Gun Control Because Of Dead Kids

The Constitution of the United States of America is the most important document in the country. It lays the groundwork for our entire system of government, protects our natural rights as human beings, and sets limits on what the government can do. When you look at the history immediately proceeding its adoption, everything makes perfect sense.

After all, they’d just fought a war to get away from what they saw as a tyrannical government that wasn’t accountable to the people. They damn sure didn’t want to replicate those mistakes in their new country.

Yet now, a couple of centuries later, we find ourselves constantly battling against people who think they know more about what the Founding Fathers thought and felt despite their explicit writings.

Some of those people write opinion pieces for USA Today.

mid all we know about the Founding Fathers, two things stand out in the wake of yet another mass shooting that underscores the desperate need for action and the depth of our paralysis.

The first is that nearly a third of the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution endured the tragedy of losing children. By one count, 24 sons and daughters born to a dozen signers died before adulthood. The second is that these and the other Founders were among the greatest change-makers in history. They were America’s first #Resist movement, and they fought an actual war to create a future unbound by the past.

Does anyone think they would expect us to live by a 230-year-old document? Would they stand by, reciting the centuries-old Second Amendment, if their own children were endangered — in school, at malls, in movie theaters, on city streets — by easy access to guns? Or would they start us on the road to universal background checks, mandatory waiting periods and other steps most Americans say they want?

Well, they probably would. You see, they believed in personal freedom. I don’t see why they would jump in favor of gun control just because some writer thinks they would.

After all, many gun rights advocates have children, myself included. If we’re not convinced there’s this serious threat to our children’s safety, why would the Founding Fathers, many of whom took libertarianism to a radical extreme?

The op-ed continues:

John Adams probably would have understood as well. He was away in 1776 when his wife, Abigail, unilaterally decided to have a doctor inject her and their four children with live smallpox virus. The inoculation was controversial and dangerous, but not as dangerous as contracting smallpox. Abigail’s bet paid off: Her whole family (including John, who had been immunized in 1764), survived the smallpox epidemic then ravaging the Boston area.

Does anyone doubt that this woman would be marching and lobbying if she were with us now and feared for her children?

You see, this is all predicated on the idea that because people lost kids, they’d support any measure that claims to protect children. The assumption is asinine.

It’s asinine because it essentially believes that those who oppose gun control actually want dead kids. It’s their own warped delusion based on nothing but their narcissistic belief that theirs is the only path to righteousness. They refuse to accept that anyone who disagrees with them could possibly do so simply because they think anything other than the worst imaginable.

In this case, the writer is arguing that our Founding Fathers would support gun control because they lost kids. She’s oblivious to the fact that there are gun rights advocates who have lost children to disease, accident, and even a few to mass shootings, I’m sure.

As a parent, I fear for my children too. I fear a lot of things for them.

Mostly, I fear that some anti-gun zealot will get their way and my children will be defenseless against an attacker who isn’t following the damn rules in the first place when it comes to firearms and, because of those anti-gun zealots, there’s no one else able to defend them either. That’s why we want to see teachers opt to be armed while they’re at work. That’s why I want to see more school resource officers in our schools.

To pretend that gun control is the only path toward keeping our kids safe is ridiculous, as is the notion that our Founding Fathers would have supported something when, clearly, they didn’t.

 

The post Op-Ed Thinks Founding Fathers Would Support Gun Control Because Of Dead Kids appeared first on Bearing Arms.

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Empowering veterans in civilianhood: Reshaping the narrative through the VET OPP Act – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise


Download the PDF

Chairman Arrington, Ranking Member O’Rourke, and distinguished members of this subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today, as you consider tangible measures to uplift our nation’s veterans in their transition from war to work and successful civilian lives. It is an honor.

Veterans are the unacknowledged permanent ambassadors of national service. How we publicly portray veterans directly relates to how society conceptualizes military service, including what happens to an individual during that service. In an all-volunteer force, reputation is key to the attractiveness of joining a profession that can end in death or permanent disability.

To encourage young men and women to join its ranks, the Department of Defense relies heavily on programs and benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those who choose to wear the nation’s uniform, as well as those who choose not to, are influenced by how well Congress and the VA care for veterans’ post-service reputations and for their physical bodies.

The types of legislation that Congress passes, and the programs and benefits the VA prioritizes, powerfully shape the veteran narrative. Crucially, it influences veterans’ own perception of their identity and worth in the post-service context.

From Citizen-Soldiers to Soldiers-Citizens: Creating Identity

The proposed Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan Act of 2018, or VET OPP Act, reflects how veterans grow their post-service civilian identity in a whole-health manner. It recognizes that having a fourth high-level, prominent institutional VA mechanism—a Veterans’ Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration, headed by its own under secretary—can light the pathway to success for post-service veterans, similarly to how Department of Defense mechanisms involving training, sense of purpose, and a shared community shape young civilians into successful soldiers.

Currently, approximately half (50.3 percent) of active duty enlisted personnel are 25 years old or younger. Somewhat fewer (43.8 percent) of the entire military force are in that age bracket.1 Developmentally speaking, this is the “emerging adulthood” period—a period of rapid development involving key struggles surrounding personal identity. The military offers concrete answers to common existential questions, reinforcing them through experience, during this normative period.

The positive self-regard cultivated during military service becomes a focal point of the psychological changes that often distinguish the period of transition out of the military. Research from Columbia University reveals that veterans experience grief-like symptoms at the loss of their previous military identity which in turn augments all the stressors of a life transition, when facing the initial instability of civilian life and lacking the order and purpose that characterized their service.2

The media and the public overwhelmingly call this experience of veteran transition stress PTSD and erroneously believe that the majority of all post-9/11 veterans have a mental health disorder. Unfortunately, since funded research at VAs and military treatment facilities prioritizes PTSD research, and since the preponderance of well-intentioned veteran legislation post-9/11 emphasizes mental health disorders, the public, potential employers, and veterans themselves are trapped in the inaccurate and harmful “broken veteran” narrative cycle.3

Identity, Education, and Employment: Pathway to Veteran Success

Currently, over half of employers believe that veterans do not have successful careers after leaving the military. Half do not think that veterans pursue a college or vocational school degree, but 62 percent believe veterans need to acquire more hard and soft skills before they are ready for non-military roles.4 Veterans themselves tend to agree that they need “soft” or communication skills. Both veterans and employers nearly unanimously agree on the benefit of internship or apprenticeship programs for veterans as they seek to reenter the civilian workforce. And post-9/11 veterans especially see education as crucial to their continued success.

The VA currently has a suite of educational assistance, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and education and career counseling programs, as well as broadly defined shared transition assistance program (with the Departments of Labor, Defense, and Homeland Security), which make accessible all the tools veterans need to progress from war to work. But these are at the bottom of the totem pole within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The VA’s nearly century-old structural design impedes its own ability to help veterans achieve that success. Its outdated manufacturing-economy outlook, which informs VBA’s 1917-based disability model sees a service-connected condition only through the terms of a permanent earnings loss, and works as a perverse incentive against veterans entering the workforce. With all of the VBA’s energies directed towards its backlog of nearly half a million disability claims, its institutional resources are concentrated on the disability system to the unsurprising neglect of its education and economic programs. One small example: If you visit the VA’s Office of Employment and Economic Impact website, within VBA, it tells you that “it is no longer available” and to maybe check out the Department of Labor. Coincidentally, a majority of veterans report that navigating the VA’s administrations and benefits is their top challenge in transition to civilian life.5

The very VA economic opportunity programs veterans stand most to profit by are operating with the proverbial millstone around their necks.

Conclusion

In the 21st century information age, education iskey to employment, and employment is the door to a successful transition to civilian life. Education and employment combined give veterans the crucial tools to reforge civilian identities stronger even than their military ones. The psychic rewards of work, productivity, and a career cannot be underestimated, which is corroborated by the trueveteran narrative: Veterans, it turns out, are immensely successful. Empirical data shore that up by showing how veterans with increased levels of education are wealthier, healthier, and more civically engaged than even their civilian peers over the life course. Additional research establishes the links between these outcomes, and reduced rates of dependence, disability, and criminality.

This is the veteran narrative that should predominate. The goal of the nation’s veteran economic opportunity programs should be to enable soldiers to be fully functional members of society, animated by a strong civilian identity. As early as the Revolutionary War, General George Washington had felt intuitively that veterans needed to maintain a sense of self after military service, recommending in his Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States that veterans funnel their energies as soon as possible into active pursuits, and “prove themselves not less virtuous and useful as Citizens, than they [were] persevering and victorious as soldiers.”

The VET OPP Act can trigger this shift, as Congress elevates and frees already existing VA economic opportunity and transition assistance programs through shifting them structurally into a fourth VA administration. Our nation ought to provide transitioning servicemembers with the means and opportunity to succeed in their civilian lives and to invest their talent and ability in the American economy.

Thank you again for the honor of this opportunity. I look forward to answering any questions from the committee.

1 Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy (ODASD) (MMC&FP) (2015). Demographics One Source: Profile of the Military Community. http://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Reports/2015-Demographics-Report.pdf.

2 Meaghan C. Mobbs, George A. Bonanno. “Beyond War and PTSD: The Crucial Role of Transition Stress in the Lives of Military Veterans.” Clinical Psychology Review 59 (2018) 137-144.

3 Rebecca Burgess, “Economic Opportunity, Transition Assistance, and the 21stCentury Veteran: The Case for a Fourth VA Administration,” AEI, March 2018, http://www.aei.org/publication/economic-opportunity-transition-assistance-and-the-21st-century-veteran-the-case-for-a-fourth-va-administration/.

4 Edelman Insights, “2017 Veterans’ Well-Being Survey: Focus on Employment, Education, and Health,” October 2017, https://www.slideshare.net/EdelmanInsights/2017-veterans-wellbeing-survey.

5 Corri Zoli, Rosalinda Maury, and Daniel Fay, Missing Perspectives: Servicemembers’ Transition from Service to Civilian Life, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University, November 2015.

Read more from American Enterprise Institute…

When She Told Me Her House Only Cost $4,000 I Knew I Had To See The Inside

What if I told you that an Austin-based startup company developed a home that could end the homelessness problem in America? After reading this article, you’ll start to believe it is possible. For just about $4,000, you can download a home, print it and have it up and ready for occupation in less than a day. Isn’t that amazing?

While the company’s printable dwellings are still in the concept phase, they offer a gargantuan opportunity to people who live on the streets or in shelters. Being able to have an affordable place of their own could be a game-changer.

Watch the video below to see the inside!

The homes will first debut in El Salvador. And if they work well there, their use could expand to other parts of the world. And the hope is that billions of people could have a safer and better place to sleep at night.

The homes currently cost about $10,000 and require about 24 hours of building time. But when things get up and running, they could cost as little as $4,000.

The startup company is based in the innovative Austin, Texas. And the home was unveiled at the popular SXSW festival. The house had 650 square feet and a workable inside.

About 1.2 billion people on the planet do not have adequate housing.

A spokesman from the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities said, “History has been punctuated with advances in technology and materials that provide an order-of-magnitude decrease in cost and time required to build a new home. And while recent decades have brought major advances in personal technology, construction practices remain relatively unchanged since the 1950s. Icon aims to change this, ushering in a new era in construction to meet the needs of the future.”

The project is still being figured out. And Icon, the startup, has teamed up with New Story, a nonprofit organization that invests in international housing. Together they plan to introduce this new home to people in need in El Salvador. Over the next 18 months, they hope to build 100 of these affordable homes.

New Story has helped people in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake left millions without adequate housing.

Icon uses a Vulcan printer to create these homes. They create a schematic and upload that into the program. Then the printer takes that blueprint and “prints” the house. Basically, it does the work of contractors by laying the cement.

The model home that was on display in SWSW had a living room, a bathroom, a bedroom, and even an outdoor space (porch). Everything about the home is 3D printed except for the abode’s roof. It was built on the Icon lot. And they plan to use this 3D printed house as more office space so they can further tweak the design and make it better. Hopefully, they will be able to help homeless people sleep better at night very soon.

When prototyping is finished, Icon will relocate their Vulcan printer to El Salvador and start doing good work for people in need.

Do you think this new housing idea could change the world for the better?

Read more from American Web Media…

Suspected serial killer wants an apology from police

Arthur Nelson Ream acknowledges that he raped a teenage hitchhiker in the 1970s, had sex with underage girls and buried 13-year-old Cindy Zarzycki in an unmarked grave.

But he denies killing Zarzycki or anyone else, and he says he deserves an apology from Warren police who have called him a suspected serial killer.

Police say Ream could be responsible for four to six murders and they spent several days earlier this month digging unsuccessfully for bones on property near the intersection of 23 Mile and North Avenue in Macomb Township. The missing girls range in age from 12 to 17 and disappeared between 1970 and 1982.

“I’ve never had anything to do with any of them,” Ream told the Free Press on Thursday in an hour-long telephone interview from prison. “There’s absolutely no connection between me and them at all.”

Ream said police should apologize to taxpayers for the money spent on the search and to the families of the missing girls.

“He owes them a big apology for getting their hopes up in this case,” he said. “He owes Cindy Zarzycki’s family a big apology for bringing up bad memories. And he owes me an apology for just getting me dragged into this..”

Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said “there is no apology forthcoming.”

“If anybody owes an apology, it’s him and that’s why he’s in prison for life for murder and rape,” Dwyer said. “Why would law enforcement — the Warren Police Department, the FBI, the Michigan State Police — apologize to him? This was a task force. We all believe we have the probable cause. I said our suspect. I always used the word suspect. I never used his name.”

Dwyer said investigators make every effort to keep down costs, which he described as “minimal” but he couldn’t say how much has been spent thus far.

“We don’t go by cost when you’re trying to bring closure to the family of victims,” Dwyer said. “How can you put a cost on bringing closure to families that have suffered for 35 years for an investigation that is really our responsibility and our obligation to do?”

Ream, 69, was transferred last week from a prison in Muskegon Heights to the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia.

“Due to the amount of media attention his case has received, we felt it was best for his safety and the safety of others, that he be moved,” said prison spokesman Chris Gautz.

Word of the dig in Macomb Township reached Ream in prison.

“To be honest with ya, on one hand I was laughing my ass off and on the other hand, I was pissed off,” Ream said. “So, you take it for what it is. There’s no bodies there that I know of.”

Mind games

Police said they began the search in Macomb Township after talking to Ream’s fellow inmates, reviewing his FBI profile and watching him fail a polygraph test.

What’s more, Ream had a history with that property. It was there that he buried 13-year-old Cindy Zarzycki in 1986. Twenty-two years later, he was convicted of murdering her and he led investigators there to recover her remains.

But Ream also has a history of mind games, toying with investigators in a game of cat and mouse.

In the Zarzycki case, Ream offered to lead investigators to her grave if they reduced his first-degree murder charge to second-degree, which would allow him a shot at parole after 20 years.

Ream said he backed out of his offer, figuring he’d never qualify for parole because of two rape convictions.

Prosecutor Eric Smith said Ream’s offer was rejected. He said when Ream offered to show them where Zarzycki’s body was for a plea agreement “this man was the lowest form of human life that he would bargain with a dead 13-year-old’s body.” Smith said he wasn’t going to take it or “cut him any breaks at all.”

The jury convicted Ream of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence without parole.

Before sentencing, he finally led investigators to the Macomb property.

Asked last week about his reputation for mind games, Ream admitted it.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, why not? You know, I mean, I don’t hurt anybody with it. I don’t get carried away,” Ream said.

Phony maps

Ream said that when he learned police suspected him of killing multiple girls, he toyed with the idea of drawing phony maps to send them on a wild goose chase.

“With Cindy, I drew a map, telling them where she was,” Ream said. “I was so mad at this detective, I drew some maps up and I was going to give them to him. I was just going to have him go dig, willy-nilly, someplace that I knew.”

Ream said he decided against providing the bogus maps because he thought he’d get in deeper trouble for doing it. But he suspects the idea of the maps could be the reason that he failed the polygraph test.

Ream said that when the detective gave him the polygraph test, he asked whether Ream was going to be truthful about three other missing girls.

“I says, ‘yes,’ and, in reality, I wasn’t going to be because I was going to give the detective the maps,” Ream said. “So, that’s probably why I failed it. Now it might not be why, but that’s the only reason I can think.”

Dwyer said investigators are well-versed in Ream’s history.

“We know the history and how he’s played people,” Dwyer said, adding it was part of Ream’s profile. “We understood that. He has that reputation. We knew that going in.”

Dwyer said he remains confident in the investigation.

“Our position is that we still believe that we are on the right track as far as our investigation,” Dwyer said. “As far as him playin’ anybody, I’m not gonna comment on that.”

‘Rough time with women’

Ream grew up in Warren in the 1950s when much of it was still undeveloped. He said he quit school in seventh grade and left home at 13 because his father beat him. He denies being sexually abused.

He learned to install carpet and eventually opened his own flooring business. But his personal life featured constant chaos and an eye for underage girls.

“I’ve had a rough time with women,” Ream told the Free Press.

The first of his four marriages came in 1969 when he was 20. It ended in 1978 after he was convicted of raping a 15-year-old hitchhiker in Shelby Township.

Court records show Ream and his brother-in-law abducted the girl in July 1974. Ream was 26 at the time and his brother-in-law was 15.

The brother-in-law later testified that Ream pulled a switchblade on the girl and told the brother-in-law to use duct tape to blindfold the girl before raping her. Ream ignored the girl’s pleas to stop.

The next day, a detective called Ream about the attack.

“The comment he made was if ‘I ever do this again, I’ll kill the next victim,’ ” the brother-in-law testified in a later case.

Under 1970s laws, Ream was charged with statutory rape, a life offense. The charge was later reduced to indecent liberties with a minor female child, a 10-year felony.

“We picked up a hitchhiker and molested her. I don’t know how more to say about it,” Ream said. “He said, ‘let’s do it,’ I did it. Stupidity. That, in my life, was the worst screw-up so far in my lifetime.”

Ream was convicted and sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, which he began serving in August 1975. Two months later, he wrote to Judge George Deneweth asking for a reduced sentence.

“I have done a lot of thinking here in prison,” Ream wrote. “I want to tell the truth and have a second chance to prove that I will never be in trouble with the law again. I value my family too much to ever risk losing them again.”

Familiar pattern

While he was in prison, Ream’s wife filed for divorce. He tried to salvage the marriage, but she wanted out, claiming he’d beaten her repeatedly in front of their children and carried on affairs, including one with their 15-year-old babysitter.

“This apparently went on for two years while Mrs. Ream was at work,” his wife’s lawyer wrote in a letter to the judge.

“My first wife, I screwed that up pretty bad,” Ream said “It was my fault.”

In the early 1970s, Ream also abused a teenage niece, plying her with alcohol and taking advantage of her, according to Macomb County prosecutors who sought to admit evidence of those crimes in a later case.

Ream’s first divorce was final in February 1978. By then, he’d been granted early parole and the following month, he married again in what he termed “an arranged marriage.” It lasted eight months and they divorced in January 1979.

In December 1979, Ream married for a third time. That marriage lasted until 1986, when his wife divorced him, accusing him of physically abusing her.

“My third marriage, I don’t even know how to explain that. That was crazy,” Ream said. “I shouldn’t have stayed with her as long as I did.”

During that time, prosecutors said, Ream abused two other young girls with whom he was close. One was a 12-year-old niece, the other was a 13-year-old family friend. Both girls were given alcohol and assaulted.

Ream displayed a “common scheme and plan to sexually assault young females: He gains their trust, isolates them, and then rapes them,” Macomb County prosecutors wrote in their request to introduce his history as part of a later case.

Ream married for a final time in 1992, when he said he “found my true love.”

That marriage lasted until 1998, when his wife accused him of physical abuse.

By then, he’d also been accused of raping a 15-year-old girl, for whom he served as legal guardian. Investigators said the pattern was familiar: The girl was given alcohol and raped.

Ream acknowledged pleading guilty but said the sex was consensual, which wouldn’t matter because she was only 15. Ream said he had custody of the girl because her mom was having trouble with her. Ream lived in Roseville at the time, but owned property in Gladwin, where the rape occurred.

“We just went up there for the weekend,” Ream said. “She ended up getting into some liquor that my nephew left in one of the cabins and we ended up having sex. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Ream pleaded guilty in that case, spent 10 years in prison and was preparing to be released when he was charged with Cindy Zarzycki’s murder.

Ream has an explanation for that case as well.

He said Cindy was dating his son Scott and they often hung out at a warehouse for Ream’s business.

“They were on some carpet, she fell, went backward down the elevator chute and died,” Ream said.

Ream said he was responsible for her death because he’d wired the gate to the freight elevate shaft in an open position, to avoid lifting it up and down constantly.

“If the gate was down where it was supposed to be, she would have never fallen,” Ream said. He claims his son called him and he panicked, because he didn’t have insurance, so he removed Cindy’s body and buried it in Macomb Township.

The jury didn’t buy the story and convicted him of first-degree murder, guaranteeing a life term.

Ream now lives in a single cell and passes his days playing cards and watching television. He likes “Big Bang Theory” and watches the new “Roseanne,” but considers the original series better.

One of his brothers visited him about five years ago, but he hasn’t had any visitors since.

Dwyer stands by the investigation, saying investigators have “worked diligently for decades to get to this point.”

Dwyer said no more digging is scheduled, but said the effort was worth doing in a “very, very difficult investigation.”

“We have a responsibility and with the information developed, we had cause to reason the bodies of several young girls were buried at 23 (Mile) and North,” Dwyer said.

Konnie Beyma, the sister of Kimberly King, one of the missing girls police hoped to find in Macomb, said she plans to write to Ream.

“I want him to hear from me directly, word for word,” she said. “I feel an obligation to my sister, Kimberly, to communicate with this man. If he is responsible, I owe it to her to do everything in my power to see if I can get him to share where her remains are located.”

“That’s all I want from him,” Beyma said of Ream. “I simply want Kimberly’s remains. That’s all I want.”

Beyma said that she thinks it’s obvious that Ream killed Zarzycki becayse he knew where her body was buried. She said if he failed a lie detector test on King’s whereabouts, “then he certainly knows something.”

She said even if law enforcement isn’t on the right track immediately in a case, the crime still has to be investigated.

“I don’t see why they’d have to owe anyone an apology for doing their job,” Beyma said.

Ream said that given his history, he knows the public is unlikely to trust him.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t a rapist because I did hurt that girl in the ’70s, so that made me a rapist,” Ream said. He claims his other encounters with young girls were consensual, though he acknowledged the girls were too young to legally consent.

But he insists he’s not a killer, let alone a serial killer.

“For the rest of my life and beyond, I’m going to be known as a serial killer,” he said. “It’s out there. It can never be taken away.”

———

© 2018 the Detroit Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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