Monday, August 30, 2010

Revolt en masse?

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A civilization which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence. -Sigmund Freud

A highly educated connection, who is also an alum of Harvard, recently asked me about my thoughts on whether or not the indentured educated class ought to revolt en masse. As this reader indicated in their message, I have indeed been asked this question before, and many people have implored me to support such a move. I will refrain from sharing my thoughts (most of you already know my stance), but would like to know what you think. Should all student debtors revolt together? Would it work? Why or why not?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just a snippet of an email I sent recently to a friend; just random thoughts to get things started....

"I'm torn each day between agreeing with you (that this can be solved throught the political system) and strongly disagreeing (that is, I mostly believe, for a slew of reasons, that Congress is not an effective mechanism by which to fix this - political change is slow, lenders have much more power to influence than debtors do, etc.).

I agree with you that, for one, a full-blown 'revolt' couldn't be organized; I also agree that it wouldn't be useful to an individual's efforts to work within the system to advocate for collapsing the system. But from the perspective of the individual, who (in many cases) through no fault of their own now find themselves unable to afford their debt, in trouble, and effectively indentured-for-life, why organize an entire wasted life around paying back Citibank? When entire classes of people, segments of society, become indentured, oftentimes history has shown that only some form of massive change - or even upheaval or paradigm collapse - can bring about reequilibration and a return to stability.

Is the solution here one that can truly be achieved *through* this very system, with all the distortions that exist, through Congress, etc.? Not sure myself."

Anonymous said...

Good idea.

dzyns said...

simple tale telling says "you are the good guys and those against you are the bad guys"

so this places our government in which category for us and those like us? and what happens to the bad guys?. ..do we root for them or against them?

Spekkio said...

Revolt how?

I'm not convinced that the masses are even capable of revolt anymore.

Peter Burr said...

I assume that you mean, by revolt, a mass refusal to pay on their student loans. I think that such an action is possible, and that it would accelerate rapidly as people became aware of it, just as the number of people walking away from their underwater homes has accelerated. It is my understanding that the most that the government can garnish from your pay is 15%. Imagine what would happen if large numbers of students decided to take that route. For many of us, having a 15% pay cut would be eminently acceptable. If I am misunderstanding, please correct me...

Anonymous said...

I don't like to see it as good guys and bad guys - BUT - *those who indenture us,* and will ruin our lives because we are have money trouble, and not only that, are making it impossible to ever get out of, and who wrecked the economy through their malfeasance so that we can't get jobs or adequate salaries - and then got a taxpayer bailout - their interests have no claim to priority over ours. Especially when they've rigged the system. I say collapse them.

Anonymous said...

Geez. Some good responses already.
Maybe it is "good guys/bad guys", maybe it is simply that times are very hard, going to get harder, and all some of us want are ordinary rights, namely to file bankruptcy--I might add, the same right as a gambler with heavy losses. At least the gambler was not told for a lifetime that gambling is the American way and the only way to respectability and a good life. Speaking of ordinary rights, what EVER became of the “Truth in Lending Act?” Passive protest sounds like a bad idea. Let them take their pound of flesh via garnishment and go on living life? I don’t think so. That will effectively put us in the 40% tax bracket, or the equal thereof, and they will still collect 4x or more the original amount in a lifetime; many of us will never see the end of paying the interest, let alone any principle. Hmm, subtract 40% from your wages and see if that doesn’t put you at less than minimum wage…it does me. Maybe I’ll just leave my degrees off my vita, switch to a one page résumé and move from one fast food joint to another to work. Hey, they get to take home the cold leftovers at the end of the shift.
Don't expect justice, much less mercy, it is not profitable.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's exactly what we'd be talking about. Almost a strategic decision - okay, take 15% of my pay (eminently acceptable), have the IRS not give me my tiny tax refund, and kill my credit (it's screwed anyway, if you've defaulted). If more and more modern-day Indentured Servants did this - recognizing the real *power* comes from reversing the relative positions, for remember, Citibank et al are dependent on *us paying* for there to be any value in these "assets" they hold - then it would force an entire overhaul of this rigged system, if not bring it down entirely. Debtor Revolt!

Anonymous said...

Maybe only the taxpayer, and not the debtor, can have any real influence over the situation.

I say this becuase isn't it really the taxpayer that has no choice but to cover the default, and reimburse the bank?

In additiion, many established Universities have a very large, interest generating capital base from grants/endowments over the years etc. So they could probably weather many years of lowered enrollment, and a loss of tuition dollars.

Sean Feeney said...

I agree with past commenters. "When entire classes of people, segments of society, become indentured, oftentimes history has shown that only some form of massive change - or even upheaval or paradigm collapse - can bring about reequilibration and a return to stability." I think it's important that we only target the private student loans like Sallie Mae's. You've seen the change in the public opinion tide against banks like Citigroup during this recession. The public are happy to villainize a private sector business who screwed over their kids' futures. But it's a whole other mess if you try lumping in the Dept. of Ed loans in this uprising. You'd see the Republicans and Libertarians immediately crying foul because tax dollars are involved.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@Sean - I completely agree, and that's one reasons why I am tying to bridge a working relationship with the Dept. of Education. I've been in touch with Debra Wiley there. She is the Ombudsman at the Dept. of Education. I've also been on some calls to the White House with Roberto Rodriguez, and have made it clear that we're not against them. We want them to help us. I've told countless Democrats that we want them to help be part of the solution. That's why I believe in Government, and why I intend to run. I think we can change this for the better, and I don't want to attack the government. That said, I will not hesitate to criticize it.

Anonymous said...

I think one problem is that so many people have had a parent or other relative cosign their student loans and they don't want to ruin someone else's credit as well. If they garnished 15% of my paychecks it would actually be less than what I'm paying now, so that part is enticing, but what scares me is ruining my mother's credit.

Anonymous said...

To 2:18:

My heart goes out to you.

Take it from an older guy. It is advice I would give my kid brother or sister. Or a child, if I had one.

Your comment is the sickest thing I have read to date about Student Loans--the way they play with honor and Family relationships. Play one Family member against another.

What kind of a sick society are we becoming in the US?

My only quesion is how important good credit is to your Mother at this time of her life?
Can she take the hit? If so go ahead and opt for the garnishment.

But be careful. And I cannot say this with greater emphasis. Wage garnishment means more work for the accounting Dept. of wherever it is you work.

Wage Garnishment might make you look like a real first class Asshole Shithead at your place of employment. And I mean capital A with a double S!

I don't know why this is so, but there is a stigma about someone in debt that brings out the worst in Human Nature, and wants to kick the person that is down even harder. This theory can never be proved, but it is real and lives on all the same.

The people where you work might even develop a feeling of genuine contempt for you, and try to treat you like shit, in order to get you to quit. That way they will not have to pay unemployment benefits. If that happens, you might get so pissed off someday that you will quit.

But that is assuming they will even entertain the idea of keeping you on after learning of your debt, even in the face of a very remote threat of your claiming discrimination and bringing a lawsuit you cannot afford.

Why do I say all this? Because you are making the accounting dept. do more work. And they might not be very sympathetic to your Student Loan Story. The accountant that cuts the payroll every week can be pretty rough. Unless you have friends, or connections where you work.

Good luck kid.

The word from the streets. Signing off.

Anonymous said...

"Revolt" means "mob violence".

Just admit it, please....

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

Sorry? Are you suggesting that those two terms are absolutely synonymous? I'm simply throwing the question out there . . .

Sean Feeney said...

@Cryn would love to have you run, but you'd have to come back to the states :-). Guess that's not a problem since you shared that you're not in default like a lot of us!

@6:02 I'd love to see a payroll department try it. Funny thing is, I've heard your argument before. Employers don't like wage garnishment, blah blah blah. I'm glad my new employer offers legal benefits...just in case...