Ask yourselves — where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?
Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves [my emphasis]. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.Having been a teacher in South Korea, I was heartened by this point. He's absolutely right. It's absurd that we are laying of teachers across the U.S., and they are hiring! Even worse, they are hiring people like me to teach their children. Now, there's nothing wrong with people wanting to explore S. Korea (after all, I did and it was very enriching), but when that is the only choice - and your profession is that of being a teacher - there is something terribly wrong with that picture. I want more than anything to teach in the public school system here in the U.S. (don't worry! I'd still be running AEM), but at this point there is no chance in hell that I could get a job. And don't presume I haven't tried. There aren't jobs like that available. No job means no income. So, I am not consuming anything. I live with my in-laws who provide me with groceries. How is that for helping the economy, especially one that relies upon consumer buying?
I have, like all of you, so much to offer this country, and I am trying will all my might to give back. I am giving back by running a non-profit, and I knew getting into this, that it would be a struggle. I am my own boss, and I was inspired to do this because of my father's entrepreneurial spirit. The struggle is worth it, but I'd sure like to be able to rent a decent apartment, live in a city of my own choosing (I'm currently in exile in Texas), and buy basic consumer goods on a regular basis. If I were to move back to S. Korea, I could do all those things. Here? Impossible. Each day, it seems we are falling deeper into debt, and that's having a husband who is successful in his own career!
So, I applaud the President for mentioning such points, among others. However, he failed to point out a huge crisis that is affecting millions of educated Americans. We are indebted for life. Most of us will never be able to pay off our loans for college. It is not because we don't wish to pay off our loans, but the terms and conditions are unjust and outrageous. In many cases, they are downright fraudulent.
President Obama has said in the past to progressives and leftists, "You guys need to push me." This reminded me of a point he made in his speech last night when he said:
Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can’t stop there [my emphasis]. As I’ve argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future.That's right, Mr. President, we can't stop with the American Jobs Act. This is only the beginning. And it is my job to push you to consider helping the indentured educated class immediately. I am determined to meet you, in the Oval Office, and shake your hand after we have cracked some good jokes together and - even more importantly - we have solved the student lending crisis.
You offered us a lot of hope again last night, and now we need to ensure that these things happen, so that millions of Americans can get back to work. Then we need to turn our attention to the severe debt crisis that is destroying the lives of millions of educated Americans. On that note, it is baffling that the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is surprised that consumer spending remains weak.
According to a MSNBC article today, Bernanke did acknowledge "that several factors have kept consumers from spending more: from high unemployment and falling home values to still-heavy debt loads [my emphasis] and higher gasoline prices."
The fact that so many of us are carrying heavy debt loads is key here. While economist Zeus Yiamouyiannis's superb piece on the need for a debt jubilee does not speak specifically about student loan debt, it is an insightful read as to why this step is absolutely necessary. (Yiamouyiannis is an economist and knows exactly what he is talking about, and has been pushing for debt forgiveness since 2008). In his piece, "Endgame: When Debt is Fraud, Debt Forgiveness is the Last and Only Remedy," Yiamouyiannis writes:
Finally serious economists are considering a position I have been maintaining and writing about since the 2008 financial meltdown. Whatever its name— erasure, repudiation, abolishment, cancellation, jubilee—debt forgiveness, will have to eventually emerge forefront in global efforts to solve an ongoing systemic financial crisis.If we are to get out of this mess, policymakers would be wise to take this suggestion seriously. Why is it important that we erase debt? Let's get away from the moral hazard arguments, something I know dominates conversations in the White House and elsewhere in DC. This is necessary for several reasons. Yiamouyiannis explains:
Debt forgiveness, therefore, accomplishes two important things. It eliminates the increasing and outsized portion of productive enterprise to pay off unproductive obligations, and it clears the ground for new opportunities, new thinking, invention, and entrepreneurialism. This is why the ability to declare bankruptcy is so essential in the pursuit of both happiness and innovation.Here's another critical point as well. Consumer protections rights for debtors must be reinstated. End of story.
The system is completely out of whack. As you all know, I continually point out the way in which people make money off of us being indentured. The damned terminology on the market calls these things indentured bonds!!! Hows' that for spurring economic growth, invention, and entrepreneurialism?!?
Currently we are mired in a 'new normal' and calls for 'austerity' which are nothing more than the delusional efforts of a status quo to avoid the consequences of its own error and fraud and to profit evermore. So bedazzled by the false wealth created by debt multiplication and its concomitant fantasy of ever-higher returns, this status quo continues to be stupidly amazed that people are not spending and that the economy is not picking up. But how could it be otherwise?
Productive wealth has been trapped in a web of parasitic theft, counterfeiting, liability evasion, non-regulation, and prosecutorial non-accountability. All the fundamental attributes of a functioning exchange economy have been warped to reward creative criminals.
Last night, President Obama spoke about the way in which Americans used to be able to succeed if they worked hard. Well, we now reward criminal behavior at a massive scale in the financial industry. Even worse, all aspects of the economy have been corrupted and invaded - it's the financializiation of all sectors of production. That needs to be altered. The financial industry should not have this much dominance. It used to serve a specific purpose. Let's get back to the basics and rein in its destructiveness. It's eating us away. Bit by bit, it's chomping us to pieces. Mr. President, if you wish to do something bold, go after Wall Street. That's right! I said: Go after Wall Street — go after Wall Street. Do it now.
On another note, I worry that the American Jobs Act will be crushed (thank God they came up with a simple, clean name, so that the Republicans can't simplify it and destroy its meaning). We all know that there is a slim chance that it will pass in the House that is filled with a bunch of rogue (or downright stupid) economic terrorists. (I was happy to see, however, that Senator Jim McCain expressed a willingness to consider the bill last night after the speech on CNN). But let's assume it does pass. If you have any understanding of Keynesian economics, you know that this bill is not enough. It's simply too small. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote in an opinion piece today for Salon in which he gave two cheers for the President, but one jeer. Why the jeer?
"A jeer because the jobs plan he presented isn't nearly large enough or bold enough to make a major dent in unemployment, or to restart the economy [my emphasis]," he explained, and added, "$450 billion sounds like a lot -- and is more than I expected -- but some of this merely extends current spending (unemployment benefits) and tax cuts (in Social Security taxes), so it doesn't add to aggregate demand."
I imagine economist Paul Krugman will say the same thing (if he hasn't already). After all, Krugman has been calling for a robust plan time and time again.
I fear that President Obama has committed political suicide precisely because he is not calling for enough money. Perhaps I am mistaken, but if he called for something truly bold, then he could use that as campaign fodder and say, "hey, look, I tried my best. I offered a pragmatic and simple vision that would have allowed this country to get back on track, that would have helped the unemployed get back to work, and would have helped those of you who are struggling to pay your loans back for the college degrees you obtained . . . But the guys on the other side of the aisle didn't want to step in and help out. They refused to negotiate on a bipartisan basis, and we now know who to blame for a worsening economy."
Who knows? If we continue to push him, perhaps he'll end up saying just that, and meaning it.