Monday, November 28, 2011

Hypervocal: Washington Post - “Forgive Us Our Student Loan Debt?” No Thanks!

Here's my latest piece over at Hypervocal. There seems to be a great deal of misinformation and lies circulating about my call for a debtors' strike, and the work being down by the occupiers on student loan debt. Let's clarify some things . . .

To be clear: a debtors' strike is something that needs to be thought about long and hard. These sorts of changes don't happen overnight. Nevertheless, an honest discussion about the power that has been taken from us needs to continue.  The same goes with the debt refusal campaign coming out of OWS. As I wrote in a previous piece, "Since there are tens of millions of student loan debtors, and the group is aware of that fact, the pledge of signatures from debtors at a million is symbolically important." I have also insisted on a debt jubilee, and this is something that policymakers could go forward with, but the language is what counts.

We are no longer in the post-bailout dark ages when loan forgiveness was a viable solution. It was, indeed, a viable one, and that language - despite how bad it was then - made sense. However, it no longer makes sense now, and that's what the occupiers of this subcommittee, in my view, also realize.

Mark my words: I do not want ANYONE to suffer from this unjust system. We have all suffered long enough. That is why we need to come up with NEW language and NEW forms of action to CHANGE things for all of us. This is not some pissing contest in which the numero uno leader wins and takes us down the path to salvation. As we all know, those who support and GET OWS, understand how we are leaderFULL.

Thanks to The River Wanders for linking to my Hypervocal article - it's much appreciated! The piece is quite popular!


Nando said...

Debt jubilee connotes a party atmosphere. I understand that people want to grabb others' attention. However, let's simply call it the following: allow student loan debt to be discharged in bankruptcy.

It is not a sexy, eye-catching term. But it best describes the situation. Applebaum is foolish to refer to a need for student debt "forgiveness."

When using the phrase "Allow student loans to be dischargeged in bankruptcy," make sure to point out that gambling debts and idiotic shopping sprees can be wiped out in bankruptcy proceedings. Play to Americans' basic sense of fairness and decency.

If you want, you can cite to taxpayer bailouts of major airlines, auto manufacturers, banks, savings & loan schemes, etc. At some point, we must use this to make our case for allowing student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy courts - the same as pretyy much any other debt.

Then cite to Title 11 of the U.S. Code (Bankruptcy) and head to 11 U.S.C. § 523 (Exceptions to Discharge).

There are many wel-reasoned law review articles on the need for student loan discharge.

Anonymous said...

Bankruptcy is far too narrow. These debts are toxic and odious (in the financial and legal sense of the terms). Student debt needs to be eliminated immediately.

After 2008, the US chose not to prosecute bank criminals. Does that make them less criminal? The government chose to subsidize them. Shouldn't that money go toward people instead of plutocrats? The financial parasites should be in jail.

Banks need to be removed from higher education entirely. They've wrecked health, transportation, and housing too. Public education needs to be fully funded at all levels.

Banks and student loan bonds are a major reason for high tuition. Want to drop tuition to zero? Remove the Bush tax cuts and put them to higher education. The solution is so simple, but government and banks prefer an indebted docile population. Debt they have, but they are docile no longer.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one has to look at America-the Society-as a whole, in its extremes.

As in: What does this society reward with wealth, and what does it punish?

Successful Pop culture and sports figures end up in the 1%.

Educated people that take out student loans are held down if they can't make good on the loan contract. And so are part of the 99%

Especially when more usurious debt gets heaped on the shoulders of the Student Loan borrower, until the debt becomes impossible to pay off for the best years of ones adult lives.

I would gladly give up Television, and newspapers, and all of the public sports, and the entire US pop culture: Oprah, Ellen Regis, Letterman, the car collector guy uh....Leno I think his name is..if I could be free of my debt.

And I look out, by now, at a society here in America that has little value for higher ed, other than as a source of income for a relative few.

And the Devil take the hindmost (meaning us)as their public policy.

The academics are a smuch to blame, for they have a vested interest in keeping the student loan gravy train going until it runs off the rails.

Nando said...

@6:55 pm,

I agree with you that "higher education" should be financed by tax funds. (A society that truly valued higher education would do so.) However, we do not live in Lollipopland.

If you make this a central plank, then you will effectively lose any public support you may have for student debt relief. When you talk to legislators - at the city, state or national level - you cannot espouse such platforms.

Regardless of your ideals, this country operates under a political duopoly. Even liberal Democrats will tune you out, if you mention "free higher education." Those "lawmakers" know that they cannot sell that idea to their constituents, their financial backers, the press or party leadership. People generally fear or despise socialism. Is your goal to affect change, or to piss into the wind?

Go with making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. At that point, you argue the inherent unfairness and idiocy of a BK system that allows discharge of gambling debts but not for student loans.