Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rep Hansen Clarke's Call for Loan Forgiveness

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AEM a few days ago announced Rep Hansen Clarke's call to forgive student loan debt. Obviously, it's an admirable thing to do on the floor, and I am in the midst of setting up talks with his office. However, I think it is important to keep in mind that, unfortunately, Clarke is not on any committees that could sway his colleagues to push legislation to forgive student loans (for instance, he is not on the Education & Workforce Committee - one that could have considerable influence on such matters, but has, sadly, been bought and sold by the industry). As much as we would all love that, it is not realistic. Perhaps at one point there was a possibility, but it has passed. With austerity measures being pushed by both parties, the notion of loan forgiveness is simply out of the question, and anyone who has any sense of how the market works and how the student lending industry and debt are bound to it, will tell you that it's a pipe dream.

When I met with a sympathetic congressman in mid-January, he let me know that his "new colleagues" were wanting to make it impossible to include medical bills in bankruptcy. So when it comes to relief for student loan debtors, things don't look great. If I were to be proven wrong, I would - of course - be delighted. But I also think it is important to be honest about these things and not mislead people who are struggling with student loan debt.

Rest assured, I wish that my analysis and knowledge of these things were not true.

But keep in mind, there were calls over three years ago by countless people for total loan forgiveness, and it didn't happen. That was at a moment in which major corporations and the banks were bailed out. It made sense then, but it makes no sense now.

The concept of loan forgiveness is not a new thing in this country. It's not a new thing when you go back through history. There used to be 'debt jubilees.' It would be great if that would happen here, but the situation is far more complex than that.

While I still applaud Rep. Clarke for what he recently said, it is a mistake to assume that those words could actually lead to change for the indentured educated class. At the same time, I look forward to meeting him in August.


One Who Survived said...

I agree with your analysis, except to add that the inevitable hyperinflation of the US Dollar is going to require a total reassessment of all debts, sooner than most people think.

Jubilees for debt forgiveness were instituted by the law of Moses, an inconvenient detail for split-minded neo-Calvinist Biblical literalists who believe poverty is a sign of moral failure. Dante placed usurers in the same circle as sodomites, on the ground that both of those activities are non-productive abuses of nature. (Gloss to PC police, in Dante's time there was no concept of "sexual orientation", therefore his sodomites were NOT "homosexuals".)

Further re poverty, St Thomas Aquinas said a man who steals basic sustenance from the rich - if he has no other means of support - does not sin, because he's taking what is his by right as per the failure of the rich to abide by the social contract which included providing sufficient employment or else a reasonable saftey net for the unfortunate.

Ayn Rand would have been anathema to Thomas Aquinas, and conversely she was hostile to Christian social teaching. Did you know that Mr La Vey, the American author of the "Satanic Bible", openly professed that his "Satanic Bible" was basically a restatement of Ayn Rand's creed?

Cryn Johannsen said...

@OneWhoSurvived - oh, I'm very, very familiar with the history of these jubilees. I've read and taught Dante several times. I like where the usurers are placed, too.

Anonymous said...

It's bad enough that student loans aren't dischargable, but gambling debts are. But now there's talk about making medical debt non-dischargable? What kind of country are we living in?

What's ironic is that Christian fundamentalists who support such things do more to contradict the essence of what they claim to believe than Ayn Rand ever could have done to negate it. (I went through an "Ayn Rand" phase of my youth and, even then, I thought she was a lousy writer!)

Anonymous said...


Too many people have gotten extremely wealthy playing games with student debt. It will be an uphill battle.

Anonymous said...

Well Ms C J, would it not be best to applaud Rep Hansen's call. Waxing poetic re: Dante etc. gives me little solace. KRK

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is that some in the Tea Party use their ostensible Christian beliefs to rationalize their social conservatism (e.g., opposition to gay and women's rights) while citing Ayn Rand in their arguments for shifting the tax burdens from the rich to the poor.