Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Part I: An Earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and AEM's Successful Trip To D.C.

As I mentioned in a previous piece, the trip to D.C. last week was tremendously productive. Most of you know that the trip made me feel good about the possibility of change for student debtors. That said, I think it's important to be realistic about relief options, but I am, at the moment, cautiously optimistic. Feeling that way is tremendous.

AEM has been around for roughly 2 1/2 years, and it hasn't even been a non-profit for a year yet. When I think back to when I first launched my blog, and where it is now, it is quite amazing to see how far it has come. But even more incredible than that, it is amazing to see how far we have come as a group. The most important change for the crew of debtors? A real sense of class consciousness exists now. Moreover, I see that more and more debtors are overcoming their shame. I am also hearing from more of you, and you are getting involved in so many incredible ways! All of this has been profoundly moving, and has enabled me to overcome my own personal shame about being a debtor, living with my in-laws, and depending upon them for groceries (see here and here). It is not my fault that I find myself in such circumstances. Like so many of you, I also believed that advanced degrees would be a ticket to a better life (I also believe higher education is a public good, something so many have forgotten). We were told that the moment we set foot in a classroom. We were told to go to college over and over and over again. So, we did just that, and now we're drowning in student loan debt, struggling to make ends meet, and (miraculously) yearning to be part of a political discussion! Well, I have news for everyone. We're no longer be ignored in DC. That is why we must return together in October.

On another note, I have made the decision to stay in the U.S. If I wanted to, I could be teaching abroad, making a good living (paying down my bills), enjoying life, etc. But it is important that I stay here and continue to ensure that all of our voices are heard through AEM. At the same time, it's not right that I am struggling every day to make ends meet, and can't support myself in my own country. It's an outrage. I am more outraged when I hear your stories, and listen to how much you struggle. It makes me furious, but also energetic!

As for me, why should I have to leave the U.S. to rent an apartment?!? That is ridiculous, and illustrates how backwards things have gotten in this country. We need to get back on track. People like you, and like me, should be playing a positive role in this society. We've been kicked to the curb, and for all the wrong reasons. That's why we need to band together, and say, "enough is enough!" That is why I remain committed to AEM and making it work, even if that means I'm running operations on a shredded shoestring budget.

I am tired of the sorry state of affairs. Those who continue to ruin the system and this country need to step aside. It's time for those of us who give a shit to step up to the plate. We believe in one another, we believe in creating a better world, and we want it now. I'm tired of this hokey "in the future" shit. It's shit. Plain and simple.

All of you know that there will be tremendous opposition - we've already experienced that - and the current administration is unwilling, or so it seems, to solve the student lending crisis. Incidentally, I've given them credit for their efforts to end FFELP and introduce the IBR program. But these steps are simply not enough. We need policymakers to stop conflating current borrowers with prospective/current students. Those are not the same categories. Current borrowers have received little, if any, relief. That is why we are fast approaching the $1 TRILLION MARK. I just took a quick peek at the Student Loan Debt Clock, and it's at a whopping $937 BILLION. (When you click on that link, it will most likely be higher).

But as I said, this outrage and frustration is not being ignored by some offices in DC. Nope. They heard me loud and clear. Stay tuned for a detailed update on my visit.

Related Links

"AEM's Agenda, August 22: Congressman Hansen Clarke's Office and SparkAction.org," AEM (Aug 22, 2011)


John in Boston said...

Fantastic! I do hope that the numbers of us prove to lawmakers that there are too many of us to shrug off the phenomenon as "deadbeat-driven".

I also appreciate your assertion that education is a public good. If education were approached in the U.S. as it is in most industrialized countries, this lock-up of consumer-grade capital wouldn't be an issue.

Cryn Johannsen said...

We're so off track when it comes to our general belief of what higher education is about. We need to change that.

Here's some good news!


I want these places to clean up their acts, or ELSE!!!!

One Who Survived said...

"I'm tired of this hokey "in the future" shit."

Good. It's exactly why the American socialist (a rich one, as they usually are) was full of shit when he visited Stalin's Soviet Union and reported, "I have seen the future, and it works."

Total bullshit. The future doesn't work. The only things that have ever worked have worked in the past, even if just a few seconds ago. The future doesn't exist. "Progress" is a counterfeit substitute for healing.