Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Student Loan Forgiveness Needs To Happen Now, And We Also Need To Use New Language To Wage Our Battle

Despite was others say about student loan forgiveness, it is not provocative at all. Claiming that sort of thing actually serves to hurt the measure. When it comes to economists who know what they are talking about, it's hardly brash or crazy or provocative or whatever. It makes a lot of sense, and I'll defer to the experts in this case.

Given the momentum of Occupy, and the fact that outstanding student loan debt is nearing $1 trillion, at this juncture a debt jubilee (across the board) makes perfect sense. As mentioned earlier, in "Endgame: When Debt is Fraud, Debt Forgiveness is the Last and Only Remedy," Zeus Yiamouyiannis makes reasonable arguments for why debt forgiveness is absolutely necessary.

After listening to the press conference call and reporting about the administration's measures to supposedly help bring relief to borrowers, I was - as an activist - very disappointed. These proposals are simply not enough to help the millions and millions and millions of borrowers who are struggling to make ends meet. Think about the co-signers on loans, and how the administration has also flatly refused at this point to help defaulters. They are leaving out scores of people who need help now.

The whole system is out of whack, and those who make money off the backs of students need to be put out of business. End of story. They need to be put out of business, the government needs to stop cashing in as well, and a debt jubilee needs to be implemented. It's time to stop bleeding average Americans, and this is a bold way to ensure that hemorrhaging will stop. We live in extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures. Band-aid policies do no good when slapped on tumorous issues.

Debt jubilee now! Debt jubilee now! This is not dramatic - this makes sense.

That means we need to shift our language about this issue, too. When you throw out the term loan forgiveness, many people balk and idiotic right-wing pundits go haywire, and start frothing at the mouth. As Ann Pettifor, the founder co-founder of the Jubilee 2000 campaign, has made clear: we should not use the term "loan forgiveness." It automatically suggests that the person who is a debtor has committed a sin - this is the wrong language, and a campaign built on it will spark divisive views. When speaking, on the other hand, of the need for a debt jubilee, we can talk about the relationship that both parties entered together. We all know the system is rigged to benefit the loan sharks. After all, they help write all the laws that put the borrower at an extreme disadvantage. So, everything is on the books and against those of us who seek loans. They have enormous power over borrowers. It is off balance, and that is why we need a damned debt jubilee. This is the new language we shall use. We already have people on the streets, and people fighting with the pen as a sword - these are potent weapons, and they will serve to crush this usurious system.

I stand firmly with the folks calling for a Jubilee. I'll close with a fantastic Biblical passage that they discuss on their About page:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord … is upon me because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those that are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. – Isaiah 61


Anonymous said...

Ok, but where is the money for this jubilee, or whatever you want to call it, is going to come from? In order to be realistic, that has to be part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

If a debt jubilee really goes through (doubt it)... maybe I shoulda just rung up my student loans to party every other day and eat out every night and wine taste abroad and attend every away football/basketball game.

Shame for me for being a miserly spendthrift who went through college (in the 2000s when tuition was already jumping no less) on PBJ/Ramen while working 30 hours/week to make sure I come out with only 10k of debt (now down to 3K).

Anonymous said...

What money is needed to undertake a foregiveness? Debt is forgiven, those who hold SLABS take a haircut -- they lose thier individual investment in the student debt. Loss is spread to those who bet on student debt slavery forever.... kinda like the slaveowners in 1865.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous 1:21 uh, yeah, because that's a really accurate picture of most students. Where did you get that image from? Oh, lemme guess! Could it have been Animal House and all the other films that came out after that movie, depicting ALL college students as lazy drunkards? No. I doubt it. I bet you "thunk" that brilliant idea all up by yourself. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:21 does have a point in that some of us only borrowed what we could afford and then payed it back. If all debt was going to be forgiven anyway then we could have gone to more expensive schools.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous 2:25 PM no, s/he doesn't have a point. And you're wrong about this idea of going to a less expensive school. Those who attend the pricier schools, like the Ivies, overall do not take out debt. That's because the majority of them come from money and can afford to attend those types of schools. You know who's screwed? People who go to regular, land-grant universities or are lured into the bullshit for-profits. You also aren't taking into account that a lot of the money that is made off this debt is ACCRUED interest, especially when people defer. So, it's money that is made off of money. Hence, the reason why I am denouncing usury.

So, it's not about people making bad decisions. As I argued, the system is rigged. This is no longer about "personal responsibility." The bankers don't take any responsibility for wrecking the economy, but people who like to critique student loan debtors rarely acknowledge that. If they did, it would show the illogical aspects of their arguments.

Anonymous said...

I went to a land grant university within the last decade, worked full time, and only ever had a maximum of $14,000 in direct subsidized student loans, which I payed back within a few years.

Anonymous said...

Cryn, All the Anon comments have a point here. At least you approve the comments for transparency sake.

1. (12:56) Where DO you get the money to pay back all of the debt? Using another Gov't backed loan program to bail out a faulty Gov't loan program does not cut it.

2. (1:21) There are many people that used common sense and avoided debt because they are frugal and spendthrift. They are punished through sweeping loan forgiveness. Didn't you see this post on Edububble?

3. (2:25) Is right to take note of the obvious.

What they are asking for is reasonable recognition of their choosing to manage money and time appropriately as individuals. They read the writing on the wall years ago, and realized that college was too expensive and got busy with a job while attending.

Sure it sounds great, but student loan forgiveness across the board is a bad idea. A debt write down or "haircut" is more reasonable, could you run calculations on that?

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous 3:53 That's great for you, and I sincerely mean that! But we are hitting the $1 trillion mark, and that means it has an impact upon - if you can figure this one out - ALL of us. It's a SYSTEMIC problem. And as I previously stated, the reason for why loans balloon is complicated. Sure, someone might have started with the amount of loans you took out, but then - let's say - they get sick or are seriously injured and have to then defer (and that's assuming they can). Suddenly, that reasonable amount of debt skyrockets. I also mentioned the way these lenders make money off of money, but you conveniently ignored that.

Anonymous said...

1:21 PM here.

Sorry Caryn. But I don't watch movies much nowadays nor am I the type to be easily enamored by the aura of glorified media hype. Most of these observations are actually first hand anecdotes and observations on more than several instances.

If anything, I agree with the majority of your cause.

I agree the academia cartel system is beyond broken.

I agree the big bank/ big business/ big government cohort has destroyed and pilfered from the middle class (granted, you can also say Unions and the Welfare class have done the same thing).

I also think the deterioration of the middle class in America creates huge issues going forward given 70% of the economy is consumer spending.

However, to simply wipe the student loan slate clean is a slap in the face to the MANY of us who actually sacrificed quite a bit to get to where we are today.

I would agree with you if your solution was allowing bankruptcy discharge of student loans after x amount of years.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Thanks for your feedback. It's Cryn by the way. :)

Unknown said...

What a stupid conversation. So I guess because you guys got through school without much debt (smart, yes, you were) that discharging it for those who are buried six feet under by it would somehow be unfair to you.

And what does this even mean? "If all debt was going to be forgiven anyway then we could have gone to more expensive schools." That's so utterly stupid that I can't even follow the logic through. "If I had a time machine, I'd go back and go to a more expensive school. But since I don't have a time machine, it would be a slap in my face, so just, you know, suffer."

Also, 1:21, I don't think "spendthrift" means that you think it means. Nice one.

Anonymous said...

Let's say there is a massive jubilee: what is the incentive for loan companies to ever lend money to students again?

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous 7:09 PM - well, somehow other countries have figured out a way to heavily subsidize higher education. Perhaps if we weren't spending billions on wars across the globe, we could actually invest in Americans and fund their education. This isn't a radical idea - other places do it. Just take a look at the letter of support I recently received from someone in Australia.

Oh, and by the way, we spend $15 billion a year on A/C for our troops. Now, I am not suggesting that the troops don't deserve to be comfortable in hot climates, but if they weren't off fighting all these sensless wars, that would be a good deal of savings. And I won't even go into the actual sticker price of these wars or the fact that somehow around $18 billion happened to just "vanish" in Iraq!

Anonymous said...

Well None, it is unfair due to the fact that the money has to come from somewhere. Is it going to be in the form of higher taxes? Higher interest rates?

mbl said...

Cryn is right. I too ate Ramen, was thrifty, worked while in college & pretty much lived in poverty while going to school YET I still owe about $70,000 for student loans. I worked hard, graduated with a high grade point average to prove it. Yes, my college was expensive, so what's your point? I could have racked up as much debt by spending the money to move to another part of the country where tuition was cheaper and attending a college that didn't offer the classes I needed for my degree. Personally, I would have been better off if I'd gone on to grad school and accumulated over $100k in debt, as a BA isn't worth much (job wise) anymore, but I was too afraid of the debt to continue my degree.

Our society is losing out as more and more highly intelligent people choose not to go to college &, therefore, not to enter certain professions. If you're wondering why there's so much incompetence today, that would be why.

An educated populace is necessary for a democratic society to survive. Now, a fascist tyrannical society, however, necessitates an ignorant populace that's easily manipulated by propaganda. What type of society do you want to live in? (I guess those of us who actually did graduate from college with passing grades know the answer to that one.)

Anonymous said...

Well mbl, did you consider a community college for your first two years? The problem is that you are presenting a false choice (one of the things that they teach us in college) in that you either have to get a $70,000 degree or have an uneducated populace. My degree is a STEM degree and didn't come anywhere near that.

Leni said...

Anonymous-It's hard to put stock in what you say if YOU won't even sign your name.

Audrey said...

Honestly, I don't understand why people, instead of miss the entire message of the student loan crisis, are busy trying to get post-grads understand what morons they are. Oh good, congrats, you aren't in debt as much as everyone else so everyone else deserves poverty.

Moron or not moron, the fact of the matter is that there is reality to the situation that Cryn tries to bring to our attention. And comparing one's personal experience to an entire collective is also missing the point. But then again, many Americans are hyper obsessed with their own "choices" and haven't explored "choice" philosophically, or even thought about why/how they make their choices. Are you ever humbled to the point to question your own free will? Thank god that these brighter than the rest people were lucky enough to make a better decision than the rest of us beggars, but that doesn't mean that everyone else deserves shit.

The entire point is missed, which is the "business" of college and student lending takes advantage of people for profit, along with many other aspects of our society. And I don't mean profit that benefits both sides, I mean treating other people as if they aren't human beings in order to maximize profit as much as possible. It's spiritually degrading, to physically inhumane to the extreme poor. It's that simple. I learned my lesson personally, and will not be taken advantage of for profit (to this magnitude) again.

As far as debtors go: I think that we are all aware of our own mistakes, and need to get past the guilt that encompasses it. Things are more complex than just your choice. There are outside influences, just as much as internal. Life is complex. You're living in the clouds if you assume every single college student who pulls out loans did so because they figured they wouldn't have to pay them back later. That's just an excuse to keep the status quo because it worked for you personally. And well, if that's all that matters, I highly doubt that a movement or a revolt or a comment on a blog will get you to think twice about it.

Personally, I am glad I went to college because my other options were not positive, and destructive, and there are chances that I would not be around to think about anything like this if I didn't go. It has humbled me and opened my eyes to so many injustices, and allowed me to realize how lucky I am. I am lucky to even be able to talk about it. I am not ungrateful, I just want a chance to be able to live a comfortable life, and I think that we all deserve the same.

Anyway, just a thought, as I am so exhausted with reading such ignorant remarks from people who project their own selfish ideas of how to live life on everyone else. In that world people are stupid unless they made the same choices as them. So boring and tiring to read. I'm sure my tenses are off, I'm quite sleepy at the moment. Ha

Unknown said...

You're going to pay more in taxes and interest rates anyway. If no one is going to get paid back, what difference does it make whether or not loans are discharged? This, of course, ignores the fact that our economy is 70% consumer spending and you've just guaranteed that millions of people be able to spend anything for the next 50 years.

Anonymous said...

The problem is naysayers are pointing their fingers at the victims instead of seeing the actual problem. This is backwards thinking.

People have neglected "The American Dream." They fail to realize that the government used to pay for the majority of education in the 60s. My mother went to a 4 year college then and only had $1000 in debt. She paid it off in 6 months. She got a great job fresh out of college. Since then tuition has sky-rocked. The government has not regulated college tuition. Over the years the government shifted the burden of paying for college to the students.

People who 'froth at the mouth' when being asked to pay for education in taxes don't understand the value of an education. They don't see education as a human need to survive in this world. The reality is that those who don't have an education have no future. The bachelor's degree is the new "high school diploma." You need a bachelor's degree to flip burgers and to work at Walmart. (Many of my college graduate peers who are lucky to have jobs work at such establishments making minimum wage.)

If we don't value education, then we don't value the future of this country. Our future scientists, professors, and doctors will be from China or India if we don't do something. If you look at Denmark for example the total cost of education comes out of taxes. Denmark is rated as the happiest country in the world. Because education is government run, no one has to worry about taking out a second mortgage on their homes to send their kids through school. It's a joke when you compare our economy to theirs.

To all of you who "froth at the mouth" now, just wait until you have kids.

For a 4 year public school, it is estimated it will cost 60k a YEAR in 2030! Have fun paying that parents or watch your kids suffer.

For those of you who have struggled through college and were smart about your money- that's great. I bet you feel hurt. After you worked so hard and payed everything off you are probably upset about potential handouts to students. I understand. But what I'm afraid you don't understand is you are taking part in the cycle of abuse. You criticize other victims of this system who you want to suffer. I understand this thought process because I used to think like that. This is exactly what keeps this world a 'dog eats dog' world. We are all fighting over the bones instead of realizing the owner doesn't give out enough bones. The last thing we need is a looming student loan bubble that is projected to burst at anytime. If it bursts, it will be even worse than the housing bubble.

That's great if you got grants and scholarships and attained jobs in college. I was very unlucky. I went to a school that did not give out need based jobs or scholarships. I applied every semester for TA positions but was out of luck. Instead every semester the same students who had their tuition in full paid for by their parents (who are doctors) received scholarships and numerous TA jobs. I applied for jobs every semester but couldn't get one. As soon as I graduated, I became permanently disabled with a tumor inside my spinal cord. I have 75k in debt. I have been on deferment for 2 years and will default. So just because you worked hard and payed off your loans- don't assume that everyone can have access to the same opportunities and has the same situation as you. Did you know that the unemployment rate for young adults is 25%. What I heard most from employers (when I applied for jobs) is I'm either too overqualified or I don't have enough experience. That is the blanket statement given to most young adults. As a result there is age discrimination. It could come back to bite this country in the butt. This is what happened to Japan's "Lost Generation."

For anyone who would love to argue with me, I will NOT be following up with this post.

Anonymous said...

I also want to add that student loan payments are only hurting the economy. Money that is paid to the loan sharks is money that is not being spent on consumer products. If no one buys consumer projects, then corporations will not be hiring. This hurts you!

warwick555 said...

These arguments remind me of any discussion by the oppressed who want to deny their own oppression. Feminist issue: Just be nice to your boyfriend or husband. Wrap yourself in saran wrap and greet him at the door. Then he won't abuse you and you won't need income equality.
Black issue: Know your place. Don't be uppity. Work harder than that white person so you will be noticed. Don't ever talk back to that white police officer.
Gay issue: Stay in the closet. No one wants to know what goes on in the bedroom. Don't hold hands in public.
Alcoholic parent: You aren't a perfect kid 24/7, so I get to abuse and/or neglect you and it's all your fault.
Grow up and admit you have been manipulated by Banksters and corrupt politicians, especially GOP. Debt Jubilee now!

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that student loans should be forgiven, but I would argue that they should be able to be discharged in bankruptcy.

Anonymous said...

You guys, all you do is tell your stories, judge each other and argue. Come on already. This is serious trouble. We need to stop the pettiness and DO SOMETHING. I don't think begging to get laws changed is the solution. We need to stop complying with business as usual. It's a waste to talk about what is fair and unfair and to whom. Are you kidding? The laws and conditions we live with are pure insanity. Let's deal with it. Are you brave enough to do what needs to be done? Good. Let's get on with the dirty work then. Roll up your sleaves, people.

Anonymous said...

Since I can't reply directly to a comment, I just wanted to say here that Audrey sums up so well what's wrong with the "I was responsible" argument. I also couldn't agree more with the reminders among these comments that student loan providers are behaving like loan sharks. Just take a look at the Occupy Student Debt Tumblr, where you'll find many, many people owe more--and sometimes double or triple their original debt--after paying tens of thousands of dollars.