What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Student Debt March!

So Wednesday was the big #1T day.  The day that student debt in America would reach the one trillion dollar mark!

Think about that. 

Yes, that Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo shooting at us innocent students!

 Our GDP is about 14 Trillion dollars a year.  People in the US owe more than 7% of our annual GDP in student loans.  Loans designed to allow our economy to move forward, yet there aren't any jobs to make the requisite money to eventually pay back the loans.  You need education to get good jobs, and jobs to pay back the loans you need to get the education needed to get jobs.  Great.  Except there aren't enough jobs, and won't be.  It's only going to get worse.  Capitalism is based on continual increased productivity and efficiency, and the more efficient we get, the less workers are needed to do similar tasks.  And yes, people can point to entrepreneurship and innovation to set up new industries and businesses, but you need education to find those niches!!  HAHA!!  And also, those niches are not infinite - there is a decreasing marginal relationship in terms of the saturation of an economy to its needs and wants.  What we are doing is just flat out not sustainable.

This is why we protest of course!!  Our economy is drowning in debt, and its drowning in debt used to speculate on a person's future earnings before there is any real indication of output in such a tight labor market.  This allows for so little security in terms of the prospects of future payment!  But the lenders know this, that's why they take out insurance claims, hedge any loses in case their loans don't come back, or simply sell them to other lenders.  They are making money, or at least breaking even no matter what.  Plus, federal student loans are guaranteed to be paid back.  You can't default, you can't die, you can't go bankrupt.  They'll follow you forever, and then ever again.

The current generation is saddled with it even worse as well.  School tuition has FAR outpaced the rise in inflation and the accompanying dip in real wages since the 1970's.  Add in the government cuts to education and you get things like the Philadelphia city schools dissolving, Detroit's and NYC's students walking out in protest.  When education spending gets cut federally, localities -  and specifically lower income localities - can't pick up the slack.  Schools and children suffer, and they suffer exponentially along racial and income lines due to funding streams that are based predominantly on local property taxes.  With these increasingly failing schools, kids try to get into universities becoming more and more expensive and competitive, while their own academic foundations are worse.  Thus, they are less apt to get in and/or gain any kind of scholarships or grants.  So they have to fill the financial gaps with student loans or risk not being able to compete in the job market without degrees.  They're then saddled with this debt for the rest of their lives.  Leaving them little disposable income to engage within the economy, nevermind to perhaps be able to take on a mortgage for a home.

It is no mystery who does make out on this though.  Financial institutions and schools.  The government subsidizes loans, gives money that is then funneled into schools (many of which are private) and banks (all of which are pretty much private).  The banks then hedge the losses, have guaranteed payment for life and after, and make out wonderfully.  Not to mention that those who have to take loans (i.e. not already rich) are saddled forever with debt that keeps them for the most part working "to pay the man" forever - never to BE "the wo/man."  So sad.

So yeah, this is why we protest.  Its just another usurious capitalist scheme to keep us in our place with the system churning ahead (of us).

The protest itself though was great.  There was a mock trial where the "1%" came out and told us all the way it was and why we should just be slaves to it all.  It culminated with a breaking of the chains of enslavement of the prisoners and a burning of student debt balance sheets.  Everyone throughout the day wore stickers saying how much debt they had.  The "my name is" stickers but instead of a name just: $186,000" (the highest I saw).
My favorite one percenter!!

Following the performances we all marched from Union Square down to Wall Street on an amazingly supportive march.  And when I say amazingly supportive, the marchers are always supportive, but in this case I mean police-wise.  When we were in the park and people started burning loan bills I thought for sure we'd be swarmed upon by cops, but nothing came.  Then it all came to light when we got down to just about Wall St. where we were all supposed to branch off and find our own way to the federal steps across from the stock exchange.  My marching companion and I started to splinter and the one cop said: "hey, you can't give up! the march is still going! My daughters have $140,000 in debt!!"  WHAT?!?!? :)  They are human after all!!  Hahaha!!  And I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but that yeah, we all feel this.  That despite the icy stares, and stone faces, they feel it to.  We all do.  And it hurts.   

We ended up on the federal steps without any problems.  Chanted some, sang some, but wholly it was a great ending to a great event.  Also another learning lesson on what Occupy needs to do moving forward.  We need to find these flash button issues that everyone can get behind and just keep hammering away!  We all know this type of student debt is not sustainable, so lets keep volume up!!

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