EDU Debtors Union:
"Walk Away From Student Debt"

"Come together! And refuse to participate in a system
 that is making it impossible to get out of debt."

The Debtor & The Union: Life After Education
by Monica Johnson

"Presently, EDU Debtors Union is a proposition
and a website focused on this question:
Who are student debtors and do they want to create a union?

"Further, what would that union do?
How might it benefit and support debtors?
What are the goals of that union?"

Arise, Students of California !
by Ralph Nader

"Students of California, arise, you have nothing to lose but a crushing debt!"

"The corporate state of California, ever ready to seize its ideological and commercial hour during a recession, has a chokehold on California’s public universities. With its tax-coddled plutocracy and a nod to further corporatization, the state government has taken the lid off tuition increases big time."

"Before and right after World War II the idea of a public university included a then-called “educational fee” close to zero, from city college of New York to UC Berkeley. Old timers now look back at those days as economic life-savers toward a degree and a productive life for them and the American economy."

"No more. Those gates of opportunity are crumbling at an accelerating pace. More street protests by students are focusing on relentless tuition hikes and years of repaying student debt loans while the rich get richer and the tax cuts for the rich are extended. As Mike Konzcal writes, “One of the Occupy movements’ major objectives is combating the privatization of public higher education and its replacement with a debt-fueled economy of indenture.”"

"But the students have a very powerful unused tool of direct democracy – they can qualify an initiative on the ballot that would set tuition at affordable levels or even become like some leading European countries where free schooling extends through the university years."

"There are other states where students can establish a legal protection for publically accessible universities by enacting statewide initiatives. All these tools of democracy should be obvious to any high school student were functional civics and democratic practices taught with the same fervor devoted to computer training."

"So let’s see if California’s deteriorating public university systems can be rescued by their undergraduate and graduate students who place the priority of accessible, adequate public higher education where it belongs for the longer run."

Occupy Student Debt #1

"We are the 99%! We could not all be mythical bootstraps college students. Tuition costs have risen 600% between 1980 and 2010. Wages, of course, did not keep up. The predatory for-profit student loan industry has lobbied Congress to strip away necessary consumer protections, allowing our debt to snowball out of control."

Insolvent Workers of the World:
Interview with Andrew Ross

"Spontaneous political events are always “possible,” it’s just not easy to predict when and where they will get traction. I myself have been in the US for 30 years and have never seen anything like the momentum or sense of destiny that this movement now has. Those 30 years have belonged to Wall Street, the next 30 years could and should belong to us if Occupy maintains its energy and creativity."

"There are many tributaries that have flowed into the Occupy river – the global justice movement being the most important. On the labor side, I think the capacity of the urban unions to embrace the academic labor movement has been a significant backdrop. As for the new elements, surely the burgeoning consciousness about debt is a primary factor. Responding to debt bondage has been a way of life in the global South countries for the last 30 years. In the last few years, the consequences of living in a debt trap has hit the countries of the North. It’s an example of the chickens coming home to roost, as Malcolm X once put it."

"For example, some of the city’s high schools have replaced their representative forms of student government with the horizontal mode of the GA. It’s proven to be an infectious set of cultural norms. And, since any group can generate its own GA (there are many throughout New York City), it is an organizational structure that encourages and generates autonomy. So, too, the face-to-face nature of this form of decision-making complements the widespread use of social media to disseminate information. In fact, I’d say that the balance between the face-to-face meetings and use of social media is a key element."

"From the outset, the agony of student debt has been a constant refrain at OWS and other Occupy locations... The central recognition was that U.S. colleges and universities are increasingly dependent on the debt bondage of the people they are supposed to serve. So we crafted a campaign that resonated with our political principles (the act of refusal, the threat of a debt strike, and the justice of a debt jubilee) that was designed to give debtors an opportunity to act collectively rather than suffer the torment and humiliation of debt and default in private."

"Our campaign is framed as an action initiative, not a set of demands, since we share the Occupy ethos that demands cannot be adequately addressed by the current political system, not when it is under the baleful influence of corporate dollars."

"Actions taken to re-appropriate wealth and power are not only empowering in themselves, they are also constituent, as you put it, of a new kind of political culture. Most Occupy participants will testify about their feelings of personal transformation–the language is often one of radical innocence, a manifest symptom of the birth of a new “structure of feeling” as Raymond Williams once put it. For sure, the political class will try to co-opt some of this, and, unlike some folks, I don’t see that as an unwelcome response–you cannot erect a nonporous boundary between a movement and the political establishment."

College Debt? Where is your Sugar Daddy?

"Back in 2006, when the website first started, 25 percent of the sugar babies were college students, we have seen that number increase to about 35-40 percent just in the last few years alone"

"An anonymous Ivy League college grad RT spoke with, is facing tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. With no job and financial aid, she wants a sugar daddy."

“Given hikes in tuition, and the current state of the economy, more and more people are looking for alternative ways to finance their educations. There are plenty of young men looking to date older women."

Mike Konczal on the Submerged State
Surrounding Student Debt

"One of the Occupy movement’s major objectives is combating the privatization of public higher education and its replacement with a debt-fueled economy of indenture."

"This is an example of what Suzanne Mettler calls “the submerged state,” a pattern where the government has, as she says, “shunned the outright disbursing of benefits to individuals and families and favored instead less visible and more indirect incentives and subsidies, from tax breaks to payments for services to private companies. These submerged policies…obscure the role of government and exaggerate that of the market.” Instead of directly providing public options, we subsidize the purchasing of private goods, often using the tax code."

"Let’s take the case of student debt and the tax code. How much would it cost to make public colleges and universities free? Rough estimates (quoting Jeffrey Sach’s latest book) put the price of free public higher education at $15-$30 billion, which fits other estimates I’ve seen.

"$22.75 billion we are paying through the tax code to make college tuition and student debt more manageable. This amount is in the middle the range of the cost of just making public high education free. Now these aren’t equivalent — much of what is spent through the tax code will be biased more towards private and professional schools, which are more expensive. But this also isn’t anywhere near the full extent we subsidize student debt (a government creation from 1965)."

"But there is a choice in how to provide mass higher education. We can either use resources to reduce the price of the good upfront — make college free — or to subsidize the purchase of the good — here through the numerous hoops of the tax code. The amount of money we take from the tax code to try and make student debts and runaway tuition more bearable could be used instead to just provide free public colleges."

"There are winners and losers in each case. When we subsidize through the tax code, people who are well off and pay more taxes benefit more. People who can afford support staff, such as accountants and lawyers, are also more likely to understand how to take maximum advantage of these benefits. These subsidies benefit private educational institutions over public ones, as they’ll make private education feel more “natural” while obscuring the role of the government in setting up these markets. They give public college a nudge towards corporatization and privatization."

"Much of these subsidies are likely captured either by the higher education institutions themselves or the debt lenders. These subsidies will make tuition and debt easier to deal with, but providing colleges free as a public option would likely do far more to contain costs (also here)."

"Most importantly, it breaks the link between citizenship and education. The subsidy approach replaces the claim of a citizen to a necessary good to be full, participating person in our market economy with the claim of a consumer, whose claim is ultimately one of willingness to pay either through wealth or debt, with a “nudge” from the government. The first kind is the place where progressives have the stronger argument about freedom, as opposed to those who see the market as the only source of freedom available."

Chile: Student Protests Spread Throughout Region

"José Barrera, a civil engineering student at the Catholic University, said that what is happening in Chile "is an example of what education is like when it's privatised, when it is no longer defended as a right of everyone.""

"An education law enacted by the 1973-1990 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet set off a process of decentralisation and privatisation that gave private schools free rein to pursue profit and use entrance exams to select their students. The Chilean system is not just divided into paid private education and tuition-free public education, but is split into three: municipal schools run by local governments, which are publicly funded and free, state-subsidised private schools, and private schools that charge tuition. Within the sphere of state-subsidised private education, students get free tuition at some schools, while at others families pay monthly fees, an arrangement known as "shared financing.""

"The protest movement is calling for an end to the freedom of private schools receiving state subsidies to levy fees at will. Instead of the current system, under which administrators of these institutions rack up profits, the demonstrators want school fees to be invested in under-funded public schools."

"They also want public primary and secondary schools to be directly managed by the Education Ministry, instead of by local governments, because the decentralisation accentuated the inequality in education quality between rich and poor districts."

"Countries that see the Chilean model as an example, and that are moving towards privatisation, have to realise how harmful this kind of system can be for education in general," he argued."

"Capitalism is profits, business, buying and selling, and that is not what educators are about," said Garrido. He added that the movement in which teachers and students have come together is demanding a "social transformation.""

"[T]he student protests have become a broader social movement that will continue to fight for structural changes above and beyond the educational system, such as reforms to the free-market, neoliberal economic system inherited from the dictatorship."

"We need a more democratic country, where the voices of society are really heard. It can't just be the same old political class reaching decisions between four walls."

Michael Moore on Student Debt:
'The Boot on Your Neck'

"Filmmaker Michael Moore argues in support of Occupy Wall Street protestors angry about high student loan payments. "What a wonderful thing to do to twenty-two-year-olds," says Moore, sarcastically. "Send them out into the world with crushing debt.""

George Carlin on American Owners and Education

"I'll you what they don't want... They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking... Well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking... that's against their interests."

BBC: Students turning to prostitution to fund studies

"Greater numbers of students in England are turning to prostitution to fund their education, the National Union of Students (NUS) claims. The NUS also says students are turning to gambling and taking part in medical experiments to fund their studies."

"In an economic climate where there are very few jobs, where student support has been massively cut, people are taking more work in the informal economy, such as sex work. It's all dangerous unregulated work, simply so people can stay in education."

"The English Collective of Prostitutes, which runs a helpline from its base in London, says the number of calls it receives from students had at least doubled in the past year. "They [ministers] know that the cuts they're making are driving women into things like sex work. It's a survival strategy so we would hold the government responsible for that.""

"Eighteen-year-old Clare - not her real name - turned to escorting during her A-levels when she found out her education maintenance allowance (EMA) was in danger of being cut. "I had a friend who'd been trying to get me to join his escort agency since I was 16. He was telling me stories about how much I could earn, how the hours would fit around me, that I could control who I saw, when I saw them and how often. It just sounded more desirable. I couldn't see any other option. Clare, who has now left the adult industry to continue her studies, warns against working in the sex industry. "I did this so I could go to college, go to university, for it to have a positive effect on the rest of my life.

"But I'm a different person to how I was when I started out. I've lost a lot of my confidence and I've lost trust in a lot of people.

Is the Real Unemployment Rate 22.6%?

"Jobless claims are down and hiring is up by recent measures, but some economists say the American unemployment picture is far bleaker than those numbers indicate. "

"As reported Friday, U.S. unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 32 months in November with unemployment hitting 8.6%, falling below 9% for the first time in six months, the Labor Department said."

"But if all discouraged workers are included, the 8.6% figure rises. Including “marginally attached workers” – those who are discouraged – was 15.6% in November, according to government data. John Williams, a statistician and economist, says the real unemployment figure including all discouraged workers who stopped looking for work is closer to a staggering 22.6% — nearly a quarter of the potential workforce. Since 1994, the government data defines discouraged workers as those who have been looking for work within the last year."

"The supply/demand rate stands at 3.53, indicating there were 3.5 unemployed people for every online job opening in October. Nationally, there are 10 million more unemployed than there are advertised openings, according to the Conference Board."

Who's Most Likely To Be In Debt In 2012?

"There can be little doubt that the U.S. is hovering on the edge of a recession as we head into 2012. This is forcing many social demographics to grapple with significant levels of debt, but who is most likely to suffer financial hardship as we head into a brand new year?"

"Household debt burdens have continued to fall through the last financial quarter. That said, there remains a significant level of household debt within the U.S., and this situation is unlikely to improve with unemployment expected to remain high throughout 2012."

"The issue facing families and homeowners in the U.S. is one of multiple debts and the prospect of having to prioritize what gets paid as a matter of urgency. When you consider that the average debt per household in the U.S. (not including mortgage repayments) stands at approximately $14,500, then you begin to understand the amount of repayments that may be missed in order to maintain a family home."

"It is all too easy to forget about student debt as the year draws to a close, but the fact remains that this is potentially even more of a threat to the U.S. economy in 2012. Mortgages can be sourced with an interest rate of as little as 5% in some instances. However, student loans are often available at rates of anywhere between 6.8% and 7.9%. This makes them considerably more expensive in comparison, especially given the fact that they do not secure a tangible assets or boast a specific value."

"This is not to say that education is not valuable. It is just that it does not offer the same level of financial security that a house or an automobile does. Student loans can live with graduates for an entire lifetime, and certainly hinder them as they enter an economy where unemployment is high and job creation is low. With student loans set to top the $1,000 billion mark for 2011, it is clear that an increasing number of students are attending college and therefore taking on an enormous amount of debt and financial liability. Considering the rising cost of loans bills and exaggerated rates of repayment, 2012 could be a worrying year for graduates and college students."

"An increasing number of U.S. citizens aged 60 and over are approaching retirement age heavily burdened by debt. Mortgages remain the most significant problem for this demographic. Thirty-nine percent of home-owners aged between 60 and 64 held primary mortgages in 2010, with a further 20% owning secondary mortgages. These figures had nearly doubled those recorded in 1994, revealing that an increasing number of citizens were still burdened with significant repayments well into their twilight years. This problem has only been exacerbated by the steep drop in housing value, which has left many with negative equity and facing difficult times ahead in 2012 and beyond."

Richard Wolff on the Euro Crisis with Thom Hartmann

"Professor Richard Wolff, New School University NYC joins Thom Hartmann. The Eurozone is creeping closer and closer to spiraling into an economic abyss. And the biggest economy in Europe has reservations about riding in on a white horse to save the day."

Student Loan Debt in 1990, 2000, and 2011

Sex workers in higher education

I started stripping when I was 19 because I had huge debt. I was in a private college and I had student loan and credit card debt, and I decided that what was going on was ridiculous,” said Jane Doe, 32, a doctoral student at USC. Doe’s story is not atypical; according to a recent study on discussing sex work by Widener University’s Sarah Elspeth Patterson, M.Ed. The study notes that “10 percent of students know of students who engage in sex work in order to promote themselves financially, with 16.5 percent indicating that they might be willing to engage in sex work to pay for their education.”

"Sex workers, as defined by the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP), are those who earn money by providing sexual services. This includes prostitution, erotic dancing, pornography, phone sex operators, fetish modeling and any other “transactional erotic labor.”

"For Jessie Nicole, 25, sex work was the only employment option that allowed her to make ends meet and remain a full-time student. “I was broke,” Nicole said. “I had a scholarship that paid my tuition and 70 percent of my books, but that doesn’t pay your rent, that doesn’t give you food, and you still have 30 percent of your books.” Nicole, now the director of SWOP’s Los Angeles chapter, began dating “sugar daddies” when she was a 19-year-old undergraduate at Florida State University, but turned to escorting when she moved to Chicago for graduate school."

"Though sex work helped pay for both Doe and Nicole’s schooling, the cost of education left each of them in an incredible amount of debt." Nicole said, "I’m still using sex work to pay off my student loans." Doe, who took a break between earning each of her degrees added, “(Sex work) was about school debt, even when I wasn’t in school. My student loans were $800 a month.”

"Though Doe has the ability to set her own schedule as both a stripper and a “sugar baby,” between her schoolwork, and participation in Occupy Los Angeles – where she was arrested during the police raid – the money she makes when she works does not allow her the ability to save."

"According to Doe, there is a class and racial disparity between sex workers."

“(Student workers are) mostly white, as far as I know,” Doe said. “There’s a really disturbing class divide amongst women who do sex for pay, between indoor and outdoor workers, and between whose bodies are most criminalized. And we aren’t. Very rarely do we go to jail for it. Black women and Latina(s) in particular, a lot of them are not going to have stories like (ours).”

Surging student loan debt threatens homeownership

"Student loans are going to be yet another hurdle for the housing market to overcome," Palacios said. "Faced with mounting student loan debt, poor job prospects and stagnant wages, an increasing number of people aged 25 to 34 have moved back in with their parents." According to John Burns, almost 6 million 25- to 34-year-olds now live with mom and dad. This number is up 26% from 2007."

"The current rate of homeownership rate for this demographic stands at a 10-year low for under 30s. The rate for 30- to 34-year-olds is even worse, at its lowest rate in 17 years. "The debt load is so high, and the job outlook so bleak, that student loan default rates have almost doubled," he wrote in a note to clients. "With the economy little improved since 2009 default rates are bound to rise further.""

"This number is greater than all credit card debt outstanding, and second only to mortgages in terms of total national debt."

EU summit: tales of fiscal union and financial adultery
by Jérôme E. Roos

"On Friday morning, a crucial EU summit — touted as the last opportunity to save the euro from collapse — ended in a dramatic split between the UK and the rest of Europe... The break-up marks yet another tectonic shift in European history. But it also reveals the extent to which financial interests have corrupted the minds of our leaders and soured their mutual relations."

"This was never a clash over the European interest versus the British interest, as both continental cosmopolitans and British euroskeptics like to portray it. Behind the veil of ideology lurk powerful financial interests dictating the choices of our double-crossing elites."

"More specifically, Cameron demanded that: (1) “any transfer of power from a national regulator to an EU regulator on financial services would be subject to a veto”; (2) “the European Banking Authority should remain in London”; (3) “banks should face a higher capital requirement”; and (4) “the European Central Bank be rebuffed in its attempts to rule that euro-denominated transactions take place within the eurozone.” Sarkozy rejected Cameron’s demands outright."

"The reasons for this are really quite simple: (1) Sarkozy doesn’t want UK-based banks to get a competitive advantage by dodging the European-wide financial transaction tax; (2) he wants the European Banking Authority to move to Paris; (3) he knows French banks are in a much weaker position than their UK counterparts; and (4) he wants euro-denominated transactions to take place within the eurozone so they will be routed via La Défense instead of the City."

"The bottomline is that this is a battle of banks; a clash of capital — it has nothing to do with the general European or British interest. If the eurozone were to break up, many German and French banks would collapse, hence the Franco-German push for fiscal union. Yet such a fiscal union would impose continental-style regulations on the free-for-all City of London. Fearing its competitive position vis-à-vis New York, the UK therefore strongly opposed participation."

"So whenever they tell you “there is no alternative”, don’t believe them — it’s a lie. As a European Central Bank official recently told Reuters, “what I think is important at the moment is not showing politicians that there might be an alternative, because in their mind that might be less costly than the options they have.” The attempt to naturalize and depoliticize this crisis is an ideological smokescreen meant to keep us firmly in a state of financial prostitution."

"The task is upon us to disseminate the truth and get organized. Another Europe is possible!"

The Higher Education Wealth Gap

"You've probably heard about the ever-widening gap between rich and poor. We now rank 45th in the world in terms of income equality, sandwiched between the Ivory Coast and Uruguay. And the way America funds public education is no exception to this trend. According to a new study from a Washington think tank, higher education has never been more stratified."

"Experts across the country are blunt about their fears. "Eighty percent of college students are enrolled in public schools," Hartle says. "College has never been totally free, but in the past, the United States was fairly committed to help students who couldn't afford college. That commitment is eroding."

"College enrollment is at an all-time high because of the recession, especially at community colleges, which enroll a high percentage of young people who can't otherwise find a job. Eventually, many families will decide they can't pay for college at all, and they're going to continue altering their choices based on the price of the school. This means fewer degrees for working-class people, a less educated workforce, and a cycle that perpetuates the already egregious wealth gap in our country."

White Americans Now Have 20 Times
the Wealth of Black Americans

"The median wealth of white households in America is now 20 times that of black households and 18 times the wealth of Latino households, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. And in case you're thinking that means whites have $1 million while blacks only have $50,000, think again: The typical net worth of a white household is $113,000 while the typical net worth for a black household is a paltry $5,600, not even the cost of a new car."

"This is the biggest wealth gulf between the three groups since the government started collecting the data 25 years ago. It's also two times the size the divide was for the 20 years that led up to the latest economic downturn. Why? Because when the housing market bubble burst, minorities, who had been preyed upon by unethical lenders, were disproportionately affected. From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth for blacks and Latinos cratered 53 percent and 66 percent, respectively. Among whites, that drop was only 16 percent."

Plato’s Republic and Student Loan Debt Refusal
by George Caffentzis

"The political problem posed by this moral attitude to debt repayment is that it touched a raw nerve in many student loan debtors who have been ashamed by their inability to pay off their loans. This shame has led many to try to cover up and not talk to others (even family members) about their plight. According to my research concerning previous student loan debt abolition efforts, one of the key reasons they have not been successful has been their inability to overcome debtors’ characteristic shamed silence that is profoundly anti-political because it turns the collective problem of debt repayment into an individual issue to be dealt with one person at a time. Consequently, this moral criticism had to be dealt with directly and decisively if the Occupy Student Debt effort was not to meet a similar fate, since this criticism not only makes it difficult to move the critics, but it has a problematic effect on many debtors who are already vulnerable to the mental blackmail implicit in the “debt moralists’” assertions."

"If Plato’s Republic marks the beginning of political philosophy, then debt payment refusal appears at the beginning of the beginning of political philosophy. Plato, the aristocratic darling of conservative thinkers, actually defends debt payment refusal in the Republic. Plato’s concern with debt should not be surprising, since indebtedness leading to debt slavery was the source of civil wars and revolutions throughout ancient Greek history from 600BC on. Solon, the famous Athenian law-giver, aimed to stop the endless turmoil caused by the cycle of debt-enslavement-revolution-debt and the ever reigniting class war between the poor debtors and the creditor plutocrats that was leading Athens to catastrophe. He did so by legislating the end of debt slavery, a move that led to the democratization of the Athenian state, and increasingly the remuneration of citizens for their public work (especially for their participation in the administration of justice and legislation, which required attending general assemblies and being part of juries, like the jury of 800+ that decided Socrates’ trial)."

"Universalizing the kernel of Socrates’ rejoiner to Kephalos’ definition, we come to the following maxim: one should refuse to repay a loan when the payment will lead to evil or unjust consequences that far outweigh what fairness would result from its payment."

"We too must respond to the categorical imperative of debt moralists in the same way that Socrates responded to Kephalos’ definition of justice, with an emphatic “it depends.

"First, it depends on whether student loans are unjust in and of themselves qua loans. On this count, the actual mechanisms of student loan debt speak decisively."

"Second, it depends on whether the collective good is served by repayment. There is no doubt that restoring a tuition-free university system and avoiding a further polarization of society requires that we end the present student debt system."

"Third, it depends on whether the education and knowledge student loans are intended to pay for ought be commodities in the first place. If most universities are not supposed to profit from the education they provide and the knowledge they disseminate, why should ancillary financial institutions profit from them instead?"

"“Wouldn’t canceling all student loan debt be unfair to all those people who struggled to pay back their student loans?” For as David Graeber retorted in his important book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, this argument is as foolish as saying that it is unfair to a mugging victim that his/her neighbors were not mugged as well! (p. 389) Plato would agree."

Government leaves some students stuck in default

December 9, 2011

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Department's New Debt-Management System Leaves Some Students Stuck in Default

By Kelly Field


Problems with the Education Department's online system for managing student debt have cost taxpayers millions of dollars and left thousands of borrowers in financial limbo, unable to put their defaults behind them.

The department acknowledges the problems and says it's working to fix them.

Under federal law, defaulted borrowers who make nine on-time repayments on their student loans can have their loans restored to good standing and their credit histories cleared. Borrowers with such "rehabilitated" loans are eligible for deferments, forbearances, and income-based repayment rates, and can also receive new federal student aid.

The new debt-management system, which tracks and manages more than $33-billion in defaulted student loans owed by more than three million people, is supposed to rehabilitate borrowers each month. It has not done so since August, and some frustrated debtors have stopped making payments on their loans, risking a second default.

Lori Wagner is among them. She took on a second job to cover the $1,350 monthly payment on her defaulted loan and made her ninth payment in October. But her collection agency told her she has to keep paying until the department issues her a new loan, and it can't tell her when that will be.

Ms. Wagner says can't keep working 60 hours a week—it has left her sick and overtired, she says, and it's jeopardizing her full-time job. At this point, she says, she's prepared to default again and let the government garnish her wages. At least, she says, the monthly payment would be lower. "I kept my end of the agreement," she wrote to the National Consumer Law Center. "I am tired, sick, uncaring, and done with this student-loan crap ... just simply done with the whole farce of rehabilitation."

NASDAQ: Student loans, America's next financial crisis

Update: This article was removed from the NASDAQ site within 48 hours after its appearance. The cached copy of the complete article has been placed in the second half of this post. 

"The problem of rising and unsustainable student loan debt remains largely unacknowledged by the powers that be, though it's a vital cause to many protesters in the Occupy movement."

"The standard argument is that student loans can't be dischargable, because there's nothing to secure them - you can't repossess someone's education. However, the financial industry has used its characteristic ingenuity to find a way around that - in effect, the collateral for student debt is now a lifetime of the debtor's labor, rendered via an unforgiving architecture of wage garnishings, penalties and a pervasive culture of shame. Perhaps the most worrying part of this burgeoning crisis is that it's now understood that many, perhaps most, current students won't be able to pay down their loans."

"And the financiers know exactly what's happening. In a Wall Street Journal article from last month, a hedge fund manager with expertise in the $242 billion student loan-backed bond market (sound familiar?) said he refused to get involved with assets backed by recent student loans because he "can't quantify the risk ." The historical average for default rates figured on a quarter to a third of loans going bust, but another trader said that will probably rise to 40 percent or higher, depending on economic conditions."

"Rising costs are one side of the coin. According to the College Board, tuition costs are set to continue shooting upwards. In-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions were up by 8.3 percent at $8,244 per year in the 2011-12 year, while private tuition and fees rose 4.5 percent to $28,500."

"On the other side of the coin is unemployment. Among the 16-24 year-old cohort, that now stands at 18 percent; for those 16-19, it's above 25 percent, with a participation rate of less than half. Young people can't get jobs before college, can barely find work during their school years and then face a terrifying job market upon graduation - if they graduate at all."

"The ingredients: nearly a trillion dollars of debt on the books, rising tuition costs, a youth employment market in crisis, undischargeable debt, government-guaranteed loans and an asset -backed bond market worth a quarter of a trillion dollars."

Student Debt: Colleges, or Country Clubs?

"Over the past thirty years, the cost of attending college has risen steadily at a rate of about six percent each year. College tuition costs have outpaced inflation and health care spending, even in periods of recession. But as student debt grows, the money that many colleges spend on administration has risen faster than the amount that goes directly to education, and colleges continue to spend money on unnecessary amenities."

"Scripps Assistant Professor of Economics Sean Flynn thinks that the increasing costs are a result of simple economics. “What I think happened is the actual costs of delivering education—the real costs like time of teachers in the classroom and renting square footage of space—really haven’t gone up that much over time. What has really gone up is the demand,” Flynn said. A college education has become increasingly important for success, so more people are demanding seats in the nation’s classrooms. This extreme demand creates a system in which colleges have zero incentive to decrease costs to students."

"Additionally, Flynn thinks that the competition engendered by the extra high demand for a college education creates an incentive to inundate a campus with what he calls “massive layers of bureaucracy.” “The scariest number I’ve seen is that in the Cal State system between 1970 and 2008 … the number of faculty only went up three percent, but the number of administrators went up 237 percent,” Flynn explains. “The entire educational system has had massive amounts of money thrown at it and most of it has gone to things that have not improved the actual educational outcomes.”

"The high-cost system has created an environment in which high levels of loans and debt are the norm. This debt brings with it two problems: First, it traps those most interested in improving their standard of living and working hard with mountains of debt. Being tied to a loan that must be repaid makes it hard for students to take jobs at non-profit organizations or go to graduate school. Instead, students are locked into unfulfilling jobs that help to pay the bills, if they can find a job at all. Second, because student loans are implicitly required for many middle class students to attend expensive schools, students from backgrounds or cultures that admonish debt are less likely to attend the most expensive — and sometimes best – schools. “The debt is definitely discouraging a lot of people from going to college,” explains Flynn. “People in society – even if they know nothing else about college – now think of it as hideously expensive. That’s got to discourage kids [who are considering college].”

"As the cost of college rises and more and more students from middle class, poor, and minority backgrounds choose not to attend elite and expensive universities, we lose out on an important part of a liberal arts education. Class diversity decreases with the rising costs of college, and students sacrifice a variety of opinions and worldviews in the classroom that can provide invaluable perspectives on class material. As we allow costs to rise and take out loans to support the extravagant luxury resorts we call schools, we simultaneously exclude huge portions of the United States from participating in our discussions, from living in our dorms, and from reaping the benefits of education."

Students as the New Public Intellectuals
by Henry Giroux

"Finding our way to a more humane future demands a new politics, a new set of values, and a renewed sense of the fragile nature of democracy. In part, this means educating a new generation of intellectuals who not only defend higher education as a democratic public sphere, but also frame their own agency as intellectuals willing to connect their research, teaching, knowledge, and service with broader democratic concerns over equality, justice, and an alternative vision of what the university might be and what society could become. Under the present circumstances, it is time to remind ourselves that academe may be one of the few public spheres available that can provide the educational conditions for students, faculty, administrators, and community members to embrace pedagogy as a space of dialogue and unmitigated questioning, imagine different futures, become border-crossers, and embrace a language of critique and possibility that makes visible the urgency of a politics necessary to address important social issues and contribute to the quality of public life and the common good. "

"The corporate state cannot fight any longer with ideas because their visions, ideologies and survival of the fittest ethic are bankrupt, fast losing any semblance of legitimacy. Students all over the country are changing the language of politics while reclaiming pedagogy as central to any viable notion of agency, resistance and collective struggle. In short, they have become the new public intellectuals, using their bodies, social media, new digital technologies, and any other viable educational tool to raise new questions, point to new possibilities, and register their criticisms of the various antidemocratic elements of casino capitalism and the emerging punishing state."

"At a time when higher education is increasingly being dominated by a reductive corporate logic and technocratic rationality unable to differentiate training from a critical education, we need a chorus of new voices to emphasize that the humanities, in particular, and the university, in general, should play a central role in keeping critical thought alive while fighting back all attempts to foreclose and pre-empt the further unraveling of human possibilities, prodding human society to go on questioning itself and prevent that questioning from ever stalling or being declared finished. Corporations and the warfare state should not dictate the needs of public and higher education, or, for that matter, any other democratic public sphere.

"Inhabiting the role of public intellectuals, students can take on the difficult but urgent task of reclaiming the ideal and the practice of what it means to reclaim higher education in general and the humanities, more specifically, as a site of possibility that embraces the idea of democracy not merely as a mode of governance but, most importantly- as journalist Bill Moyers points out - as a means of dignifying people so they can become fully free to claim their moral and political agency."

Steve Keen on BBC:
"We're already in a Great Depression"

"Sarah Montague talks to Steve Keen, one of the few economists to have predicted the global financial crisis, about the possibility of another Great Depression, and how to avoid it."

"'Another Great Depression is all but inevitable' - that's the view of Steve Keen. He's been called the 'Merchant of Gloom', but he's one of the few economists to have predicted the global financial crisis. While he used to be a lone voice in challenging the economic consensus, more and more people are now listening to him. His way of avoiding depression? Write off the debt, bankrupt the banks, nationalise the financial system, and start all over again."

Student lending, Wall Street's next bubble,
will disproportionately affect black people

"... the sheer number of students with outstanding loans has credit-rating firm Moody's Analytics worried. As of March 30, outstanding student loans totaled about $805 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which administers the loans. Rising tuition costs, a soft job market and troublingly low graduation rates at many schools cast doubt on whether a growing number of people will be able to pay those loans back."

"In a July report, Moody's opined that students' inability to pay back their loans could cause the next economic crisis in the U.S. According to the Education Department, default rates are on the rise nationwide, standing at 7 percent as of September 2010 (the latest figure available), up from 6.7 percent the year before. Moody's expressed special concern about students at for-profit proprietary schools, which include many trade and online universities, and where graduation rates are typically lower than those of traditional colleges and the loan-default rate is higher. Minorities make up a majority -- about 54 percent -- of students enrolled at these schools..."

"For proprietary schools, the student-loan default rate as of September 2010 was 11.6 percent, up from 11 percent the year before. Low graduation rates, high tuition costs and training in fields that are in lower demand are among the reasons people attending these schools can't meet their obligations, according to Moody's. With unemployment at a staggering rate of 15.9 percent for African Americans (the national unemployment rate hovers at around 9 percent), the bursting of a bubble in student lending could be especially hard on the black community."

"A 2010 study by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center (pdf) found that student-loan debt levels of $30,500 or higher were more common among black bachelor's degree recipients (27 percent) than among their white (16 percent), Latino (14 percent) or Asian (9 percent) counterparts. Plus, "More black students have student loans and have higher unemployment rates, so the debt level is more consequential," said political economist Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard in an email. Nembhard is an associate professor of community justice and social economic development in the department of African-American studies at John Jay College in New York City. "With the increase in the economic downturn, black unemployment levels will stay high or get worse."

Debt and Suicide Video by Bjones Dapusha

Simon Szreter hits out at UK higher education policies

"Szreter is recollecting a time in the early 1990s when he was conducting research on how the UK's long-term economic performance is shaped by factors such as the education of its workforce. While "fishing around" for measures of investment in education, he stumbled across data showing that there had been "an enormous disinvestment" in state schools, with tens of thousands of teachers laid off during the 1980s."

"I wasn't aware that this had happened," he says. "Then I looked at the private schools and that's when I got … angry about this, because I realised that actually the private schools had been going in the opposite direction. By the time Labour took power in '97, it was true that private schools had almost exactly twice the numbers of teachers per pupil in their staff rooms as state schools had. They always had an advantage, but this advantage had now doubled. That's never been revisited," he adds."

"It is over a decade since the research, but that it galvanised Szreter to dig deeper into the education system is unmistakable. In the years since, he has, among other things, made his way to a professorship and founded the History and Policy website, an initiative designed to inject greater historical insight into policymaking, but it is his forays into education activism that have set him apart."

"Despite a postwar austerity far harsher than the one we face today – and a level of national debt over twice as high – the nation found the resources to massively expand and publicly fund its secondary schools and their teaching staff."

"Since the financial crisis of 2008, he has become noticeably more outspoken, accusing the coalition of "paying for the profligacy of the banks" while systematically undermining higher education by radically withdrawing public funds, and of "cutting at both ends" the state primary and secondary education sector by abolishing the EMA [education maintenance allowance] for 16- to 18-year-olds and closing Sure Start for infants."

"The big story," he insists, "is undoubtedly higher education and further education". The raising of university fees may be a clear focal point for protest, but what seems to exercise him most is what underlies it: the long-term shift from financing higher education directly out of general taxation towards raising funds via "risky" private finance. "There have been 20 years in which governments have very happily expanded the higher education and further education sector rapidly … but they have put nothing like commensurate resources into the system," he says. The corresponding "managerial revolution", which encouraged universities to be more corporate and show they are offering value for money, has starved it of essential resources, he argues."

"But it is the over-reliance by successive governments on structuring student loans through "complex financial instruments" that could prove most devastating for the future of higher education, he says, and it is this that people need to pay attention to. Talking about the fallout of the financial crisis, he says emphatically: "We are not even over this [crisis] and the government is already quite happily talking about packaging up our younger generation's futures into a set of complicated loan instruments that it will place with the very sector of the economy that's caused all this."

"Ever the historian, he points to the fact that in the past, momentous progressive changes to the education system – such as the provision of universal secondary education – were brought about despite ideological objections or cost."

Debt: The First 5,000 Years
David Graeber interviewed by Thom Hartmann

"Dr. David Graeber, professor of anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London on his book - Debt: The First 5000 years. The First 5000 years. How the concepts of debt and credit have defined human history and what this means for our current credit crisis and the future of our economy."

Euro unwinding fast:
Max Keiser interviews Yanis Varoufakis

Debt on Arrival by Zombie Debt


“Zombie” mob speaks out about student debt


"Zombie Debt, a collective of undergraduate and graduate students, marched into Levering Food Court [at Johns Hopkins] yesterday to speak about student debt following a mini-lecture in the Gilman Atrium."

"The movement, known as "Lunch of the Living Debt," featured individuals with zombie-painted faces who carried signs that read, "They owe us," and other slogans. Several members spoke into a megaphone to Levering Food Court, while others handed out fliers and walked around with boom boxes playing songs like "Thriller" by Michael Jackson."

"Today the University treats our needs with hostility," Hoffman said. "We are met with brute force . . . We are taught to think critically, but not about debt." Much like other Occupy protests, parts of her speech were punctuated with yelled responses from other members of Zombie Debt."

"Zombie Debt also feels that the University does not admit enough low-income students, and that those that are admitted only go into more debt."

"The old-fashioned image of the industrious everyman working his way through school is nonsense," they said. "Even work-studies are displaced by unpaid internships – indentured labor, measured in academic credits and subsidized by personal credit."

The Euro Crisis by the numbers

"Slowly, painfully, the world is coming to grips with the realization that the Euro, as we know it, is entering its last days, and what consequences we are likely to see."

"Many people, especially those that trade stocks, have been having trouble believing that the Euro will die. After all, just a few years ago the Euro was considered the alternative reserve currency of the world. So much work and money has been spent on this unproven endeavor, not to mention the complete lack of a "Plan B", that few could picture its demise. Yet, just like the inability of so many to foresee the end of the housing bubble, reality is intruding again. The farther we get down the road of failure, the more clear the picture becomes."

"European banks have found themselves in the same position that Wall Street banks were in back in the fall of 2007 - with Trillion of assets that no one wants. Just like Bear Stearns, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual before them, European banks can't price their assets to what the markets will bear because it will mean instant insolvency if they did. So they "mark-to-myth" instead, hoping against hope that the asset markets will turn around before they are forced to declare bankruptcy."

"Probably the most disturbing event of the past week happened at the core of Europe. Germany's bond auction was an outright failure. To put this into perspective, recall how so many policy-makers and economists are calling for Germany to "save" the Euro. Germany is the most credit-worthy member of the union. So if Germany can't find enough investors to buy its own debt, how could it possibly borrow enough to save the rest of Europe? The answer is obviously: it can't."

"I got news for you: credit is already freezing in western Europe. Eastern Europe depends on western Europe for credit, and Austrian banks are already pulling back from the region by order of the Austrian government."

"That's just Europe. What do we have to worry about in America, right?"

"Well, consider that the derivatives market (Remember the derivatives market? That thing that caused AIG to fail, not to mention Enron and LTCM. That huge market that Congress refused to regulated after the 2008 economic shock. Remember that?) is between $250 Trillion and $707 Trillion in size (depending on who is counting)."

"Those numbers hopelessly dwarfed the GDP's of Europe and the United States combined."

"Consider that 94.4% of that $250 Trillion in derivative contracts were sold by just four banks: JPM with $78.1 trillion in exposure, Citi with $56 trillion, Bank of America with $53 trillion and Goldman with $48 trillion. Those are Trillions with a T. Their exposure to the derivatives market increased $5.3 Trillion in just the first quarter of this year. The overall derivatives market increased a record $107 Trillion in the first half of the year - more than the GDP of the entire world."

"You read that right: $107 Trillion in just 6 months."

"The bankers are absolutely bat-sh*t insane! In the face of an economic crisis they've doubled down their bets. They've gambled the entire world's economy for bigger bonuses, as if their bonuses will be worth anything if they crash the world's economy and bring down the Euro."

"Because this is as much a political crisis as an economic one, it is impossible to make accurate long-term predictions. The size of the problem is almost beyond comprehension. After all, we are talking about multiple countries going bankrupt and the failure of the second-largest currency in the world. To think that the problem could be even larger than the 2008 crisis, when the only sector of the economy that has recovered is corporate profits, leaves one thinking "This can't be true. They can't have done this to us again." And yet the numbers speak for themselves."

The UK and the neoliberal transformation
of higher education by James Vernon

"Why has the idea of publicly funded higher education crumbled so quickly in England? James Vernon explores the origins of an academic culture that has internalised market rationalities and traces the concept of education as a personal investment back to the playing fields of Eton."

"Never before has the idea of the university been so feverishly debated in England, and for good reason. The restructuring of the country's higher education sector around a student-debt-financed, fee-driven model is a fundamental recasting of the university's place and purpose in society. But this process did not begin with the government's higher education White Paper or even with the Browne Report that laid the ground for it. And neither is it confined to the UK."

"The neoliberal transformation of higher education is a global phenomenon. In the Americas, Europe, Russia and its former colonies, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Australasia, higher education is being rebranded as a private investment and the university repurposed to generate profit and economic growth. As a consequence, academics and students are confronting very similar conditions across the world: the escalation of fees and student debt, the expansion of management and administrative systems for measuring the efficiency of services, the quest for a plethora of new types of fee-paying consumers, and the casualisation of academic labour."

"Is it any wonder then that, despite the continuing protests, the majority of students and their teachers are resigned to the privatisation of higher education in England? Many, it seems, have accepted the logic that the public funding for higher education was only possible when the system educated only a privileged elite. It is as if the public value of higher education somehow mysteriously evaporates when it is more democratically available."

"Preventing the headlong rush to a new idea of the consumer-orientated and profit-centred university requires more than outrage, protest or even the publication of alternative White Papers, necessary as all of them are. We must first try to understand how we arrived at the point where a redirection of public funds to support sub-prime loans for student-debt-financing of higher education seemed natural and inevitable. It is no longer sufficient to nostalgically invoke a better idea of the university, of a golden age of public funding, without understanding how it became so vulnerable to a critique that has eventually eviscerated it."

"While the words "access" and "fairness" are abused by ministers, these terms speak to a continuing belief among the electorate that universities are powerful engines of social mobility. It is this idea we must appeal to if publicly funded university education, which enriches not only the lives of individuals but our collective life as a society, is to be a civil right for all."

YouSpeak: Student Loan Debt

"Last year, students at U.S. colleges and universities borrowed more than $1 billion for their education, a record for student loans. And this year, the amount of outstanding college loans will top $1 trillion. According to the College Board, students are borrowing twice what they did just 10 years ago, raising new concerns about an impending debt crisis. The Project on Student Debt reported recently that students who graduated from college last year owed an average of $25,250, up 5 percent from the previous year."

This week’s “YouSpeak” asks, “How concerned are you about your student loan debt?

Seattle's Garfield High School Student Walkout
and March Against Budget Cuts

"Seattle Public Schools have seen the loss of librarians, much-needed family service counselors and college admissions counselors, the reduction of the arts to “art on a cart” and school principals and staff making difficult decisions on the number of teachers they can budget for. School facilities are in poor condition and many buildings are not safe in terms of earthquake code."

"The students of Garfield High School issued a statement on their Facebook page. It goes as follows:

"We are Washington State Public Schools students tired of the constant cuts to our education. We are the people who have been affected most by these cuts, and we are showing that we care. For too long, this stat…e’s budget has been balanced on the backs of its students. Apparently, our representatives in Olympia have forgotten that the Washington Constitution says that funding education is this state’s “paramount duty”. This is a student voice reminding our legislature of that fact. And also of this one: We are this country’s future. We will vote. And we will hold them accountable." 
"We have two primary goals we hope to accomplish:
-We want to stop the constant cuts to education that have hurt our school and other schools in the state.
-We want to insert a student voice into the political discourse in issues regarding education."

Occupy the Tax Man

Are student debt strikes coming?
with Thom Hartmann and Sarah Jaffe

"Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet, joins Thom Hartmann. For the first time ever - outstanding student loan debt this year will top one trillion dollars. And with tuition for college soaring - and prospects for jobs after college plummeting - the situation for students across America looks grim. But now - with the Occupy Wall Street movement in full swing - student debtors are feeling empowered - and are striking back against the big banks that got bailed out three years ago but are unwilling to help their debt-saddled customers now."

The $1 Trillion Student Loan Rip-Off by Alex Pareene

"Some people have noticed that student loan debt comes up a lot among the Wall Street Occupiers and the members of the 99 percent movement. Often, older people, who either attended school when tuition was reasonable, or who didn’t attend college at all in an era when a high school diploma was enough of a qualification for a stable, middle-class career, tend to think this is all the entitled whining of spoiled kids. They don’t understand that these kids accepted a home mortgage worth of debt before they ever even had a regular income, based on phony promises, and that the debt is inescapable, regardless of life circumstances or ability to pay."

"The impossibility of escaping student loan debt is why an industry sprang upto foist useless, overpriced degrees on vulnerable people. It’s a scam, but a profitable one, and respectable enough for major establishment players to feel comfortable making a killing on it."

"So we have incredibly rich and powerful elite institutions joining forces to bleed youths and minorities and poor people dry. And people wonder why there’s marching in the streets."

Student Loan Debt: What’s the Worst That Could Happen? by Elie Mystal

"I graduated from law school over $150,000 in debt."

"I’ve been paying the minimum balances to various collection agencies since 2007 or so. Whatever. My hopes for paying it off or owning property pretty much rest on my ability to hit the lotto."

"A reader emailed us, asking how bad non-payment of law school debt can really be. As one who has walked this path for eight years, I can honestly say it’s not that bad. Sure, it’s a completely different lifestyle than my friends lead. I can’t do “normal” things like get a Discover card or answer my unlisted telephone. But once you get used to it, it’s really not that bad. Your creditors will take away everything they can, but living a paycheck-to-paycheck, judgment-proof existence isn’t as bad as people make it look when they are trying to get you to sign up for a “free” credit reporting service."

"And don’t buy their BS that it’s just a “one time offer” or anything. Look at it from the perspective of the debt collection agency. Most people are like me, people they have to chase around to get a piddling monthly minimum payment. If they can close the book on that time-and-money suck for a lump sum, they’ll jump on it."

"Actually, I’d go so far as to say that living in world where your creditors are constantly angry with you is kind of liberating. I mean, I pay my federal loans back, so it’s not like anybody is going to garnish my wages. Beyond that, what can they really do?"

Student debt story: "Dear Sallie Mae, I can't afford you" by Natalia Antonova

"I’ve been in a panic these last few months. Making minimum payments on my student loans serviced by Sallie Mae Inc. was no longer merely a challenge – it was getting impossible. After making some awful sacrifices to refrain from defaulting (see more on that below), I’m in a corner."

"And defaulting would not only mean a ruined credit history, it would mean that my debt would double, triple, quadruple, etc… I would be a slave forever. But I took a long, hard look at the numbers, and I realized that I am already a slave."

"I was done before I even knew it. And applying for more deferrals will send me deeper and deeper into debt. Decades and decades of payments – as I grow old. There’s no end in sight. The system counts on this. The people setting it up knew that most of us would not be able to sustain payments over time."

"You know what I am actually ashamed of? Gambling with my life and the life of my kid because of student debt. Check out this article I wrote for Foreign Policy about giving birth on the state’s dime in Russia. One detail I “forgot” to mention is that my husband and I had the money to pay for a private contract at a Moscow hospital – thing is, it was a lean summer, and I was terrified of defaulting. I was so brainwashed by the system that owned me that I wouldn’t touch the money meant for Sallie Mae. My father, who’s been struggling financially as well, wired me some cash – that was set aside for loans as well. I actually went against my husband’s wishes and put myself and my child at risk, because I was trying to be “financially responsible.”"

"My son’s face greets me every morning. It says, “I trust you, mother.” When he grows up, I’m going to have to explain the risks I took with him while he was at his most vulnerable, because I wanted to be a good little cash cow."

"This wouldn’t have been the first time I skimmed on health care. Because I could not invest in decent preventative care while having dental problems, I lost two teeth at the ripe old age of 26, to give one example. I have literally been falling apart, all of the sake of letting people make a buck off of me. Except I can’t afford to do that anymore – I have to be able to take care of my child."

"We have a myth of the “deserving poor” in our culture – it’s similar to the myth of the “good rape victim.”"

"Besides making my situation clear for the loan sharks who will come a-callin’? I want to make a public promise that I am not going to put student debt ahead of my needs and the needs of my family anymore."

Occupy Wall Street and the cultural politics of the class struggle by Kristin Lawler

"You can learn a lot about a movement by listening to its opponents... As the movement spreads like wildfire, so does elite fear. Both concession and repression are testament to the way that formally, elite/mass power relations have been reshaped radically in just a few short months. Both signal raw movement power."

"And although there’s certainly a segment of the movement that’s agitating for the kind of Keynesian policies that would relieve the widespread stress and scarcity under which so many Americans live today and allow for a relatively comfortable life of quiet desperation, the truth is, it’s more than hard work and fair pay that the Occupy movement may ultimately be demanding."

"The OWS protests began with a critique of economic and political inequality (which has, nearly everyone now agrees, become ridiculous) and of the simple injustice (“banks got bailed out, we got sold out”) of the “99%” being made to bear the downside of the ever more highly leveraged risks taken by finance capital. But protest discourse very quickly saw the terms “unfairness” and “injustice” replaced with “austerity,” a change that explicitly links the movement with anti-austerity struggles around the world and throughout American history... Perhaps this anti-austerity history helps to explain why the “jobs and fairness” line doesn’t inspire quite the way that the more revolutionary “another world is possible” strain of movement discourse does."

"And like its predecessors a generation ago, this OWS statement rejects the elite discourse of scarcity that says there just isn’t enough for people to enjoy their beaches without oil spills, their mountains without clear-cutting, and their time without the stress of an increasingly heavy daily grind. It’s a vision of human entitlement to a good life on earth rather than a vision of a fairly paid and thus happy worker. It’s a vision of real democracy, not just a better market."

"Here then, is what movement opponents call “class warfare”—the creation of a counterculturally oriented space and the utopian vision that it inspires. An Occupation is a place where people (uselessly and inefficiently) converse, enjoy one another’s company, make their voices heard, eat food, play and listen to music, connect, engage in the experimental practice of radical democracy, and generally contribute nothing whatsoever to the production of profit."

"Mounting a lived critique of austerity— of capital’s relentless instrumentalization of time and space and of the myth of material scarcity that says it’s simply not realistic to expect from advanced industrial society the decent standard of living that it makes technologically possible with a minimum of toil— the protesters are indeed slackers. They are also class warriors, struggling against the capitalist imperative (which struck back, hard, beginning in the early 1970s) that everything and everyone be a tool for making profit and for the human one—for the freedom to constitute time on one’s own terms, for friendship and laughter and conviviality and “useless” thinking and pleasure."

"When the right attacks OWS as a bunch of countercultural slackers and as the vanguard of class warfare, they very presciently apprehend the significance of a moment in which the capitalist work ethic and the artificially perpetuated scarcity it’s predicated on are being roundly rejected. One in which the utopian demand for cultural freedom joins the labor movement’s push for a more robust share of the spoils of capitalism."

The Austerity Trap & Student Debt at One Trillion with Ian Masters

"We begin with the former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and discuss the austerity trap that the economy is stuck in with political gridlock and election politics digging the hole deeper. However there is some reason to hope that as the powerful and privileged one percent try to take us back to the Gilded Age, a movement forming might rally the nation to reclaim the American Dream for the 99%."

"Then we look into the shameful growth of student debt that will reach one trillion dollars this year. David Halperin, who is the director of Campus Progress at the Center for American Progress joins us to explain the increasing debt load students are now burdened with as they face a shrinking jobs market, and how lobbyists for the for-profit college industry have managed to get Congress to have taxpayer money charged back to unwitting students at exorbitant rates for a worthless education and a useless diploma."

WNYC: OWS and Student Loans

Brian Lehrer of WNYC interviews Anya Kamenetz, senior writer for Fast Company Magazine and author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education and Generation Debt and Robert Applebaum, founder of

NYT: Killing the Euro by Paul Krugman

"Can the euro be saved? ... Even optimists now see Europe as headed for recession, while pessimists warn that the euro may become the epicenter of another global financial crisis."

"How did things go so wrong? The answer you hear all the time is that the euro crisis was caused by fiscal irresponsibility. But the truth is nearly the opposite. Although Europe’s leaders continue to insist that the problem is too much spending in debtor nations, the real problem is too little spending in Europe as a whole. And their efforts to fix matters by demanding ever harsher austerity have played a major role in making the situation worse."

"During the years of easy money, wages and prices in southern Europe rose substantially faster than in northern Europe. This divergence now needs to be reversed, either through falling prices in the south or through rising prices in the north. And it matters which: If southern Europe is forced to deflate its way to competitiveness, it will both pay a heavy price in employment and worsen its debt problems. The chances of success would be much greater if the gap were closed via rising prices in the north."

"But to close the gap through rising prices in the north, policy makers would have to accept temporarily higher inflation for the euro area as a whole. And they’ve made it clear that they won’t. Last April, in fact, the European Central Bank began raising interest rates, even though it was obvious to most observers that underlying inflation was, if anything, too low."

"The combination of austerity-for-all and a central bank morbidly obsessed with inflation makes it essentially impossible for indebted countries to escape from their debt trap and is, therefore, a recipe for widespread debt defaults, bank runs and general financial collapse."

"I hope, for our sake as well as theirs, that the Europeans will change course before it’s too late. But, to be honest, I don’t believe they will. In fact, what’s much more likely is that we will follow them down the path to ruin."

"For in America, as in Europe, the economy is being dragged down by troubled debtors — in our case, mainly homeowners. And here, too, we desperately need expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to support the economy as these debtors struggle back to financial health. Yet, as in Europe, public discourse [in the US] is dominated by deficit scolds and inflation obsessives."

PBS: Are we slaves to debt? with David Graeber

"The debate over what to do about debt is nothing new, according to anthropologist David Graeber. Alison Stewart talks with Graeber about our misconceptions about debt and why it plays such a large role in history."

Wall Street's Pitch to Profit on Federal Student Loans by Jason Delisle

(Oct. 12, 2011) "The investment banking industry – and its friends in Congress – have cooked up a scheme they are pitching to the “supercommittee” that they say would reduce the federal debt and cut federal spending. Supposedly, the plan would take the government’s $555 billion direct student loan holdings off of its books. In reality, the plan, which would allow the bankers to earn fees on a $555 billion deal, plus $100 billion more every year, would not reduce the debt or cut spending. But that hasn’t stopped Wall Street from trying."

"A proposal that could only have been be cooked up by investment bankers is circulating on Capitol Hill. It would refinance the $555 billion direct student loan portfolio with new debt backed 100 percent by the federal government. But this new debt would not be called U.S. Treasury debt, despite the 100 percent guarantee, and therefore not counted as part of the national debt. In other words, the new debt would be used to pay off the old debt (Treasury bonds) that the government issues to finance direct student loans. To be sure, the mechanics of the proposal are more complicated than that, but the effect of the proposal would be to move all outstanding and future student loans from bonds backed 100 percent by taxpayers to another set of bonds backed 100 percent by taxpayers but not counted as part of the national debt."

FT: The coming firesale of student loan ABS

This Financial Times article dated July 22, 2011, prior to the summer resolution of the US debt ceiling charade, shows the continuing vulnerability of bonds based on student loans, despite decades of legal and monetary support by the government:

"The coming firesale of student loan ABS"

"Posted by John McDermott on Jul 22 19:24."

"The potential contents of a firesale if there is a downgrade of the US’s AAA rating are receiving a fair bit of attention, as investment funds weigh up what they can and should do in the event."

"Defeased or prefunded securities are uniquely vulnerable and, according to a note out Thursday by Citigroup’s securitised products team, so are the $250bn of asset backed securities linked to the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP)."

"FFELP was a federally-guaranteed student loan scheme used by three-quarters of US colleges. Technically, it’s not a guarantee but the federal government does provide 97 per cent (according to S&P) reinsurance on the outstanding loans. Thus there’s a direct link between the AAA sovereign and the AAA FFELP ABS. (21 Srabble points, if you’re wondering.) Moody’s listed these securities as a related risk when it placed the US on review for possible downgrade and now Citi reckons they’re the main form of ABS to worry about:"