Kanye 2020 and the end of the American democracy?

No, Kanye, you can't be president, bruh! (Photo credit: Getty Images)

No, Kanye, you can’t be president, bruh! (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Alright, so the headline is a bit hyperbolic, but Kanye West’s rambling, 12-minute diatribe at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday left me grumpy about the future of our grand experiment in democracy. A few bad apples aside, Americans typically come together every four years to hire someone to run the country. It’s quite possibly the most challenging job in the country, even if it doesn’t require the skills as a brain surgeon–although Dr. Ben Carson would probably tell you otherwise.

Kanye’s bizarre remarks made a mockery of our presidential system, even if Kanye’s goal was to address the candidacy of jokers like Donald Trump. However, young people who hopped on the #Kanye2020 train immediately following his remarks are sadly growing up in a country where we belittle the concept of public service, believe all politicians are self-serving and that any person has the capacity to run the country.

A few things:

  1. Public service should absolutely be taken seriously
  2. A few bad politicians should not spoil those truly looking to make their community, state, country, or world a better place
  3. It requires incredible intelligence, patience, and tenor to be president.

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Student Loans: It Gets Worse

salliemaeFor those of you who “liked” the post: Modern Indentured Servitude: the Student “Loan,” I highly recommend reading Matt Taibbi’s excellent piece in Rolling Stone: Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal. 

Flash-forward through a few months of brinkmanship and name-calling, and not only is nobody talking about the IRS anymore, but the Republicans and Democrats are snuggled in bed together on the student-loan thing, having hatched a quick-fix plan on July 31st to peg interest rates to Treasury rates, ensuring the rate for undergrads would only rise to 3.86 percent for the coming year.

Though this was just the thinnest of temporary solutions – Congressional Budget Office projections predicted interest rates on undergraduate loans under the new plan would still rise as high as 7.25 percent within five years, while graduate loans could reach an even more ridiculous 8.8 percent – the jobholders on Capitol Hill couldn’t stop congratulating themselves for their “rare” “feat” of bipartisan cooperation. “This proves Washington can work,” clucked House Republican Luke Messer of Indiana, in a typically autoerotic assessment of the work done by Beltway pols like himself who were now freed up for their August vacations.Bound_300x200

*gulp*

Student loans  remain a barely discussed issue, yet not talking about–and FIXING this–continues indentured servitude, puts our economy at rick. Not only can/will/already ruined many people’s personal finances, but will also deeply hurt the health of a recovering economy if the status quo continues.

 

 

Modern Indentured Servitude: the “Student Loan”

“We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.”

(Michelle Obama)Photo88792

Do we raise the interest rate on student loans or do we keep the interest rates down on on so-called student loans? In the past couple weeks, lots has been discussed–and it seems once again that those “the student loan issue” is being discretely brushed off.

Congress is still facing this issue that directly impacts 37 million Americans and indirectly effects us all.

Student debt is nearing one trillion dollars. 37 million Americans owe around $1,000,000,000, 000.00

I started college in the late 90’s. I had a scholarship that covered a more than half of my tuition, my parents assisted how they could– but wasn’t enough and so the dreaded FAFSA was filled out, submitted, and approved.

I was going to get student loans. It sounded…practical.

At 18 years old, taking out a loan was new thing. And it scared me. Sitting in on the first (required by the lenders) informational–well, hell, what do I call it? Class? Info session? Whatever you call it, those who get student lines have “counseling” (yes, the industry calls it that) sessions about student loans.  I held on to every last word.

In my adulthood, this. Was. Serious. I remember learning that my loan payments would essentially be put on hold as long as I was in school–graduate school included. I entered college already assuming I would be attending grad school (although I admit I hadn’t thought how to pay for that), so I thought something along the lines of, “Okay, I’ll be a professional when I need to pay this back. That should be okay. It might delay buying a house or having a baby, but only for a year or two.”

salliemaeIsn’t it hilarious how naive I was at 18?

I could just turn that into a sharing post–“How naive were you when you were 18?”

Really. Laugh. I am. It’s so sadly funny I seriously thought like that. I’m rather disappointed in my 18 year old self for not thinking things like:

  • What if the economy crashes?
  • What if you can’t find a job easily?
  • What if you’re discrimated against?

Et cetera and so on.

I mean, I actually believed student loans were helpful to students. I didn’t realize how corrupt they are. How wrong it is to make people go into debt to go to school. The idea that universal education at the higher levels should be free hadn’t crossed my mind–yet.

Mind-blowing quote:

“Making all public higher education free in the United States would cost between fifteen and thirty billion dollars.

That’s roughly what this country spent on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”

Let’s pause and use our educated minds to think back to the Jamestown colony, and whatever else you may remember about the history of early settlers in what is now the United States.  Bound_300x200

Many of the colonists (i.e., of British or European descent) came over to the “New World” as indentured servants. For the cost of the voyage over (which was approximately the equivalent of the 4-5 years pay), the servant was provided with food, accommodation, clothing and training as they worked for the next 2-7 years (depending on the contract) as they worked off their debt. For their work, the servant received not wages, but credit toward paying down the cost of the voyage over.

Don’t forget this was a time when debtor’s prisons were around, so it’s not hard to figure out what happened to those servants who didn’t uphold their part of the bargain.

Indentured servitude is often called “white slavery” and to much extent, the comparison is apt.

Via:

The Company clearly felt that [beaten workers running away] threatened the continued survival of their enterprise, for they reacted forcefully to this crime. In 1612, the colony’s governor dealt firmly with some recaptured laborers: ‘Some he apointed to be hanged. Some burned. Some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some to be shott to death.’

[Don’t you just love olde-tyme spelling?]

While this sort of physical torture is not occurring over student loans, (that I’m aware of), there remain multiple similiarities between historic indentured servitude and modern-day student loans, or “modern day indentured servitude.”

Similarities:1343878168318_8335741

  • Indentured servants fluxed in numbers, but up to 2/3 of (white, European) immigrants came to the New Land as such. Approximately 60% of American students any given year will rely on student loans to further their higher education.
  • Indentured servants were predominately young and also of the working class or just  plain ol’ poor.
    Many students (but not all!) who receive student loans are young. And many are working class or poor. (But this is America, so we don’t like to talk about class.)
  • Indentured servitude and student loans rely on the idea/myth of mobility. It seems this country was fed the lie of the boot straps from the very beginning!
  • Given the nature of the debts, neither historic nor modern day indentured servitude were/are secured by property. Both were/are debt secured by personhood.
  • Indentured servitude and student loans both take a small (relative to the lender) amount and augment it thanks to rounding error  works some black magic to make this initial amount into a significant burden that will follow the person around for 30 year.
  • Both have extremely limited legal recourse.

And let’s talk about the limited legal recourse, shall we? Most debt is dischargable or at least worked into a more suitable payment plan during a bankruptcy proceeding.

Sutdent loans? Nope. Or rather:

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Student loans are immune to bankruptcy. You cannot discharge your modern indentured servitude by filing bankruptcy.  This means that student loans don’t

“have a natural protection for the consumer receiving credit (a protection, the original synthetic put option, that our Founders were aware of enough to make sure it was provisioned for in the Constitution).”

Washington, we have a problem. A very serious problem that could break the economy (again).

It’s already (figuratively) killing the young.

More reading:13426-312-Infographic on Student Loans_r6

Ok, So the President Did Talk About Poverty. Kinda.

A few days ago I wrote that the President would not talk about poverty in the State of the Union address.  Perhaps I pre-judged a bit harshly.  He did, in fact, use the word “poverty.”  Exactly four times in a 6,419 word speech.

I do think some of the ideas he talked about might help raise people from poverty – just not the ones you might think.  Yes, raising the minimum wage is a nice start, but if we can make real college educations (not for-profit McUniversities) more available (without tying them to massive debt), if we can put large numbers of people to work fixing our infrastructure and if we can put quality pre-school education within reach of all Americans … we might be able to make a dent in this national scourge.  Reforming immigration might be a nice help in that regard as well.

But as long as our leaders refuse to use the bully pulpit to make us stand up and take notice of the truth about poverty in America, a dent is all we’ll make.

Look for more from me on this in my Sunday post.