What’s goin’ on?

Things we’ve been reading:

First, a friend of mine shared this.

I lightly broke it down (do read it) with this response:

1. Referring to yourself and/or group of friends as “bro” seriously might as well be a sign you’re a douchcanoe.
2. “Midnight or after, if you have been talking for awhile and they’ve had a couple drinks, ask if they want to dance. If you see an untalked to group or a solo girl, go up to her and ask if she wants anything to drink. If she says yes, get her a drink and then ask if she wants to dance. If she says no, ask her to dance. DANCING IS FUN!!!!! Always try to dance. If she does not want to dance and is with friends, say “aw thats no fun” (or something like that) and then ask one of her friends.”
I thought the stereotype was that guys don’t like to dance, which made the all caps insistence DANCING IS FUN massively humorous. But is DANCING FUN with creepy guys who call each other “bro?”
He really does need to learn about the body though. There’s a lot in between “just under the boob” and “fingering her.”  Just sayin’.
3. “If she starts putting her hair over her ear, THAT MEANS SHE WANTS A KISS.”
I had no idea this was part of the mating ritual of humans. I’m sure my husband is stewing “That feminist bitch I married never puts her hair over my ear, dammit.”
WTF is he talking about? Well, he sure is fond OF ALL CAPS.
4. ” 6. Ejaculate (should also be self explanatory) ”
No, I’m sorry, I don’t follow, care to explain? Preferably in ALL CAPS, AMIRITE BROS? How many women do you think this “bro” *shudder* has so cleverly used this MASSIVELY AWESOME ADVICE ON, [name of friend]? Success rates count.

Also, why are people so stupid to think emails won’t be leaked, etc? Geez.

In other news:

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

State of Your State

( . . . well, at 15 out of 50 . . . )

Arizona: transgendered people can’t use the bathroom of the gender they identify with; they have to use the bathroom that they were “born” as.

Florida: Bong Ban?

Georgia is thirsty.

Kentucky might be hurt it’s not receiving the attention regarding religious freedom that North Carolina must be enjoying is.

Maryland. Sigh.

C’mon, Missouri. REALLY?

This is not bipartisanship, New York.

North Dakota: Our population is growing! Woo-hoo! Oh, but one of the highest incidences of rape in the country. Let’s ban abortion! Yay!

Tennessee: Let’s punish the poor! No. We can do better. Let’s punish poor with children! If your child doesn’t do well in school, we’ll just cut their family’s support

What’s threatening in Texas.

Pretty sure this violates Facebook’s EULA, Washington State.

Honorable Mention:
Hang in there, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

Fix It: Five Ways to Beat Poverty in America (Now)

What America has always done best is Get Stuff Done.  Show us a problem, we’ll solve it.  Tell us something can’t be done, we’ll do it.  Threaten us, we’ll throw everything we’ve got at kickin’ your ass.

You know what threatens us today?  Poverty.  As I hope I’ve demonstrated the past few Sundays, poverty is a growing cancer on this nation.  The widening gap between have and have-not is dragging us all down, and it’s time we did something about it.

So what do we do?  Here’s a good start:

1.)  Name it.  Stand up and say, “Yes, we have a problem. Let’s talk about it.”  Ideally, a leading political figure or a cable talking head would lead the charge.  John Edwards got a lot of traction with his “Two Americas” theme, but it died for lack of marital fidelity (Ain’t America strange?   If you screw up in exactly the wrong way, none of what you’ve done retains any value.).  Rachel Maddow, we love you here on the Left, but we already know how bad the Iraq War was.  Pick up the banner for something we can all fix.  Anderson Cooper? Oprah Winfrey?  People like you have big microphones the rest of us are lacking.  Use them, please.

But if the people with the big microphones won’t speak up, it’s up to the rest of us.  So if you find it unacceptable for a child to go to bed hungry tonight in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, you speak up.  If enough of us talk, they‘ll start to listen.

2.)  Open Medicare to everyone.  Do I really need to beat this one to death?  I’ll be brief:  There’s no reason under heaven that (again) in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world anyone should go bankrupt over medical bills.  None.  Not one.  It doesn’t happen in other first-world nations, and it should stop happening here.  If we expand the Medicare risk-pool to include all the current uninsured (who are, by and large, young and not disabled – because once you become disabled, you qualify for it already), the financial risk drops across the board.  Allow people to opt-in (and pay for it at-cost) or to choose private insurance (and watch private insurance either wither on the vine or specialize into efficient niche coverage).

3.)  Overhaul the student loan system.  Start by forgiving the existing debt.  Yes, I said that.  I don’t know how to do it exactly – maybe we (the Federal government) buy it all up and makes it all interest-free.  And then find a way to offer new student loans at zero interest.  Also, offer no further loans for “education” at for-profit institutions.

4.)  Infrastructure.  There’s a meme going around that America should invade America and win hearts and minds by rebuilding infrastructure and educating children. Hard to argue with that.  In this Everblog post from earlier this week you can see how much of an investment needs to be made in America’s bridges, roads, schools, etc.  If we make the investments necessary to get us where we need to be we’ll get there on the backs of skilled, well-educated workers.  Which means we’re going to need more of them.  Which means we’ll lower unemployment.  And as a bonus, we’ll live in a safer, more efficient and nicer America.

5.)  Welfare.  Actually, I don’t care what you call it.  The bottom line is that it’s time to get over the grudge we have against public assistance.  People who can’t make ends meet need our help, not our scorn.  And there are quite simply not enough private institutions out there to do the work that needs to be done.  Just give a check to people who need a check.  It’s cheap, in the great scheme of things. Children whose parents can afford to feed them and clothe them and spend time with them have a far greater chance of, dare I say, pulling themselves up by they own bootstraps, than hungry kids who grow up mostly on their own, wouldn’t you say?

Bonus!  6.)   Support organized labor.  Put simply, an organized workforce with the power (both legal and fundamental) to collectively bargain will improve working conditions and pay for all workers.  Which means nearly all of us. 

No, I didn’t include raising the minimum wage.  Yes, I think that’s important, but to speak plainly, it’s chicken-shit.  Put these other items in play and it will happen on its own.

Yes, this is going to cost some money.  I submit that initial investments made in this generation for items 3-5 (item two will end up revenue neutral at worst) will more than pay for themselves in the long run.  Call it trickle-up economics if you’d like.  Grass-roots growth.  How would I pay for them?  That’s a topic for another Sunday, but I’ll give you a hint.

The Everblog poverty series:

A Departure.

Bootstraps!

Is That Stuff Contagious?

I Want a New War.

In addition to writing here at Everblog, Harvey Ward writes about his efforts to live healthier and better at SkippingDessert.Com.  You can also find him on Twitter @hlward.

Is That Stuff Contagious?

First, the good news:  You can’t “catch” poverty. There are some lifestyle choices you can make that put you at higher-risk for becoming poor, but for most people, poverty is a congenital condition.  An inherited one.

Mama and Daddy are poor?  Congratulations, you and your children have an excellent chance of being poor as well.  You’ve lost the genetic lottery.

As we talked about a week ago in this space, poverty is on the move in the United States.  Ever since we gave up on the War on Poverty in favor of more broadcast-friendly “wars” (drugs, terror), poverty is spreading like kudzu.  Or perhaps more like malaria.

Poverty is the sort of thing you pass on to future generations.  No matter what economic level you’re born into, if you slip into that lower rung – the one nobody wants to talk about – your kids are likely to spend some time poor, too.

According to this piece published by the Urban Institute in 2010, half (ok, 49% – poetic license) of all children born into poverty will continue to live poor for at least half of their young lives (up to 18).  By contrast, a child who is not born to a family below the poverty line has only about a 25% chance of living any years of her youth in poverty.  And, according to the researchers (who tracked families through a University of Michigan study for 40 years), one out of five kids born poor will continue to spend time in their late 20’s poor.

So.  We’ve established that the best way to get poor is to catch it from your parents.  Note that I’m not judging here.  The “why” of that family poverty connection is a topic for another day.  Right now I’m just trying to figure out how one catches this condition.

But you can “catch” poverty, following our metaphor, by “catching” a real disease.  It’s more and more common in the U.S.  Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy here, according to the American Journal of Medicine.  That’s a heck of a latrogenic artifact, huh?

No, bankruptcy is not a guaranteed trip to Poverty Lane. But it’s hardly a stretch to say the two live close to each other.

Of course, one of the best ways to catch financial distress is to, well, get old.   NBC News tells us that fifteen percent of American seniors live below the poverty line.  That probably doesn’t leap out and grab you.  How about this:  Without Social Security the poverty rate among Americans 65 or older would be 54%. Fifty-Four percent.

Those are just a few of the ways to end up poor.  There are plenty more.  Twenty-eight percent of Americans have no emergency savings.  When one of those people lose their job, they’re going to start feeling poor very soon. You could develop an addiction.  You could get a divorce.  All those are tried-and-true ways to catch the poverty bug.

No, clearly poverty is not contagious.  But being poor, for most people, is not the result of poor life decisions any more than catching the flu is the result of aberrant behavior.

I wanted to take this space this week to make it clear that poverty just … is … for a lot of Americans.  Many more are always hovering at the poverty line, and more are crossing it these days than in a long time.  But it’s (generally) not anyone’s fault they’re poor.

Next week we’ll talk about some things we (and by “we” I mean “We the People”, using our collective governmental force) can do about poverty, and why we should.


In addition to writing here at Everblog, Harvey Ward writes about his efforts to live healthier and better at SkippingDessert.Com.  You can also find him on Twitter @hlward.