Record High Student Debt And The Future of American Working Class
Much has been said about the fact that student loans have topped $1 trillion, nationally, surpassing credit card loans. But this figure is mentioned in corporate media as if it’s some abstract figure or quantity having no relevance to people’s lives. In the real world of people trying to make ends meet and survive, rather than the abstract world of the media as if they’re talking about the cosmos and alien life, student loans have turned into a way of enslaving those entering or trying to enter the “labor market(!)”, keeping them stuck with a debt most are ill equipped to pay back and sucking the last dime out of those who do manage to find work in a jobless growth, for the next 20 or 30 years of their lives. With $50,000 or even $100,000 in loans, college graduates start their productive years, not from zero, not from a clean slate, but from a deep hole they will have to try to climb out of for the rest of their lives, one illness, one loss of job and one family emergency from a financial ruin and devastation.
This “debt crisis”, as it’s come to be known, has exploded at the heels of the “subprime mortgage crisis” which resulted in millions losing their homes and banks making billions and whose economic effects have not yet subsided.
A new president gets elected in the height of the mortgage crisis and continues bailing out the banks and the new Attorney General proudly proclaims that banks may be too big too fail but not too big too jail, and so one person goes to jail for the economic havoc caused by pure and simple greed: a borrower who exaggerated his income on his loan application!
With wages stagnating and home prices rising, home buyers were convinced by “too big too fail” banks to undertake loans the banks knew they could not repay and those who already owned a home were lured into taking out loans against their homes to make up for stagnating incomes and rising healthcare and energy costs, resulting in the bursting of the bubble and banks walking away with all the billions they made while millions of people became homeless and jobless.
Our Attorney General didn’t see any wrongdoing and any reason to take action against those banks, but, maybe he would if they did something like money laundering and embezzlement of say over a trillion dollars? Multinational bank HSBC did exactly that last year and sure enough, Mr. Holder went after the law breaking bank and fined them the equivalent of their one month’s profit! But, don’t try that if you’re not a bank as you’ll likely spend the rest of your life in prison.
We see a similar scenario with credit card loans and now with student loans. Here, too, the “American dream” is being sold to students on a promissory note with their signature at the bottom. Those same “too big too fail” banks have shifted their attention to the sons and daughters of the working people and are branding them for life with lots of digits. With good paying jobs disappearing and unskilled jobs earning poverty wages, education seems the only way out – short of joining the military and killing people you don’t know and whose names you can’t pronounce. But, another trap has been set and millions are getting caught in it, by yet another scheme to fleece millions who are seen as nothing but subjects to exploit and make money off of.
As the class of the rich minority keeps hammering workers and further distances itself from the majority who are for ever left behind and struggling for the rest of their lives, always in, or at the edge of, poverty and in servitude and kept there, the upward mobility, the promised opportunity for moving up and achieving a comfortable and worry-free life, as advertised in “the American dream”, is no more for the vast majority, and the “freedom” in “pursuit of happiness” in the age of neo-slavery is as meaningful as it was for the slaves of a different kind and of a different time. The class mobility proclaimed by capitalism has, quietly and with surprising dexterity and adroitness, transformed into a quasi-caste system, solidifying and perpetuating class disparity and divergence. The relative comfort of a significant portion of the working class, with their proverbial color TV’s and cars and even a chance at home ownership of 50-60 years ago, is gone and is not coming back, absent of a major and ground shaking uprising and movement long overdue.
Inaccessible and unaffordable healthcare which keeps getting less and less affordable for tens of millions and keeps a gun on their heads, threatening to destroy their lives any moment, the affliction of unending and repressive student debt on the young, the scarcity of jobs and lowering of wages for those who do find it, cleanses what is left of the “middle class” and sweeps them into the lower echelons of the poor, with the powerful whip of almighty capital.
Under such conditions and future outlook and perpetual and profitable wars for Empire, the state finds itself with no choice, but to double down on its police power and incarcerations to protect its ruling class and the grotesque state of affairs they have created, sending whistle blowers like Bradley Manning to jail, stepping up surveillance of its citizens and even going after reporters.
Career advisors advise college grads to live with their parents, to compete with other college grads over jobs at the fast food industry and to not get sick! I say: forget that. Unto the streets! Let’s reclaim our future, out dignity and our freedom! Let’s stand up to greed, profiteering and oppression. Let’s show the Monsanto’s and J.P. Morgan’s and their lackeys in the White House and Congress that we won’t sit idly by while they destroy our lives, our food and our environment to make themselves richer. Only we the people can create a more just and livable world.