Friday, September 7, 2012

A society with a "student debt market" is not civilization.

Source Business Week
by Richard Mellor

I cannot see there not being a repeat of the 2007/08 economic crisis within the next four years.  Economists of various stripes have offered the student debt bubble as the next trigger.  Whether this is the case or not will remain to be seen but the student debt as many of us know is staggering.  It is not only staggering in in terms of numbers, the dollars involved: student debt surpassed credit card debt in 2010 and auto loans last year standing at about $1 trillion and rising at the rate of $3000 per second according to

I once wrote a piece titled "Why is there a market for student debt?"  It's a barbaric notion when you think about it unless you give capitalism some credibility in turning education, the accumulation of knowledge by society's members in to a commodity like oil.  But then that's what capitalism does, it turns everything in to a commodity that can be bought and sold, it creates a market for everything, energy, housing, food, water, sex and the purchase of young children for pleasure.

Student debt even grew as other debt declined; rising by $300 billion in 2008 as consumers paid down some $1.6 trillion in debt.  Business week points out that "Four year college graduates pay advantage over high school grads has doubled over the last 30 years.", an interesting figure but surely, the savage assault on workers and their living standards has contributed to this change in 30 years.  Auto workers have seen their wages cut in half.  Public sector workers are the next sacrificial lambs on the alter of profit and so-called "healthy competition".

But students are exiting the process heavily in debt, in five years if they're lucky as that's the average time it takes to complete their year degree as they struggle with two or three jobs to get by and pay the massive increase in tuition and rent if they haven't yet been driven back to mom and dad's place.  Couples who did all the right things, everything they were told to do in order to get an education are finding themselves at the ripe old age of 30 unable to find work in their field and owing $80,000, sometimes much more. According to the Center for College Affordability, the US has more than 100,000 janitors and 16,000 parking lot attendants with college degrees. The New York Fed claims that people over 60 account for $60 billion in student loans either for themselves or paying off the loans of their children.

Young or not so young people put off getting married having children and wonder if they will ever be free of debt slavery.  Changes in the law have made it much more difficult for this debt to be wiped out.  Judges can only "discharge student loans" in cases of undue hardship that Business week describes as proof of "certainty of hopelessness".  By that standard, the entire US Congress should be discharged.

The unelected coupon clippers that govern society are also concerned about it as too much debt can, like too little food, result in social explosions that disturb the social equilibrium preferred for profit taking----capital hates barriers. As is always the case, the representatives of the two Wall Street parties look to the market to solve this problem in one way or another.  The right wing coupon clipper Romney, who, like most of them has been given everything all his life, says that if young people need money for their education they should "borrow from their parents".  How detached is this from the average American?   In 2010 under the Obama administration, legislation was passed to allow the Education Department to make all federal loans directly eliminating the middlemen, the wasters who get money without working.  This would save $60 billion over 10 years according to reports---enough to provide quite a few jobs with pensions people could live on I would say. Romney and the right wing nuts in the Republican party even oppose that---no restrictions on capital is their motto, "Full Spectrum Dominance" their mantra.

Civilization for the few thousand unelected people that govern society means the right to accumulate surplus value, to profit from the Labor of others, to profit by owning and controlling the production of society's needs; they cannot allow the collective to reap the benefits of its Labor.

The two Wall Street parties that have just had their conventions in Tampa and Charlotte cannot solve this crisis.  We cannot look to the market to solve our problems or provide the needs of society, either here in the US or throughout the world. Public money and the taxpayers of the world saved capitalism from the abyss in 2007.  Even in the post war upswing from 1950 to 1972 when it produced more goods and services than the entire history of human production and when US capitalism reigned supreme, it was unable even here in the US, to provide a decent life for all its citizens. In a huge section of the country it was still lynching and castrating black people for exercising their right to vote.

Capitalism is inherently an unequal and violent system; it's progressive period that followed its birth from the womb of feudalism has long passed.  The successes that we have had here in the US as a nation have not come because we are smarter and cleverer than other people as Obama tried to claim last night and all the politicians of the 1% argue.

US capitalism, just like the dominance of British colonialism before it, arose from a long sequence of violent historic events from the appropriation of public land and slaughter of its occupants in the first place, three hundred years of black Labor power that received no wage compensation, indentured servitude and hundreds of thousands of poverty stricken immigrants who, with their children, filled the textile mills, coal mines, and other industrial workplaces of the country and the violent suppression of any resistance to this brutal exploitation whenever it arose. This is how the US got so rich so fast, accumulated the capital that gave it the edge over its competitors. It has nothing, or very little to do with "individual" qualities. This is history, not Obama's rosy portrayal of it.

But on the subject at hand we must reject this nonsense that we have to have a student debt market or even student loans. In a civilized society education, like the water we drink and the food we need to sustain ourselves, is a human right. Centuries of collective Labor Power is what built the universities and institutions of learning that the 1% now call their own and from which we were once physically  excluded and are now ever more so financially.  It is our right not only to receive it, but to wrench it from the dirty hands of the the coupon clippers and their precious market and determine the content of our education, what we teach, how we teach and how we learn.

No to austerity, money is everywhere:

* Cancel all student debt, make the rich pay
* Federally funded education at all levels
*Corporations out of education
* Reduce class sizes K thru 12 to 15
*student, parent teacher control of curriculum
* Take the banks and finance houses under public ownership and control
* Allocation of capital on the basis of social need
*Build an independent working people's political party based on our organizations and communities
*For a democratic socialist society--production for social need not profit

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