A panel discussion held at the Occupy! Gazette‘s Occupy Onward Conference, December 18, 2011, at the New School for Social Research, New York City. Transcript from Occupy! Gazette Issue 4.Read it at AlterNet
Debt: What It Is and Why We Fight It
Panel discussion with David Graeber, Mike Konczal, Sarah Jaffe and Brian Kalkbrenner discuss debt--what it is, why we're drowning in it, why it's a political issue. Moderated by Astra Taylor.
David Graeber, Debt, The First 5,000 Years
Mike Konczal, The Roosevelt Institute
Brian Kalkbrenner, Occupy Student Debt
Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet
Moderator: Astra Taylor, Occupy!Gazette
Transcribed by Elisabeth Asher
Long article but vital. Student debt alone as share of private is a parasite eating the guts of the future. This model is not working, and it cannot work. Without significant write down of private debt and an overhaul of the system, the horizon of time is bleak.
Graduating seniors in 2010 carried an average debt of $25,000, while unemployment for that same group was at 9.1 percent. College tuition has increased more than 400 percent since the 1980s, with no appreciable increase in wages or inflation; it outstrips inflation. The debt default rate at for-profit institutions is 29 percent, and more than half of the student population at these for-profit colleges is African American or Latino. It’s a problem that affects the whole spectrum. Student loan debts are exceptional in that they’re afforded no protections. Student debtors are not protected from bankruptcy; student loan debt can follow you to the grave. As of 2005, benefits like Social Security can be garnished, which is unprecedented. It’s very easy for loans to double or triple in a period of ten years—you fall behind on a payment, suddenly there’s this whole chain of fees that is triggered, and you’re sort of like underwater trying to get back, just recovering those fees, and then you start paying the interest, let alone getting to the principal.
All that is to say that student loans are predatory loans. And, you know, it’s not a privilege. There’s a view like, “Well, you know what you’re getting into, taking out student loans, this is a privilege problem.” It’s not a privilege problem, for several reasons. One is that a college degree has become a prerequisite in a knowledge economy. You have to take on student loan debt to get this degree, but then you graduate with this debt increasingly into an economy where you can’t get a job. So you’re already in a position of indenture-tude. The Occupy Student Debt campaign launched a few weeks ago, and it centers around a student debt pledge of refusal.