America certainly does have a “we” and a “they” problem. What does this mean? It basically comes down to who we classify as “in” or “we” versus who is “out” or “they”. What is the criteria for this classification? This issue is a small, tight bottleneck that inhibits the overall good of our society.
Where does it come from? This is a question that many Americans and most people who live outside of the U.S. ask all the time. People ask: Why is the U.S. so opposed to income equality, welfare, and healthcare for all? Do they not understand that by helping all of their citizens, society as a whole benefits? In a nutshell, no, they don’t understand or do not make the connection. People get upset if they feel that their hard-earned tax dollars go to help anyone that they don’t know or care about. What people are failing to see is the demise of a society with a growing gap in income inequality that is ravaging the middle and lower classes.
This is a huge issue. It affects all facets of our society including education, healthcare, and more than anything else…poverty. Robert Reich wrote an excellent piece about this: America’s We Problem.
From the article:
One obvious explanation involves race. Detroit is mostly black; Oakland County, mostly white. The secessionist school districts in the South are almost entirely white; the neighborhoods they’re leaving behind, mostly black.
But racism has been with us from the start. Although some southern school districts are seceding in the wake of the ending of court-ordered desegregation, race alone can’t explain the broader national pattern. According to Census Bureau numbers, two-thirds of Americans below the poverty line at any given point identify themselves as white.
Another culprit is the increasing economic stress felt by most middle-class Americans. Median household incomes are dropping and over three-quarters of Americans report they’re living paycheck to paycheck.
This is certainly a fight that we must not lose. We must continue to raise awareness of the consequences of the “we” versus “they” mentality that is plaguing America. There is too much at stake to let this pass by.
I’ve had a hard time keeping up with my blogging as this time of year does not lend itself to my desire to write. I have, however, stayed tuned in and awake. I have often been very discouraged with the state of affairs of the world and sometimes it makes you want to throw in the towel.
We have things like the government shutdown and the last minute aversion of the debt ceiling crisis caused by a small minority of an elected government that no longer represents the people. We have the continuous diminishing reputation of the United States in the eyes of everyone living outside of the U.S.. We have a sickeningly high rate of poverty for such a wealthy nation and the division of income continues to widen between the one percent and the rest of us. Throw in U.S. foreign policy and America’s Perpetual War Machine and one may start losing hope. The underfunding of education and the cold, callous attitude toward a decent healthcare system are difficult pills to swallow. Finally, from an environmental standpoint, we are truly obliterating our planet for the sake of the almighty dollar. Yes…it is a sad state of affairs.
I find myself reading a lot about different things and how people are dealing with the state of the world. I recently read the book “The Man Who Quit Money”, by Mark Sundeen. His book tells the story of Daniel Suelo who has mostly turned his back on the capitalist society in which we live. He looks at the world through a different and refreshing lens. For those that haven’t read it, I encourage you to give it a go and while you may not agree with everything he says, he may just make you look at the world a little bit differently.
Currently I am reading “Thank You For Your Service” by David Finkel. He was imbedded with the men of the 2-I6 infantry battalion and has followed the same group home and writes about the struggles of the soldiers and their families with PTSD and the life-changing events of war. It is gripping, sad and it makes you very angry when you realize that these men and women are casualties of a war fought by the poor for the benefit of the rich.
Another book I read in the past few months was “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield”, by Jeremy Scahill. He sheds considerable light onto the events that led the U.S. into Afghanistan and Iraq (and it isn’t all about 9/11). Dick Cheney (who is rightfully vilified in the book) and Donald Rumsfeld led the U.S. down a dark path into a morally bankrupt, corrupt, and perverted global war on “terror”. I very highly recommend this book as Scahill tracks the war all across the globe.
Okay so I have likely ranted enough for one sitting, but I have one more thing to add and it made me want to take the blue pill from Morpheus. I finally got around to watching the documentary “Gasland”…and it made me very sad and angry. What kind of world are we leaving for future generations? Fracking may the worst of all of the horrible environmental disasters man is creating in the world. It is the worst because it affects the one major staple of life: water. When people are lighting their taps, something is very wrong. How can we sit by and let this happen?
I still hold out hope that people will change. Most people are good at heart but simply do not know what is happening in the world around them. We must diligently make them aware and wake them because at this point in the game the stakes are too high not to.
As I continue my search to understand right-wing America and movement conservatism, I find myself scratching my head and wondering why they do the things that they do. With the self-inflicted debt ceiling “crisis” and the ludicrousness of continuing to de-fund healthcare, the right-wing of the government appears to be on a path of self-destruction. Robert Parry has written an excellent article exploring the history of the American Right that provides considerable insight into why they behave the way that they do. It is lengthy, but well worth the read….
The Four Eras of the American Right
Exclusive: In the coming weeks, the Republican Party and its Tea Party extremists vow to create budgetary and fiscal crises if the Democrats don’t gut health-care reform and submit to a host of other right-wing demands. But a driving force in this craziness is an anti-historical view of the Constitution, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
As the world ponders why the American Right – through its Tea Party power in Congress – is threatening to shut down the federal government and precipitate a global economic crisis by defaulting on U.S. debt, the answer goes to the self-image of these rightists who insist they are the true defenders of the Founding Principles.
This conceit is reinforced by the vast right-wing media via talk radio, cable TV, well-funded Internet sites and a variety of books and print publications. Thus, the Tea Partiers and many Republicans have walled themselves off from the actual history, which would show the American Right to be arguably the opposite of true patriots, actually the faction of U.S. politics that has most disdained and disrupted the orderly constitutional process created in 1787.
Indeed, the history of the American Right can be roughly divided into four eras: the pre-Confederate period from 1787 to 1860 when slave owners first opposed and then sought to constrain the Constitution, viewing it as a threat to slavery; the actual Confederacy from 1861 to 1865 when the South took up arms against the Constitution in defense of slavery; the post-Confederate era from 1866 to the 1960s when white racists violently thwarted constitutional protections for blacks; and the neo-Confederate era from 1969 to today when these racists jumped to the Republican Party in an attempt to extend white supremacy behind various code words and subterfuges.
It is true that the racist Right has often moved in tandem with the wealthy-elite Right, which has regarded the regulatory powers of the federal government as a threat to the ability of rich industrialists to operate corporations and to control the economy without regard to the larger public good.
But the historical reality is that both the white supremacists and the anti-regulatory corporatists viewed the Constitution as a threat to their interests because of its creation of a powerful central government that was given a mandate to “promote the general Welfare.” The Constitution was far from perfect and its authors did not always have the noblest of motives, but it created a structure that could reflect the popular will and be used for the nation’s good.
The key Framers of the Constitution – the likes of George Washington, James Madison (who then was a protégé of Washington) Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris (who wrote the famous Preamble) – were what might be called “pragmatic nationalists” determined to do what was necessary to protect the nation’s fragile independence and to advance the country’s economic development.
In 1787, the Framers’ principal concern was that the existing government structure – the Articles of Confederation – was unworkable because it embraced a system of strong states, deemed “sovereign” and “independent,” and a weak central government called simply a “league of friendship” among the states.
The Constitution flipped that relationship, making federal law supreme and seeking to make the states “subordinately useful,” in Madison’s evocative phrase. Though the Constitution did make implicit concessions to slavery in order to persuade southern delegates to sign on, the shift toward federal dominance was immediately perceived as an eventual threat to slavery.
Fearing for Slavery
Key Anti-Federalists, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry and George Mason, argued that over time the more industrial North would grow dominant and insist on the elimination of slavery. And, it was known that a number of key participants at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, including Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, were strongly in favor of emancipation and that Washington, too, was troubled by human bondage though a slaveholder himself.
So, Henry and Mason cited the threat to slavery as their hot-button argument against ratification. In 1788, Henry warned his fellow Virginians that if they approved the Constitution, it would put their massive capital investment in slaves in jeopardy. Imagining the possibility of a federal tax on slaveholding, Henry declared, “They’ll free your niggers!”
It is a testament to how we have whitewashed U.S. history on the evils of slavery that Patrick Henry is far better known for his declaration before the Revolution, “Give me liberty or give me death!” than his equally pithy warning, “They’ll free your niggers!”
Similarly, George Mason, Henry’s collaborator in trying to scare Virginia’s slaveholders into opposing the Constitution, is recalled as an instigator of the Bill of Rights, rather than as a defender of slavery. A key “freedom” that Henry and Mason fretted about was the “freedom” of plantation owners to possess other human beings as property.
As historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg wrote in their 2010 book, Madison and Jefferson, Henry and Mason argued that “slavery, the source of Virginia’s tremendous wealth, lay politically unprotected.” Besides the worry about how the federal government might tax slave-ownership, there was the fear that the President – as commander in chief – might “federalize” the state militias and emancipate the slaves.
Though the Anti-Federalists lost the struggle to block ratification, they soon shifted into a strategy of redefining the federal powers contained in the Constitution, with the goal of minimizing them and thus preventing a strong federal government from emerging as a threat to slavery.
In this early stage of the pre-Confederacy era, the worried slave owners turned to one of their own, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and a charismatic politician who had been in France during the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and enactment of the Bill of Rights.
Though Jefferson had criticized the new governing document especially over its broad executive powers, he was not an outright opponent and thus was a perfect vehicle for seeking to limit the Constitution’s reach. Even as Washington’s Secretary of State, Jefferson began organizing against the formation of the new government as it was being designed by the Federalists, especially Washington’s energetic Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.
The Federalists, who were the principal Framers, understood the Constitution to grant the central government all necessary powers to “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.” However, Jefferson and his fellow Southern slaveholders were determined to limit those powers by reinterpreting what the Constitution allowed much more narrowly.
Through the 1790s, Jefferson and his Southern-based faction engaged in fierce partisan warfare against the Federalists, particularly Alexander Hamilton but also John Adams and implicitly George Washington. Jefferson opposed the Federalist program that sought to promote the country’s development through everything from a national bank to a professional military to a system of roads and canals.
As Jefferson’s faction gained strength, it also pulled in James Madison who, in effect, was drawn back into the slave interests of his fellow Virginians. Jefferson, with Madison’s acquiescence, developed the extra-constitutional theories of state “nullification” of federal law and even the principle of secession.
Historians Burstein and Isenberg wrote in Madison and Jefferson that these two important Founders must be understood as, first and foremost, politicians representing the interests of Virginia where the two men lived nearby each other on plantations worked by African-American slaves, Jefferson at Monticello and Madison at Montpelier.
“It is hard for most to think of Madison and Jefferson and admit that they were Virginians first, Americans second,” Burstein and Isenberg said. “But this fact seems beyond dispute. Virginians felt they had to act to protect the interests of the Old Dominion, or else, before long, they would become marginalized by a northern-dominated economy.
“Virginians who thought in terms of the profit to be reaped in land were often reluctant to invest in manufacturing enterprises. The real tragedy is that they chose to speculate in slaves rather than in textile factories and iron works. … And so as Virginians tied their fortunes to the land, they failed to extricate themselves from a way of life that was limited in outlook and produced only resistance to economic development.”
Because of political mistakes by the Federalists and Jefferson’s success in portraying himself as an advocate of simple farmers (when he was really the avatar for the plantation owners), Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans prevailed in the election of 1800, clearing the way for a more constrained interpretation of the Constitution and a 24-year Virginia Dynasty over the White House with Jefferson, Madison and James Monroe, all slaveholders.
By the time the Virginia Dynasty ended, slavery had spread to newer states to the west and was more deeply entrenched than ever before. Indeed, not only was Virginia’s agriculture tied to the institution of slavery but after the Constitution banned the importation of slaves in 1808, Virginia developed a new industry, the breeding of slaves for sale to new states in the west. [For details on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Right’s Dubious Claim to Madison.”]
Toward Civil War
The course to the Civil War was set, as ironically the warnings of Patrick Henry and George Mason proved prescient, the growing industrial strength of the North gave momentum to a movement for abolishing slavery. When Abraham Lincoln, the presidential candidate for the new anti-slavery Republican Party, won the 1860 election, southern slave states seceded from the Union, claiming they were defending the principle of states’ rights but really they were protecting the economic interests of slave owners.
The South’s bloody defeat in the Civil War finally ended slavery and the North sought for several years to “reconstruct” the South as a place that would respect the rights of freed slaves. But the traditional white power structure soon reasserted itself, employing violence against blacks and the so-called “carpetbaggers” from the North.
As white Southerners organized politically under the banner of the Democratic Party, which had defended slavery since its origins in Jefferson’s plantation-based political faction, the North and the Republicans grew weary of trying to police the South. Soon, southern whites were pushing blacks into a form of crypto-slavery through a combination of Jim Crow laws, white supremacist ideology and Ku Klux Klan terror.
Thus, the century after the Civil War could be designated the post-Confederate era of the American Right. This restoration of the South’s white power structure also coincided with the emergence of the North’s Robber Barons – the likes of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan – who amassed extraordinary wealth and used it to achieve political clout in favor of laissez-faire economics.
In that sense, the interests of the northern industrialists and the southern aristocracy dovetailed in a common opposition to any federal authority that might reflect the interests of the common man, either the white industrial workers of the North or the black sharecroppers of the South.
However, amid recurring financial calamities on Wall Street that drove many Americans into abject poverty and with the disgraceful treatment of African-Americans in the South, reform movements began to emerge in the early Twentieth Century, reviving the founding ideal that the federal government should “promote the general Welfare.”
With the Great Depression of the 1930s, the grip of the aging Robber Barons and their descendants began to slip. Despite fierce opposition from the political Right, President Franklin Roosevelt enacted a series of reforms that increased regulation of the financial sector, protected the rights of unions and created programs to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.
After World War II, the federal government went even further, helping veterans get educated through the GI Bill, making mortgages affordable for new homes, connecting the nation through a system of modern highways, and investing in scientific research. Through these various reforms, the federal government not only advanced the “general Welfare” but, in effect, invented the Great American Middle Class.
As the nation’s prosperity surged, attention also turned to addressing the shame of racial segregation. The civil rights movement – led by remarkable leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and eventually embraced by Democratic Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson – rallied popular support and the federal government finally moved against segregation across the South.
Yet, reflecting the old-time pro-slavery concerns of Patrick Henry and George Mason, southern white political leaders fumed at this latest intrusion by the federal government against the principle of “states’ rights,” i.e. the rights of the whites in southern states to treat “their coloreds” as they saw fit.
This white backlash to the federal activism against segregation became the energy driving the modern Republican Party. The smartest right-wingers of the post-World War II era understood this reality.
On the need to keep blacks under white domination, urbane conservative William F. Buckley declared in 1957 that “the white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”
Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, who wrote the influential manifesto Conscience of a Conservative, realized in 1961 that for Republicans to gain national power, they would have to pick off southern segregationists. Or as Goldwater put it, the Republican Party had to “go hunting where the ducks are.”
Then, there was Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” of using coded language to appeal to southern whites and Ronald Reagan’s launching of his 1980 national presidential campaign with a states’ rights speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the notorious site of the murders of three civil rights workers. The two strands of historic conservatism — white supremacy and “small government” ideology — were again wound together.
In New York magazine, Frank Rich summed up this political history while noting how today’s right-wing revisionists have tried to reposition their heroes by saying they opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 simply out of high-minded “small-government principles.” But Rich wrote:
“The primacy of [Strom] Thurmond in the GOP’s racial realignment is the most incriminating truth the right keeps trying to cover up. That’s why the George W. Bush White House shoved the Mississippi senator Trent Lott out of his post as Senate majority leader in 2002 once news spread that Lott had told Thurmond’s 100th-birthday gathering that America ‘wouldn’t have had all these problems’ if the old Dixiecrat had been elected president in 1948.
“Lott, it soon became clear, had also lavished praise on [the Confederacy’s president] Jefferson Davis and associated for decades with other far-right groups in thrall to the old Confederate cause. But the GOP elites didn’t seem to mind until he committed the truly unpardonable sin of reminding America, if only for a moment, of the exact history his party most wanted and needed to suppress. Then he had to be shut down at once.”
This unholy alliance between the racists and the corporatists continues to this day with Republicans understanding that the votes of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities must be suppressed if the twin goals of the two principal elements of the Right are to control the future. That was the significance of this year’s ruling by the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority to gut the Voting Rights Act. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Supreme Court’s War on Democracy.”]
Only if the votes of whites can be proportionately enhanced and the votes of minorities minimized can the Republican Party overcome the country’s demographic changes and retain government power that will both advance the interests of the racists and the free-marketeers.
That’s why Republican-controlled statehouses engaged in aggressive gerrymandering of congressional districts in 2010 and tried to impose “ballot security” measures across the country in 2012. The crudity of those efforts, clumsily justified as needed to prevent the virtually non-existent problem of in-person voter fraud, was almost painful to watch.
As Frank Rich noted, “Everyone knows these laws are in response to the rise of Barack Obama. It is also no coincidence that many of them were conceived and promoted by the American Legal Exchange Council, an activist outfit funded by heavy-hitting right-wing donors like Charles and David Koch.
“In another coincidence that the GOP would like to flush down the memory hole, the Kochs’ father, Fred, a founder of the radical John Birch Society in the fifties, was an advocate for the impeachment of Chief Justice Warren in the aftermath of Brown [v. Board of Education] Fred Koch wrote a screed of his own accusing communists of inspiring the civil-rights movement.”
Blaming the Democratic Party for ending segregation – and coyly invited by opportunistic Republicans like Nixon and Reagan to switch party allegiances – racist whites signed up with the Republican Party in droves. Thus, the Democratic Party, which since the days of Jefferson had been the party of slavery and segregation, lost its southern base, ceding it to the Republican Party, which essentially renounced its historical legacy as the anti-slavery and anti-segregation party.
A Flip of Allegiance
This flip in the allegiance of America’s white supremacists – from Democrat to Republican – also put them in the same political structure as the anti-regulatory business interests which had dominated the Republican Party from the days of the Robber Barons. These two groups again found themselves sharing a common interest, the desire to constrain the federal government’s commitment to providing for “the general Welfare.”
To the corporate Republicans this meant slashing taxes, eliminating regulations and paring back social programs for the poor or – in Ayn Rand vernacular – the moochers. To the racist Republicans this meant giving the states greater leeway to suppress the votes of minorities and gutting programs that were seen as especially benefiting black and brown Americans, such as food stamps and health-care reform.
Thus, in today’s neo-Confederate era, the American Right is coalescing around two parallel ideological motives: continued racial resentment (from the disproportionate number of black and brown people getting welfare to the presence of a black family in the White House) and resistance to government regulations (from efforts to control Wall Street excesses to restrictions on global-warming emissions).
Though the white racist element of this coalition might typically be expected to proudly adopt the Stars and Bars of the Old Confederacy as its symbol, the modern Right is too media-savvy to get boxed into that distasteful imagery of slavery.
So, instead the Right has opted for a rebranding as Revolutionary War-era patriots – calling themselves Tea Partiers, donning tri-corner hats and waving yellow banners with a coiled snake declaring “don’t tread on me.” So, instead of overtly defending the Confederacy, the Right proclaims its commitment to the Founding Principles found in the Constitution.
But this sly transformation required the Right to rewrite the Founding Narrative, to blot out the initial interpretation of the Constitution by the Federalists who, after all, were the ones who primarily crafted the document, and to pretend that Jefferson’s revisionist view – representing the pre-Confederate position of the southern plantation owners – was the original one. [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Right’s Made-Up Constitution.”]
Now this doctored history – hostile to any federal government actions that would “promote the general Welfare” – is leading the United States and the world into an economic crisis.
I’ve always felt as though education should not be something that we pay for if we truly value our future and the future of our children. We know where all of the money is and the elite are just skimming more and more away from the students. It’s time to change this as Les Leopold points out…
Why Have Student Loans At All? Let’s Get the Burdens of Debt off College Students’ Backs — And Make Wall St. Pick Up the Tab
Anyone with a heartbeat knows that Wall Street took down the economy, killed millions of jobs and hasn’t had to pay a penny for the damage it caused. In fact we are paying them for crashing the economy in the form of trillions in bailouts and low interest loans.
Well, maybe it’s time for Wall Street to contribute, rather than siphoning off our wealth. How about a sales tax on all transfers of stocks, bonds, and derivatives in order to fund tuition-free higher education?
Why are high schools free but colleges aren’t?
Access to higher education is vital to our economy and to our democracy. Today a college degree or post-high school professional training are the equivalent to what a high school diploma provided and signified a generation ago. For over 150 years, our nation has recognized that tuition-free primary and secondary schools were absolutely vital to the growth and functioning of our commonwealth.
By the middle of the 19th century, New York City also provided free higher education through what would become the City College of New York. Hunter and Brooklyn colleges also were tuition-free, as was California’s rapidly growing post-WWII state college and university system. The GI Bill of Rights after WWII provided significant resources to over three million returning veterans to go to school tuition-free, which in no small part, helped to build American prosperity for the next generation. (Tuition was even provided if GIs attended private colleges and universities.) A further impetus to free higher education came as America fell behind the USSR during the Sputnik-era space race.
But the spread of free higher education stalled and then retreated precisely as Wall Street began to grab more and more of the nation’s wealth. As financialization transformed the economy starting in the late 1970s, average wages flattened while Wall Street incomes shot through the roof. At the same time taxes on the super-rich collapsed placing more and more of the burden on working people. Lo and behold, free higher education rapidly became “unaffordable.” Wall Street then swooped in with loans as students and their families loaded up on debt in order to gain access to higher education. This is the very definition of financialization.
As Student Loans Rise, the Rich get Richer
As student loan debt climbed ever higher, the super-rich continued to rake in more and more income, especially in comparison to the rest of us.
Many financial elites rose to riches by packaging and selling every kind of toxic asset imaginable. They made fabulous amounts as they pumped up the housing bubble, and then made even more as it imploded. It turns out that wealth was based on hot air, as well as plain old cheating. (See How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour  for a detailed account.) So far, neither Wall Street nor its super-rich patrons have been forced to pay for the damage they caused.
How to Make Wall Street Pay
It’s not easy to tax the super-rich when they have their hooks so deeply into both political parties. However, the student debt crisis opens the door to force a provocative public debate:
Are we resigned to be vassals to Wall Street elites or can we redirect resources to invest in our young people?
Are we going to saddle our kids with decades of debt or are we going to make the Wall Street gamblers pay the damage they caused?
The financial transaction tax (aka Robin Hood Tax or Speculation Tax) hits hard at Wall Street gambling. A small sales tax on all financial transactions will come almost entirely from those who are gaming the system by rapidly moving money in and out of markets. Eleven European nations are about to institute such a tax and have found excellent ways to enforce it. (If you or affiliates don’t pay by using shell companies and other tricks, you don’t do business in our country.) England has had one on stocks for the past 300 years and it works just fine. Clearly, a sales tax would successfully collect from the superrich.
Of course, you’ll hear Wall Street apologist moan and grown about how such a tax will kill jobs, steal from your pension funds, and rob your kids’ piggy-banks. All lies.
Unless you play with your 401k like a high frequency trader—which means you’ll be fleeced by them anyway—you won’t feel this tax. Neither will your pension funds, which are not supposed to churn your investments anyway.
As for jobs, when was that last time Wall Street produced real jobs on Main Street? They would just as soon finance a job smashing merger or the movement of jobs out of the country. The only jobs that would be hurt are a few at high frequency hedge funds that milk markets by making millions of automated trades per second. For the sake of financial stability and fairness, they should be put out of business anyway.
No, when it comes to hitting Wall Street elites, a financial transaction tax is just about perfect.
Let’s encourage Elizabeth Warren to take the next step
Senator Elizabeth Warren opened the door to this debate as she attempted to stop student loan interest rates doubling to 6.8 percent in July. On July 1, they doubled . She wants the Federal Reserve to loan money to students at the same rate it charges too-big-to-fail banks, which is next to nothing at 0.75 percent.
Of course, most politicians and pundits think she’s off her rocker. How dare she try to interfere with “market forces”? But as Ellen Brown of the Public Banking Institute shows in her excellent rejoinder (“Elizabeth Warren’s QE for Students: Populist Demagoguery or Economic Breakthrough? “), it makes economic as well as ethical sense to invest in our young people. In fact, it makes a whole lot more sense than propping up too-big-to fail banks that have grown even fatter since the crash.
But why have any student loans at all?
Why accept the perverse idea that students should saddle themselves with decades of loan repayments in order to gain access to higher education? Even with interest rates at 0%, we’re still asking students and their families to load themselves up with tons of debts in order to get access to the advanced skills and knowledge our economy and our democracy desperately need.
Isn’t it in the national interest to invest in our young people, rather than loading them up with debt?
Can we really beat the Street?
Maybe. It starts with having the nerve to ask for what we really want, rather than compromising before we start. Do we think Wall should pay reparations for what it has done to the economy? Do we think it fair to use that money to fund free higher education in order to rid our young people of crushing debt? If the answers are yes, we can start organizing.
The next step is to convince those working on the Robin Hood Tax to tie it to free higher education. That would allow financial transaction tax advocates to reach out to an enormous constituency—students and their families.
And yes, we also we need some organizational magic, not unlike what sparked Occupy Wall Street. Perhaps, websites like AlterNet.org can link up with like-minded media outlets and progressive groups to form a vast coalition of the pissed-off! Millions might be ready for that.
The anger toward Wall Street is there. The outrage over ever-rising student debt is there. Now is the time to connect the two and provide some extra organizational juice.
No one has a magic bullet and no one can guarantee success. But unless we try, we will guarantee that Wall Street and its Washington minions will continue to rip us off.
Surely we have enough creative energy to build another path.
Education is something that is very sacred to me. I also believe that if you ask nearly anyone that you know if they value education, the answer would be “yes”. So what’s the problem? We all value education….right? The problem is that we have completely and totally underfunded education from pre-school to post-secondary. It truly speaks volumes about what our policy makers value…and that is money.
We make it nearly impossible for students graduating from high school to get any kind of post-secondary education. Instead, we channel our taxpayer dollars into big banks and to the American War Machine (you know, so we can fight that war on terror??). Ellen Brown’s blog, War of Debt, discusses the issue of post-secondary funding and Elizabeth Warren’s bill to reduce student loan debt loads. An excerpt from the article…
Students are considered risky investments because they don’t own valuable assets against which the debt can be collected. But this argument overlooks the fact that these young trainees are assets themselves. They represent an investment in “human capital” that can pay for itself many times over, if properly supported and developed. This was demonstrated in the 1940s with the G.I. Bill, which provided free technical training and educational support for nearly 16 million returning servicemen, along with government-subsidized loans and unemployment benefits. The outlay not only paid for itself but returned a substantial profit to the government and significant stimulus to the economy. It made higher education accessible to all and created a nation of homeowners, new technology, new products, and new companies, with the Veterans Administration guaranteeing an estimated 53,000 business loans. Economists have determined that for every 1944 dollar invested, the country received approximately $7 in return, through increased economic productivity, consumer spending, and tax revenues.
Similarly in the 1930s and 1940s, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation funded the New Deal and World War II and wound up turning a profit, without drawing on taxpayer funds. It’s an initial capitalization was only $500 million; yet the RFC eventually lent out $50 billion – the equivalent of about $500 billion today. It raised money by issuing debentures, a form of bond. It got all of this money back, made a profit for the government, and left a legacy of roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more that the country did not have before.
In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights, in which higher education would be provided by the government for free; and in the progressive 1960s, tuition actually was free or nearly free at state universities. Some countries provide nearly-free higher education today. In Norway, Denmark, France and Sweden, the cost of college is less than 3% of median income, as compared to 51% in the U.S.
Education is clearly an investment that pays off over time. So why do we have to continue to watch the rich get richer? This should be a topic that people are vigorously protesting. Sadly, it falls under the umbrella of apathy that is covering the entire nation. Education funding (or lack thereof) is one of the biggest factors contributing to the inequality in America today. My hope is that Elizabeth Warren sheds enough light on this subject to wake up the American people. Education may be the last hope that we have in resisting the corporate takeover over the world.