Daily Updates and Insights

UPDATE: 01/11/2012 - We are all still screwed. Other priorities created by the powerful elite have distracted our great nation from dealing with student loan debt in a responsible manner. Be sure to vote in 2012 - put progressives back in charge of the Congress and then scream like hell at them to get done what you want!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Busy Surviving, Not Thriving

Like so many people burdened with intractable student loan debt I spend so much of my time surviving the debt that I can't find any time to ponder the idea of thriving. The lackluster performance in the economy reflects the pessimism of its people - we are losing hope for good reason.

I grew up in a lower middle class household where both my parents worked long days - I was an original latch key kid with my brothers. They wanted us all to go to college because that degree was the ticket to a better life. I first graduated from college with a degree in Economics in 1991 - first in my family with a college degree.

I never did land a job with that degree though or any of the other degrees I earned since. I thought taking on higher and higher education (and higher debt) was the way through it all. It wasn't. Go figure.

Today, I am the proud owner of a master's degree, a prize for being a.b.d. with a PhD., and haven't worked with that since earning it either. If you don't have a specific degree for a specific job in a low unemployment field these days - good luck finding a job to repay that investment. (The PhD. was necessary to working in my chosen field - but for financial and personal reasons I couldn't continue.)

Today I work as a union tradesman. I earn a livable wage but not something that's going to get my student loans paid back before I die. No, instead I will watch my premiums jump as I get older and watch everything I earn go to repay loans that never provided me a single benefit. The only good news - if I kick it before they are paid off - they are forgiven. Hooray for me right?! Somehow I am not jumping for joy.

I would like more out of life but how does one pick things back up when they are working a job at 43 that they are well-overqualified for and earn a wage that doesn't give them the possibility of escaping their debt before death? Ever hear of learned helplessness? Look it up on Wikipedia and you'll have a little more insight into why student loan debt is killing its debtors and causing such a malaise in the economy.

There's a simple explanation for all of this really. Our country has taken a very wrong turn in its approach to higher education and a better life. All the checks and balances are out of whack in the higher education system and that is the only reason things get to nearly $1 trillion dollars from where they should be. Yep - student loan debt is now higher than credit card debt - and it's growing at nearly $3000 a second. Wow - that factoid picked up my spirits - how about yours?

The answer to all this - we need to put common sense back into education and kick the uncommon greed of the last thirty years to the curb.

It's time we bring common sense back to our economic policies and stop using the cowboy diplomacy/mentality as the solution to all our problems.

Debt of all kinds has killed our economy and our economic supremacy but it will be our efforts as a nation and as a bright, energized thinking populace that brings that supremacy back.

We need to stop letting the talking heads at the top tell us that this can't be done. It can be done! Of course, it will take some sacrifice by all of us – by some with no blame for this problem, but in the short term we will ALL bear the benefits of these changes in the form of a reinvigorated economy.

So what should we do? Well... Some say forgive the debt. I like it .. let's do it. But that is a hard sell to the masses and even harder still to those in power who have a vested interest in keeping student loan interest flowing.

I have another idea - and if we get the masses on our side on this with a common sense approach - maybe we can push back against the powerful few.

Here is my plan. Higher education should be held accountable for what it sells "as a means to a better future" and lending institutions should bear the risk of making those loans by bringing back all rights to bankruptcy on this debt, public and private. (Details for later.)

But we shouldn't stop there.

To prevent a meltdown and a flood of bankruptcy's on student loan debt we should offer people with any student loan debt interest-free repayment terms and rebates on the principal if they pay it back sooner. In this way we save this type of debt from crashing down and we can get things going in the right direction with student loan debt, and maybe, just maybe - spur the economy on a little bit more.

I know its big and ambiguous, BUT, it's an honest correction to a terrible series of missteps created by unscrupulous lobbyists and the well-intentioned.

More on this later... but for now I wan't to leave this idea to stew in its juices.
So what do you think?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Is this thing on?

I write and I write but nobody seems to be getting the message. The sky is falling and everyone just thinks this can go on indefinitely.

So here's one way of looking at the future - with outstanding student loan debt hurtling toward $1 trillion and no end in sight for this outrageous unemployment - the system will collapse under its own weight.

The logic - as it always is - finite resources and finite human capacity. The only question is - when will Americans finally get tired of this wasteful debt burden and decide it's not worth carrying anymore?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

New News!

Dear Diary,

In a search for new news to lighten the oppressive mental and emotional burden of my immense student loan debt I came across two stories - one about a girl in debt up to her eyeballs (not so new in terms of fresh but a new story nonetheless) and another about a rally - which looks exciting.

So here they are. The first is featured on Kiplinger.com though I actually encountered it first on Yahoo News. So here is the link to the article which is titled Digging Out of Student Debt.

Now, I must say this article is once again missing the point and therefore useless. As I have often seen the advice is to "pick a plan" with the feds to minimize payments and/or seek forgiveness by meeting some very specific federal criteria. Neither is helpful because this young lady has $92,000 in student loan debt, ($25000) public and ($68000) private. She works at a job in an orthopedic surgeon's office making $18 and is broke at the end of the week so therefore turns to credit cards to cover the difference.

So here is my reality check for news writers my Dear Diary - how in the hell does a lower payment now (which the feds have quite a high minimum) going to help her with all this?

Furthermore, the article advises talking to your private lenders to work something out. Again, reality check - these student loan firms don't give a rat's ass if you aren't making it, they will hound you into default and back again for every red cent, no matter what.

So thanks to some serious naiveté, this putz at Kiplinger.com misses the point that this young lady was scammed, bamboozled, lied to, and turned upside down and inside out when she was told "a college degree is the key to your future."

Yeah it was a key alright - a key into a prison cell made of student loan notes, courtesy of a massive fraud born out of the deception and deceit that Uncle Same and Private Joe Banker conspired to create. Was that over the top Dear Diary?

Anywho, this next piece of information is inspiring. My friends at ForgiveStudentLoanDebt.com are organizing a rally in Washington D.C. on October 30, 2010!

This is great news because I am starting to see real activism take the place of rhetoric. Let's hope we can all be there.

The only problem is how will people tell the difference between the demonstrators in need of help and the kids out to get some Halloween treats? Hmmmmmm.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deception, Fraud, Cheating, Theft - Just What Do You Call It?

According to Education Report, student loan debt currently stands at an estimated $829.6 billion, surpassing what Americans now owe on credit card debt.

What a milestone! That's fantastic right!? Er, not?

Yep - experts said consumers needed to spend more money to stimulate the economy so many students tried to help out obviously. The problem is they may not have done so with all the facts in hand.

How many of these new indentured slaves were explicitly told the degrees they were buying wouldn't land them a job - let alone one that would allow them to repay the average debt load of graduating seniors (of four year undergrad programs) tagged at somewhere around $24,000 by finaid.org.

How many of these same students were told that the loans would be with them to the grave or even beyond? How many were sold the idea that a college education is worth a million dollars more than what non-grads would earn in a lifetime?

Still incredible - how many of these students will think - as I mistakenly did - that a graduate degree must be the answer and incur more debt and find themselves in an even worse position several years from now?

Yes - it's a down economy and all that but we keep selling the scam don't we? , This is the illusion, the deception, the fraud - that says - a college degree or perhaps a second or third or even a graduate degree is the way to the promised land.

Sadly, the student loan scam continues today. As we cheat the next generation of college students out of their futures - how do our leaders live with themselves as they sit idly by as some of our brightest are tricked into unnecessary debt for the dream of a better life?

Call it what you will - but the deception in the education and student loan industries continues. This is the greatest scam I have seen to date - far larger than Bernie Madoff's little trick.

Soon the outstanding debt for student loans will tick over the one trillion dollar mark, that's $1,000,000,000,000. - that's more than 18 times Bill Gates total net worth!

Congratulations America! You have done it again and made it to number one once more. You have found a way to lock more of your student population into more than debt than any other nation on the planet!

I know what I call it - the greatest scam on earth! Maybe you are one those lucky people who think it's a wonderful milestone that every parent hopes for when they send their child off to college. Er, not?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Coming Together

To anyone affected by the fraud and deception perpetrated on the American college students and their families - we must all band together and use our common voice to change the way Washington is dealing with this matter. I voted for President Obama and am so far disappointed in his work to get something significant done about student loans. And knowing that change must come while the iron is hot, I, for one, am not interested in his rhetoric anymore. It's time we force the hand of Congress and the President. We can vote against them or withhold our votes.

Before that however I suggest that we develop a common voice and stop settling for scraps at the table. We the people deserve a more perfect union where all of our rights - both economic and political are protected.

As a first I suggest that we stop arguing the minutiae and go after what we all need - RELIEF. We need ALL consumer protections returned to ALL student loans immediately. Let us leave no one behind. Let us not be divided by sham offers. In this way we can permanently change the way all future students will be treated as well.

Please - do not let your suffering silence you. Stand with me and many others to change this offense to us all. I have many links on this site to get you started so please educate yourself if you have not already done so.

At a minimum we WANT and NEED:

1. All consumer protections returned to student loans - including bankruptcy.
2. Immediate relief from our debt - particularly student loan debt forgiveness to stimulate the economy. The reason to do this is also to penalize the profiteers that have raped the American student and thus stifled the economy.
3. Sweeping reforms of Higher Education requiring all colleges and universities to guarantee each student a reasonable job to payoff accruing debt. This must also include counseling on degrees that do not yield immediate and decent paying jobs.
4. Free public college education for all who merit it - to a four year college within their home state - paid for by taxpayers as an investment in the country's greatest natural resource - its own citizens.

I can not emphasize enough that the powerful interests in the student loan and banking industries will do everything in their power to stop these changes from happening. It is the reason why we have seen nothing truly helpful to students burdened with massive debt.

It is time that the ideology of "all for 1% and the 1% for none" be put away in this country. If you don't know what I mean be this then here it is laid out for you: 1% of the people in this country now control more wealth than 95% of us at the bottom. That is absurd and wrong on every moral and logical level. And it is precisely why our leaders in Washington forget about us when so much money is shuffled in their directions.

So please get on board with this site and many others to change the way things are done in this country. Email me and post here and let me know that you are reading this blog. Spread the news of this blog to others and post about it on other sites so that the prominence of this site and the issues I am representing grow.

Please help any way that you can.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Erasing the Great American Destiny

It is hard for me to explain anymore how our rights in this country have been eroded by big business and an overly capitalistic economy without sounding like a conspiracy nut. However, I will spout off anyway and take that risk given what is at stake.

The fact of the matter is that the unregulated capitalism of the last 25 years (in the United States) has created a cult of money so powerful that most Americans are drunk on the notion of making it big - despite the odds against them. This desirous intent of many American corporations and individuals to get all they can has led to a quietly, complex collusion of sorts.

At first, I am not sure that this fledgling cult had any intent. Rather, it was just an orgy like free for all that resulted in a mad grab for cash at anyone's expense. But over time, it seems, as the initial excitement waned and yielded a new 'normal' level of greed it became clear that even more money could be made if cooler heads prevailed.

If you have to ask who these or those people are simply check out the who's who in banking and insurance industries these days. They aren't the only ones by any means, but this class of financial whiz kids have managed some incredible feats in recent years.

Under their watch, homebuyers were sold homes they couldn't afford, millions of students were trapped with escapable student loan debt, and credit card debt (along with other types) was made more difficult to discharge via personal bankruptcy. The end result has been to tie up good Americans in so much debt and financial chaos that they had little time to stop the selling off of America by exercising wise voting choices. Mind you - who among us really stood up to stop the banking bailout?

Already stretched over thin financial ice most Americans have been duped by an insidious plan that is slowly turning us all in to tradable commodities rather than recognizing each of us as human beings who deserve dignity and basic economic rights.

Anyone reading this should already be aware of the statistics to prove what I am saying is true. If you have any questions on this then challenge me and let us debate them out in the open. I am being serious when I say that I welcome the challenge. Bring it if you think you can.

Suffice to say, our country has become a sham. It's once glorious future is now in question as other countries emerge as economic powerhouses and we sit in disbelief that we are anything but the greatest nation on earth.

We can no longer sit idle my voting friends. If we want our country and collective futures back we will have to rip it all back from the hands of the banks and insurance companies - who would prefer us to get sick for a very long and profitable time and then die when appointed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Second Bill of Rights

The student loan crisis now facing the people of the United States of America  is only a symptom of a much larger problem. Our democracy has been hijacked by our CHOICE of economic system.

Capitalism has been allowed to run amuck to such a degree that 1% of its people now control more wealth than the bottom 95%. That just shouldn't be so in a country that has prided itself on fairness and justice and yet it is so.

The truth is this problem has been growing for many, many years. It didn't happen overnight. There are many causes. We can point to many instances in the last 70 years or so and say it started here or there but let’s leave that discussion for another time. 

Because time is of the essence it is necessary to become solution centered and fast. America needs to put the bickering aside along with all the lobbyists and sell-out politicians and reclaim its destiny as a light to the world.

Ironically, the solution to our current dilemma has already been proposed. Over 60 years ago then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed a Second Bill of Rights during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944.

He foresaw the coming problems in American society if the economic rights of all Americans were not protected. President Roosevelt's economic bill of rights would have guaranteed every American respectable employment - with a living wage, freedom from unfair competition and monopolies (foreign or domestic), adequate housing, access to medical care, education, and Social Security. All the things we struggle with today.

Sadly, President Roosevelt passed away just over a year later and these rights were never seriously entertained by Congress. The loss of these rights has devastated the lives of millions of Americans and I believe they are worth fighting for today. Our survival as a country may yet depend on it.

Now, I know there are many people reading this who just can’t wait to scream at the top of their lungs that such ideas are socialist or even communist. They will proclaim that even entertaining the notion of taking care of our citizens in this way would be un-American. And those people would be unequivocally WRONG.

Despite the fact that it took our forefathers hundreds of years to realize that all our people deserved the same rights this great country was founded with the promise of opportunity for all. All President Roosevelt sought to do was further define those rights and to protect them. The premise for his new bill of rights was to make sure that the government of the people was there to serve the people – not the other way around. Any person of sound mind must agree that such an intention is as American as apple pie.

Now that I have addressed the unabashed flag waivers concerns about socialism and communism lets deal with how we pay for such measures.

First and foremost we must choose an economic system that rewards hard work and honesty but which also does not cause us to lose sight of human dignity.

Capitalism only partly rewards hard work – so long as it is the kind that is driven by opportunism. Capitalism only rewards honesty when it can be made into a tradable commodity. Capitalism is driven be the profit motive and when unregulated will trample the dignity of anyone in its path so long as there as there is a profit to be gained.

This is the system that has served America for so long – and so well.  So long as corporate profits soared and people had jobs it didn’t matter what the cost of this economic behavior was to the guy down the street or around the world. Our collective guilt is that so many of us saw benefits of this economic system in the past that we have all been willing to turn away from any crimes committed against our fellow man be it for oil, diamonds, raw materials, food, water etc.

There must be a better way – a better economic system that serves the cause of democracy and human compassion.  There must be economic systems that are no less patriotic and yet more focused on human dignity.

As a patriot to our great country and a believer in the great goodness inherent in the American people I now know that purist capitalism as we now have it is no longer in the best interest of our people or the world for that matter. Capitalism is killing us and the planet because it is based on an endless consumption of all that is within our reach. I just hope we all come to realize this before it is too late.

To give credit where it is justly due please see Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story for more on this topic. Mr. Moore is credited by Wikipedia with discovering the lost video footage of President Roosevelt's speech about the aforementioned Second Bill of Rights. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Bill_of_Rights)

So America - what do you have to say for yourself now?

Friday, August 20, 2010

All Signs Lead to Economic Meltdown

Well my friends I took an unscheduled break from this blog and am returning with some new perspective.

The U.S. economy remains stagnant despite soaring profits for some sectors. Why is this so?

Well for one job growth has not happened. In fact, new unemployment claims grew for three of the last four weeks. It seems that the profits we are seeing are the result of job cutting and increased worker productivity and not reinvestment in adding employees and increased sales.

This is highly relevant to any discussion of education and student loans at this time - since new student graduates with new loans coming due will find it harder than ever to find appropriate jobs to repay that debt.

So as mentioned many times here before - forgiving student loan debt and completely overhauling the finance system for higher education is necessary to stimulate the economy.

And with China now knocking on our door for the number one spot for the world's largest economy - stimulating the economy may soon become a national security issue. See here for more on that.

It's good to be back. I hope you are still reading this and many other blogs on the issue.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Young or Old, Public or Private - All Student Loan Debt Enslaves!

In the last several weeks I have become more and more aware of some undertones developing in the discussion about student loan reform. I find these tones disturbing because they threaten the cohesive nature of our message to Washington.

One tone is about private versus public student loans. Some people are insisting one form is worse than another. Well folks - $120,000 in student loan debt sucks any way you slice it. If you are making $10 an hour at some dead end job -  it doesn't matter how many more fees, fines or interest they tack on. If you can't make the payments now you certainly won't be able to make them two years from now - public or private - unless something substantial changes in your financial life. I have $120,000 in public loans and all my payments last year went to interest and the overall debt still grew!

So please if your loans are private don't start commenting how much worse you have it than the other guy because that is exactly what Sallie Mae and the other bucket heads in the banking industry want to happen. They seek to divide and conquer our collective voices. If they succeed the pressure on government to reform the student loan finance industry will go away. So before you post or comment - please think about the larger movement and what needs to happen to fix the larger problem.

Furthermore, it doesn't matter if you are an older student with loans or a younger one. We were all sold on the idea that college equates to more financial earning power and a better way of life. While it may seem pathetically naive to believe at 30,40 or 50 (versus the 18 yr old just out of high school) that a college degree equals money in the bank remember this fact: the age old story that college graduates earn upwards of one million dollars more in a lifetime has turned out to be an opinion based on little fact at all. Recent estimates make the actual difference more like $250,000 and that's only if your loans don't exceed the average.

In addition, with government and private industry both selling the propaganda that an investment in education is a way up and out for all - it is little wonder that just about everybody is willing to hoc their future for a college degree. Propaganda is powerful and all minds are susceptible. Age doesn't matter nor does intelligence sometimes.

So regardless if you have been snookered at 18 or 60 and find yourself now burdened with private of public loans that are destroying any life that you thought you might have keep in mind that we are all being treated like second class citizens.

Remember the truth when despair sets in - student loans are the ONLY type of loan that can NOT be discharged in bankruptcy. Student loans are the only type of loans that allow the lender to hit you with absurd fees and fines if you can't pay - which only makes the situation worse. Student loan lenders are the only type of lender incentivized by the federal government to get you into default and keep you there.

Finally - remember this - YOU are NOT ALONE! Fight back - learn and education yourself at every turn and start to develop your own voice. Until we all learn to stand up and say no more - we will all continue to suffer in our shamed silence.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Recipe for Disaster

At this point in my search for solutions to the crisis in the student loan financial system I find that I can no longer avoid talking about the type of economy we have in the democracy we live in.

I will keep this simple so here goes - why do we think it's in the best interest of our democracy to let capitalism run through every aspect of our economy like a runaway train?

All the Enronesque scandals should prove that capitalism is not something that belongs in every aspect of our economy. It has ruined health care and it is quickly crippling the student loan financial system. The time has come - I hope we can all see this - to end the use of capitalism as the answer to all our economic needs.

We need to protect the future of our society from the greed and avarice that has so tainted the late 20th and early 21st century. Higher education should NOT be a system of winners and losers -  a dichotomy that capitalism inherently creates. Rather - it should be a system where we efficiently and cost effectively educate our bright minds to keep us competitive in the global marketplace and human society as a whole. With such an emphasis on information and technology for the future - we are getting the higher education system so wrong that we may soon find ourselves out of the race to stay relevant - let alone competitive. Creating massive debt for our students before they are given the chance to create a better life for us all does not make sense in a sustainable economy.

I fear that we have become so blinded by the 'strong shall survive' dogma of purist capitalism that we are no longer able to see the precipice that we are headed for. We have taken some of our brightest minds and wrapped them up in so much debt to the point that their intelligence has been neutralized - leaving our greatest national treasure laid to waste.

Wake up America - student loan borrowers everywhere are living in a disaster area called their lives. And the student loan system is on the brink of collapse because of a job market that may require, according to the federal government, 2 to 5 years to improve. In the midst of all this - our leaders in Congress and the White House are silent on the issues.

Does anyone else have a different recipe for disaster?

Budget Plannerfrom Mint.com