9 July 2012The war in our children is beginning to take more casualties. This is SO ugly.
Today’s young people are being drafted into an economic war that they don’t understand.My own generation faced the Vietnam War. We were at risk of getting drafted, and then maimed or killed in an unwinnable battle against imagined evils.
Today's young people are being drafted into an economic war that they don't understand. It's a slowly waged, diabolical war that substitutes debt and underemployment for missing limbs and psychological disorders. The soldiers are college-age men and women who can't find jobs or pay tuition, and who are seduced into submission by the promise of eventual rewards. The Vietnamese jungle has turned into Wall Street.
For those of us who weren't particularly good activists in the 60s, age has widened our perspective, and the lack of opportunities for our children has given us a second chance to protest, to help make it clear how the leaders of my generation have abandoned the people they no longer need.
Young America, here's why you should be angry:
1. The Great WEALTH Transfer
-- 18- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It's now less than $4,000.
-- The Richest 1%: They tripled their share of income between 1980 and 2006, then took 93% of all the new income in the first year after the 2008 recession. Their median net worth is now over $5,000,000.
2. The Lack of JOBS: No one's hiring, so you have to "create your own job."
This from Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner: "The good news is that information technology provides the iPod/Facebook generation with the means to find work and create careers that build on their own personal talents and interests...creating your own career will produce a stronger sense of satisfaction and fulfillment."
Sounds easy, doesn't it? Just grab your iPhone, open up Facebook, and create your own job. Become an entrepreneur, just like the richest Americans. Except that the richest Americans aren't entrepreneurs. Based on U.S. tax return data, only 3% of the wealthiest 130,000 Americans are entrepreneurs. Most are in management or finance.
As your parents and mentors, we told you to stay in school and work hard and everything would be fine. But you don't have jobs. Over half of college graduates were jobless or underemployed in 2011. More than 350,000 Americans with advanced degrees were receiving food stamps or some other form of public assistance.
If you do have a job, it's probably not paying much. Salaries for new graduates dropped 10% just in the last year. Worse yet, most of you are dealing with college loan debt, which averages $24,000, and with the reality of zero net worth for over a third of you.
As wages are hitting an all-time low, corporate profits are hitting an all-time high. But the corporations that have built their profits on American innovation and labor are telling you they don't need you anymore. Apple -- much admired for its slick products -- shows little respect for anyone below upper management. With 47,000 employees, about 1/10 the number employed by IBM, Apple makes a profit of $420,000 per employee. Yet most Apple store workers make about $12 per hour.
And your representatives in Washington are no help. In October, 2011 Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. Nearly two-thirds of the American public had supported the bill.
3. The Portrayal of EDUCATION as a "lifetime investment"
Yes, it's a lifetime investment, for the holder of your student loans.
As corporate profits and CEO salaries and incomes of the 1% have surged over the past ten years, education financing declined by 24 percent, and tuition at state schools increased 72 percent. Since 1985, while consumer prices have approximately doubled, tuition has risen almost 600%.
Total state education cuts for fiscal 2012 were $12.7 billion. A study by Citizens for Tax Justice noted that 265 of our nation's largest companies avoided about the same amount in state taxes each year from 2008 to 2010.
So your massive tuition bills are paid for with mounting student debt, which has more than tripled in the past ten years. Here again my own generation has deceived you. Our once-idealistic anti-war activists now excel at flashy marketing and sloganeering, with admissions pitches of "affordability" and "lifetime investment," and carefully avoided references to costs and debts and contracts.
To make up for lost revenue, cutbacks continue and educational opportunities disappear. State colleges are eliminating expensive-to-run engineering and computer science departments. Arizona doubled college tuition in four years. California K-12 schools have one counselor for every 800 students. Ohio's Governor Kasich suggested rationing college majors among state schools. Illinois cut 2012 educational funding by a greater percentage than any other state; not to be outdone, Pennsylvania's Governor Corbett tried to cut higher education funding by half, and New Hampshire DID cut university funding by half. Florida's college tuition is up 15% in a year, Nevada's is up 13%, Tennessee's about 10%, Washington's 24% over two years. more
C. Cryn Johannsen 07/02/2012
Advocate for the Indentured Educated Servant
The Ones We've Lost: The Student Loan Debt SuicidesThis story was produced by the independent Economic Hardship Reporting Project, co-edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Rivlin.
One evening in 2007, Jan Yoder of Normal, Illinois noticed that her son Jason seemed more despondent than usual. Yoder had been a graduate student in organic chemistry at Illinois State University but after incurring $100,000 in student loan debt, he struggled to find a job in his field. Later that night, Jason, 35, left the family's mobile home. Concerned about her son's mood, Jan Yoder decided in the early morning hours to go look for him on campus, where a professor she ran into joined her in the search. The two of them discovered his body in one of the labs on campus and called campus police at 8:30AM. 32 minutes later, Jason was declared dead due to nitrogen asphyxiation.
When the story was posted on several different sites in 2007 and 2008, the Internet chatter was not always kind to the dead man. While many expressed great sympathy for Yoder and ranted against the student lending system, others were quick to invoke the "personal responsibility" argument -- "it was his fault;" "why did he take out that amount of loans?;" "Mr. Yoder took out those loans . . . he had an obligation to pay them back." -- and denigrate him.
His mother, of course, saw it differently. While she was preparing for Jason's funeral, student debt collectors were still phoning her about the money her son owed. As reporter David Newbart wrote in a 2007 article for Chicago Sun Times, she was gruff when confronted by these calls. "You are part of the reason he took his own life," she told them and then hung up the phone.
Suicide is the dark side of the student lending crisis and, despite all the media attention to the issue of student loans, it's been severely under-reported. I can't ignore it though, because I'm an advocate for people who are struggling to pay their student loans, and I've been receiving suicidal comments for over two years and occasionally hearing reports of actual suicides. More people are being forced into untenable financial circumstances as outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion. And people simply aren't able to pay all the money they owe. In the past few years, the rate of defaults for federal loans has increased at an alarming rate. According to the Department of Education, those recent graduates who began repayments in 2009, 8.8 percent had already defaulted on their federal loans. That compares to 7 percent in 2008. Currently, 36 million Americans have outstanding federal loans. I can't help but wonder how many of those millions are feeling distressed or suicidal, or how many have attempted suicide because of all that debt hanging over their heads.
I first started appreciating the depth of the problem of suicidal debtors a few years ago, with a post on my blog, All Education Matters, entitled, "Suicide Among Student Debtors: Who's Thought About It?" I was stunned by the responses. In comment after comment, people confessed to feeling suicidal. One person wrote, "I was very actively looking into suicide until I got on anti-depressants. Now I have to take happy pills every day to keep the suicidal urges at a minimum level. You are correct to ask the question. Many of the folks who are incredibly deep in law school debt will end up killing themselves. I think, in the next 1-3 years, we are going to see absolutely massive numbers of law school graduate suicides." Said another: "Yes, I thought about suicide a lot over the past few years. I take anti-depressants and I had been smoking cigarettes for months but I did end up quitting. The big issue with that is I want to be an opera singer so [smoking] was my way of giving up. I'm trying to do what I can to get through this... and praying for an answer." more