The Slave Ship 1840 William Turner
Every generation for the last 30 years has endorsed neoliberal policies, leaving today’s young people not only without a voice, but also saddled with a set of economic, political and social conditions that have rendered them devalued, marginalized and ultimately disposable. Henry Giroux
Philosopher and political thinker, Sheldon Wollin died this month. His claim that the U.S. government operates, not as a democracy but in what he called “inverted totalitarianism” – “every natural resource and every living being is seen as a commodity and exploited to collapse as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism” and nowhere is this better exemplified than in our student debt crisis.
The average American student debt upon graduation is $29,400 and this while America’s federal government projects a record $50-billion profit on student loans in 2014! This makes the student loan business the most profitable business in America. (ExxonMobil made $44.9 billion in 2012)
The usury attached to a college education in America supports massive hierarchy, concentration of power and wealth, and greater inequality. The fact that a higher education is financially out of the reach for the majority, ensures that only an elite will continue to control and lead the future of our country.
While profits soar for the government, the young people have little time for political engagement or creative experimentation. The debt burden forces graduates to make career decisions based on the bottom line. They don’t have time to become involved in not-for-profit jobs or peace-promoting activities. This level of debt load creates a disconnect from the social needs of the community. In a market-driven society the only obligation is to be a good consumer. The liberal arts and the investigation of subjects that explore the imagination and how power is created is not supported.
What type of future are we creating? Why is it Germany and other EU countries have completely eliminated college tuition?
In 2013 legislators in Oregon unanimously passed a bill that instructs the state’s Higher Education Coordination Commission to develop a “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” plan to finance public higher education. Under the plan, students pay nothing while in school, then pay a fixed percentage of their income (3 percent after a 4-year degree) to fund higher education going forward. This is at the very least a step in the right direction.
Rest in Peace, Sheldon Wolin.
Some relevant links:
The Ripple Effects of Rising Student Debt
A Crisis of Affordability
NY Times Obit: Sheldon Wolin