Where’s My Student Loan Bailout?: The #OccupyWallStreet Edition

I must admit that I am not much of a marcher. I soured on the whole marching around with signs thing back in 2002 when it seemed like the entire universe protested the war in Iraq to no avail.

I wondered, what good is standing in a park and beating a tambourine if it doesn’t have an impact? It was so pre-internet, so 1960’s, so hopelessly old school. Cheney’s heart beats on. The end. Move along.

So I was a bit reluctant to completely buy into Occupy Wall Street when it started. Mostly, I was afraid that the political left would get smeared by the media who would portray us as either a) a bunch of latté-swilling liberals with Apple computers or b) a group of aimless drifters who refuse to make specific demands, appoint leaders, or take a shower (well, I was down there today, and the shower part is actually true).

In fact, all of these caricatures did emerge in media accounts of OWS. But the protesters endured anyway. They have stayed in Zucotti Park long enough to make most critiques seem silly and petulant. (Malcolm Gladwell basically harrumphed, “You youngsters realize that Facebook friends are not your real friends, right?” And everyone who doesn’t write for the New Yorker for a living just ignored him and kept on marching.)

So I went down to Wall Street today to, you know, occupy the place. And I must admit that a sliver of joy and hope penetrated my cold, cynical, postacademic heart.

The first thing to know about OWS if you haven’t been there is that it’s big, really big. This thing is loud and absolutely bursting at the seams with energy. It made me believe that marching around with a sign (along with thousands of other people) might actually be something. Go, sign-wielding people!

And there is a post-academic angle here.

I noticed today that a lot of folks were protesting student loan debt. One young man held a sign that said, “Fifty thousand in student debt and no job.” Another’s sign declared: “Two jobs and still can’t make my monthly student loan payment.”

Why aren’t more people talking about this aspect of the economic crisis?

A lot of people are aware that housing foreclosures have plunged millions into poverty. But we don’t hear as much about the scourge of student debt. The banks financed those loans too. How nice of them to help us all invest in our futures, right? They are such nice old white dudes.

I have student loans to repay. I almost don’t know anybody who doesn’t. It’s a trap that ensnared so many who believed the lie that education was a path to the middle class.

We were bamboozled, hornswoggled, hoodwinked.

Another sign at OWS today demanded that the government “Cancel All Student Loan Debt NOW.” Why not? When the banks got into trouble in 2008, their politician-helpers stepped in and rescued them. Don’t the millions of students, graduate and undergraduate, currently being crushed by massive debts they took out to educate themselves for non-existent jobs deserve the same?

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5 Responses to Where’s My Student Loan Bailout?: The #OccupyWallStreet Edition

  1. thedustbiter says:

    Thanks for writing this! I wish I weren’t in the last month of dissertation writing while this was going on. But if things continue past that, I won’t have anything to do. Perhaps I’ll relocate to my local occupation.

    And yes yes yes to your points about student loans. To me, actually, OWS feels extremely connected to the occupations and protests at the UCs that I was part of a few years ago. Administration would raise fees and follow that instantly with what was supposed to be good news – that they were increasing access to financial aid. There were so many fascinating conversations at the time about how the high fee, high aid model impacts the kind of education students get (3 year degree programs with a priority on professionalization) and the kind of jobs students can consider afterward. It has such far reaching and troubling consequences, so I’m glad to see a new space in which these conversations can emerge, and be connected to others beyond the university.

  2. Anthea says:

    Yes, yes, about your points regarding student loans. I do wonder whether we don’t hear a great deal about the extent of student loans because in the past people have always known about students having debts. But the difference now is that in the past it was always thought that this debt could be paid off by getting a job that paid one enough so that one could live AND pay it off. I think that the difference is now that the jobs that we’d be trained to do in the academic world don’t exist anymore…and/or there’s too many highly people applying for a small number of jobs.

  3. ohcornelius says:

    The system continues to be propped up with massive giveaways (quantitative easing), when it is clear that the only way all that (in effect printed) money can resolve the problem is if it were put directly into the public’s hands, and one of the easiest ways to do this would be a world debt jubilee, not just for developing nations, but for everyone in debt. The banks and ultra-rich bankers will be the losers. As they deserve. The rest of the world will finally be able to get on with real life.

  4. post academic says:

    Absofuckenlutely. I just returned from a working group session on student loan debt as indentured servitude as part of Occupy Wall Street. It was amazing! BLEW MY MIND! Things are happening. Stay tuned.

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