Posts Tagged ‘Student debt’


It’s hard to believe, but there are a few good things coming out of the Coronavirus, economic, and systemic racism crises. The personal and societal tragedies far outweigh these bright spots, but they’re worth mentioning nonetheless. It’s always good to remind oneself that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.

Here are some of the silver linings. Let’s take the darkest, foulest of “silver linings” — a “silver lining” akin to that you’d get by dropping a scratched-up, stamped-metal spoon into a septic tank, hauling it out two years later, holding it up to the sun, and regarding its glowing, rusty edge alight with filigreed fecal matter: that glowing, tangerine-colored fecal matter being Donald Trump. Here are the relatively good things about him:

  • Donald Trump is a moron, too stupid to understand his own best interests. Yes, Trump’s incompetence, his complete failure to lead during a deadly pandemic, has already cost well over 100,000 lives, and will likely lead to at least twice that. But when he came into office, Trump had a chance to completely destroy what passes for American democracy — that chance supplied by both the outright racist, authoritarian Republican Party and the screw-the-poor, authoritarian, corporate-servant Democrats, such as the Clintons, Obama, Holder, Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi, who all pursued Republican economic and social policies that resulted in an ever-expanding wealth gap, grossly inadequate and unequal healthcare and education, mass incarceration, and the police as uniformed, above-the-law terrorists.

If the Republicans had placed in power a capable fascist, who handled the Coronavirus pandemic competently, it’d likely be game over: he’d be immensely popular — and he’d have ushered in outright totalitarianism, which Trump obviously yearns for. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Republicans installed Donald Trump, an outright idiot, too stupid to understand even the most basic of his own best interests. (We’re talking about a man so stupid he managed to bankrupt several casinos — otherwise known as licenses to print money — who began receiving a $200,000-a-year allowance at age three, who received over $400 million from his dad, and who was so incompetent he’d be much better off today if he’d just put his money into an index fund.) Trump’s self-sabotaging stupidity has given us vitally necessary breathing room.

  • Trump is a bullying sadist who brags about sexually assaulting women and his anti-LGBT Bigotry. Trump’s boasting about his sexual assaults, with over 20 credible accusers, including three who’ve accused him of rape; his utterly creepy comments about how “hot” his daughter is and how he’d like to date her; his condescending and dismissive attitude toward women; and his assaults on women’s reproductive rights have left him massively unpopular with women, and hence headed for defeat. (I’m a guy, and reading about Trump’s assaults on women leaves me wanting to take a shower; I’m sure the reaction is even more visceral for most women.)

Trump has also been pandering to his theo-fascist evangelical base by attacking gay human rights. This is already backfiring, furthering isolating the Republicans from the American mainstream.

  • Trump is an outright racist. Race-baiting has always been Trump’s stock in trade. Starting with the Obama birth certificate bullshit, and followed up by separating families seeking asylum (literally tearing babies out of their mothers’ arms), locking immigrant kids up in cages, and attempting to deport kids who were brought here without documentation and have spent their entire lives here, Trump has made it very plain that one of the most important Republican playing cards, perhaps the most important, is outright racism. Since the supposedly decent Republicans have seen fit to in no wise oppose Trump’s vicious actions, they’ve made it plain that racism is the Republican calling card — as it’s been since passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the consequent Republican Southern Strategy, replete with race baiting and voter suppression. Now, that Republican racism is out in the open (no more need for dog whistles), the Republicans have to own it, and they’re on a demographic suicide course. Trump has accelerated this day of reckoning.
  • Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. For this, we should thank Trump. Clinton was the ultimate, entitled, neo-liberal Washington insider. During the 2016 primary campaign, she rained down fire on Bernie Sanders’ mild, common-sense reforms within capitalism (reforms which he inexplicably labeled a “revolution” — bad branding if there ever was bad branding). Clinton was the ultimate status quo candidate. Had she won, the underlying, festering problems — a grossly unequal distribution of wealth and income, an ever-expanding surveillance state, grossly inadequate healthcare, stagnating wages, staggering student debt, an accelerating climate-change crisis — would have gone unaddressed (especially wealth and income distribution), or barely addressed, the Republicans could have run against her without having any real solutions to anything (as has become obvious), they could well have kept control of both the Senate and the House, and in 2020 they could have run an intelligent fascist who could have completely destroyed our sad farce of a democracy en route to an environmental apocalypse. Clinton, her husband, Biden, Obama, et al., paved the way for a Republican fascist. Thank god the Republicans chose one who’s uniquely loathsome and utterly incompetent.

Trump, with his bargain-basement Mussolini act, has alerted a great many people to the looming threat of fascism, and has provoked a huge progressive backlash. Where it will lead, no one knows, but the backlash against Trump, racism, economic disparity, and Trump’s callous, deliberately cruel policies provides at least some hope. One of those hopes is that the Republican Party will become a rump party influential in only the most religiously, socially, and culturally vicious and benighted parts of the country.

There’s one more related, relatively bright spot:

  • Joe Biden is an unprincipled opportunist who’s been in thrall to corporate interests his entire career. He’s made a career of catering to corporate interests (e.g., the bankruptcy bill that made it almost impossible to discharge student debt), advocating mass incarceration (his 1994 crime bill), and supporting Obama’s persecution of patriotic whistle blowers such as Ed Snowden. The good news here is that Biden is an unprincipled opportunist — but a smart one, at least smarter than Trump. He knows which way the wind is blowing, and he’ll probably bend accordingly. He might try to institute at least a few of the desperately needed reforms because he’ll think it’s to his political advantage to do so. I certainly hope so.

We’ll shortly deal with the silver linings of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic collapse. (And, yes, there are some silver linings there, too.)

 

 


by Chaz Bufe, editor See Sharp Press

(I wrote this about three years ago, so some of the statistics, especially the employment statistics, are no longer accurate.)

Let’s get one thing straight right now: I’m not questioning the good intentions of those who join the U.S. military. The vast majority almost certainly do so for very understandable reasons.

At the same time, respect for the individuals who comprise the military is not the same as worship of the military, which is almost a state religion in the United States. It’s nearly all pervasive, from Fox “News” to liberal pundits¬† (Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert, Michael Moore) to every craven baseball announcer (in other words, almost all of them). The reasons for this military butt kissing are obvious: 1) to create and maintain conformism with its us-versus-them mentality; 2) to confuse military worship with patriotism; and 3)¬† to make discussion of the size and role of the military taboo, “unpatriotic.”

But what of those who serve in that military? Why do they do so? And are they heroes simply because they do so?

The primary reason that most young people enlist is almost certainly that they’re economic draftees. Real unemployment (counting the “underemployed” and “discouraged workers”) is approximately twice the official rate of 7.0%. On top of that, the black unemployment rate is more than twice the rate of whites, with hispanics falling in between: 6.2% white; 12.5% black; 8.7% hispanic; with teenage unemployment at 20.8% (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). And the employment situation is in reality even worse than that: the percentage of adults aged 18 to 65 either working or actively seeking work is at a historic low, only 63%.

Then realize that wages in this country are so low that it’s nearly impossible even for those who have jobs to get ahead. Real hourly wages hit their high point in the U.S. in 1973, and have fallen about 15% since then; productivity per hour worked has doubled over the same period. And during the current “recovery,” a large majority of new jobs are low-wage jobs.

So, it’s virtually impossible for young people to work their way through college (if they can find jobs), and their families simply can’t afford to send them. The cost of college tuition rose roughly 300%, three times faster than the cost of living, over the last 35 years–far higher even than the increase in the cost of health care. As a result the percentage of college graduates in the 25 to 34 age group in the U.S. fell to sixteenth in the world in 2012, with the U.S. seeming to fall further behind with every passing year. And those who do graduate from college in the U.S. are often burdened with crushing debt well up into the tens of thousands of dollars–debt which, thanks to the U.S. Congress, they cannot discharge through bankruptcy.

So, is it any wonder that many “volunteers” in the U.S. military enlist simply because they have no good economic or academic alternatives?

The second reason Americans enlist in the military is that a great many believe that they’re “protecting America” or “protecting freedom.” But is this at all realistic?

The first and most obvious question here is “protecting” against what?

The U.S. has been the world’s sole superpower for the last quarter-century, and has a military presence in over 100 countries and on all continents except Antarctica. Since the War of 1812, U.S. territory has been invaded exactly once: two remote Aleutian islands invaded in 1942 by the Japanese–twice if you count Pancho Villa’s border raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916. In the same period, to name only instances that immediately come to mind, the U.S. has invaded Mexico (seizing half of its territory), Cuba, the Philippines, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That’s some “defense” there, Bubba.

Who does this benefit? Certainly not the American people. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next ten countries combined; the U.S. military budget was $682 billion in 2013 ($711 billion now), and that doesn’t count the “black budget” nor veterans benefits nor interest on loans taken out to finance previous military spending. This means that the U.S. government spends over $10,000 on the military annually for every American family of four.

So, again, who does this massive military spending benefit? Certainly not American soldiers. They’re the ones in harm’s way (4500 dead in Iraq, over 2000 so far in Afghanistan–with tens of thousands physically wounded, and quite probably far more bearing psychological wounds: approximately 5,000 current or former members of the U.S. military commit suicide every year). And their wages are often so low that their families end up on food stamps.

The ones who benefit from massive military spending and military intervention are the transnational (not U.S.) corporations that have no loyalty to anyone or anything other than their bottom lines. The U.S. military essentially operates as security, as muscle, for these corporations as they siphon profits from the rest of the world.

The words of former U.S. Marine Corps Commandant, Major General Smedley Butler are still pertinent after eight decades:

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the country’s most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all ranks from second lieutenant to major general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….

War is a racket, possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious… Out of war a few people make huge fortunes, nations acquire additional territory (which is promptly exploited by the few for their own benefit), and the general public shoulders the bill–a bill that renders a horrible accounting of newly placed gravestones, mangled bodies, shattered minds, broken hearts and homes, economic instability, and back-breaking taxation of the many for generations and generations.

How would you describe those whose lives and physical and mental health are sacrificed in such service? Or simply all those who put on the uniform? Heroes? All of them?

Those who indiscriminately use this term cheapen it; they use it as a propaganda term to stifle dissent. If all members of the military are heroes, their acts are also heroic. And who wants (or dares) to protest against those who order “heroic” acts?

Reserve the term “heroes” for those who deserve it–those who commit out-of-the-ordinary, genuinely heroic acts. The term simply doesn’t fit all those who are cynically used and discarded by the government and the corporations it serves.