Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Children or Yours?

As you know, if my blood pressure has been under control for awhile, I get inexplicable and self-destructive cravings for C-Span.  A week or so ago, I had the misfortune of tuning in to hearings about student loan debt.  I don't tend to hobnob with those who can readily pay for their children's college educations.  I do know that many of us do what we can and hope that the loans our students are so readily offered will get them through college and into jobs where they can be paid off.  These days we mostly fear that they will be paying off those loans for a very long time.  And the loans are so big that their young years will be spent having to budget incessantly and hope that their jobs are secure, and that no unexpected financial hardships arise.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders have been tireless in fighting to change this system whereby the wealthy see their kids through college and the rest of us are forced to see our kids saddled with college loan debt.  Of course, it would be foolhardy to try to push through legislation wherein college costs would be funded by the government.  All the current proposed legislation would have done would be to allow students to refinance loans to a lower interest rate, as do corporations and people with mortgages.

I tuned in just in time to hear Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin begin his "questioning" of a recent college graduate, Brittany Jones, in which he was trying to get her to admit that if she "could go back in time would (she) incur this much debt?  Would (she) try to figure out a different solution?"

He was obviously frustrated when she reiterated that in order to achieve her goal of teaching it was necessary to get student loans, so then proceeded to tell her about the College of the Ozarks, "they go by the moniker of 'Hard Work U.'  All the students work and nobody incurs debt."  It sounds a little like the wonderful land of Oz, and it is, full of happy munchkins who sing happy songs to keep the wicked witch of the real world at bay.  After Ms. Jones once again said that in her case without a loan she would have been unable to pursue her career goal, he shifted gears.

Turning to Rohit Chopra of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Johnson began to sing the sad song about "shifting debt from a select few to all our kids and grandkids."  And when Chopra explained the rationale behind refinancing, Johnson sang the chorus once again.  And asked him how he felt about a 2007 act which forgives student loan debt after ten years (and doesn't that burden our children and grandchildren, sing it again...).  And Chopra explained that there was no data as to how that would work, BECAUSE NO ONE HAD EVER BEEN ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT.

And on and on about "piling on our kids and grandkids," and taking loans "on the backs of American taxpayers and our kids and grandkids."

You get the gist.

But the reality is that Senator Johnson and his fellow plutocrats don't mind if debt is incurred by the government while the wealthy stash their millions in offshore tax-free accounts.  And they sure don't mind if the government incurs debt through subsidies to big corporations.  What he has a problem with is giving a student an opportunity to get a higher education when that student can't pay up front.

Conservatives are only conservative if they are the ones who have the money and are able to hoard it.  To that end, they are constipated by their own dogma, and unable to see real world connections between being able to go to college to join a profession and being able to then contribute to the maintenance of our society.  Those blinders just can't see where all our children who are burdened by poor education and low wages will not just go away, but will have the vitality sapped out of their own lives as well as the country.  The poor, the unemployed and underemployed who could have gone to college, could have gotten jobs with living wages, are unable to raise children in healthy and rich cultural environments, unable to then invest back into the country.

College?  People like Ron Johnson don't want to spend money to repair a bridge, much less send the country's children to good schools.

And so it is all about believing in and investing in this country, the one that all those flag-wearing right wingnuts brag on in their meaningless mantra.  Those of us who can, invest in ourselves, our homes, our families, our communities, and when we were able to do that our country was able to grow and thrive.  When the haves began to insist that they deserved to keep it all, opportunity began to shrivel, communities became drained, and we all suffered.

Except perhaps people like Senator Johnson, who I presume has enough and wants to keep it, plans on passing it on to his kids and grandkids and plans on having them keep it as well.

But he doesn't look that happy.  I think he worries a lot about a world in which my kids have the same opportunity as his kids.  And I think that, my friends, is what this is all about.

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