October 21, 2011

Student Loans and the 53%

You've probably seen this already - it's been all over the internet - but recently, a gentleman on Daily Kos wrote a pretty fantastic (if a bit condescending) response to someone who had posted on Tumblr about being part of the 53%.

Here's the guy:

He says:
I am a former Marine.
I work two jobs.
I don’t have health insurance.
I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college.
I haven’t had 4 consecutive days off in over 4 years.
But I don’t blame Wall Street.
Suck it up you whiners.
I am the 53%.
God bless the USA!

And Max Udago responds:

Do you really want the bar set this high? Do you really want to live in a society where just getting by requires a person to hold down two jobs and work 60 to 70 hours a week? Is that your idea of the American Dream?


Look, you’re a tough kid. And you have a right to be proud of that. But not everybody is as tough as you, or as strong, or as young. Does pride in what you’ve accomplish mean that you have contempt for anybody who can’t keep up with you? Does it mean that the single mother who can’t work on her feet longer than 50 hours a week doesn’t deserve a good life? Does it mean the older man who struggles with modern technology and can’t seem to keep up with the pace set by younger workers should just go throw himself off a cliff?

To which I agree. That really doesn't sound American Dream-y to me. But it seems to suit Paul Ryan, who said recently:

[Pell Grants should be done away with] 'cause Pell Grants have become unsustainable. It’s all borrowed money…Look, I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, and we need to have a system of viable student loans to be able to do this.

Why do we want a world where students have to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet? Frankly, that doesn't sound good for the country - people who have to work that hard are likely to have more health care problems, and generally not be as productive or creative or happy, and that can't be good for business. Not to mention it's just really kind of a crappy position - "As a representative of your government, I think you should have to work like crazy to get out from under a mountain of debt despite the fact that there is only 1 job for every 4 unemployed people. If you can't afford to do that, then what business do you have dreaming of college?"

I saw another 53%-er post that seemed to argue that people who can't afford college should all just go to trade school, get a job below their ambitions and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But the idea that it would be good for the country or for individuals to do less than their potential because it's frugal seems ridiculous to me. (Also, even if everyone did just go to trade school... nope, still not enough jobs.) This whole rhetoric of "when in doubt, work harder," seems infuriatingly counter-productive to me; as a student with lots of ideas for awesome things to do to help people, I don't want to be told that I need a mountain of debt and a bunch of shitty jobs to do it. My classmates and I have all sorts of amazing aspirations and ideas to help get us out of this mess, and we can't do it if we have to work 3 jobs to get out of debt first!

1 comment:

Brinn said...

I'll try to keep this brief as I'm heading dangerously close to politics rage mode, but I completely agree with you. I'm not saying life should be easy, but how is it okay that some people struggle to get by with three jobs and some people make millions by showing up and standing around? This country needs to reevaluate its priorities.

And re: your tumblr post: I am highly annoyed with people who say they've never accepted gov't assistance. Did you go to the library? Drive on a road? Visit a state part? Did you not get murdered last week because the police caught that serial killer? Taxes people.

I swear, the vast majority of people in this country (and also the world) need a strong slap in the face to return to their senses. How do people not see what's logical?