The Federal Reserve is caught between a rock and a hard place. Inflation grew by 6.8% in November, the fastest in 40 years, a trend the Fed has now acknowledged is not “transitory.” The conventional theory is that inflation is due to too much money chasing too few goods, so the Fed is under heavy pressure to “tighten” or shrink the money supply. Its conventional tools for this purpose are to reduce asset purchases and raise interest rates. But corporate debt has risen by $1.3 trillion just since early 2020; so if the Fed raises rates, a massive wave of defaults is likely to result. According to financial advisor Graham Summers in an article titled “The Fed Is About to Start Playing with Matches Next to a $30 Trillion Debt Bomb,” the stock market could collapse by as much as 50%.Continue reading
Cancel Student Debt Now
Student loans: many of us have them, all of us hate them. Over the past several decades, the student loan bubble has only continued to increase, now totaling around $1.7 trillion according to Federal Reserve estimates. There have been growing calls for the Biden administration to extend the moratorium on student loan repayments that has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. Nevertheless, repayments are set to restart on February 1, 2022, at a time when over 3.3 million people in the U.S. have fallen into poverty during the pandemic; Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the US; and the Omicron variant threatens to bring a wave of new cases peaking as early as January, according to CDC estimates.Continue reading
Most American Homeowners Are ‘House Poor’
In a recent survey, 40% of homeowners with mortgages said they work second, full-time jobs to afford housing expenses. A majority of the 1,002 people surveyed by Consumer Affairs feel like they can’t afford their housing expenses, and did not anticipate the extra costs of upkeep when they bought their homes.
The report comes amid record surges in US home prices, also finding that more than a third of respondents are incurring extra credit card debt to pay their bills. Despite these challenges, homeowners ultimately prefer owning a home to renting one.
The survey found that although 40% of people rely on second, full-time jobs to ease the costs of homeownership, nearly 100% of “house poor” homeowners have taken on side gigs to offset home costs.Continue reading
Puerto Ricans Resist Austerity Measures And Corporate Corruption
A worsening economic crisis, compounded by brutal neoliberal policies, have ushered in a new wave of resistance in Puerto Rico. Nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line. More and more Puerto Ricans are leaving la patria, the homeland, in hopes of a better life in the United States. The archipelago has faced an onslaught of natural disasters, including the catastrophic Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a series of earthquakes throughout 2020.
On paper, Puerto Rico is a “commonwealth” of the United States, a term that implies a kind of shared prosperity between the two places. In practice, Puerto Rico is a nation struggling to breathe under centuries of colonialism. It’s economy is dictated by an unelected Fiscal Control Board composed of hedge fund managers and vulture capitalists, known as la junta, which saw its power enshrined into law with PROMESA in 2016.Continue reading
Abolish The Debt Ceiling Before It Commits Austerity Again
The U.S. Treasury draws on banking accounts at the Federal Reserve to fund federal governmental activities—remitting paychecks to federal government employees, sending Social Security checks, reimbursing doctors for treating Medicare-covered patients, paying defense contractors and interest to bondholders, and so on. These accounts are fed on an ongoing basis by both tax revenues and the proceeds from selling bonds (debt). But, because the United States has a statutorily imposed limit of how much outstanding debt is allowed, once this limit is reached on issuing new debt, Treasury can no longer sell bonds and deposit these proceeds, and hence accounts at the Federal Reserve will dwindle as they are now only fed by ongoing taxes, which are insufficient to cover all spending.Continue reading
Education Shouldn’t Be A Debt Sentence
When you look at a student like myself, you don’t know that I am working multiple jobs, that I have gone without health insurance at some points, that I’ve been living at home with my parents for more than a year. You also do not know about my family’s medical debt, or about my father’s periods of unemployment, or that my mother’s job as a preschool aide isn’t enough to cover the gaps.
Even though I have mowed my former mailman’s lawn for eight summers to help afford school, even though I secured two “free” years of campus housing through my job as a resident assistant and received numerous scholarships, awards and assistance, I still graduated from a state school with $17,000 in debt. I carry this debt from my bachelor’s degree as I go into my second year of graduate school.Continue reading
Debtors’ Unions: Indebtedness As A Source Of Collective Power
That’s the idea. In 2019, more than three quarters of U.S. households were holding some type of debt. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1 in 4 adults are now struggling to pay household bills. But debt in U.S. culture is typically treated as an individual liability or a personal failure. The idea of a debtors’ union turns that experience on its head — reframing indebtedness as a shared problem and a source of collective power.
Think of a saying attributed to 20th-century industrialist J. Paul Getty: “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” Toppling the financial architecture of late capitalism is indeed a tall order. The most prominent organization of its kind, the Debt Collective, organizes on several fronts.Continue reading
Financialization Created Chicago Public Schools’ Fiscal Crisis
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is in a deep and enduring fiscal crisis. After decades of budget cuts, Chicago’s public K–12 schools have been hollowed out, magnifying the hardships of stagnant wages, rising housing prices, and more faced by the city’s working class. Pundits have predictably blamed CPS’s fiscal crisis on either the greedy teachers’ union (Republicans’ and a few austerity-minded Democrats’ scapegoat) or on conservative suburban and rural “downstate” politicians in Illinois hostile to urban children’s plight (most Democrats’ scapegoat).
But Chicago is a one-party city, controlled by the Democrats, in a solidly blue state, where Democrats usually control the state government.Continue reading
Debt As Colonialism
Debt, according to standard economic assumptions, emerges from a purely private exchange. Independent rational agents willingly enter into a contract in a free market. That market, in turn, sets a fair price for the debt. Freedom and fairness: these are the assumptions that underpin the common narrative about debt and indebtedness.
This essay sets out to explode these assumptions. Contrary to the common narrative, the massive dollar-denominated debts in the Global South did not arise from private exchange in a regulatory vacuum. Rather, they are the product of an international financial system carefully designed to facilitate neo-colonial extraction.
Debt is a vicious cycle that is neither free nor fair.Continue reading
We Can Win Student Loan Debt Cancellation
On March 18, the Biden administration’s Department of Education announced that it will cancel $1 billion in federal student loan debt held by 72,000 borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit universities. These students received subprime educations and worthless degrees, and then were burdened with debt often in the tens of thousands of dollars—all while predatory companies and their investors made millions.
The only reason this debt is now being cancelled is because debtors got organized. In 2015, students from for-profit, now defunct Corinthian Colleges Inc. launched the country’s first student debt strike, refusing to pay their loans because they had been scammed by their school.Continue reading
This Is Why It Is Imperative That President Biden, Not Congress, Cancels Student Debt
The current student debt burden is over $2 trillion and it is crushing the economy. Defaults on student loans are high and for most borrowers, especially those who are people of color, their loan balances are rising instead of falling. Clearing the FOG speaks with Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice about the impacts of the student loan burden and how to resolve this crisis. He makes a critical point about why it is President Biden, as he promised on the campaign trail, and not Congress, who cancels student debt and why that would be a powerful way to stimulate the economy.Continue reading
Thomas Sankara: A United Front Against Debt
At the 1987 summit of the Organization of African Unity, Thomas Sankara warned that he would not live to attend another meeting if Burkina Faso were alone in resisting its debt obligations. A few months later, he was murdered in a coup backed by France for calling out the neocolonialist and imperial character of the debt imposed on African countries and calling for African unity and freedom.
Mister President, Heads of Delegations,
At this moment I would like for us to speak about another pressing issue: the issue of debt, the question of the economic situation in Africa. It is an important condition of our survival, as much as peace. And this is why I have deemed it necessary to put several supplementary points on the table for us to discuss.Continue reading
Report: Young People In The United States Are Overrun With Student Debt
Young Americans are overrun with student debt. This crisis is the culmination of waning government funding for higher education, wage stagnation, wealth inequality, and a misleading emphasis on obtaining high credentials—all leading to the financial gap between college prices and later earnings. In 2020, aggregate balances reached $1.66 trillion in 2019 dollars, 122% higher in real dollars than in 2010. Not surprisingly, the number of borrowers, the amount they owe, and the number of loans each borrower acquires, have all increased over the time period. In 2019, 18-35 year-olds with student loan debt owed nearly $35,000 on average compared to just over $28,000 (USD 2019) in 2009. Back in 2009 there were only 32 million federal borrowers; in 2019, that number swelled to 43 million.Continue reading
People In Debt Have Formed A Union To Fight Back
In November, Pennsylvania permitted the resumption of utility shutoffs during the pandemic. In advance, the local Debt Collective, which helps people dispute their debts and fight back against predatory fees, protested. The group helped organize a gathering of between 20 and 30 protesters in Philadelphia to demand the moratorium continue. “We are tired of this,” Pennsylvania Debt Collective organizer Lauren Horner told CBS. “We are tired of the greed displayed by these organizations.” Horner was referring to the Philadelphia Gas Works, the PECO Energy Company, and to what some in the Debt Collective regard as the negligence of the Public Utility Commission.Continue reading
Polarization, Then A Crash: Michael Hudson On The Rentier Economy
I’m delighted to have Michael Hudson join us today. He’ll be discussing how under a neoliberal shift from industrial to finance capitalism, today’s most pressing economic conflict is not simply between labor and employers. It’s a conflict in which rentier interests have the upper hand over labor, industry and government together. This is the political economy in which the COVID-19 economic shock is playing out with dire consequences. Michael Hudson is a research professor of economics at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. Michael Hudson’s latest book is “And Forgive Them Their Debts.”Continue reading