Thinking about salaries, student loans, etc., led me to do a little online research. A very vanilla blog at credit.com taught me that my loans are not dischargeable should I declare bankruptcy – not since 1976 when students were seen as ungrateful, anti-authoritarians that couldn’t be let off the hook of their choices. Whatever, man. But it wasn’t the article that was so interesting, it was the following comment by Fed Up With Arne Duncan:
“I have a master's degree in IT, and currently make 45k a year. The job market is terrible and Sallie Mae wants about 1600 a month for the rest of my working career. Is it ethical to offshore middle class jobs by the millions and then expect teenagers and young adults to either not make enough to survive, or face a very small chance of getting a good paying job and gamble 6 figures worth of debt for the chance? I consider suicide every day because of student debt. I came from an area with no jobs in 20 miles and no other options to get a degree, I worked my way through school for 7 years and even after all the time and hard work I put in there is probably an 80% chance I will end up dead because of Sallie Mae forcibly taking enough of my income that I won't be able to afford shelter or food.”
Holy shit this person sounds depressed! And I can’t really blame him – I’m in an eerily similar boat. I suppose the only difference between FUWAD (as I shall refer to the commenter by acronym) and me is that I’m probably a few years older, and therefore a few years more indifferent. The situation FUWAD described made me want to understand better the real picture of American wealth-health-happiness. Here are some facts I found:
In 2015, over 46 million people were on food stamps for over 35 months and 93 million people were not in labor force.
And for historical comparison: “The number of people in households that receive food stamps has grown from 17.2 million in 2000 to 25.7 million in 2005, and is projected to increase to almost 27 million in 2006.”
To compare per year:
2014 (year) 46,670,373 (number of recipients) $133.85 (avg per month)
2011 44,709,000 $133.85
2000 17,194,000 $76.62
1990 20,049,000 $58.78
1980 21,082,000 $34.47
1969 2,878,000 $6.63
What all the above charts and statistics have demonstrated is that FUWAD’s fear of his economic situation is not without reason. More and more people are on food stamps, unemployment is trending down (debatably), though it’s cyclical (and global) nature impresses a sense of instability. We all feel it, too. Per Wolfstreet.com:
“Instead, after February, wage growth in the private sector has slowed. Average hours worked per week has been flat since Summer 2011 at 33.7. The slump has been in growth of hourly earnings. The economy’s ‘animal spirits’ are fading.”
Yes, that Animal Spirit, that Can-Do American attitude towards hard work and self-betterment has gone flaccid. FUWAD’s economic animal spirit is representative of a larger Pet Cemetery. But are we all in this together? Can we at least find strength in a brotherhood of fellow Americans across all backgounds? Nope. While you, me, and FUWAD struggle for our Daily Bread, our bosses and their bosses are slathering the caviar on their morning bagels:
“On the other hand, weekly earnings for supervisors and managers in the private sector have been rising at 3.5% – 4% for the past year!”
Also, “Corporate profits, CEOs’ income, and asset prices have been the only booms.” (wolfstreet.com)
You see, FUWAD is depressed because the Middle Class is shrinking, the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer (see recent Pew Center studies). Student loans are like Jacob Marley’s chains and can never be removed. And those who have the power and the money will do whatever it takes to keep it that way – they like what the status quo is doing for them and pay little mind to poor FUWAD.
CEOs make upwards of 300% what their daily workers make, and their pay has increased 937% since 1978. Isn’t it interesting that middle class real wages have declined while CEOs wages keep multiplying? Trade deals, stock ownership, privatization of public service, and deliberately causing unemployment are just some of the methods used by CEOs to bolster their wages. It is they who have created such a stratified society that leads FUWAD to suicidal thoughts. And the government is perfectly complicit.
This isn’t your grandfather’s America, ladies and gentleman. The American Dream has become the American Nightmare. It is a nightmare because the situation appears to be snowballing in favor of the upper class at the expense of everyone else. When I was growing up, they all told me that education is the most important thing and that if I invested in that, all would be well. I’m ok – I’m not on food stamps and I am solidly middle class. But for how long, if this trend continues? Education has become a scam, not a promise or an honor. It’s a mess out there. But hang in there, FUWAD – we need you to help us with the Revolution.