Saturday, August 22, 2015
Low wages and debt go together to make the 1 percent very, very rich. To begin with, the rich pay the wage slaves very little, which then promotes the toilers to use debt to survive. Case in point, with no extra cash for repairs and a broken washing machine, for example, the cost to repair the machine is a one-time large cost that seems greater than buying a new machine for a low monthly payment. This way, the 1 percent makes more money in two ways and makes the toilers actual wage slaves. This enslavement starts very early with school debt so that young workers start out in debt with an average of $31,000 to $100,000 and higher depending on the field of study, which, without a very good paying job, leaves them as wage slaves for many years. We are nearing the end of economic/industrial growth, primarily, but not only for ecological reasons. When growth stalls, lending opportunities disappear. Since money is essentially lent for existence, debt levels increase faster than the supply of money required to service them. The result, as Thomas Piketty describes so clearly, is rising indebtedness and concentration of wealth—low stagnate wages has pushed the U.S. household debt to $11.85 trillion. Some blame crazy spending, but they’re wrong. It is a plan to keep wages low and debt high. Most households have debts in the way of car loans, credit cards, student loans, and mortgages. In the U.S., 35 percent of adults have nonmortgage debt averaging $5,178 more than 180 days past due. So what is probably going to happen if there is no help and the indebtedness keeps racking up is that people will revolt and not pay. There is a movement to not pay the debts because the majority of the debts accumulated come from interest charged by predatory lenders. So the movement is to just not pay their debt like the federal government was going to do not so long ago. There is strength in numbers and it will take numbers to bring about change. We have had debt relieve before. The first debt relief occurred in 2402 BC when King Enmetena of Lagash, Iraq, enacted the law of Amargi, which is the first recorded word in any human language for “debt freedom.” Following in the footsteps of King Enmetena, other countries took on indebtedness. In 1819, President James Monroe passed a debt relief law; in the 1898 U.S. bankruptcy laws came into being; in 1934 President Roosevelt issued laws to provide relief; in 1945 France handled it with an inflated currency; in 1953 London debt, Europe, U.S. canceled half of all Germany’s pre- and post-war debts. For a fresh start, Croatia offered debt forgiveness to 75,000 to its poorest people for $52.17 million, banks, telecommunications and utilities all went along. Something needs to be done to curtail this abuse. Raising the minimum wage, free education, universal healthcare and right to belong to a union will help. If these things are not done, people will just quit paying on their debts, and we will still need to deal with climate change and Black Lives Matter—the people are coming together. All of these things are part of a context of unjust economic, political or social conditions that compels the debtor to go into deeper debt when that injustice is pervasive and isn’t all or most debt illegitimate? In many countries with declining real wages and reduced public services virtually compel citizens to go into debt just to maintain their existence. Is debt legitimate when it is systemically foisted on the vast majority of people and nations, like Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, and here in cities in the U.S.? If it isn’t, then resistance to illegitimate debt has profound political consequences.