January 1st, 2019
“MY STYLE of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.”
-Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal (1987)
This New Year, let’s resolve to make America revolutionary. The events of 2018 have shown that if we want to end the American nightmare, we must take matters into our own hands. The next few years are a window of opportunity, beyond which all is yet uncertain. What we do in 2019 really counts- our actions as individuals have implications far beyond what we can possibly see now.
Ordinary people have the power to solve the great problems of our time. When we get together to organize for liberation and justice, we can accomplish more than politicians and elected officials ever accomplish on their own, because their power only comes from us. We must continue building the movement for all people and the planet, and we cannot let our imagination be limited by the bad ideas of the past. Out with the old, in with the new!
We must come to terms with the nature of the emergency we are in. We all knows what’s wrong- it’s everything. This is not a purely ideological conflict between left or right, blue or red, black or white- we are in a race against the clock to stop a handful of billionaires and corporations from destroying everyone and everything we love. The system itself is the problem, and Donald Trump is just one emergent symptom of the conditions that brought us to this point. American Capitalism is failing, and must be replaced, because we will not survive the 21st century using the laws and rules of the 18th century.
In these circumstances, a revolutionary transformation of society is not only possible, but necessary. We simply don’t have time to rely on reforming the system. We must not only alter our present circumstances, but also begin to execute a radically different vision for the future. We will certainly face enormous obstacles, some familiar, some unprecedented. By all means, we must begin organizing to run for office and to get out the vote in 2020, but if there was a time for more radical action, it certainly seems to be now.
Reflecting on the last two years of the Trump presidency, all the #Winning and #MAGA seem to have come to a sudden halt in the past month. Trump cowering and paranoid in the White House, with Federal investigations looming. A Government shutdown for Christmas, and every indication that the Trump Recession is coming soon, right in time for the New Year. Maybe Trump will be able to restart his career one more time, with another season of The Apprentice shot from behind bars!
All kidding aside, we need to fire Trump, before 2020, before any real transformation of society can take place. We cannot risk him being on the ballot, or even on the debate stages- his rhetoric is simply too dangerous. If we can get him out of office before the end of 2019, all the better, but impeachment and removal from office are too good for the self-proclaimed “King of Debt”. We can’t depend on Congress, or the media to get Trump out of office- it must be us. He should be forced to suffer a humiliating resignation, and be held fully accountable for his administration’s crimes. Maybe we should make a deal with The Donald the way he makes deals with everyone else!
Demanding Trump’s resignation is certainly aiming high. How do we push him? How can we shame a shameless man? Every day he binges Fox News just to see his own awful face. What can possibly reach such a cruel, broken individual? It becomes a question of strategy, and one strategy out of many that we ought to consider is a national boycott of public student debt.
Why Boycott Student Debt?
Throughout American history, boycotts and strikes have always been the most effective means of changing America, voting for representatives and policies almost always comes after ordinary people make extraordinary sacrifices to fight for what they believe in. When workers, students and activists come together, we can change the discourse, especially when we anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advised.
44 million Americans owe $1.5 trillion dollars in student debt, an absurd amount of money that will likely never be paid back. Our debts are burdens to us as individuals, but if we can organize ourselves to collectively default, our burden becomes leverage.
Everyone knows that most of this debt will never be paid- the interest rates are too high and our incomes are too low. Analysis by The Brookings Institute suggests that 40% of student loan borrowers may default by 2023. As the Trump Recession heats up, the student debt bubble may finally explode, and Americans are going to begin defaulting on their loans at higher rates.
Why does this matter? There is a common misconception that because public student loan debt is guaranteed by the Federal Government, boycotting it would have no impact. However, it is not widely reported, but corporations like Navient who service student debt for the Department of Education and major financial firms on Wall Street are playing a dangerous game with our public student loan payments.
Navient, for instance, issues SLABS (Student Loan Asset Backed Securities) made up from their $294 billion portfolio of federal student loans. They have sold these assets to Wall Street investors, and so long as we keep making our monthly payments, these companies will continue to turn a profit, despite the fact that these loans will mostly never be fully paid off. They were counting on Trump and Betsy DeVos to keep the market for student debt commodities profitable, but Navient’s stock price has fallen almost 50% in the last two months. This house of cards can’t stand forever.
Before the Great Recession, the same banks were placing the same kinds of bets on mortgage debt, and it caused the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression in 1929. Millions of Americans lost their homes, their jobs, and their livelihoods, and fast forward ten years, they’re doing the same thing with our student debts. The Trump Recession is all but inevitable now, so the point of a student debt boycott is to crash the system faster. Millennials are constantly being accused of destroying the economy- we might as well actually sort of do it.
The first use of the word “Millennials” to describe our generation was in 1987, when the High school graduating class of 2000 was first entering preschool. The last of us were born sometime in the 90’s, but who really knows when?
Federal direct lending to students began in 1992, and was criticized at the time as being a risky idea because it would inevitably lead to unsustainable borrowing. In just a few decades, Republicans and Democrats in Congress appropriated trillions of dollars for the ongoing War on Terror, trillions for the costly Wall Street bailouts, and did everything in their power to keep Climate Change denial at the center of US foreign and domestic policy. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and the middle class borrowed a lot of money we can’t pay back.
There was a conscious decision made to invest in the revenue from our permanent indebtedness, instead of in our future success as educated members of society. A form of protest which directly challenges the oppressive forces that profit from student debt is far more likely to be effective than assuming that our representatives will dismantle this system of education funding that they created.
Truthfully, not paying our loans isn’t even the important part, we just need to talk about not doing it. We’re already not paying them back- the real objective is to force the media to stop covering Trump and start to talk about the issues being faced by younger generations. We simply need to demonstrate our demand the Trump resign, declare that we will refuse to pay our loans until he does, and make sure Fox News covers it. When Trump turns on his TV and sees us instead of himself, his power over the narrative will disappear, as he starts reacting to us and we stop reacting to him.
Student debt is immoral and unjust, and it must be abolished, but that will never happen until a movement of Americans rises up to demand it, and boycotts their debts until our government is forced to act. A boycott of student debt has the potential to unite the existing movements for social justice in a meaningful action which will help lead to our collective liberation. Even if we push and push and push, and we can’t get Trump to resign, we might get somewhere closer to abolishing student debt.
It is a paradoxical time to be young; anything is possible, but everything is doomed. Every day the news is stranger than the day before, and the memes are infinite. What are we supposed to do with our time on this Earth?
Not paying back our student loans could be the smartest financial decision for millennials to make. This idea may still be seen as too radical, or counterproductive, but time makes more converts than reason. The events of 2019 will likely bring student debt and many other issues to a crisis point, and more radical solutions will become more mainstream.
Our best chance at a revolutionary transformation of society is to establish a global solidarity movement that unites all currently existing struggles in a common cause for a better future. In the chaos of these strange times, ordinary people will do extraordinary things. We must be united in the belief that history isn’t over, and that a better world is possible, and we will start to build it in 2019.
Peace and Love,