Proposed LeftForum 2019 Panel

Panels for LeftForum should be finalized by the end of May. Fingers crossed that this will be accepted! -Eli

Proposed panel: Student Debt Boycott – Organizing the power of economic withdrawal

With the objective of sparking public debate before the 2020 presidential election, this panel will consider a direct action solution to the student debt crisis: Activists from four generations will discuss and envision the strategy of an organized student debt boycott, using our collective burden as leverage against the American ruling class, and global capitalism itself.

Every day that we continue to perform the status quo is time that cannot be recovered; the struggle for human survival past this century demands that we act now, and when all else has failed, we must consider revolutionary action. Throughout history, there have been countless movements of working class people demanding the cancellation of usurious, unpayable debts to the ruling class, often accompanied by general strikes that disrupt everyday life.

A movement of American students, graduates, and teachers, engaging in civil disobedience and honoring the ancient tactic of an organized debt strike, could change the power dynamics in the fights for student debt cancellation and universal free higher education, at the national and state levels. A student debt boycott could also help unite the multitude of intersecting movements for social justice in an intergenerational coalition that is not dependent on electoral politics to build power.

For this strategy to be fairly considered, the American public must be made aware of what has been hidden in plain sight: For many years, the largest student loan servicing companies (Navient, Nelnet/Great Lakes, PHEAA) have been legally gambling with federal student loan debt, despite being under contract with the Department of Education.

Just in the decade since 2009, a trillion dollars worth of federal student debt has accumulated; in the same time, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose from roughly 390 to 410 ppm (parts per million), a trend that will define the remainder of our lives. All the while, this immoral and unregulated loan servicing industry has issued billions of dollars in Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (SLABS) every year, which are sold to investors and traded in speculative financial markets. Generations of Americans are being stifled by permanent indebtedness and a declining standard of living, but a small number of corporations and their CEOs are making extraordinary profits capitalizing on the high interest rates paid by student borrowers.

Obscured by fake economics and bipartisan political corruption, a student loan default crisis looms in the near future, which will inevitably cause the collapse of the SLABS market, decades before these assets will reach their final maturity. In the pursuit of infinite wealth regardless of the human cost, capitalism has burdened students with unpayable debt, but also provided them the means to crash the system and disrupt business as usual.

This panel will consider the notion that accelerating the default crisis to put direct financial pressure on the student loan industry may be both justified and necessary in order to force Congress to solve this crisis, liberate 44 million Americans from debt and empower them to use their educations, and provide for the future security of American students.