Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The New Deal vs. Sallie Mae: A comparison of ethics
(A WPA poster advertising free classes. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
During the New Deal there was an effort to provide free classes & free training, in a number of disciplines, to a variety of Americans. The New Deal highlighted a "common good" way--a way that had been started with public school initiatives before the New Deal, and a way that would continue after the New Deal with programs like the G.I. Bill and Pell Grants.
In modern times, we've moved away from the path of public investment. For example, in higher education we've scaled back public funding in favor of saddling our young adults with crushing debt (student loans); and so we're converting these young adults into indentured servants. Why? Greed...plain and simple. Those who despise the common good see our children, teens, and young adults as financial transactions, not as human beings. They know that if they can ransom a huge debt out of young Americans who want an education, they can make a fortune. And so they have.
If you doubt this explanation, consider the fact that Sallie Mae collaborated with the right-wing group ALEC, to draft legislation to to scale back public funding of higher education (see, e.g., here, here, and here). What a nice formula for those who wish to turn our children & young adults into debt slaves: Withdraw public funding of higher education and force young Americans to take out large loans if they want to better themselves.
(New Deal policy-makers were focused on helping Americans, not turning them into indentured servants for personal profit. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
(The WPA offered free art classes all across the country. Today, we've moved away from public art and creativity. Today, we're more concerned about putting our children through standardized tests so they can be standardized workers for corporations who want to employ them at poverty-level wages. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
(In the Civilian Conservation Corps young, low-income men received work experience and training...and a small paycheck to boot. Today, a national program like the CCC could never exist. Right-wing politicians would call it "Socialism!", and other politicians are too busy seeking campaign contributions to actually work towards a large-scale federal jobs program for the unemployed. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
What ethical system do you prefer? The ethical system that sees our youth in terms of the common good, as New Deal policy-makers saw them, or the ethical system that turns them into debt slaves, as Sallie Mae has done?
This is what happens when public goods & services are turned over to the private sector. Greed takes over: Private prison companies seek more prisoners, private health insurers mock those of limited means, retirement systems are gutted, historic buildings are sent to the auction block, and private lenders create debt slaves through usury, lobbying, and the ransoming of education.
What's next? We already know that there are those that wish to privatize all K-12 schools. They say that the government can issue vouchers to pay for this. But, even if true, how long will it be before they end up saying, "We can't afford these vouchers!! The national debt is too high!! Our taxes are too high!!" Then we'll have student loan corporations like Sallie Mae telling low-income families, "Well, we have several nice loan options for you if want to send your child to the first grade."
But, ultimately, the question is not "Why is this happening?" (we know why selfish people are destroying people's lives--for profit) the question is "Why are we tolerating it...when our elders and ancestors showed us a better way during and after the New Deal?"