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Millennial poverty as driven by education debt & debt as punishment

Millennial poverty as driven by education debt & debt as punishment

The Moneychanger by Rembrandt, 1627

Writing on Medium, Hanna Brooks Olsen explores millennial poverty as driven by education debt, and questions if there really is a viable path to financial stability in modern America.

Olsen challenges stereotypes of poverty, relating how her financial situation has deteriorated as a result of collegiate debt, moving her deeper into poverty over time, and noting that most Americans don’t favor government assistance for the impoverished, probably because of cultural views that equate poverty with poor character.

Olsen attacks predatory lending, referencing a recent study by Crittenton Women’s Union which found that most debt resulted from cyclical unemployment, medical costs, and student loans, and was further compounded by high-interest, punitive loans.

From the essay:

“What if we acknowledged that there are more poor people than we realize and that even doing literally everything prescribed by those with wealth does not guarantee wealth?”

Olsen’s points about high-interest loans and the punitive nature of debt were also recently made by cultural critic and philosopher Slavoj Žižek, writing in The New Statesmen, where he explores the ‘different types of debtors’ in an essay on Greece and the European Union.

From the article:

Imagine a vicious teacher who gives to his pupils impossible tasks, and then sadistically jeers when he sees their anxiety and panic. The true goal of lending money to the debtor is not to get the debt reimbursed with a profit, but the indefinite continuation of the debt, keeping the debtor in permanent dependency and subordination. For most of the debtors – for there are debtors and debtors. Not only Greece but also the US will not be able even theoretically to repay its debt, as is now publicly recognised. So there are debtors who can blackmail their creditors because they cannot be allowed to fail (big banks), debtors who can control the conditions of their repayment (the US government) and, finally, debtors who can be pushed around and humiliated (Greece).

Do you see debt and lending as theological issues? Have you preached on these topics?

Posted by David Streever


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Paul Woodrum

In the US, predatory lending is called a credit card, some of which carry interest rates of 29.99% with addition fines and penalties added in for late or under payments. Once one is hooked, they can be squeezed forever. If a corporation goes bankrupt, it’s called financial restructuring. If an individual goes bankrupt, it’s financial irresponsibility punished by lowered credit ratings. Perhaps what we need is a national limit on credit card interest and penalties, say 10% max, though the banks would no doubt complain that isn’t usurious enough to satisfy their greed.

As for Germany squeezing Greece, perhaps it should remember the post World War II Marshall Plan that forgave it much of its debt incurred being the scourge of the earth, and refinanced its rebuilding.

Rod Gillis

Regarding, debt as punishment, and Greece, clearly the first priority of the money class is crushing even the hint of austerity rebellion. Below is a link to an article by CBC freelancer in Europe Don Murray. The treatment of the Greek PM is described as water boarding. Paul Krugman at the New York Times had a similar opinion piece the weekend past. Krugman notes, that even after the givens of Greek fumbles, the responsibility for the current outcome is with EU leadership.

As for young people, they are becoming a throw away generation across western democracies. The Cameron government budget in the U.K. is atrocious in this regard. Likewise, unemployment in Canada which hovers
(officially) just below 7 percent, is about 21 percent among young adults. The right wing government here is much more concerned about oil companies and credit rating agencies than the nation’s youth.

Ann Fontaine

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has spoken and preached on this subject, especially predatory lending. What churches are doing on the lending issue

Mark Mason

Scirture is it so it must be a theological issue.

“If only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. For the LORD your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

“So shall your poverty on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.”

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