Richard Wolff comes back to PBS’ Bill Moyers for Part II
March 23, 2013
Richard Wolff on Cypress:
Absolutely! That Cypress story is extremely important.
Even though it’s a very small country and people might not pay attention because it’s so small. Here is the austerity program of raising taxes and cutting government spending, taking a qualitative new step: to help bail out a capitalism that hasn’t worked in Europe and that has crippled this little country of Cypress. The step taken to try and fix the problem is to literally reach into the private insured bank accounts of people in the local banks in Cypress and take money out of it to pay for fixing this broken system.
For all working people, not just in Europe in the United States and the rest of the world too, this should be a wakeup call if you still need one.
We’re in a situation where the most dire, unexpected, unimaginable steps are being taken to fix (capitalism) a system that keeps resisting being fixed so that we are required now to dip into people’s checking accounts and literally TAKE the money.
Q: Student loan debts are overwhelming me and many others. What does Professor Wolff think would happen to the economy if those debts could be forgiven under personal bankruptcy? Is that even possible?
Well the law in the United States specifically prevents you from using bankruptcy to erase your student loans. Bankruptcy does allow you to erase other kinds of debts but the student loan system was set up to prevent that – so students are in an especially bad place by virtue of this.
In our history as a country, we’ve never before done this. We’ve never required college students to take anything remotely like this kind of debt. We’re requiring students to acquire HUGE amounts of debt just to get bachelor’s degrees, let alone more advanced degrees at the same time that we offer the graduates the poorest job market & prospects in a generation. That’s a one, two punch. You have to borrow more than you can afford to face a job that will not allow you to ever pay it off. Hence this person’s very intelligent question – how is this going to work?
We’ve solved a problem in our society – how to educate the next generation – and let me tell you this is a very important matter. We economists believe that the single most important factor shaping the future of any economy in the world, including the United States, is the quality and quantity of the educated, trained labor force that it produces. Colleges and Universities are where we do that. But if we’re crippling an entire generation with debts they cannot support and jobs that will not encourage them to continue in their studies, we are as a nation, shooting ourselves in the foot going forward. It’s a demonstration of the dysfunctionality of our system.
And then the question comes, could we forgive our student’s debts? Well, it’s an interesting idea. But how do you go to the people who can’t afford their credit card debts or their mortgage debts, they’re all hurting. And the students have a special claim – I acknowledge that. We need those students – I understand it. But we have to go to the root of a society that allows unspeakable wealth to accumulate in the hands of a tiny minority, while condemning an entire generation of students to a set of burdens. We don’t want them to have those burdens; we need what they can produce for our society.
Moyers: But what does this young woman do who says that she is overwhelmed by her debt?
Many students are not aware that they actually have some ways to help them.
But the more broad answer is that you need a social movement. If there were masses of students saying “this is intolerable,” saying it loudly and saying it publicly – peacefully for sure, but making it clear…then the powers that be would begin to realize that there are millions of students (upward of 15-16 million people going to colleges & universities in the United States). You’re talking about a well-educated constituency that, if they were organized and mobilized, you would begin to get the response of dealing with their crisis more effectively than what we have now.
Watch the video of the entire Part II interview here.
Read more about Wolff’s organization to combat capitalism here.
Follow that organization on Tumblr here.