The OB Media Rundown for 4/24/12

Occupy Student Debt Campaign calls for national day of action to mark the moment total US student debt passes $1 trillion

On April 25th the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. is due to top 1 trillion dollars. This marks a momentous victory for Wall Street-much to the despair of student loan debtors across the country. On this date, the profiteers on Wall Street will be popping champagne bottles, eating caviar, and sneering at the debt-burdened students and graduates who lug around this 1 trillion dollar ball and chain.

Occupy Student Debt Campaign is hosting a party of its own.  Throughout the country we will be taking direct action to raise awareness about this crisis as part of a new movement to make education a right.

1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed 

Broken down by occupation, young college graduates were heavily represented in jobs that require a high school diploma or less.

In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus 80,000).

According to government projections released last month, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher to fill the position – teachers, college professors and accountants. Most job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers.

Bad Education 

If you’re enrolled in four college classes right now, you have a pretty good chance that one of the four will be taught by someone who has earned a doctorate and whose teaching, scholarship, and service to the profession has undergone the intensive peer scrutiny associated with the tenure system. In your other three classes, however, you are likely to be taught by someone who has started a degree but not finished it; was hired by a manager, not professional peers; may never publish in the field she is teaching; got into the pool of persons being considered for the job because she was willing to work for wages around the official poverty line (often under the delusion that she could ‘work her way into’ a tenurable position); and does not plan to be working at your institution three years from now.

This is not an improvement; fewer than forty years ago, when the explosive growth in tuition began, these proportions were reversed. Highly represented among the new precarious teachers are graduate students; with so much available debt, universities can force graduate student workers to scrape by on sub-minimum-wage, making them a great source of cheap instructional labor. Fewer tenure-track jobs mean that recent PhDs, overwhelmed with debt,  have no choice but to accept insecure adjunct positions with wages kept down by the new crop of graduate student-workers. Rather than producing a better-trained, more professional teaching corps, increased tuition and debt have enabled the opposite.

If overfed teachers aren’t the causes or beneficiaries of increased tuition (as they’ve been depicted of late), then perhaps it’s worth looking up the food chain. As faculty jobs have become increasingly contingent and precarious, administration has become anything but.

Industrial capitalism being replaced by finance capitalism

After World War II many women stayed home and raised families. But since the 1950s they have been forced increasingly into the labour force for what are called two-job families – and now, three-job families (with only two family members). If you project labor participation rates, by the year 2020 every woman will have to work 18 hours a day or economic trends will falter.
What was applauded as a post-industrial economy has turned into a financialized economy. The reason you have to work so much harder than before, even when wages rise, is to carry your debt overhead. You’re unable to buy the goods you produce because you need to pay your bankers. And the only way that you can barely maintain your living standards is to borrow even more. This means having to pay back even more in years to come.
That is the Eurozone plan in a nutshell for its economic future. It is a financial plan that is replacing industrial capitalism – with finance capitalism.

Jailed for $280: The Return of Debtors’ Prisons 

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff’s deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.

Debtors filing lawsuits over aggressive collection tactics

Kristy Schwarm was introduced to collection agencies after she bounced an $83.41 check at a Mendocino County FoodMaxx. She soon started receiving menacing letters on district attorney and sheriff’s department letterhead, warning her she was under criminal investigation and threatening her with arrest.

In rural Fresno County, an 18-year-old student living with her parents became anxious and depressed and eventually dropped out of school after a Hanford-based collector kept calling at home and at work about a delinquent $3,509.18 hospital bill.

“Her voice is stuck in my head, and it’s ugly, ugly,” said Margarita Guzman of Parlier, a town of about 13,000 southeast of Fresno. “She made me feel like I was this bad person and couldn’t be responsible.

“Then people started asking me, ‘Why are you putting up with this?’ ” said Guzman, now 23.

Fake, anti-semitic #occupywallstreet FB page now endorses Ron Paul

The same unauthorized #occupywallstreet Facebook page that created a nationwide flap last week after administrators posted an anti-semitic cartoon has now endorsed Ron Paul for President.

UC Berkeley Wants Peaceful Resolution With Occupy the Farm Activists

Officials from the University of California at Berkeley said they will work to find a peaceful resolution with activists who took over Albany’s Gill Tract on Sunday to plant an urban farm, says the university.

Anya Kamenskaya, who is involved with the Take Back the Tract activity, said Monday morning that the group has already planted more than one acre of the 15-acre site.

Occupy the Farm Activists Plan Potluck Tonight [CA]

McKnight said that local students, gardeners and farmers had been planning the action since November: “Green houses as far away as Santa Cruz have been nurturing more than 15,000 starts for us to plant.”

McKnight said, at about midnight, there appeared to be 40-50 tents, including a “community tent” with 20 people sleeping in it.

“There are probably less than 100 people sleeping here tonight but well over 300 have been here throughout the day,” McKnight said.

Media concern-trolling over Social Security ratchets up as trustees ready to release their new report

The most important take-away points from the 2012 Trustees Report will be that Social Security has a large and growing surplus; that without any Congressional action, Social Security will continue to pay benefits to America’s eligible working families for decades; and that with modest legislated increases in revenue, it will continue to pay those benefits for the next century and beyond.

Because the economic recovery and wage growth have been slower than expected and the cost of living was higher, this year’s report is likely to project that the number of years that Social Security can continue to pay benefits in full with no Congressional action will be a year or two shorter. But it is still decades away — and the precise year has fluctuated in virtually every Trustees Report, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. The fluctuation is unsurprising given the uncertainties related to projecting inflation, wage growth, productivity, immigration rates, fertility rates, and other factors so far into the future.

With the issuance of the 2012 report, journalists will have an opportunity to correct the common misunderstanding that Social Security is now paying out more in benefits than it is collecting in income. Social Security is prohibited by law from doing that, and if there were less income than outgo this year, the Trustees would be announcing an immediate cut in benefits. They are not.

Austerity in America: States with the most dramatic budget cuts have lost the most jobs

It seems that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) might have been overreaching when he promised to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. While Walker has spent the last twelve months slashing state budgets and busting unions, Wisconsinites have been dealing with the consequences. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Walker’s state saw the largest decrease in jobs over the last year, dropping nearly a full percentage point:

“Over the year, nonfarm employment increased in 45 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 4 states, and was unchanged in Alabama. The largest over-the-year percentage increase occurred in North Dakota (+6.5 percent). The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-0.9 percent).”

This just adds more evidence to an already existing trend: states with the most drastic budget cuts are seeing the most job losses. Budget slashing at the state level is stalling growth and reducing GDP.

Dutch government collapses in fight over austerity measures

DUTCH Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal government has resigned after losing its parliamentary coalition.

The collapse of the political deal with a far-right party, following arguments over new economic austerity measures, paves the way for early elections.

The Real Loser in the French Election? Austerity

Everyone here except Sarkozy and Bayrou is against the austerity programs envisioned by the European Union. The French don’t want their social model tinkered with.

That’s why the markets there are so weak today: If the Socialist candidate, Hollande, indeed wins in the runoff, he will not advance any type of austerity (tighter budgets, labor reform) that the market wants.

Europe’s elites feel the backlash as three of the continent’s governments are whipped by anti-austerity fever

In elections in France on Sunday, in the Royal Palace in The Hague on Monday, and on Wenceslas Square in Prague on Saturday, a democratic backlash appeared to be gathering critical mass as the economic prescriptions of the governing class collided with the street and the ballot box. The collision looks likely to bring down three European governments.

Billions wiped off Europe’s biggest companies as political rebellion rocks eurozone

Stockmarkets plunged as traders panicked that Angela Merkel could lose her key allies in France and the Netherlands and that the debt crisis rescue plans could unravel.

The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who is one of the eurozone’s “hardliners” on fiscal discipline, dramatically quit in the wake of his coalition’s refusal to accept Europe’s debt pact. Snap elections could be called as early as June.

Traders were also rattled by Francois Hollande’s victory over Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the French presidential election. The socialist Mr Hollande has vowed to renegotiate the fiscal pact that including a 3pc of GDP deficit limit.

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