By The Progressive on March 06, 2014

Student Debtors gather at an "unhappy hour" and hold Twitter town hall today on national day of action.

A new national coalition, Higher Ed Not Debt, is bringing advocates and borrowers together in a campaign to restore fairness to a student loan system gone horribly awry. On a March 6 "Day of Action" legislators, advocates and borrowers gathered to call for reforms of the current system.

"Student loan debt is a $1.2 trillion national economic crisis," said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. "Student debt is keeping hardworking borrowers from getting the fair shot at the middle class their education should provide them with."

One Wisconsin Now has joined the Higher Ed Not Debt coalition to pursue four key goals: addressing the existing $1.2 trillion of debt; increasing the affordability and quality of higher education; combating the privatization of higher education and the role of Wall Street in compounding the student debt crisis; and sparking civic engagement and political participation among young people.

In response to the deepening crisis, Representative Cory Mason (Democrat of Racine) and Senator Dave Hansen (Democrat of Green Bay) introduced the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act in Wisconsin.

Rep. Mason is also taking part in a Twitter town hall today to help borrowers connect with experts about the student debt crisis.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, held a kick-off event on March 6 in Washington, DC, for the launch of Higher Ed Not Debt, a new, multi-year campaign to address the twin issues of education debt and college affordability

In Wisconsin, both houses of the state legislature have held public hearings on proposals that would:

  • Create a state authority to help borrowers refinance their student loans, just like you can a home mortgage;
  • Allow borrowers to deduct their student loan payments on their state income taxes, just like you can with home mortgage interest;
  • Require borrowers be given detailed information before entering into loan agreements, offering counseling to students and parents on the implications of student loans and requiring the state to collect and disseminate information about private lenders and maintain a ranking system; and
  • Track information about student loan debt in the state to help policy makers better understand the depth and breadth of the debt crisis in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin U.S. Representative Mark Pocan has also introduced Federal legislation to allow borrowers with federal student loans to refinance their loans to the lowest rate available for that loan.

Original research by One Wisconsin Institute points to the urgent need for reform with findings showing a significant negative impact of student loan debt on borrowers economic activity. Borrowers with an undergraduate degree in Wisconsin were making average payments of nearly $350 per month for almost 19 years. The economic impacts include over $200 million in lost new car sales annual and significantly lower rates of home ownership among student loan borrowers versus their economic peers without debt.

A national version of the Wisconsin research conducted by One Wisconsin Institute showed similar results, including that the auto industry loses $6.4 billion every year in new car purchases directly attributable to student loan debt.

Among the growing number of supporters of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act in Wisconsin are associations representing small businesses, social workers, dentists, teachers, organized labor and students.

"The hard work and personal responsibility borrowers showed to get an education and pay for it should earn them a a fair shot at the middle class, not a multi decade debt sentence. With our partners in the Higher Ed Not Debt coalition across the country and here in Wisconsin we're going to keep fighting to put the system back on the side of the people," said Ross.

To celebrate the day of action, Wisconsin student debtors will gather this evening at Genna's, a downtown bar, for an Unhappy Hour from 5 to 7 pm.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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