Economics/Class Relations

Americans Are Drowning in Debt. Let’s Forgive All of It.

By Scott Remer, In These Times

In 1770, the nov­el­ist Oliv­er Gold­smith observed, ​Ill fares the land, to has­ten­ing ills a prey, where wealth accu­mu­lates, and men decay.” Mod­ern­ize the lan­guage, and he could have been writ­ing about the sit­u­a­tion in the Unit­ed States today.

The pan­dem­ic has exac­er­bat­ed a debt epi­dem­ic that’s been fes­ter­ing for decades. Some Covid-19 patients have racked up astro­nom­i­cal med­ical bills which often run into the thou­sands of dol­lars, as many are dis­mayed to dis­cov­er. Unin­sured patients and fam­i­ly mem­bers, mean­while, are often being wrong­ly charged, even though the CARES Act the­o­ret­i­cal­ly cov­ers unin­sured patients’ Covid bills. While $1,200 stim­u­lus checks tem­porar­i­ly improved many work­ers’ finan­cial sit­u­a­tions in the spring, now close to 8 mil­lion peo­ple have fall­en into poverty.

Lay­offs and cut­backs in work hours and pay­checks are dec­i­mat­ing work­ing peo­ples’ bud­gets, pro­vok­ing an unprece­dent­ed spike in hunger, espe­cial­ly among chil­dren. Around 26 mil­lion peo­ple now don’t have enough food. Wide­spread income reduc­tions are also forc­ing peo­ple to with­hold util­i­ty pay­ments and rent: 12 mil­lion renters will owe an aver­age of $5,850 in back rent and util­i­ties by the begin­ning of 2021. This back rent is a tick­ing time bomb: it threat­ens to cre­ate a wave of evic­tions and home­less­ness after the fed­er­al evic­tion mora­to­ri­um expires on Decem­ber 31.

Small busi­ness­es are strug­gling, and many are on the brink of clo­sure. All this even as America’s bil­lion­aires have swollen their for­tunes by $931 bil­lion since March. It’s a grim pic­ture. As we grope toward a post-Covid future, the dis­as­trous eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion for mil­lions of work­ing-class peo­ple — and bil­lion­aires’ con­tin­ued enrich­ment at their expense — demands a rad­i­cal solu­tion: uni­ver­sal debt for­give­ness for rent, med­ical debt, and stu­dent loans. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment holds immense pow­er and could imme­di­ate­ly for­give pub­lic stu­dent loan debt and pay off all oth­er debts, giv­ing ordi­nary Amer­i­cans a chance to start fresh. This debt relief could eas­i­ly be fund­ed by wealth and income tax­es on the rich.

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1 reply »

  1. I hate to be so annoying about this topic, but there is a mechanism for this already. It’s called don’t pick up the phone. By giving you lines of credit they took the risk and are holding the bag. The imaginary ‘credit score’ is like teachers gold star, or a military medal.

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