I struggled for a while whether to even address this issue, fearing that doing so would bring even further attention to something that I truly believe is a major threat to the overall movement to affect fundamental changes to the way in which we pay for higher education in this country. Unfortunately, due to the completely unscrupulous behavior of those behind the bastardization of #OccupyStudentDebt, I feel compelled to speak out.
Almost from the moment the Occupy Wall Street protests began and started to spread across the country, several well-known and trusted advocates for student loan reform began using the hashtag #OccupyStudentDebt on Twitter and immediately set up a photo-journal blog called OccupyStudentDebt.com to put human faces on the ever-growing problem of exorbitant student loan debt. This movement was intended to be an outcrop of the non-violent, peaceful protests designed to draw the average American's attention to the economic raping and pillaging of our country over the last 30 years.
Regretably, there are those who operate under the guise of being "student loan advocates" but who are, in reality, seeking to subvert the movement for their own twisted ends and to co-opt and usurp the hard work and sacrifices of those who have been engaged in this fight for years. These frauds are well-known to those of us actively engaged in the fight to restore sanity to the student lending system and, for the most part, they're largely harmless because of their profound insignificance. They have no public good will in stock, no "political capital" to expend and no meaningful base of support. Usually, they're little more than minor annoyances who deserve nothing more than our silence, lest we play right into their hands by giving them the attention they so desperately crave for whatever psychological deficiencies for which they may be trying to compensate. I don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out their motivations - it's enough for me to know that they're only out for themselves and couldn't care less about the plight of those they purport to help, even to the detriment of those who might give them the time of day.
However, these subversive egomaniacs have now decided to co-opt the good name of #OccupyStudentDebt by advancing one of the most ill-conceived, poorly planned forms of protest I've ever been witness to: a "pledge" that, if a million people sign, all participants are supposed to voluntarily withhold their student loan payments as a form of protest. The million signature requirement is a red herring designed to give a false sense of security to all participants that, in this case, the "strength in numbers" argument actually holds true.
It's being promoted by a cancer on the movement who's in bed with at least one well-known debt collector and they're trying to convince you that this pledge will somehow result in action - that you're going to "scare" the banks into surrendering their stranglehold on the middle class. (Despite the fact that historically high default rates haven't caused them to alter their behavior one bit - but a million more defaults will somehow be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Great logic, right?)
You're also supposed to believe that this is a "student loan debt collector with a heart" and that this cancer on the movement has your best interests in mind when she's proven time and time again that she'd sell her own mother down the river if she thought it'd buy her 30 seconds of air time. (Again, I'll refrain from providing evidentiary links here so as to not feed the troll).
The entire saga is truly perverse and I strongly advise anyone and everyone who's ever put an ounce of trust into anything I've ever said, anything the folks behind Default:The Student Loan Documentary (Aurora, Serge & Kyle) have ever said, anything Anya Kamenetz has ever said or anything Alan Collinge has ever said, NOT to take part in this pledge.
When every single TRUSTED student loan advocate has been unequivocal in their denouncing this pledge and you've trusted them all along not to steer you wrong, why would you decide to stop listening to them now and start taking your lead from a KNOWN FRAUD who's now proudly in bed with a KNOWN STUDENT LOAN DEBT COLLECTOR, just to get their names in the papers!?!?!
Moreover, I'd be willing to bet that Sallie Mae, as we speak, is paying someone in India to sign as many fake names to that pledge as possible to convince those who are duped into pledging that a million of their fellow student loan debtors are on board, too, and therefore, they're "safe" to go ahead and voluntarily default.
What everyone seems to be forgetting is that the very protections we're fighting to reinstate have yet to actually be reinstated and, as such, participating in this moronic plan is the functional equivalent of calling up your lender and asking them to double the amount you owe.
Those pitifully trying to make the case that defaulting is "not so bad" sound just like the Tea partiers and the rest of the regressive right pushing for the U.S. to default on its debt obligations this past summer during the debt ceiling debacle. It's reckless, irresponsible, dangerous and it will cause us to cede the moral high ground which, personally, I'm NOT willing to do.
Participate at your own peril.
Really appreciate your comments on this, Robert. I've been hearing so much about "well, let's just not pay" and it's very hard to make people understand that if you voluntarily default on these loans you are hurting no one but yourself. We MUST address the cracks in the system and yes something must be done, but defaulting is not the way to do it. Thank you for pointing this out!
I have been very concerned about the lack of clarity and formal acknowledgement of exactly who is promoting this withholding of payment. I absolutely agree this is a dangerous and wreckless option, and the agenda is not beneficial to students, and there are some self-serving interests here that concern me as well. I also urge members, to be very aware of anything that is unscrupulous and illegal, as this does not benefit the cause of a just, ultimate and responsible solution that Rep. Hansen Clark and Robert Applebaum are so diligently pursuing. I know that Robert bases his decisions on sound data, the legal and moral high ground, and responsible judgement. I urge you to do the same. If we are pursuing justice we must walk that walk. Responsible endeavors succeed. The moral high ground was ignored by the unscrupulous tactics of the lenders. All the more reason we need to approach an ultimate solution morally, legally, and without waiver. Robert has been on the moral path to correcting this dilemma, and I totally concur we must stay this moral course.