American Politics

Hopeless, Helpless and Handcuffed to Debt: My Student Loan Story

It is very hard to articulate the anguish of a heavy student loan burden. After countless drafts and attempts to frame this in an impersonal way, I am now convinced that the only way to get the message across is for me to tell you my story. I can throw facts around all day, but without humanizing the real toll that daunting student debt is having on our society, we cannot expect to change anything.

As hard as this is going to be, and as much ridicule that will inevitably be thrown my way by fly-by trolls, I have to share this—if only to let you know, you are not alone. I am inevitably building a new stop on the Blame Train Railway, opening myself to the dissection of each of my life’s decisions and how they are ultimately my fault. Hop aboard, take a picture while you’re passing through. It doesn’t matter.

My story is only one of millions of stories of American students caught in this trap and I promise you, we are not any more stupid than anyone else was at the age of 18-23. The difference is our mistake was seeking an education—our mistake was doing what was beat into us from the beginning of elementary school: “Go to college, you’ll get a great job and make great money!”

I just want to offer a little perspective. I will not be citing sources here because this is from my heart, feel free to fact check me. Before you do, however, make sure you read my blogs about student loans as well.

Without further ado, here are what I consider to be the important events in my life that landed me where I am today.

My Story

Background

I grew up in Lubbock, Texas. To be honest, it was wonderful. Growing up in a place like Lubbock has its consequences, though. I was very sheltered. I thought that everyone was polite, said ‘excuse me,’ and held the door open for others.

My parents, both from Lubbock, got married at the age of 22. When I was born, my mother was 27—by West Texas standards, she waited a long time.  My dad earned his associate’s degree at the local community college, but neither of my parents finished their bachelor’s degrees. My dad is a master auto technician and my mom recently retired after 30+ years of service to the United States Postal Service. They made decent livings and as far as my sister and I knew, we were comfortable.

Unfortunately, my parents got divorced while I was in high school. Our comfortable middle class life, took a nose dive. It was the first time that I became aware of how expensive life was. I knew I would be going to college—my dad, teachers and society made it clear that I did not have an option.

Even back then, both of my parents, especially my dad, regretted not earning an undergraduate degree. My dad would tell me how his options were severely limited if he ever wanted to change careers. He instilled in me that knowledge is power, the power to control your own life. The power to work for a great company and be able to leave a bad one. The power to find what you love and having the tools to know how to make money at it.

Something else my dad always told me was that I could get my college paid for if I could get a scholarship playing soccer. From the third grade until I finished high school, this became my goal. This was not for the reasons you think, however. In my teenage mind, this was a way to extend my soccer career. Up until this point, I had never loved anything more than I loved soccer. It was everything. I had very little interest in school, but I had always done well. I was excited to receive a small athletic scholarship at Texas Tech and this is where I started my college journey.

College

When I began attending Texas Tech in 2002, the price of tuition was around $2,000/semester. Although I had a small scholarship, the bulk of my college tuition burden fell on my dad for two years. At the end of the 2003/2004 season, I made the decision to transfer colleges. Back then, Texas Tech soccer was not good and it was not a good fit for me to stay in Lubbock.

I visited several schools and ultimately fell in love with Berry College in Rome, Georgia. For those of you who are not familiar with Berry, it is the largest, and arguably most beautiful, college campus in the country. Their women’s soccer team has also won 3 national titles.

More importantly, I had finally done it! My [private liberal arts] college was paid for. How lucky can I be? Now, I know how fortunate I was, but back then? No way. I went to college to play soccer. I did not play soccer to go to college.

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I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was sure that I did not have to decide during college and that I would figure it out later. In all honesty, I believed I would be a soccer coach for the rest of my life.

Thus, I did not put much thought into my degree choice. Nobody had ever discussed with me that some degrees are worth about as much as the paper they are printed on. My parents could never have advised me that no degree—no matter how lucrative your major is—guarantees money or happiness. They did not go through the college process like me. How could they have known?

More importantly, though, none of my academic advisors had ever said anything to me about this phenomenon. Nobody said, “Hey, maybe you don’t want to change your psychology major to interdisciplinary studies.” In reality, either degree is largely worthless without graduate school, but one is less worthless than the other. No one ever challenged me on my life’s path or tried to hold me accountable. I did not hold me accountable, either. Honestly, I did not have the tools to do this for myself.

As a college-age woman from small-town West Texas, I had no idea what I was doing. Of course I have some responsibility in this. I should have asked more questions, but for the life of me, I’m not sure how I would have even known what questions to ask.

When I finished my B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Sport Psychology), my parents were so proud. Honestly, so was I. I had lived away from home for the first time in my life. I worked at the HVAC department for the entire time I was at Berry. I coached soccer and interned with the best coaches in the business. It was amazing. You can imagine my shock when I graduated and nobody gave a shit that I had gone to college.

Real-World Bitch Slap

The summer after I finished college, I coached soccer camps full-time. After the summer was over, I was at a loss about what to do next. I had never had this little structure in my life. I had always had a very specific schedule. I knew what the expectations were. Keep your grades up, practice hard, travel for games, work, and repeat. I saw my best friends every day at practice where we blew off steam—sometimes even aimed at each other. But in the end, when we walked off the field we were one. In the real world, I was totally alone and quickly realized that not everyone “leaves it on the field.”

Soccer is a very physical (and sometimes violent) game, but it is much more civilized than the “real world.” I would take a broken hand/ankle/finger over someone conspiring behind my back, setting me up to fail, or treating me unfairly in a way that is hard to explain, but made me feel like trash.

To make matters worse, I needed a plantar fascia release and a tarsal tunnel release on my foot. Years in cleats had left me with battle wounds. My soccer career was over. I was not even sure I could ever coach again because the pain was so bad.

I began substituting for Lubbock ISD and then got a full-time job as an attendance clerk at Lubbock High School. I made $765/month once a month. The receptionist at the time was an attorney. She had just passed the bar and she made less money than me.

I was officially pissing my pants. What the hell was I going to do with my life?

I started looking at graduate school and was between getting a master’s degree in business or marriage and family therapy. I had never taken a business class before and honestly, it scared me. I had never considered myself to be that intelligent but I thought, if I work hard, I can learn anything. Plus, business school is a very pragmatic choice, right? I had never been pragmatic in my life because up until this moment, I had not thought that much about what my life after soccer would look like. I was a kid. And I was invincible. I didn’t need a plan B.

MBA—Where I fell in love with learning

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Since earning my MBA, I believe there are generally two types of people that pursue graduate degrees. The first type are the people that earn a master’s degree for a purpose. It is the last degree they ever want to earn. Some of them begrudgingly went back to school for a specific purpose—get a credential, get a promotion or get a master’s degree and the company will pay for it. They have a plan in mind and this is just a stop on their path.

The second type of person is more like me. I pursued a business degree, not because I love business, but because it seemed like the responsible thing to do. Once this type of person begins a graduate degree, they are consumed by it. They take the ethics courses seriously, they begin reading the Wall Street Journal, and start following politics. That was me. I made it my responsibility to get a 4.0 GPA. I was that person.

I did not end up with my dream GPA (I finished with a 3.8), but I was so proud of myself. Along the way I had met many JD/MBA candidates. After talking to law students and taking an extra business law class as an elective, I started to believe that my MBA did not have to be my last degree.

I began to become passionate about something other than soccer. After learning about corporations, finance, and the law for two years, I was disgusted by Corporate America. To me it seemed greedy, heartless and manipulative. As if I was not jaded enough, I was in the middle of my MBA when the crash happened.

I thought how lucky I was that the market crashed a year before I was set to graduate, so maybe things would be better by then. I watched my friends look for work for years after that. By the time May 2009 rolled around, I had been accepted to Florida International University College of Law after it became clear that the economy was not bouncing back any time soon.

I did not ever receive a scholarship from Texas Tech, but at the time, after finishing my MBA (and working as a graduate assistant for two years), I had approximately $23,000 in student debt.  Between 2002 when I first attended Texas Tech to 2009, tuition had already risen significantly, but unbeknownst to me, tuition was about to get much higher in the coming years.

I made my decision to attend an out-of-state law school very carefully. It was not a whimsical decision and I tirelessly researched state laws on in-state tuition and how I could get the most out of my education without racking up enormous debt. Then, it all bit me in the ass. It just goes to show that no matter how much you plan, there are always going to be things in your life that are out of your control. Some of these things affect the rest of your life, some don’t. This was more the former than the latter.

Law School

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Here is a picture of me graduating on a cake. 🙂

Why did I choose FIU? Why did I not just stay in Texas? I chose FIU because my new husband and I had made a decision to start our new lives together on our terms. I had only lived in Lubbock, Texas and Rome, Georgia—not the most progressive or modern cities. My husband had never lived anywhere but Lubbock. We decided to move somewhere that we would never in a million years thought we would ever go. Plus, wherever we chose had to have an affordable tuition structure and an MBA program nearby.

Why did I not just stay in Texas? I am not conservative and I have always felt like I did not belong. I needed a change in my life. Texas Tech was the most affordable option for me, but I was not accepted at Texas Tech before I was offered admission to FIU. With deadlines looming to accept a seat in a law class, I committed myself to FIU before Texas Tech ever called.

When I applied, and after I was accepted at FIU, I confirmed with the school that after I had lived in Florida for a year, had a Florida residence, etc. that I could be reconsidered as an in-state student for tuition purposes.

It was my intention to stay in Florida, after all. I joined the Florida bar and got a Florida drivers’ license. Unbeknownst to me, in July of 2009, one month before I was to begin orientation at FIU, the State of Florida passed a law making it impossible for an out-of-state student to be reconsidered for in-state tuition. I was never informed by my school that this happened.

Instead, I learned about the legislation from a friend at the end of my first semester. I was inconsolable. I poured everything I had into moving to Miami. My husband and I spent an entire year apart. He stayed in Lubbock to finish his bachelor’s degree, and I lived in the dorms. During my 1L year, my husband was accepted into an MBA program in Fort Lauderdale and he was set to start in Fall 2010.

We planned our wedding for the summer of 2010. We had saved for years and were able to throw a very inexpensive affair in Las Vegas. We no longer had a place to live in Texas. We had packed up our things and shipped them to Florida. My husband was about to start his master’s degree and I was starting my second year of law school. We were all in. We could not afford to not go-both financially and for our futures. We were both in phenomenal programs and learning so much, plus we were broke.

Attending law school and living in Miami was transformational. I had never been around Jewish people, I had never met a Cuban. I was one of those Texan assholes who thought all brown people were probably Mexican. I had never heard of paella, I had never had a Publix sub, and I had never felt like such a cracker! I made the best friends of my life, people that I trust with my life, my heart and my soul.

It is a strange feeling loving and feeling passionate about your life decisions, and regretting them all at the same time. The impending doom of a life of debt is enough to give a person an ulcer. But again, I was young and lawyers made good money, right?

As I pursued my law degree, the debt racked up. Living in Miami is very expensive, but we lived 40 minutes north of Miami proper in Miami Lakes where the rent is much more reasonable. The problem was never the rent, though.

Like my MBA, I dedicated myself to my studies. I graduated cum laude and 22/141 in my class. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not receive any financial aid during law school (other than federal student aid—including a $5,000 grant each year).

As I made my way through my studies, getting a high-paying job after law school began to impregnate my every thought. What I really wanted to do was teach and find a way to practice law that made me feel like I was actually helping others. Down at my core, it has never been about money for me.

It was too late for me now. I had to grow up and get a job and pay back my debts. I interned with a federal judge, a small law firm and worked as a teacher’s aid. I knew after my small firm experience, that Big Law was probably not going to be a good fit for me. Big law firms are not places to learn how to be a good lawyer. But big law firms are the only hope you have for paying off your student loans.

The real work, the real justice, is in the hands of your public defenders (and some state attorneys who will probably get a little booty hurt over this sentence) and they make less money than teachers in some cases. You learn how to be a real advocate in public service work, but good luck paying your bills.

By the time I graduated in 2012, the job market in south Florida was still reeling from the crash four years prior. Further, the law market was flooded. The University of Miami, Florida International, Nova Southeastern University and St. Thomas are all within a 30 minute drive of each other and they all have law schools. My husband was being offered jobs as a COO making $20,000/year . . . that’s just south Florida. He finally was offered a consulting job in Dallas, and after Florida bent me over and f*cked me, I was ready to get back home.

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I took the Texas bar the summer of 2012. It was a horrible summer to say the least. I was offered a job at a firm in uptown Dallas. It was a national firm with multiple offices. I made a good salary, but I was miserable.

If you follow my blog then you know about the prevalence of depression among graduates with student debt. If you know anything about the practice of law, you know that the job “Associate Attorney” has been dubbed the worst job in America at one point. The industry is plagued with high suicide rates, depression and anxiety disorders, substance abuse and destitution. Being a lawyer does not guarantee that you will make money, and for most people, it is statistically likely to result in an unhappy career.

It’s no wonder with stagnant wages, high billable hour requirements (mine was 2,000 minimum), and the old tales of Christmas bonuses of yesteryear, being an attorney is no longer a lucrative profession for the majority of practicing attorneys. After gritting through a year-and-a-half of hyper-misogynistic, high-pressure and largely unnecessary emotional turmoil, I resigned from the firm. To be clear, however, I did not hate the work. I actually really enjoyed it. The problem was that the firm culture was toxic. It began to affect my mental and physical health. It was a strain on my marriage. It wasn’t worth it.

I had a choice: (1) my health, sanity, marriage; or (2) work, a.k.a. money. But really it was not really a choice; it was merely prolonging the inevitable. The loans are never going away. The anxiety about never having control over your financial future is never going away either—at least not for 25 years. By that time, I’ll be 57. I guess I’ll start saving for retirement then . . .

From Then to Now and the Lasting Scars of Student Loans

Since I gained my freedom from firm life, I have been on a journey of self-discovery and getting help for the depression and anxiety issues that I have had my whole life but were exacerbated during law school and working at the firm. I coached soccer in the meantime until an 8-year old took me out at a soccer camp. I blew out my ankle and said goodbye to soccer one more time.

It took a lot of time and angst, but I finally have a law practice I am really proud of—and I’m actually helping people! It’s still not about the money—and trust me when I tell you, not all lawyers are rich. I have rediscovered my love of art and writing. During this time of reflection and healing, I deferred my loans. I knew I could not jump back into a job like the one I had before. I knew I would not make it. I knew it would destroy my life.

I recently went back into repayment and it has been very stressful and it will only get worse. I am currently using the income-based repayment and it’s a double-edged sword: (1) make more money, get a higher student loan bill; or (2) continue to scrape by so that the loan payments do not go up.  They already rival our mortgage payment. How can we pay the equivalent of two mortgages and still live our lives? Right now, we don’t really live our lives.

Student loans invade every purview of my being. Can we afford life insurance, how many times a month can we go out on a date, what if the car breaks down, what if the water heater craps out, what if . . . Everyone has these ‘what if’s’ and there are people in real dire circumstances. I never want to minimize poverty or the financial struggles of others.

For college graduates, though, we went to school to avoid feeling this pressure and angst for the rest of our lives. We went to school to avoid poverty. Now school has broken us financially. It is not a hole we can dig out of with hard work and determination. The only way we get out of this hole is to work our lives away always chasing a higher pay check or win the lottery—most of us can’t afford lottery tickets, though.

It is completely possible that 20 years from now we will be asking ourselves the same questions because there is no light at the end of this tunnel. Student loans are like a black hole for millions of us. They are so powerful, even light cannot escape.

We are drowning every day.

Mine and my husband’s student loans could pay the rent on a really nice apartment or a mortgage on a decent house. We also pay a real mortgage (the kind where you actually gain equity and get something in return for 30 years of consecutive payments). Just like everyone else, we need a place to live, we need transportation and we have to be able to go on a date with each other once and a while. We do not take extravagant vacations, we do not buy clothes, we cut our cable, we seek out free activities, and we spend a lot of time at the dog park and at our friends’ houses.

The dread of being perpetually financially impotent infects every facet of our lives. It’s the reason we stay in jobs we hate. It’s the reason we drink. We are so afraid of losing everything, that we never do anything.

I would never wish this burden on my worst enemy. It can wreck your life and destroy your relationships. It is exhausting sounding like a broken record player, “That’s just too expensive;” “We can’t afford to do that;” etc. What a bore we’ve become. #FirstWorldProblems

But really, how hopeless we’ve become.

I struggle with the question, “If you could go back, would you do it again?” I have to answer honestly and say I don’t know. Law school made me who I am today. Those experiences I had in my MBA and law school can never be taken away. My knowledge and my credentials cannot be taken away, but I am not too prideful to say that I am not sure they were worth the rest of my life.

I feel guilty, and I feel proud. I love who I am (and who I will be), but I hate the cloud that will hang over my head for the next 25 years. I feel like I committed a crime. I feel like I ruined my life and my husband’s life.

My generation is defined by this debt and it is going to get worse. At least we are not alone even though it may feel like it.

Stay strong and get out and vote. #FeelTheBern

Peace and love,

Lindsey

 

 

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The Case Against Misleading Journalism (And For Bernie Sanders): Part II of II

Apologies for my delay. Real life gets in the way of online commitments sometimes, not to mention that Mr. Chait is VERY long-winded. I hope you will forgive my tardiness!

Did you have time to look into Bernie? It is time well spent if you have not done so already . . . (click here to read Part I of this series).

As I previously disclosed, I will dissect and cross-reference Jonathan Chait’s painfully inaccurate and wholly incomplete assessment of the fitness of Bernie Sanders as America’s next president in his recent article, “The Case Against Bernie Sanders.”

As previously mentioned, Mr. Chait is a democrat. I never want to attack one of my own, but liberals have gotten the idea that we cannot disagree and argue about the merits of voting for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, no question. But if it is between Hillary Clinton and some idiot republican in the general election, I choose Hillary. If you can’t have the champagne, drink beer.

It is not the general election yet, though. All bets are off and it is clear that the Clinton camp has decided that the gloves are off as well. That’s fine. This is why the internet is so powerful. None of us have to listen to the mainstream media. We have facts at our fingertips and unique perspectives from all over the world.

The internet also has my perspective . . . for what it’s worth. Without further ado, and my sincerest apologies for the liberal-on-liberal crime I am about to commit, let’s get started.

Mr. Chait’s Stated Case Against Bernie Sanders

Mr. Chait begins his case against Bernie, by praising Bernie, “Sanders is earnest and widely liked. He has tugged the terms of the political debate leftward in a way both moderates and left-wingers could appreciate.” He acknowledges that Bernie is a real threat to Hillary Clinton, “Sanders’s rapid rise, in both early states and national polling, has made him a plausible threat to defeat Hillary Clinton,” and “Suddenly, liberals who have used the nominating process to unilaterally vet Clinton . . . need to think anew.”  Hold the applause, though.

He then asks the question that will shape the remainder of his article:

Do we support Sanders not just in his role as lovable Uncle Bernie, complaining about inequality, but as the actual Democratic nominee for president? My answer to that question is no.

Do tell!

Mr. Chait opens his case by asserting that Bernie Sanders’ view on the economy is “fatalistic.” He tells us that the “evidence” for Bernie’s assessment of the economy is “far weaker than [Sanders] assumes.” Let’s review the evidence!

1.  Healthcare and the ACA: “Sanders has grudgingly credited what he calls the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act which seems like an exceedingly stingy assessment of a law that has already reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 20 million.” (emphasis added).

It appears to me here that Mr. Chait has a problem with one adjective in the entirety of Bernie Sanders presidential nomination announcement speech—MODEST.

It is a bit nitpicky, but I will play along. Mr. Chait asserts that Bernie’s assessment of the effectiveness of the progress of the Affordable Care Act is exceedingly stingy. Exceedingly stingy?

Bernie Sanders idea of more than a “moderate” gain in access to healthcare is when EVERYONE has access to it. Although 20 million people have benefitted (or at least are now using) the federal exchange or its benefits to get insurance, 33 million Americans remained uninsured during 2014.

This also ignores a chief complaint of the ACA, the cost of healthcare continues to rise. In 2014, healthcare spending increased 5.3%.

The Affordable Care Act is too young and too complicated for me to broach the topic in much detail. Suffice it to say, Americans are not that happy with the Affordable Care Act. There were a number of political blunders, bald-faced lies, and a general queasiness about a piece of legislation that is so cumbersome and arduous to parse through, that the citizens of this country cannot aspire to fully understand it. There is power in information and Americans were not given enough information about this law. Thus, we feel we have given up even more of our individual power—the power to stay with the plan we liked, the power to keep seeing our preferred doctors—as an example.

Bernie wants to eliminate health care spending. He wants to eliminate large private insurance companies and take prescription-pricing power back from Big Pharma.

To suggest that Bernie Sanders is not qualified to be president because he, like a lot of us, are not satisfied with the ACA and do not believe it went far enough is an obvious attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Further, as I mentioned in Part I of this blog, young people like me are well-traveled and largely in-tune with the world around them. Why can’t we have health care like Norway, Germany, France, Sweden, etc.?

Bernie’s healthcare plan is a cost-benefit analysis for most of us. Raise our taxes, but give us healthcare. You may disagree as is your right, but this does not rise to the level of disqualifying Bernie Sanders for the presidency.

2. Big banks are breaking themselves up: “The Dodd-Frank reforms of the financial industry may not have broken up the big banks, but they have, at the very least, deeply reduced systemic risk.”

You provided a link to make this point, but the Dodd-Frank Act is not even mentioned in the article you cite.

Rather, this article is about, “[t]he latest action, from the global banking regulator known as the Financial Stability Board (FSB) . . . .” (emphasis added). To make matters worse, the FSB’s decisions are not legally binding. Rather, “the [FBS] operates by moral suasion and peer pressure[.]”

Journalism fail.

3. Wall Street and Big Banks: “The penalties for being too big to fail exceed the benefits, and as a result, banks are actually breaking themselves up to avoid being large enough to be regulated as systemic risks.”

It is convenient that you cite a paid Wall Street Journal article here. I guess only those who overpay for the privilege of reading the newspaper that my friend, Josh Mitchell works at, can fact check you here. Lucky for you, I do have a paid subscription!

My first problem with this link (other than it is only available to a limited number of people) is that the article is actually about MetLife—an insurance company and not a big bank—shedding parts of its business to avoid prospective regulations. The article also mentions that MetLife is only the second large company to shed part of its financial business in order to avoid being regulated. The first company was GE—also not a big bank. Not only did you mislead your readers about what is actually happening and what role Dodd-Frank has or has not had on these changes, you made it impossible for them to check your “evidence.”

How about talking about how Dodd-Frank has the potential to be a great piece of legislation with far-reaching effects. And although it has had some success (albeit, very delayed success), it could have done more over the past five years?

But instead of addressing the continued systematic abuses of Wall Street, you try to imply that Bernie’s feelings about the economy are unwarranted and are one more example that he is disqualified from being our president.

Lest we forget, the Clintons are very intertwined with Wall Street. And Bill Clinton drove one of the final stakes in the deregulation of the banks that led to the financial meltdown.  Bernie voted against this legislation. You have to admit, he has a pretty legitimate voting record.

What we should be talking about is how Dodd-Frank does not really have the teeth that the words in the legislation lead one to believe. This is because Congress (the GOP) has underfunded (or blatantly refused to fund) the SEC for years in order to prevent it from hiring and training the personnel needed to enforce the law effectively.

I think Barney Frank sums it up perfectly in a quote from a WSJ interview:

WSJ: How successful do you think the regulators have been at implementing the law?

Frank: Very good given the constraints. I remember part of the problem was as soon as the Republicans took power [in the House] they cut the funding [for] the [Securities and Exchange Commission] and the [Commodity Futures Trading Commission], which got an enormous amount of new authority over financial derivatives.

Why do Bernie supporters agree with his “fatalistic” assessment of the American economy? Because we got screwed and we are still getting screwed. I have written in-depth about the bailout and its effect on student loans and that does not even scratch the surface. The wounds caused by using tax payer money to bail out the banks that bet against us, is infuriating. On this we agree:

“It is true that the Great Recession inflicted catastrophic economic damage, and that fiscal policy did too little to alleviate it. The impression of economic failure hardened into place as the sluggish recovery dragged on for several years.”

4. Wages and Unemployment: “Recently, conditions have improved. Unemployment has dropped, the number of people quitting their job has risen, and—as one would predict would happen when employers start to run short of available workers—average wages have started to climb.”

That’s a really long sentence. First, we agree that unemployment has dropped.

I do not agree, however, that wages have started to “climb.” (emphasis added). Climb? Really? It seems like Bernie is not the only casually throwing questionable adjectives around . . . Your choice of words gets even more laughable when we see that government released data showing that wages are not rising. In fact, in December 2014, average pay fell. (page 8).

You assert that Bernie’s conclusion that “Obama’s policies have failed to raise living standards for average people is premature.” Maybe you’re right. Only time will tell. This still doesn’t disqualify Bernie as a presidential candidate, though.

5. Eliminating Corporate Power: “And the progress under Obama refutes Sanders’s corollary point, that meaningful change is impossible without a revolutionary transformation that eliminates corporate power.”

What progress have we made on reducing corporate power? There has been no campaign finance reform. The presidential candidates are expected to spend over $5 BILLION dollars this election. Where does this money come from? You could ask Hillary, but you already know the answer: anonymous corporate donations to a candidate’s Super Pac. Bernie doesn’t have one of those and we agree that a revolution is necessary. We live in a country where Supreme Court justices attend parties thrown by the Koch brothers! But yeah, let’s keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Getting 20 million+ people on health insurance is awesome, but as we have discussed, it’s not enough. Second, the unemployment rate is amazing, too. But since I am not an economist, I cannot comment on any policy changes that can be proven to have caused unemployment rates to decline with any statistical significance.  And since you did not provide a citation here, I guess we’ll move along.

6. Raising the Minimum Wage: “Even liberal labor economists like Alan Krueger, who have supported more modest increases, have blanched at Sanders’s proposal for a $15 minimum wage.”

You cite an article by Alan Krueger railing against a $15/hour minimum wage. See my last post on the 210 economists that support Bernie Sanders’ plan for a $15/hour minimum wage by 2020. His is not a widely-held belief.

7. Socialism: “[H]is self-identification as a socialist poses an enormous obstacle, as Americans respond to ‘socialism’ with overwhelming productivity.”

Adjectives really seem to get under your skin! It’s time to move on from socialist fever. Nobody cares what Bernie calls himself anymore. That was so 2015 and we are the generation of redefining labels and trying not to stereotype others. Rather, we are paying attention to what he is saying now and what he has been saying for over 30 years.

Further, the link you cite to support your assault on yet another adjective has the following headline: “Younger Americans have a much better view of socialism, and worse view of capitalism, than their elders.” Who do you think is going to run this country—maybe even as early as November 2016? Millennials!

John Mayer sums it up perfectly in his 2006 hit, “Waiting on the World to Change:”

“One day our generation is gonna rule the population.”

Welcome to our world.

8. Taxes: “Likewise, his support for higher taxes on the middle class—while substantively sensible—also saddles him with a highly unpopular stance.”

Since you did not provide a citation here, I’ll just argue that once people learn more about Bernie Sanders and his policies, the more appealing he seems to become. See above re: the cost-benefit analysis.

9. Bernie did not talk enough about Paris at the Democratic debate following the massacre: Therefore, “he has difficulty addressing issues outside his economic populism wheelhouse.”

What? I’m not even going to dignify that with more key strokes.

Shame-Bell-Lady-From-Game-Thrones

Gif from Giphy.

  1. Bernie Sanders does not have the grassroots support Obama did: So he’s going to fail.

Again, what? Do you have a crystal ball we should be aware of?

  1. Healthcare again:

The citation you provide here actually sings the praises of national single-payer healthcare systems. For example:

Overall, single-payer systems tend to be especially good at two things: increasing health coverage rates and holding down health care prices. Getting people covered is, unsurprisingly, a much easier task when the government is running a health insurance plan. When Taiwan implemented a single-payer system in 1995, the insured rate went from 53 percent to 96 percent in nine months.

The United States is not Vermont. It is not Cyprus. It is not Taiwan. Would this change be hard? Yes. Would it be worth it? My answer, along with millions of other Bernie supporters, is yes.

  1. Congress is more powerful than the president: “Those areas in which a Democratic Executive branch has no power are those in which Sanders demands aggressive action, and the areas in which the Executive branch still has power now are precisely those in which Sanders has the least to say.”

Are you suggesting that the bulk of Hillary Clinton’s main issues are something that the president can control? I don’t see how you could with a straight face. The link you provide here states, “For the purposes of evaluating a prospective Clinton presidency, this is all beside the point, because the number of these proposals she will sign into law hovers around zero.”

You state that “The next Democratic presidential term will be mostly defensive, a bulwark against the enactment of the radical Ryan plan. What little progress liberals can expect will be concentrated in the non-Sanders realm.” Duh.

Believe it or not, Bernie supporters generally know that there are three branches of government. We fiercely believe in the separation of powers, checks and balances and non-partisan adult legislation from our elected officials. The power that someone like Bernie Sanders has is to educate people about how they can take back their power in the political system.

  1. You don’t like Bernie Sanders.

Thanks, Captain Obvious.

Liberal to liberal let me give you some advice. The weakness of the Democratic Party is that it underestimates the growing support behind Bernie Sanders. It doubted that Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton in 2008 (especially as decisively as he did).

Mr. Chait, just like the Democratic Party, you underestimate the intelligence of your readers generally, and Bernie Sanders supporters, specifically. We did not elect Hillary in 2008, and there is a possibility that we will fail to do so in 2016. The race has just begun.

I welcome a response.

 

Peace and Love.

Lindsey

The Case Against Misleading Journalism (And For Bernie Sanders): Part I of II

It is no mystery. One of my greatest pet peeves is inaccurate and misleading journalism. I mean, really? You get PAID to report the news. Your job is to fact check, cite check and present an educated assessment of the story de jour.

It is so unfortunate that I have to call out a fellow liberal, but something must be said. Jonathan Chait, a writer for New York Magazine, wrote an article this week titled, “The Case Against Bernie Sanders.”  As an avid news reader and consumer of knowledge, I was intrigued.

After cross-checking each source cited and linked, I began to get that icky feeling again. I had flashbacks of Josh Mitchell and the Wall Street Journal. Thus, I feel in the interest of truth, I must take on the task of dissecting his article for your enlightenment and enjoyment.

But this is a complicated issue for me. Therefore, I have decided to break this post up into two parts.

This is Part I.  In this blog, I will explain some of the personal reasons I support Bernie Sanders. In the next part, I will dissect Mr. Chait’s article. This should be fun. J

PART I: When Feelin’ the Bern is not a Medical Emergency

feel the bern

It’s probably pretty obvious to most of you that I am a bleeding heart liberal. I am especially liberal when it comes to social issues, civil rights, separation of church and state, religious liberty, equality, drugs, the right to die, law enforcement, judicial reform and a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. I believe in the autonomy of each human being. I believe that adults should be able to make choices for themselves without government interference or input.

Side Bar

This used to be a conservative point of view, but in my opinion, neither party can claim this as their cornerstone anymore. That’s why I am not a Democrat, Republican, or member of any political party. Rant complete . . .

I believe that a human being, by virtue of being alive, has the inalienable right to do what he or she wants so long as they are not harming others, putting others in danger, or harming or endangering another’s property. I truly believe in each individual’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” whatever that pursuit may entail. I don’t even care if people want to hurt themselves or their own property. That’s their prerogative to the extent that it is not harming others. (Before some troll starts calling me out for this paragraph, my intelligent readers know that each of these statements is qualified and more complex than this brief explanation. Therefore, any discussion about people with mental health issues, incapacity, or unaddressed issues that these blanket statements may provoke, etc. cool your jets. I know.)

I love my country and like Bernie Sanders, am very hopeful for the future. I believe in US. I especially believe in my generation and the generations to come. We do not live in an isolated world where we are unconcerned and unconnected with the rest of the planet. We watch as other economies and societies flounder and flourish.

We read about Germany welcoming American students to come to Germany to receive a free college education. We wonder why the Germans can do this for Americans, yet our government cannot (or will not) do it for us.

We read articles about paid parental leave in Europe and especially Norway and Sweden’s approach to maternity and paternity leave. Yet, young women in this country are afraid to even insinuate that they may want children in the future to their overwhelmingly white male employers. And if you do get pregnant, I hope you work for a company that provides some type of paid leave for you. They do not have to, after all.

When we browse through our newsfeed on Twitter or Facebook, we see articles or personal stories about people ranging in age from 18-30 who have died in combat fighting a war that we have no stake in. We read heartbreaking statistics and stories from our friends about loved ones who made it back from this endless war only to take their own lives because they are not given the support they need when they get home.

We wonder why our country cannot look like other countries. Why is our country consumed by the acquisition of “things”? Why are we strapped with student debt that will cripple millions of us for a QUARTER OF A CENTURY? Think about that. That’s like having a mortgage on a house for 30 years, except at the end of 30 years you have nothing to show for it. Why can we not take care of our veterans? Why can we not have a fair election system?

People my age listen to their friends talk about work. How they are asked to work more and more hours with no expectation of raises or bonuses. The attitude in the working world from our perspective is: “If you don’t like it, we’ll find someone else who will do it for less. Be happy you’re even employed.”

We watched our parents’ unflinching loyalty to their employers. They played by the rules, contributed to their 401(k)’s and they are masters at their craft. Now they wonder if they will ever be able to afford to retire. Their wages are stagnant, their retirement plans and home values suffered severely after the crash in 2008. So, what was the point?

The people whose parents benefitted the most from collective bargaining and unions (baby boomers, specifically), proceeded to elect people who dismantled that safety net for American employees. They elected politicians who made it harder for average people to seek the relief of bankruptcy. They elected politicians that bailed out Wall Street with OUR tax money.

And it is no coincidence that the cost of college and student loan debt (accompanied by interest rates upwards of 7%) have sky rocketed since the recession. Each action has an opposite and equal reaction. Each part of our economy is so intertwined within itself that the most destitute of our communities and citizens ultimately pay the highest price.

Why should we play by your rules? What has it gotten you? We have a healthy distrust for government and an unwavering barometer for truth, justice and unfiltered bull shit.

Why not universal healthcare? The insurance companies have screwed ALL Americans. Why do we allow corporations to determine who does and does not receive medication and healthcare by virtue of a person’s ability (or inability) to pay?

Money in politics has rigged elections for a party that does not represent our beliefs and is fiercely opposed to change and progress. We have atoned for our crimes of seeking an education by committing up to 25 years of our lives paying off our student loans. We watch as our friends, neighbors and members of our community are arrested for possession of marijuana and police are literally getting away with murdering young black men and women. We see You Tube videos of police conducting raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and consuming their products. We read reports of law enforcement selling weapons and laundering money for drug cartels. We are pissed!

The Democrats are not innocent in this. They have become complacent. They have forgotten about states like mine. Texas is a historically blue state. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? But the party has abandoned us. And let’s not forget Bill Clinton’s indispensable role in signing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines into law and further deregulating the banks, among other mistakes of his presidency.

Our country is a mired pool of hypocrisy and injustice. In my opinion, we do need a radical change.

This is why I support Bernie Sanders. Are all of his budgetary plans completely hammered out to the nearest cent? No. But do not be fooled, nobody else’s proposals are either. Wise readers, do not get caught up in the rhetoric. Never stop seeking the truth.

When I look at Bernie Sanders’ record, it is consistent and honest. He, like many other people, has evolved on certain issues. He’s recently been ridiculed for his past stance on gun legislation, but as a person from Texas, I get it. And it is nothing compared to what the Clinton campaign would have you believe.  Every state is different, but Bernie rarely is. This speaks to me and people my age. We’re tired of the bullshit. And there is one voice out there who seems to get that.

Since the mainstream media tends to ignore Bernie Sanders, let me drop some truth bombs on you with some excellent sources so that you can learn more about Bernie Sanders.

  1. Here is a list of Bernie’s most important issues. Feel free to cross-reference these proposals with his 30+ year voting record on Google.
  2. Bernie just released his budget on his website. You can see it here.
  3. 210 leading economists support Bernie Sanders’ plan to raise the minimum wage to $15.00/hour by the year 2020.
  4. 170 leading economists support Bernie Sanders’ financial reform plan to reign in Wall Street.
  5. If you disagree with economists and you yourself are not an economist, you become that person that diagnoses themselves with severe life-threatening ailments by using WebMD. Neither you nor your computer are a doctor, and you need to see a professional. The same goes for economics.
  6. Bernie is unquestionably a loyal-long time LGBTQ community and rights advocate. Just this morning, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Hillary Clinton. A petition has already appeared on Change.org calling for the group to withdraw their endorsement because, lest we forget, Hillary Clinton is an uber-religious soldier in the democratic party. Unlike Bernie Sanders, and much like Barak Obama, Hillary was really late on the uptick.  While Bernie has been the house DJ for the most fabulous party on earth for over 30 years, Hillary only showed up around 2013 and even then she stood in the corner quietly watching to see what others were saying about **in a whispery southern voice** the gays! I do declare!
Parents guide

This abomination of a book is available for free on Amazon.

  1. Want to check out which Democratic nominees have been lying during this election cycle and what they have been lying about: click here!
  2. Here is a fact-check comparison for all 2016 presidential candidates: click here!

Although this is a short list, it is a list to get you started on getting know Bernie Sanders’ stances on issues and the truth about his campaign. Love him, hate him, it doesn’t matter if your opinion is based in fact.

I’ll see you tomorrow when I explore Mr. Chait’s article for you. And if you run across an article that just doesn’t sit right, feel free to share it with me in the comments.

Peace and Love,

Lindsey

 

#BerniePromPosal by @StephenAtHome

Last night, Stephen Colbert dissected the reason why Bernie Sanders has never worn a tuxedo. The hypothesis is that Bernie did not go to his prom because if he had, he would have worn a tuxedo. In an effort to help heal Bernie’s broken heart, Stephen suggested that viewers post pictures of themselves with Bernie at prom with the hashtag #BerniePromposal. Without further ado, here is me and Bernie at the prom: Linds and Bernie Prom

#FeelTheBern