As anger builds over deep pool of red ink, some advocate forgiveness or mass payment stoppage
By Petra Cahill Reporter
updated 10/26/2011 6:35:16 AM ET 2011-10-26T10:35:16
NEW YORK — As President Barack Obama announces plans to ease repayment of student loan debt, some in the “Occupy” protest movement are agitating for a far more radical solution: debt forgiveness or a mass payment stoppage.
While economists say there is little chance that such tactics could succeed, the fact that they are even being talked about — including the recent introduction of a congressional resolution calling for student loan forgiveness — shows the depth of the frustration and anger brewing over what is cumulatively a crushing debt load for U.S. students and graduates.
At a gathering last week in a public atrium a few blocks from the square that is home to the Occupy Wall Street encampment, New York University professor Andrew Ross led a discussion about the burden of student loan debt — now estimated to be between $550 billion and $829 billion — and proposed a radical solution: “A Pledge of Refusal.” The idea is that protesters
would sign a pledge to stop making payments on their student loans as soon as 1 million had joined in making the pledge.
Ross told the crowd of about 50 people — ranging from current students to long-ago graduates — that while individuals are subject to heavy financial penalties if they stop paying on their student loans, a mass action by 1 million would make the banks take notice.
“There is a lot of talk about student debt, but no one takes any action, and that’s what Occupy Wall Street is about,” the professor of social and cultural analysis said.
'It's just immoral'
Ross acknowledged the irony of protesting against one of the main sources of his salary but added, “I feel very bad that my salary has actually been financed (by these debts). … To me it is just heartbreaking to see my students carry so much debt. It’s just immoral.”
While Ross’s effort is in the early stages, the idea of student loan forgiveness has gained a substantial following, based in part on the argument that such a move would have a substantial economic stimulus effect.