Sink or swim it's your choice!

Guarding the dumpsters from the starving

After Biden said earlier this week he would not allow the Schumer/Warren plan to forgive $50,000 in student debt to go forward and that he instead favored around $10,000 [UPDATE FROM DECEMBER 2021: lol at even thinking he’d do that] I was reminded once again of one of the more disgust-inducing Hell Worlds in a while.

“I didn’t have a concept of what it cost to live at all,” Sarah Kelly said.

“How could I? I worked at Dairy Queen. Minimum wage was $5.15. I didn’t understand that you could be paid so little that you literally can’t live. I guess I should’ve known that since my parents were poor, but… With a college degree I thought you made enough to get by. When people said journalism doesn’t pay well, don’t do it, I thought they just meant you won’t get rich.”

Since then some other readers have chimed in with similar stories of their own:

  • By my reckoning I have paid out a total of $112,000 since 2008 on a $90,000 balance after graduation. Have refinanced/consolidated a few times to push interest rate down. Currently owe $69,000. I’m glad that it hasn’t gone up but Jesus Christ people you’ve made your money.
  • Took out $40,000 that turned into $80,—- to pay for a school that doesn’t exist anymore to get into an industry that’s fighting for a $15 min wage. I should have worked harder imo.
  • I’m in this same boat. Took out 32,000 and after 4 years I’m like at 42,000. We need debt relief/cancellation so bad.
  • I borrowed $23,000 in 2003, I still owe $17,879.32. Haven't missed a payment in over 10 years, was deferred for about 3 years while taking classes at another spot, and on forbearance when I couldn't afford to pay due to cost of city living. FUN! That means I've paid around $48,000 on a $23,000 loan and still owe $18,000 basically.
  • I hate you all for making me do this math. I took out 24,000 in 2006 and have paid 32,000 and still owe 7,000 and will have paid 40,000 when it's done in 2023. I dropped out after two semesters so it's basically just a penalty I pay every month.
  • 3 loans down, 3 loans left. $49,531 total borrowed, $58,160.39 total paid so far. $12,265.82 to go.
  • I borrowed $64,500 for grad school in 2008. 12 years of repayments later, I owe $108,500
  • Finished undergrad (state school) in 2001. 2 private loans are paid off. Consolidated federal loans in 2003 (+/- $16k). Loan has been transferred so many times I literally can't tell how much I've paid. Rough math says $32,000. $900 left to go.

Even if you're one of those people who say “Well they took on the responsibility of the loan...” etc SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE LONG SINCE PAID OFF THE ACTUAL AMOUNT OF THEIR TUITION AND YET STILL OWE TENS OF THOUSANDS. WHO THE FUCK ARE WE PAYING AT THIS POINT AND FOR WHAT?

Some further reading on student debt from Hell World:

And this one from February 2020.

A man confronted Elizabeth Warren at a campaign event in Iowa angry about her proposal to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans. I did things the right way he said. A friend of mine wasted his money on frivolous things but not me I did the right thing and saved so my daughter could pay for college he said. “Can I have my money back?” he asked her and she said no “of course not.”

I do sort of part ways with her there because fuck it why not? Why not reappropriate all of the money colleges and student loan companies have stolen from all of us? Student loan reparations sounds fine to me.

In the middle of writing this I just saw this tweet.

Someone replied “I’ve paid $1100/month for 13 years. I started knocking down the principal about 1 year ago. That’s $13k year towards interest for 12 years.”

Someone else replied “After 11.5 years and 136 on time full payments, I’ve paid down <25% of my loan even though I’ve paid in 75%+ of the original cost. The student loan industry is a parasite.”

Someone else replied “I have nearly paid the value of my loan principal in full. But my total balance has only gone down by about 20%.”

Millions of people have similar stories.

It’s tempting to sympathize with the angry Iowa dad who “did things the right way” because it seems sort of unfair to him and people like him but that ignores the fact that what we have going on now is already far more unfair and unjust for far more people by an order of magnitude.

When people complain that improvements in society like the idea of debt forgiveness are unfair to them personally they are playing into the stereotype of the lazy others who surely don’t work as hard as they do but also essentially saying that because things were tough for them they should continue to be tough for everyone else forever. It’s like saying the polio vaccine was unfair to everyone who suffered with the disease before it was found.

To be clear the system we operate under that leads to decades of toiling to barely pay off the interest on your student loans is a fucking disease as bad as any other.

For the first time in my life at the age of forty two I have finally gotten my own student loans under $25,000. I don’t remember what they started at to be honest because when I first took them out I tried to pay as little attention to them as possible because it would make a person nauseous otherwise. Surely I’ll pay them off someday when I’m successful I must have thought and like almost everything else I thought in my teens besides knowing how good R.E.M. were it was fucking stupid.

Remember this story in the WSJ from a couple years ago about the dentist in Utah who had over a million dollars in student loans?

Due to escalating tuition and easy credit, the U.S. has 101 people who owe at least $1 million in federal student loans, according to the Education Department. Five years ago, 14 people owed that much.

More could join that group. While the typical student borrower owes $17,000, the number of those who owe at least $100,000 has risen to around 2.5 million, nearly 6% of the borrowing pool, Education Department data show.

For graduate-school students especially, there is little incentive for universities to help put the brakes on big borrowing. The government essentially allows grad students to borrow any amount to cover tuition and living costs, with few guardrails on how the final sum will be repaid.

More than a third of borrowers from one of the government’s main graduate school lending programs have enrolled in some form of federal loan-forgiveness plan.

“These are choices. We’re not coercing,” said Avishai Sadan, dean of USC’s Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, where Mr. Meru went to school and one of the most expensive in the U.S. “You know exactly what you’re getting into.”

…Do we though?

What if and hear me out here every bright student with a passion for fixing teeth or the law or medicine or whatever the fuck were encouraged to go learn the profession for very little cost and then could turnaround and proffer their expertise to others for a much lower cost than they do now? What a public good! What a healthy society we'd have if our doctors and other necessary professionals didn’t limp out of the starting gates with backpack full of rocks on their back.

For some reason schools like USC need to sit on its $5.5 billion endowment though. USC having that much money on hand is non-negotiable.


I’m saddened by the passing of Rush Limbaugh yesterday at the age of seventy but only because I wish it had happened much sooner.

I briefly took some solace as many of us did in his death but it’s hard to maintain more than a fleeting buzz when one of these monsters croaks as soon as you remember just how overwhelmingly successful they were at their lifelong project of weaving unending suffering into the fabric of the country. I’d say the world is a better place without this man in it but everything he stood for is alive and well and not going anywhere anytime soon.

You’ll find no shortage of enthusiastic grave-pissing all over the internet but here are a few bits from our man David Roth’s obituary on Defector I liked.

…A long career in slavish service to power and pretend royalty followed, broadcasting under his (ridiculous, like the name of a dimwitted plantation owner who is repeatedly swindled out of his pants in a lesser Mark Twain short story) real name for the first time at Kansas City’s KMBZ. His name would in time become synonymous with conservative media and Republican politics, which is the sort of thing that would look like a compliment to someone unfamiliar with either of those things.



It was, in its way, all perfectly Limbaugh, both in terms of how he Invited Controversy and Sparked Conversation without actually saying or doing anything interesting or insightful or remotely new himself, and also because the combination of his bottomless carny cynicism and sincere personal reprehensibility made it impossible to parse just how much of a calculated work it really was. In his later career, Limbaugh pretty much did the same shit he always did, for a tremendous audience but far from the mainstream success that he simultaneously sought and reviled as part of his broader gambit. He spent his last years sucking up to Donald Trump, one of the few men alive to match Limbaugh’s own passions for getting divorced and listening to himself talk, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.

I’m sort of surprised but not really that people actually tried the “don’t speak ill of the dead” and “so much for the tolerant left!” shtick for this superlatively evil man. That sort of thing is always a joke when it’s someone like Limbaugh but personally speaking he also happens to have had some insulting shit to say about me so I think I get a pass.

Anyway thanks for the shout out you old dead fuck. My only regret is that the Hell so many of his followers believe in isn’t real.

I found out Limbaugh died yesterday standing in a massive line during a rare trip to the grocery store to buy rock salt for my skating rink driveway and when the child they have working the register rang it up one of the bags broke open a little and he said oh let me get you a new one and I said no it’s fine and so he took a bunch of those bright orange circle stickers they put on bananas or whatever and tried to patch up the hole and I carried it out to the car leaving a trail of salt behind me like some kind of fairy tale idiot. It seemed like a metaphor for something.

I read a tweet just now that went like so: “The American state has disintegrated to the point that it’s literally incapable of efficiently administering anything but punishment. No social services, no public health capacity, no infrastructure resilience. Just policing and war.”

Here’s some related material.

1.

2.

Dig Boston has a good piece on the efforts to build a new women’s prison here which local activists are trying to stop.

For more than a year, the Massachusetts Department of Correction has been trying to build a new women’s prison. And for more than a year, activists with Families for Justice as Healing, an organization focused on ending the incarceration of women and girls, have pushed back on the project, pointing out issues with how the state is trying to get it off the ground, and in the process leading to officials twice pulling plans after FJH criticized them as trying to circumvent public scrutiny.

Now, the DOC has a third plan to get the prison off the ground, and as with the previous proposals, the department is promising the new facility will be constructed with “trauma-informed design to create welcoming and therapeutic spaces.” Families for Justice as Healing is fighting this proposal as well, arguing that prisons with “trauma-informed” care are not possible in the first place, and that the DOC is ignoring the voices of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women who are advocating for community-based rehabilitation.

Hmmm a prison with “trauma-informed design to create welcoming and therapeutic spaces.”

“There’s no such thing as trauma-informed care in prison,” said Leslie Credle, who was incarcerated for five years, including a year at MCI-Framingham. “I say that because the atmosphere and environment inside prisons is toxic. When you first walk through the door, you are automatically humiliated, stripped of everything that makes you you. Every day you wear that uniform and that’s what you are, a name and number … It comes with a punitive approach rather than rehabilitative.”

“When you talk about building new prisons, you are putting out the message that those of us that live in these communities that you are intending future generations to be in those beds,” Andrea James of Families for Justice as Healing said and that is something that should seem so obvious yet it’s hitting me like a ton of bricks anyway right now. The idea that when a prison is constructed in your community it’s a sort of implied promise. It will be filled one way or the other. Demand must be met.

3.

Life expectancy in America dropped by an entire year in 2020 overall “a staggering decline that reflects the toll of the covid-19 pandemic as well as a rise in deaths from drug overdoses, heart attacks and diseases that accompanied the outbreak,” the Washington Post reported citing newly released government data.

“Black Americans lost 2.7 years of life expectancy, and Latinos lost 1.9. White life expectancy fell 0.8 years.”

“The last time life expectancy at birth dropped more dramatically was during World War II.”

4.

Throughout all that people have been desperately scrambling for help in the face of an uncaring and indifferent government (and god). Just ask our unofficial healthcare provider the guy who runs GoFundMe.

“From March 1 to Aug. 31 alone, people started more than 150,000 fundraisers for COVID-related assistance on our site, and the requests for help have yet to abate,” Tim Cadogan wrote in USA Today recently. “Last month, even after Congress passed a second relief bill in December, the number of new fundraisers on GoFundMe was higher than in May during the first wave of the pandemic.”

The situation is nothing short of a national emergency. Congress should treat it as such by quickly passing a large relief bill whose generosity is commensurate with the need.

We’ve known for years that most Americans don’t have $500 to spare to cover unexpected emergencies, like a car breakdown. Now, it’s as if their entire lives are breaking down again and again and again. The scale and variety of the fundraisers we see point to the level of desperation among Americans and give us a window into where the relief could be most helpful…

5.

Elsewhere in Portland this week where they’re dealing with a cold and storm emergency of their own grocery chain Fred Meyer disposed of perishable food that they said was “destroyed” by power outages.

“Images on social media showed mountains of packaged meat, cheese and juice, as well as whole turkeys and racks of ribs that had been tossed into two large dumpsters near the store,” Oregon Live reported.

When some local residents turned up to retrieve the food for distributing to those in need around a dozen police arrived to guard the dumpsters.

“None of this makes sense to me except through the lens of severely ingrained policing and a culture of disrespect for human dignity,” Juniper Simonis a local activist on hand said.

It just occurred to me that staying in my house for about 99% of the past year to avoid Covid really calls into question that whole “I want to be dead” persona I thought I had going on there this whole time. I feel like you all deserve a refund.

No that’s not right I think it’s still in there it’s just hard to express it in new and interesting ways without it seeming derivative at this point on account of the aforementioned geographical stasis. I gotta go stand someplace else for a while in order to unlock it like when a slumping athlete gets traded to a new city and all of a sudden finds their stroke again rejuvenated by the new scenery. Everything here has been flattened and sadness needs contrast in order to stand out it’s like when you hold up a color swatch to the wall when you’re thinking about painting the room a new color and all of a sudden everything looks different.

Another day at the dick sucking factory Michelle just said when she came down from bed this morning and not in the good way. She beat me to it because I was already going to say the same thing.

Still though my heat is functioning and monotony seems like a privilege at this point.

The auto-correct wants me to change that word to “heart.”