Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent, yet the average starting salary for graduates has dropped 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. Student debts can’t be cancelled in bankruptcy. A default brings penalties and ruins a credit rating. To make matters worse, the job market for new graduates remains lousy. Which is why record numbers are still living at home.
Some polls are pretty amazing. There was one conducted in the South right before the presidential elections. Just Southern whites, I think, were asked about the economic plans of the two candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Southern whites said they preferred Romney’s plan, but when asked about its particular components, they opposed every one. Well, that’s the effect of good propaganda: getting people not to think in terms of their own interests, let alone the interest of communities and the class they’re part of. Overcoming that takes a lot of work. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s not going to happen easily.
In fact, in the past 30 years, the US has seen a “life expectancy gap” grow in line with the income gap: the poorest among us today can expect to die at the rates they did before the Civil Rights Era, the richest can expect to live five years longer.
The US Department of Education states that eighty-five per cent of juvenile delinquents, and seventy per cent of all prison inmates, are functionally illiterate, as are fourteen per cent of all Americans (thirty-two million). Others report that the US is the only developed nation (OECD) in which each generation is less literate than its predecessor.
“It’s been the push, that if we can get people working, then they’ll get out of poverty,” Sanders said. “But we have millions of Americans working, playing by the rules, and they’re still trapped in poverty.”