Sunday, July 2, 2023

Inequality rears its ugly head again.

What the hell -- I'm not trying to sell books anymore. Might as well stop pretending that I don't talk about politics here. 

This week's Supreme Court decisions -- particularly the one that invalidated President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan -- are what got me going this time. I have a personal stake in this: I still owe the government for one of the PLUS loans that I took out for my daughters to go to college. I made a decision before I retired to take about $30,000 out of my savings to pay off most of them, leaving a balance of just under $10,000 -- which would have gone away, if the Supreme Court hadn't decided this week to screw over 40 million Americans.

I paid off my own graduate school loan. I've paid off three-quarters of what I owed on the PLUS loans. Now I'm retired, living on a reduced income. And still there are people out there who would call me a deadbeat because I hoped for a little relief. 

But that's just one instance of how the Supremes screwed over regular Americans this week. There was also the decision that ended affirmative action in college admissions and the one about how people can refuse service to gay couples who want to get married (even if the situation is completely hypothetical, no one has been harmed, and the business isn't even set up yet!).

There's a lot to unpack with these end-of-term rulings, and I don't have the bandwidth to give it the space it deserves. (My apartment's in an uproar due to a plumbing leak in the unit above me, and I have a crazy week ahead that has now been complicated with insurance adjusters and whatnot.) But my brain has been doing its random association thing ever since the student loan order came down Friday, and the result was a rant that I posted to Facebook yesterday:

Everybody in my age cohort, by which I mean Generation Jones (mid '50s to 1963 or so), got fucked. 

We entered the work force in the mid to late '70s, just about the time when trickle-down economics took over -- when conservatives launched their long game to make money, and keep it, by gutting the middle class. We literally never had a chance. 

But at least we still had the opportunity to get an undergrad degree before college tuition went through the roof. My kids really got hosed -- they had to take out loans to afford college and graduated into the Great Recession, when there weren't jobs easily available to them so they could pay them off.

The American Dream worked for the Boomers because they had years of earnings before this shit started. That's why they think we're whiners. They never had to live through what we're living through financially.

Am I pissed? You bet I am.

I wrote about Generation Jones last year. Basically, it recognizes that those of us born between, oh, 1955 and 1963, give or take, have very little in common with the Baby Boomers we're lumped with demographically. We grew up watching the Boomers go through the Vietnam War and their reactions -- Woodstock and the Summer of Love as well as antiwar protests -- and internalized their values. Then the Boomers grew up and enjoyed, at least for a while, the postwar economy that supported the middle class the way it had their parents. Jonesers, meanwhile, came into the workforce right about when the gravy train ended thanks to Reaganomics. 

There are links supporting all this in the GenJones post I've already linked to. It looks like the link to the graphics from Inequality for All is dead, but here's the graphic that really got me when I watched the documentary (which I have stolen from a review of the doc at Zero Anthropology -- apologies for the quality of their screen grab): 

After 1977, Reaganomics and its trickle-down bullshit kicked in, and the hill to prosperity became harder and harder to climb -- hitting Jonesers and GenXers especially hard, because we feel cheated out of the American Dream that many of us lived as kids.

But see how the graph begins to fall off on the right side of the graphic? It assumed that the 2010 figure was the high point of inequality and that it would start coming down, but that was wishful thinking; income inequality continued to grow through the pandemic. However, awareness of inequality has also continued to grow. And while the Supreme Court's decisions this week seem to be aimed at cementing the disparities, by keeping down the people that should, y'know, be kept down (like Blacks and LGBTQ+ folks and basically everybody who ought not to have been granted access to an education that allowed them to think for themselves and question the oligarchy) -- and particularly when it's paired with last year's Roe v. Wade decision and its gleeful (on the part of evangelicals) aftermath --  it also feels to me like the final gasp of a dying worldview. 

It seems like we ought to be at a tipping point when the Supreme Court starts issuing decisions on bogus cases to enforce a draconian worldview that most Americans don't subscribe to. I hope we're at that tipping point. 

I've been disappointed on that score before. And yet, my hope for a turnaround abides.

It sucks to be living through this timeline. We may not begin making progress toward equality again for many years. But at some point, the pendulum has to swing back. It always does.


The Biden administration is already working on a Plan B for student loan relief, although it won't be immediate or as far-reaching. And it may not help me, so I'm not going to wait for it. Guess it's a good thing that I went back to work...


These moments of ranty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

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