As President Obama prepares to outline a deficit-reduction plan that includes tax increases, as well as cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, anthropologist David Graeber proposes a radical solution: cancel the debt of the nation’s poor. Amy Goodman interviews David Graeber on Democracy Now.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: David Graeber, talk about debt cancellation.
DAVID GRAEBER: Well, one of the things that I discovered in researching my book is that the kind of debt crisis we’re experiencing now, being a real debt crisis, which is a debt crisis that affects ordinary people, debts between the very wealthy or between governments can always be renegotiated and always have been throughout world history. They’re not anything set in stone. It’s, generally speaking, when you have debts owed by the poor to the rich that suddenly debts become a sacred obligation, more important than anything else. The idea of renegotiating them becomes unthinkable. In the past, though, there have been mechanisms, when things get to a point of real social crisis, that have always existed. And they vary by the period of history. In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms.
But whenever you have what I call a period of virtual credit money, when money is recognized not to be a thing like gold and silver, but a social relation or promise that people make to each other, which has become increasingly clear since the ’70s, when we went off the gold standard—and I think 2008 really brought that home—debts can be renegotiated. They’re not set in stone. Trillions of dollars of debt was made to disappear. We understand now that this is a political arrangement, and it can always be readjusted. And I think what the people coming to the squares—and Wall Street now included—are saying is that, well, if that’s true, if democracy is going to mean anything now, we’re all going to have to be able to weigh in on what sort of promises are made and what sort of promises are adjusted when you enter into a crisis.
And there’s a new proposal heading to the American Congress that would dramatically trim down many American students’ bills: forgiving all student loans. As reported on Edudemic…
Forgiving the student loan debt of all Americans will have an immediate stimulative effect on our economy. With the stroke of the President’s pen, millions of Americans would suddenly have hundreds, or in some … Hansen Clarke (D-MI), seeking student loan forgiveness as a means of economic stimulus. For over 30 years, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class is slowly but surely being squeezed out of existence. Instead of more …
Publish Date: 09/16/2011 11:04
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