Monday, July 09, 2012
Indentured servitude hasn't been a factor in American history since the early 1700's. But, with the explosion of student loan debts and an inability to pay them off, it looks as if it has appeared again. This time, however, the master is not a landowner but a financial institution. The difference between then and now is that indentured students have a right to vote -- and they will. They will support any candidate who promises to work on their behalf in order to restructure, reduce or get rid of burdensome loans. The perception is that America has created a class of life-long debtors, a society in which one works for the company store and never gets ahead. This used to be the case in the coal fields of West Virginia and was the genesis of the song "Sixteen Tons." The societal challenge of excessive debt is an issue that will affect communications for years to come. How do we talk to citizens who are strapped and falling from the middle class to poverty. What do we say? It is wrong to tell them it is their own fault for taking on large loans, especially after society encouraged them to do it. It also is an error to keep holding out the rewards of a college education when the payoff is demonstrably false.