Tag Archive | "debt"

Another Government-Backed Swindle


I originally borrowed $20,000 from a 4 year college . I worked night shift in an urban hospital as a phlebotomist. The hospital was reimbursing the cost of some of my classes. One semester I had a 4.0 GPA and received a letter from the president of the university as well as from a state senator. In 1992, I dropped out of college to care for my mother, dying 6 weeks later from cancer. At the time I was planning on returning to college and finish my degree in nursing, physical therapy, or athletic training.

On a bike tour in Northern New Mexico,  I met a pilot that inspired me to become a commercial pilot. Upon returning to Ohio I began flying at a local airport with the intention of becoming a professional pilot. Knowing I needed a high-paying occupation to pay off my already accumulated student loans, I researched pilots salaries and learned pilots salaries approach $85,000 within 3-4 years after school. Wages for more experience was reported up to $150,000 after gaining 10-15 years. I always thought the loans would be insignificant compared to the initial cost. I was in top physical shape, and possessed an excellent demeanor for the rigors  of flying.

I contacted a number of out of state schools, but was sold by recruiters from a community college in Colorado. I moved to  Colorado in June 1994 and waited one year to begin my flight training, in order to avoid out of state tuition. I finished most all the ground classes including instrument, flight engineer, and commercial. I passed my FAA CATS instrument rating with a 94%, which is reported as the most difficult for pilots. I was on the dean’s list and had a 3.13 GPA. I received my Private Pilot Certificate
in 1996, and passed my first stage of my instrument training when the college advised me that they could no longer secure financing to continue my training. Since I had no other way to finish my training, I realized I had become the victim of a bait and switch scheme.

I have resorted to living with/imposing on various family members. I have paid $6,270. I currently owe $90,044.81 plus a reported $30,000 in collections fees. I am now 56 years of age and have been robbed of the chance to have any quality of life. I have not been able to get married and have children, and I consider what happened to me to be tantamount to genocide by financiers/ school officials. My estimate of the the wages I have lost over this period would be in excess of $1,000,000. Is the system that corrupt that the public doesn’t recognize that justice needs to be served for the miserable conditions these criminals  shamelessly cause?

In an article bemoaning the value of a college education, a Massachusetts attorney commented that when he needed a plumber/tradesman, he can’t call a person with a degree in social work. Given his arrogance, I challenge this Sturbridge attorney, when needing a package overnighted, a vacation flight for his family, or  a flight to attend a professional obligation, to consider calling another attorney. What makes this idiot think that his career is worthy of more merit than another occupation? This reminds me of
financiers/political officials that attempt to harbor shame on harder working individuals than themselves. My father warned me when I was a child that there are people in this world that are so crooked, they would need to be screwed into the ground when they die. The federal government had no business getting involved in funding higher education in the first place.

-Wright Way Corrigan-

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Crushed by Debt


Born into a middle class family who owned a mom & pop grocery store operating on a cash basis, you may not realize it but you’re taught that cash is king. Qualifications for loans or credit cards were never discussed. The real world is quite different on your own, parents deceased, store gone, just a working stiff trying to live the American dream. Land contract you thought bought your house is defaulted on by mortgagee and about to be foreclosed. IRS wants payment plan? Under water is not a reasonable term, more like frozen in ice. Credit report agencies won’t budge, a three way triplecross. What are my chances?

-Jon Tucci-

 

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Drowning in Debt


I am 40 years old and earned a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling in August 2011.  I earned my BA in Psychology in 2004.  My BA offered almost no opportunities for employment, especially a respectable living wage, so I decided to further my education.  The economy was sliding in 2008 when I made the decision to return to school, and I figured that by the time I earned a higher degree, the economy would be in a turnaround and I would have increased my chances of finding a career. Just not the case.  Due to the current laws and insurance policies, my degree is all but worthless.  I cannot bill insurance  Medicaid or Medicare for services until I complete 3,000 hours under a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, LPC, or LCSW. The problem is that I cannot bill, so no one wants to hire me, or even let me volunteer my time. I sit with over $90,000.00 in student loan debt, of which I must keep applying for hardship forbearance as my waitressing money does not afford me the money to stay on top of my bills and keep my family fed and housed.  So the interest keeps adding on, and I keep falling further into debt.  Take my degrees back and forgive my debt. I was better off 20 years ago as a waitress with no federal loans.  I am unsure if I should be pushing my children toward college or telling them to run away from it!  What a sad state of affairs.

-Jen C.-

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I Take Your Stuff…


On the weekend of the Occupy Wall Street anniversary I attended a meeting of the Strike Debt assembly in New York. The meeting was a book release for The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual, but also a working meeting to get input from all that attended. At the onset of the meeting a couple of people shared their personal stories of debt with the group. This sharing of stories was intended to address the shame, frustration and fear that many feel in connection with their debt. I could understand the logic here, but I found myself having a very strong reaction to the idea of shame being a common reference point for our discussion of debt. I wanted to share my story, but I didn’t think it fit within this construct. I’m in debt, but it is not shame that I feel, it is outrage. I don’t buy into the common American debt narrative: you are in debt because you bought something you couldn’t afford, because you were living beyond your means, because you are lacking in personal responsibility, because you are lazy, etc. The underlying idea here is that debt is a product of choice. But debt is about much more than choice, it is a deliberate and coercive means of control.

After several people involved with Strike Debt had spoken about different aspects of the project, a facilitator asked us come up with a question concerning debt to be posed to the group. I wasn’t really sure how to frame my question, but I was eager to offer my input and get some feedback. So when the mic came around to me I asked, “How does debt relate to theft of resources by 1% corporations?” When corporations go into countries and steal resources to sell them on the global market, often back to those they originally stole them from, how does this relate to debt? The facilitators wrote down the questions people had posed, inviting us to break out into smaller groups and choose one of the questions to discuss. The group I was part of was interested in discussing several of the questions, one participant even adding a question of her own to the list. A few people in the group were particularly interested in the question I had posed and asked me to elaborate on it. I appreciated their interest and enthusiasm, but at the time I felt reluctant to do so. I was much more interested in engaging in dialogue and listening, than in elaborating on my question. Deference to leadership is common within our culture, a show of respect for those who appear knowledgeable and capable (or, in seeming contradiction to the origin of this nation, are divinely appointed). When this is coupled with individual ownership of ideas, another root tenet of our culture, it can be difficult to contribute to a conversation without appearing attached to the ideas one contributes. But if we are truly looking to evolve “our” ideas, and not simply own the soap box, perhaps we should be seeking to free them from ownership, to let them exist independent of individual ego and belief, to invite and encourage modification of the ideas through alternative perspectives.

When it comes to movement building I have always been a big proponent of broadening our focus to include allies internationally, to more objectively understand and address the obstacles we face, as well as to learn and share successful strategies for moving forward. While focusing on a single issue may seem like good strategy for mobilizing a specific group of people affected by and passionate about that particular issue, it can also create a kind of tunnel-vision, blinding us to the broader interconnectedness of multiple issues affecting our larger community. Similarly, we can become trapped inside our own cultural identities, unable to recognize that many of the obstacles we face are a function of these identities. Inclusion of alternative perspectives, free of this cultural bias, can often allow us to see past these obstacles.

International debt relief has been a focus of the global justice movement for many years, but that concept of debt appears quite different from the American (USA) model. It occurs to me that the major difference here is this American illusion of “choice.” When a Bolivian farmer is made to choose between paying for water or feeding his family – is this really a “choice”? When our seniors are made to choose between heating their homes or medicine to keep them alive – is this really a “choice”? When our youth are made to choose between getting an education or supporting their families – is this really a “choice”? All of these “choices” have something in common: resources that have been privatized and then sold off to make a profit. The corporations and financial entities (and governments that empower them) that have privatized (stolen) these resources have no intrinsic right to them and may have even received public subsidies to extract and/or refine them. We  are so indoctrinated into a system of individual ownership in the US, the very concept of “property” enshrined in our Constitution, that we can scarcely conceive of the commons belonging to us. When we provide our labor, why do we not conceive of it as a resource? When we speak of success, why is it not as a function of the combined labor (physical and intellectual) of those who have come before us? When the air, water and land we need to live is jeopardized by corporate abuse, why do we not simply take it away from them? Even our genetic information, the very mystery of life itself, is but another resource to privatize and commodify. Key here is that, once the resources have been extracted, the people will require assistance to make up for the loss to their economies, their livelihoods, their ability to provide for their people’s basic needs. And, as if on cue, in swoops the benevolent benefactor (you know – the same one that stole all your stuff moments ago) to generously provide that needed assistance – at a price…

So how can we recast this American debt narrative of “choice” to be more in line with the one that is known throughout the world? One person in our break out group suggested that we might come up with a sort of overarching metaphor, something to cut through all the complicated financial bs that insulates debt from critique. I mentioned something about native cultures’ conception of land as communal, a gift from the creator, rather than as some thing to be owned. It got me thinking that a deeper look at the concept of ownership itself might be helpful when examining debt. As the break out groups were called on to report back to the larger meeting, I quickly jotted this down in my notebook:

I take your stuff, then I make you pay for it. I take the lion’s share then I make you fight for the crumbs. Then I offer you a “loan” to make up for your loss. Then I sell your debt/use it to make even more money.

I’m not an expert in finance or debt. I have a BFA, not an MBA. But swimming in this financial cesspool of intentional obfuscation, perhaps more expert testimony is not what we need. Perhaps a bit of intuitive common sense instead. When the banking/brokerage kings of finance are allowed to sell 30-40 times more debt (most of it in bundled home mortgages) than they can back up with actual cash money (liquid assets), turning profit on every sale along the way, knowing full well that our taxes will bail their asses out when the junk debt they’re selling goes belly up; maybe we need to be looking beyond the paltry sums that we “owe” them – to the massive amounts of profit they make dealing “our” debt. Whatever we decide to focus on, we should keep in mind: it is only through our common consent to their hoarding of our resources, that we remain indebted to them.

-Thomas-

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Same Old Story


After graduating High school, I was young and brash, and definitely not interested in further schooling.  I was also an excellent musician and knew with absolute certainty that I would eventually make my living as a musician and performer.

At the age of 23, after a series of dream and soul-crushing factory temp jobs, I decided to attend college for music education.

I still have the unshakeable belief that I will be a musician, but decided that it would be good to have a backup career in a field that I love.

I attended university for three years, and was rejected from the school of music there three times (the reason I was given for one rejection was that my hair was too long, but that is an entirely different story).  I auditioned and applied at two further schools and was outright rejected from both.

Frustrated, I withdrew from college, finally beginning to realize just how hopeless my situation was becoming.  My original $10k in student loan debt has skyrocketed.  The only jobs available to someone in my situation around here are through temp agencies, who 1) run credit checks for their “better” jobs, and 2) hold you to impossibly strict attendance and performance regulations (O once worked 14 hour days for 8 days straight; I was fired on the ninth day for being 15 minutes late to work in 16 inches of snow).

Now, I receive monthly notices and multiple-times-daily, seven-day-a-week phone calls from no fewer than five collection agencies (two of which claim to be authorized to collect the same debt).

I refuse to answer the phone, I throw away the notices unopened.  They can sue me if they like, I have nothing left to give.

I’m 30 years old, single, and live with my mother.  I have no life and no future, and it’s all because I was too stupid to realize just what I was getting myself into.  All I can do now is try to help expose our current education-financial system for what it is: a predatory method of enslavement that replaces shackles and chains with dollar signs.

-Dustin-

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Debt for an M.S.


I’m 62 and borrowed $12,700 at age 40 to go to a state school and get a B.S. I worked while in school, got job at UMass after graduation, started paying off loans. While working got an M.S. and took in school deferments, got a better job at UMass, made payments, figured I paid between $5-7K on the loan when job funding began to tank. Sporadic work since then; no work or low pay since. Got financial hardship forbearance from Sallie Mae and all the while interest was being capitalized even though I blacked out that part of forbearance form. So now I owe about $28,000–from interest on top of 9% interest on top of interest ad infinitum; maybe $7,000 goes to $28,000 which I will never be able to pay back. Sallie Mae will not send a breakdown of my account or deviate from scripted demand for payment. For 2 years I’ve earned $8 per hour, 20 hours a week, now up to $9.50 an hour. It is pointless to even make small payments because I’ll still be in default and I can’t afford it anyway. NO way out. Boy, do I regret going back to school. I just started collecting Social Security–will Sallie Mae go after that or try to garnish my $237.50 a week pay?

I believe lenders love it when people begin to fall behind or can’t pay because they can just continue to pile on interest knowing the borrower can’t pay it, and they will basically have the borrower in debt for years and years. What a system! No, it’s not financial aid; it’s a dangerous loan/gamble that can be very very costly and destructive.

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From a Mother


My story is about my daughter. She is a young adult who graduated with a Master’s Degree in Education. She was unable to find a teaching job and has been working at temporary positions for several years. She did receive loans and grants for her education but also worked throughout her college career. Because of her student loans, her credit has been destroyed. She has lost hope and is beginning to feel that she is “less than” other people her own age. All she ever wanted was to be a teacher and have a positive effect on the lives of young people. I would do anything to help her, but I am a widow on a fixed income. She is such a bright, compassionate person with so much to offer, but because of her debt, she feels she doesn’t have a future. Debt influences every aspect of her life in such a negative way. What a sad commentary on our socio-economic system. Her story is so depressing and I know there are many others who face the same circumstances. What can be done to help these young people?

-Susan Taylor-

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Vets and Collection Agencies


I gave this idea to Senator Sherrod Browns staff and I was told the idea has merit, and since then follow-up inquiries are met with silence.

I proposed that it’s immoral and unethical to refer a medical bill to a collection agency incurred by any veteran when that debt is being submitted to, in process of or in appeal with V.A. Fee Basis. I have such debt. Fee Basis, like most of the V.A., is an overloaded agency. Bills submitted there can take 6 months to a year or more, same with the appeal process. In the meantime the collection agency is harassing the vet weekly and reporting this to the Big Three credit bureaus.

It’s immoral and unethical to destroy the credit of a veteran incapable of defending themselves due to limited income: social security disability and V.A. compensation.

And another story:

Vets on V.A. Pension have it even worse. V.A. Pension is means-tested. I.E. the vet’s wife, husband or family cannot have any form of income or their pension is reduced by the equivalent amount. That enforces poverty and encourages cheating. I’ve seen vets commit suicide, get divorced, not be able to married, and be threatened by V.A. Pension and Compensation Department in Minneapolis.

I spoke out about this about 5 years ago. I was interviewed by a reporter. My photo was published in the Toledo Blade. I contacted congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. At first she showed great interest but the story didn’t serve to further her political career, so she refused to speak any further to me. I tried and tried to contact Mr. Kucinich and failed.

Thanks for listening.

-Sharon-

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David and Goliath


My story has many subtitles: “State seizes 100% of liquid assets over a paperwork snafoo,” “Ex-husband’s debt causes state to seize $25,000 from mother of disabled son.” “Medical bills from child’s fall at school ruin single mother’s credit.”

Another subtitle: “Student falls from climbing wall at school during gym class, school refuses to pay for surgeries.”

That’s pretty much the gist of my situation. I was trying to move to a new location from Minneapolis, MN area to northern Wisconsin. The county I was moving to had told me that I could build on some property I was buying. Then once I bought it and started clearing land, told me that “no, it’s wetlands” – with no water on it and wouldn’t let me build.

This started my own personal Katrina. I had to move 5 times in 1 1/2 years – much of the time spent living in a camper.

I found a rental house to live in, which we lost to higher-paying renters. At this point, I still had my credit cards.

My daughter was in Superior Middle School, Superior, WI for her 7th grade year. The following spring she was put on the climbing wall in gym class with no safety gear. No parental permission was obtained for her to be on this climbing wall. She fell, breaking a bone in her leg and requiring two surgeries. The school and the insurance company fought responsibility for these costs for three years. During that period of time, my credit took a nose dive as the hospitals and the doctors reported the unpaid bills to the credit agencies. I was not of a mind to pay them, because I could see that if I did, I wouldn’t ever win a case against them.

In the fall of 2005, I handled what I thought was the last of the parental fee payments that I owed the state of Minnesota for my having dared give birth to a son with disabilities.

This was a fee that was increased exponentially by Jesse Ventura when he was pretending to govern the state of Minnesota. Life with him as governor increased costs to the general public in hundreds of ways. It became impossible for a family like mine to afford myriad excursions such as state parks, etc., because he eliminated huge chunks of state funding and greatly increased the entrance and parking fees. Something that cost $2 per person increased to $8.

Since Ventura’s regime had increased my parental fee from $150 to $1,050 per year,I had been behind on my payment and paperwork. In the fall of 2005, I had some extra money and paid up. I talked to someone on the phone who said since my son was turning 18 the following February, I wouldn’t owe much more, so she gave me an estimate of what that would be ~ $400. I paid everything.

A year and a half later, I got a bill for $179,000 from that same state department. This happened right about the time my father died. Needless to say, I was so flabbergasted by the bill that I just set it aside. I needed to deal with the loss of my father.

Before I left to go cross-county to my father’s funeral, I paid down both of my credit cards so that I would have plenty of room to use them on the trip to Tennessee. On that trip, I was trying to pay a bill over the phone,  I discovered that my credit available on both those cards had been reduced to 0, leaving the balance owed right up to the max. This was as a result of the unpaid medical bills having been reported to credit agencies.

The state kept sending me those bills. I sent letters to them recounting the story of how I had paid the bills. In January of 2010, the state of Minnesota seized 100% of the available cash I had in two separate bank accounts. One of those accounts was an account I had set up for my disabled son’s trust fund so that I could keep those funds separate from my own cash and not co-mingle funds. I had put $25,000 of his money in there to pay for work on my property as I was planning on building a guest cottage at my house for him to come visit. I have had no bank account since then, as I am too afraid of having my money seized by the state of Minnesota.

It is probable that the seizure of this money was due to the fact that my ex-husband refused to pay his parental fee for our son’s care in the state of Minnesota.

I tried finding a lawyer that would help me get this issue settled, and not one of the numerous attorneys I called would touch it.

I’d like to have these issues settled, but can’t find an attorney to help. When I was accused by the county where my son lived of mismanagement of David’s funds because the state had seized them, I couldn’t find an attorney who would represent me. I was forced to drive four hours and stay in a motel so I could appear in court without an attorney present. They kept saying “This is not a criminal matter,” but everyone knows that only the attorneys that work in a particular county really know how things go, and how to handle the judges and their prejudices. I was treated like a criminal. I’m afraid that this will be used against me in the future.

I feel that since I live in a different state, I really need an attorney in Minnesota to help me get all these loose ends tied up. I’ve been unemployed for 2 yeas, a teacher replaced by a computer and substitute teacher. I really don’t know which issue to handle first. I have a potential door opening for me in that my husband just passed away and I have found an attorney that seems like she will be open to helping with other issues besides his estate.

I’d like to be able to have a bank account without the fear that the state of Minnesota will seize my last cent and leave me unable to pay any bills, eat, clothe and house myself.

I know that other levies – for unpaid taxes, for example – can only take up to 25%, but this seizure was 100%. They’ve seized about $25,000, and I don’t agree thtt I owe ANYthing. What I have actually agreed to pay (since I took the settlement money from the insurance company) is not much. Maybe $1000, although I’ll never agree that it should not be the school’s responsibility for that debt.

-Anonymous-

This is my story. My son, David, deserves his money back.

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Student Loan, Ballooning Debt


My original loan balance for my Bachelors of Science program in Computer Information Systems was approximately $42,000.00.

As a result of outsourcing I was laid off as a Software Development Project Manager making a six-figure income.  I spent the next three years or so seeking employment in the field I passionately pursued to no avail.  Ironically the CEO of the corporation I worked for received a nice 7 digit bonus while Americans were displaced from the work force.

As I fell further and further behind in repayment of the student loans to Sallie Mae, Sallie Mae called incessantly in the morning, afternoon, and evening and then proceeded to call my references to further embarrass me.  They then offered forbearance after forbearance after forbearance.  Never explaining that interest would continue to accrue on the account.

For some reason I am not eligible to take advantage of current extremely low Federal interest rates of approximately 4.0% but I am forced to adhere to 8.0% rate.

As I stated earlier, the original loan in it’s entirety was approximately $42,000.00.  The capitalized interest amount is approximately $78,000.00 for a totally repayment of approximately $120,000.00.  By the time the loan is totally paid off I will have paid in excess of $250,000.00 to borrow $42,000.00.

I would also like to address the fact that while Sallie Mae Corporation continues to pillage the American people with their deceptive practices, each and every time I call Customer Service for the organization I am forced to deal with a representative from the “Asian Pacific” who will never clearly identify where they are in the world nor can they be understood.  Seems like and interesting formula to me.  Fix  the interest rate of the Student Loans to a hard 8% and outsource the Customer Service department to a place in the world that is not identified, therefore taking jobs away from Americans and increasing the bottom line for CEO’s to enjoy seven digit income and bonus packages.

I am fearful that this debt will go into default.

-Robert-

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