Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's Next?

Courtesy of Demand Progress

JP Morgan squeezes student debtors; "It must be there .."
JPMorgan Chase may have cut back on its private student lending, but the megabank is still making plenty of money on student debt. 
In addition to some $9 billion [PDF] in taxpayer-subsidized Federal Family Education Loans and untold millions in private student loans, JPMorgan, the country's biggest bank by assets, has a private equity arm, One Equity Partners. In turn, One Equity Partners owns NCO Group, a debt collector that makes millions of dollars a year from the federal government to collect on students who've defaulted on their loans. And that taxpayer money is paying for some pretty abusive practices.
In 2009, Jason Fagone at Philadelphia Magazine reported on one woman's experience with NCO as it tried to collect the $9,000 that her husband, at the time on active duty in Iraq, owed for school. At the time, Tara Burkholder told Fagone, she was working for free as a student teacher and had $92 in her checking account and a daughter to care for.
“The NCO lady told Tara it was time for her to give up on her dream of being a teacher, and get a paying job immediately: 'Honey, sometimes we have to do things that we need to do.' The lady also told Tara that NCO had contacted her husband’s commanding officer in Iraq, and that if she didn’t pay back the loan, her husband would be dishonorably discharged from the Army.”

Debtor's arrest

Debtor's prison not so far fetched a notion to some, says Maureen Dowd of The New York times. Though, from a site called Demand Justice, and regarding (weirdly) a (Wall Street Journal) 2011 investigative journalism piece, it is already happening:
The Wall Street Journal has been investigating the disturbing resurgence of debtors' prisons throughout America -- here's one especially infuriating example of what the banks are up to:  AIG got a $122.8 billion bailout from taxpayers.  Jeffrey Stearns happened owed AIG $4,000 on a loan for his pickup truck.  How'd the mega-corporation handle his debt?  Did they forgive him because of the public's recent largess?  No way: They had him arrested in front of his family.
After being handcuffed in front of his four children, Mr. Stearns, 29 years old, spent two nights in jail, where he said he was strip-searched and sprayed for lice. "I didn't even know I was being sued....It's the scariest thing that ever happened to me."
The Wall Street Journal's data reveals that across the country, banks are having tens of thousands of Americans arrested over their debts.  What happened to Stearns could happen to almost anybody. 

Photographer:  John Badman/AP/The Telegraph
"Robin Ebersohl closes her eyes as she recalls the experience of being arrested in Macoupin County and jailed for four days over an outstanding debt owed for medical bills she could not pay."

"It ain't enough to load these prisons up with people who need health care, I am sure we can find other ways, too."

Below, David Walker speaks nostalgically about the practice in 2010.  Same year, Democracy Now!  on its comeback.  From Huffpost, 2011, and legal in 1/3rd of states.


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