What does the United States produce?
Well, we make a lot of weapons, we produce a lot of greenhouse gasses, we churn out propaganda. But there is one thing we make an unending amount of, and which our economy is absolutely dependent on.
I was talking to a friend recently, and he was complaining about the high cost of purchasing a home. Why, he wondered, have prices gone up so much?
Because the price is irrelevant. A hundred thousand, a million, a bazillion - all that matters is the monthly payment. That’s what you are sold on - the monthly. Same with cars, education, and all of our credit purchases. The actual price is no longer tied in any way to the value of the item, but is instead tied to how much you can pay each month. You will be in perpetual, never-ending debt, but you can live the illusion of ownership.
This is different from previous decades of mortgages, loans, lay-away, or credit. Previously there was at least a theoretical finish line; the mortgage may be a lot overall, but there was a sense that eventually it would be paid off. But when the Capitalists discovered that the only difference between taking out a mortgage and leasing was a coveted sense of ownership they realized “Ownership” was the real product, and all they had to do was set payments and interest rates at levels that meant while a person told themselves they owned a home they were really just leasing it. They couldn’t pay it off, ever. They would simply be working for the debt.
Just like with student loans.
The key is how the debt keeps the working class chained to jobs they cannot afford to lose, and to bosses who treats them like indentured servants. Perpetual debt is a Life in Fear in a system that needs workers to feel optionless. Got a boss who treats you badly, harasses you, demands unpaid overtime? Tough - because you gotta pay off that SUV you were hypnotized into needing. Miserable in the grind? Suck it up, because ONLY LOSERS DONT OWN HOUSES! Trapped in a job you hate and would rather be doing the thing you went to college for? Well you can’t leave that terrible job to do the thing you studied for until you finish paying for the study - which will be never.
Debt, debt, debt.
Debt is a tar pit designed to look like a beautiful lake. This is not to say that borrowing is inherently wrong, but what I’m saying is that our system is currently set up to use perpetual debt as a control system by the Capitalists to ensure an unending conveyor belt of money to them, and and a life-long leash on us, to control the workers’ mobility and freedom and self-determination. It’s similar to the real reason we don’t have national healthcare; if the workers didn’t have to worry about losing their health coverage or making unending debt payments they would feel free to make demands on their employers regarding adequate pay or working conditions, to strike, or to leave.
The cost of education didn’t go up because teachers were suddenly getting paid more, or because schools were suddenly adding buildings or value; education costs to the consumer went up because A: the Oppressor didn’t want another generation educated enough to see the hypocrisies and cruelties foreign and domestic inflicted on the innocent by the American Empire as happened in the 1960’s, and B: because every working-class parent was told they were a failure unless their kid went to college. The corporatized schools realized they could capitalize on that, and the Capitalists realized generational debt gave them both a steady stream of cash and control.
The cost of providing an education didn’t go up, but the cost of getting one sure did. Yes, college grads are more likely to have a higher income, but how much of the difference goes to paying off the decades long/forever debt? How often do they have to take and stay in the very sort of job they wanted to avoid to pay off the education they bought to a avoid it?
The point is the money machine that drives our economy isn’t manufacturing consumer items, it’s manufacturing consumer debt. The ongoing student loan crisis is just one example. It been like this a long time, but as other manufacturing has dwindled all we have been left with is a stack of bills crowned with the smirking bankers and politicians who knew exactly what they were doing, and are doing - giving themselves control while selling us smoke.