At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’S remission has been proclaimed. --Deuteronomy 15:1-2
Moses was a wise but imperfect man, and the law that was handed to him was purposefully designed to create a more just society. Scholars debate the purpose of forgiving debts, but generally agree that it was a means to alleviate the suffering of the poor, remove societal inequity, and acknowledge that all our blessings ultimately come from God.
Clearly many debts are incurred because of misfortune. If your crop fails to produce, you may need to incur debt in order to provide for your family. Perhaps, you borrowed money in order to buy an ox, and the ox falls ill, or is killed by a lion before the fields are plowed leaving you with no means to pay. Those who provide the loans happen to be in a position of prosperity, which, in ancient times as well as modern, is partially a factor of luck. Having a few creditors and a large number of debtors creates disparity in a community, divisions between neighbors, and places the debtors in a type of bondage.
We see a similar situation with student loans in the modern day. Students, in an effort to improve themselves and earn a better salary take on loans in order to go to college. Through no fault of their own, the cost is increasing at a rate higher than inflation. The student applies herself, emerges from college only to enter a world where unemployment is high. Even if she is skilled, the wage that she can garner is low. Even worse, she may not find a job at all, but is still obligated to pay the loan. In the present economy, the fact that student loan defaults are increasing at a dramatic rate surprises no one.
The burden of these loans is not only borne by students but also by their families. Parents pay larger and larger shares of their income to help their children with student loans. The consequence of which is to crowd out spending on the necessities of life. The net economic effect of this debt burden results in a decrease in aggregate demand.
No jobs will be created until demand goes up. Any business owner will tell you that they will not hire someone until demand outstrips their capacity to provide their product or service. Period.
As Adam Smith observed, those who provide labor create the wealth. In our current climate, the wealth creators, those who actually do the work, are having their wealth transferred to the corporate aristocrats such as insurers and usurers. Declaring a Sabbath on student loans will help remove the yoke of debt that robs the wealth creators of the fruits of their labor. For the least among us, releasing them from debt will allow them to pay for medical care, make their next rent or mortgage payment, repair their car, or pay for heat in the winter. For those a little more fortunate, the release from debt will allow them to take the family on a vacation, put an addition on the house, or buy a new Geo Volt, thus stimulating the economy and creating jobs.
How do we do it? The answer is in HB 365. There are 365 days in the year, so the number of the bill is auspicious, for this is the year to declare a Sabbath Year on student loan debt. HB 365, sponsored by Hansen Clarke (D-MI) will have an immediate stimulative effect on the economy. Rather than a trickle down approach, which has proven to not work, this trickle up approach will benefit all Americans.
Christians, seize this opportunity to be heard. We need to act with one voice and demand a nation-wide forgiveness of student loans. A Sabbath Year will free up 1 trillion dollars of spending that will help spur the economy.
Here is how you can act. You can sign the petition. Write, call and e-mail your local representatives. Bring the subject up at town hall meetings. Here is all the information you need to contact your representative.
Let our voices rain down upon their heads, so that the flood of Noah looks like a spring mist.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. --Matthew 6:11-12
Mark in the Spirit
(Mark in the Spirit is a member of The Christian Left and occasional guest blogger, not to be confused with our own Rev. Mark Sandlin.)