Monday to Wednesday of this week is our big Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington DC. If you weren't able to attend in person, you can still see the live stream of all the great speakers and interesting panels online. Read the schedule here, and watch live on this page. Visit OurFuture.org for more details on the conference.
Since you've been following the latest on student loan debt, you probably already know that it's out of control, and that on July 1st, it's about to get way worse if we don't do something. But do your friends know that?Probably not. And if they have student debt, they really need to. It's time to drop some knowledge.Our internal studies show that if you share this graphic with your friends on Facebook, they will instantly become 100% more knowledgeable about the student loan crisis. Don't you want that for your friends? Another reason for sharing and spreading knowledge:It's only three weeks until Congress decides if they actually care about the future of higher education in America (i.e. -- three weeks until the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans doubles). This means that the Senate needs to be pressured into actually caring, because they really haven't brought their game to the table lately. Republicans have been offering really terrible pay-fors that frankly, we should all be insulted by. More knowledge about student loan debt = more passion = higher stakes in Washington.Sources for graphic: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: "Too big to fail: Student debt hits a trillion." Business Insider: "Student loan debt has shot up nearly 300% in the past decade." Demos: "The Great Cost Shift: How higher education cuts undermine the middle class." U.S. Department of Labor: Garnishment law. NOLO: Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy NPR: "Students to Congress: Don't let my interest rate double."
Rebuild the Dream has over 600,000 members across the country. Below is a guest blog post from one of our members, Argun M. Ulgen, a public interest attorney in New York City with student debt. He pays $650 each month for his student loans. Read more stories and share your own at our "Real People, Real Student Debt" action center.I've come to accept that if you want to argue on behalf of our Constitution's ten canonized amendments, then your salary isn't going to be very high, and your pay scale will remain a very mild slope. This comes with the turf of being in a profession on the fringe of a predominantly corporate-capitalistic culture. However, what I still struggle to accept is that because I am on this fringe, because I chose a job that subscribes to my progressive beliefs, I am levied 20% of my disposable income - about $650 a month in student debt - with no immediate financial relief in sight.Every month, even after nearly ten years as a public servant, I am reminded that I cannot apply this $650 debt to contribute to charitable foundations or to grassroots organizations that may help some of my indigent clients stay out of court. I cannot invest this sizeable sum of cash into buying a new home or investing in companies that seek to effectuate my political beliefs (e.g., environmental research companies). Contribute that money to my mom's retirement fund? Forget it.Basically, there is no way that I can for the next several years contribute or invest this massive sum of money into anything I believe in. I'm 33 years old - in my lifetime, I have studied hard and earned high grades, and then chose a profession which I was taught was altruistic and important for the preservation of our Democracy. Still, $650 of my hard earned money must go to the bottomless stomach of a debt collector. This sum is a constant reminder that if I chose to participate in corporate culture instead, I may not have this albatross hanging around my neck.Those who have public interest based political or socio-economic objectives should not be punished by having to garnish a massive percentage of their salaries to a "belief debt" collector. Rather, these public servants should have a little more economic leverage in our political climate. Really, so should all students whose incomes just can't realistically handle both paying off massive debt and making positive contributions to our economy and polity. All people who work for low paying professions they believe in should speak out against "belief debt."One way to attain this goal is to lobby universities to spend less money on "state of the art" residence halls or fitness centers, and more on grants on loan forgiveness for those who choose to use their degrees for public interest jobs like antidiscrimination and free housing organizations, civil liberties, and environmental protection. Also, a by far more generous and immediate income-sensitive student loan forgiveness will not only put more money into our mainstream economy, but will ensure that a more diverse and representative set of our country's polity will have a stronger voice in our current political climate.Argun M. Ulgen is a public interest attorney in the greater NYC area. What do you think of Argun's ideas? Chime in at the comment section.
A staggering 15.7 million American mortgages are currently underwater -- one in three mortgages nationwide. Millions more are unable to refinance at historically low rates, leaving them paying thousands in additional interest each month.A series of bills currently in Congress could save 4.2 million homeowners an average of $2,500 each year, a total of $10 billion annually, but we need to make sure they pass.Today, Rebuild the Dream is launching a new national campaign to help millions of struggling families keep their homes. Throughout June, “Hope for Homeowners” will spearhead a coalition of underwater homeowners and partner organizations in on-the-ground actions and petition deliveries to senators in 13 key states -- NV, FL, ME, MA, OH, AZ, GA, MO, NC, PA, TN, VA, and WI.Rebuild the Dream will be joined by coalition partners, which include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, U.S. PIRG, the Center for Responsible Lending, Americans United for Change, and many more.“We’re going to mobilize Americans to demand bold action to help struggling homeowners through the November elections and beyond, and this nationwide on-the-ground effort is just the first step,” said Natalie Foster, CEO of Rebuild the Dream. “Congress has a chance to pass home mortgage relief that would save a homeowner thousands each year, spark the economy, and provide hope to millions of Americans.”The three bills supported by this campaign are:? “The Responsible Homeowners Act,” which helps families refinance with historically low interest rates and is sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ)? “The Rebuild Equity Act,” which helps homeowners get above water faster with shorter mortgages, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)? “Expanding Refinancing Opportunities Act,” which expands refinancing options for homeowners with non-federally guaranteed loans, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)Together these bills will provide support to millions of underwater homeowners across America. This campaign is the first stage in a larger effort to stem the foreclosure crisis through economic relief for underwater homeowners, and to prevent any future economic disasters by investigating the mortgage fraud by banks and lenders responsible for the crisis.“While the bankers who put us in this mess roam free, American families are drowning,” said Van Jones, co-founder of Rebuild the Dream. “This is just one step toward ending the mortgage crisis, but for millions of Americans it could mean the difference between losing and keeping their homes.”
Can't make it out to Providence to watch Van give the closing keynote at Netroots Nation this weekend? Watch it live from your laptop here.The keynote starts at 4:30 PM EDT on Saturday. We’ll also hear from NAACP President Benjamin T. Jealous, Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01), Carol Shea-Porter, Rhode Island State Representative Teresa Tanzi and Chuck Rocha.Netroots Nation's website or onthe live stream above at 4:30 PM Eastern time on Saturday.
The Take Back the American Dream Conference is coming.Last year over 2,000 people participated in this conference to rebuild the American Dream. There was workshops, panels, plenaries, seminars and ad-hoc sessions with speakers from across the country and this year we're expecting all that and more. In addition to meeting inspring speakers, you can meet people like you united to rebuilding the American Dream.Campaign for America's Future has a great video from all the highlights last year. Be sure to tune in and register for the Take Back the American Dream Conference today.
Wisconsin's election today is no ordinary election. Today's ballot will decide the fates of Governor Scott Walker and several Republican state senators in a historic recall election.The turnout is already incredible with one county clerk expecting turnout near 80 percent in Dane County and state election officials predicting about 60 to 65 percent of the voting age population to turn out. These numbers are incredibly impressive for any election, especially one without a presidential candidate on the ticket.Rebuild the Dream was out in Wisconsin with Wisconsin Jobs Now, SEIU, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the League of Pissed Off Votes to mobilize minority and youth voters in Milwaukee at Rebuild Wisconsin last month. Additionally, hundreds of Rebuild the Dream members have been working with We are Wisconsin to phone bank virtually and turn out voters in Wisconsin. While there aren't any numbers from Milwaukee, election officials are already predicting higher turnout than 2008's elections and report running out of ballots in some polling places.We're waiting on the results of tonight's recall, Here's hoping we can all tell Scott Walker "You're Fired" tonight.
The Nation's Ari Berman and Van Jones will be hosting a live discussion on Friday on the state of the progressive coalition and the role of grassroots activists in re-electing the President and pushing for more progressive governance.The Nation promises a lively discussion about the role of the grassroots activists in 2008 and thoughts on their role in 2012:
After a campaign that saw an unprecedented level of grassroots activism and young voter engagement, Barack Obama’s supporters have struggled to reconcile the idealism that swept him into the presidency with the more centrist and cautious approach he has taken once in office. As the 2012 election approaches, what role will grassroots activists play in Obama's re-election campaign and in pushing him to stand up for more progressive governance?The Nation will be hosting this discussion on their website on this Friday, June 1 at 2 PM Eastern. After a short introductory conversation, you will be able submit your own questions in real time to have them answered by Van Jones and Ari Berman.
Hip hop artist and activist Jasiri X just released a new, remixed video for his song about Wisconsin governor Scott Walker called "You're Fired" -- watch the video here. The video was shot at our recent "Recall | Refund | Rebuild Wisconsin" event last Saturday, May 19th.On June 5, Wisconsinites will vote to recall Governor Scott Walker -- his attacks on the families and workers of Wisconsin led to the incredible 99% uprising early last year.
Hey everyone! Yesterday Jess and I traveled to Newark, Delaware to take part in the Sallie Mae shareholder meeting protest, held at Sallie Mae's headquarters. It was organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), Jobs with Justice, the United States Student Association, and Rebuild the Dream. Here's a write-up of what happened!To kick things off, here's the image that Tyler and Kimberly created for folks to share online as a virtual solidarity action:If you think it's as awesome as we do, head to our Facebook page to share it with your friends.Rebuild the Dream was there to deliver our petition asking CEO Albert Lord to make Sallie Mae work with students, rather than against them, and provide more repayment options. Over 42,000 members signed it. Five of us would be going into the shareholder meeting to deliver the petition signatures -- here we are, pictured below (L-R), Curtis Hierro, Chris Hicks (SLAP), Annie Mombourquette, Dan Apfel (Responsible Endowments Coalition), and me![caption id="attachment_5286" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="From Twitter user @JessLivMo"][/caption]There were two components to the protest -- and both ended up working incredibly together to get the most out of the action. Folks would be protesting outside of the Sallie Mae headquarters where the shareholder meeting was taking place. The other component was that Curtis, Chris, Annie, Dan, and I would be making our way into the actual shareholder meeting to take control of the question and answer session and deliver the petition.Hundreds of folks turned out to hold a protest outside. Students, graduates, labor unions, community groups, and tons of others took part in a mock graduation to complete with ball and chain props to signify debt. Sallie Mae was ready for us -- they had set up orange cones and sent lots of police officers to greet us. The other component took place inside of Sallie Mae. In order to attend a shareholder meeting, you have to be a shareholder. Some of us had purchased shares, and some of us were proxies, meaning that we had permission to attend the meeting on behalf of an actual shareholder. Here are some pictures I (discreetly) took from inside the building... where we could HEAR the protest going on outside! Amazing power.And the best one -- evidence of what Sallie Mae was expecting: We made it into the meeting just as the question and answer session was starting. The session allows shareholders to ask the corporate board questions that relate to the meeting's proposals. We had each prepared a question intended to evoke responses -- but the main purpose was to make a statement. Unfortunately, they didn't allow cell phones in the meeting so we don't have footage from inside. Curtis told his story of being tens of thousands in debt. Annie shared that two months ago, she was arrested at a Sallie Mae protest held in DC. Chris and Dan demanded that Sallie Mae stop profiting off the backs of students, and I presented the petition with the help of everyone else. But they wouldn't allow us to deliver it to CEO Albert Lord himself -- even though he was sitting right up front. It was as if he was untouchable! So, his right-hand man offered to hand it to Lord himself and repeat back to us what our demands were!This action was one part of a larger struggle in student debt -- it isn't just focused on Sallie Mae. Yesterday, the Senate voted again on the interest rate... and it failed again. We have so far to go, but we have the power to organize and get our messages out. We have the power to make people listen. We're young, and we're ready. Edited To Add: Our Sallie Mae protest got media coverage from NewsWorks and the USA Today!