Today, I, along with my teammate Jess Morales and three Rebuild the Dream members, delivered over 100,000 signatures to Speaker Boehner’s office on Capitol Hill, asking Speaker Boehner and Congress to denounce Rep. Virginia Foxx’s out of touch remarks on student loan debt.We met outside of Longworth House Office Building at 9 am, camera, signs, and a huge stack on paper in tow. After a brief pep talk and game plan, we headed in to the building and through security to find Speaker Boehner's office. Interestingly, when we got there... the door was locked. We were met with a very curt response from a staffer, who blocked us from entering the Speaker's office and denied our requests to speak to any other staff! Jess and I shared our own stories about student debt and delivered the 100,000 petition signatures (printed double-sided, 70 names per sheet of paper, and still reams and reams of paper!) before we were ushered out of the building by police officers.[View the story "Delivering 100,000 Signatures" on Storify]Curtness and locked doors aside, Jess and I considered it a pretty successful delivery. We have video footage, photos, and got our message across: student debt is a serious issue and Congress needs to pay attention and bring solutions, not insensitive insults.
With states slashing higher education funding across the country, state universities are becoming less and less affordable. The result: for middle-income families, private universities like Harvard are cheaper options than public universities like San José State.
Last week we started a petition after Rep. Virginia Foxx had this to say about student loan debt:
I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money... I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that.What lies at the heart of Foxx's remark is a seriously misguided belief that college today is as affordable as it was when Foxx paid her way through school in 1968.In reference to Foxx's comments, Mike Konczal at the Roosevelt Institute couldn't have said it any better:
A major problem with our leaders is that they are approaching what is happening in the public university through a mental model of a world that no longer exists.
Last Friday I was on Dylan Ratigan's MSNBC show to talk about the Stafford loan interest rate issue with Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).Here's the link!
We're about 6,000 signatures away from getting a direct response from the President about our petition to win relief for struggling homeowners. And we have until THIS SUNDAY to get there.Rebuild the Dream is fighting for the single most important solution for the home mortgage crisis: principal reduction (reducing underwater home loans to fair market value).The White House has a special website called "We the People." Anyone can create a petition there, like we did. And if a petition gets to 25,000 signers within 30 days, then the White House guarantees that it will make an official response.6,000 signatures might sound like a lot, but it's not. We've already gotten 19,000 signatures. If everyone who reads this message, like you're doing right now, takes a moment to sign the petition, we'll blow past our goal and get an official White House response.Getting an answer directly from the President would be a major milestone for this campaign. We can do this.Sign the petition now and let's get a direct answer from the President.Heads up: signing a White House petition is a little more complicated than a regular online petition, so here's what you need to do:1. Create an account on the White House petition site. Click the "Create an Account" button at the bottom of the petition page. Fill in your name, email address, and the scrambled words at the bottom. If you can't make out the words, you can click the tiny blue button with the curvy arrows to get a new word that you can decipher.2. Verify your account. You'll get an email at the address you provided that contains a link you need to click on to verify your new account.3. Sign the petition. When you click on the verification link in your email, you'll be taken right back to our petition, and that's when you sign it by clicking the green button at the bottom.Ready? Go to our petition on WhiteHouse.gov and sign it now.This is just one step on the road to fixing this crisis, but it's one that will make a strong impact and create some real momentum. We owe it to the millions of struggling homeowners who are counting on us to get them some justice and a fair shake. But we also owe this to each other. This is what the Rebuild community is all about -- getting together to do big things. Let's do this.
Sometimes elected officials make totally crazy, off the wall statements and nothing happens. And sometimes they make totally crazy, off the wall statements and people go, "Hold on a minute. That's not okay." I want that to happen more often. I think we need to move past allowing out-of-line remarks to slip by, and instead go full speed ahead into calling them out.That's what our latest petition is about.Congresswoman Virginia Foxx told a radio interviewer last week that she has "very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt, because there's no reason for that."1In other words, Rep. Foxx thinks you're a loser and a whiner if you have student loan debt.But Foxx isn't just any member of Congress. She's the CHAIR of the Higher Education & Workforce Training Subcommittee in the House. That's right, she controls policy on the issue of student debt and she is so out of touch that she believes student debt is somehow unnecessary. Not a big burden. Nothing to get worked up about.Someone with Foxx's extreme views has no business setting education policy. Speaker Boehner and the rest of Congress need to publicly denounce her remarks.Click here to tell Speaker Boehner and members of Congress to denounce Rep. Foxx for her absurd remarks.Foxx went on to say: "I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money."This was in 1968 at UNC Chapel Hill, when seven years of college cost about $46,100 TOTAL (adjusted for inflation). How much would her education cost now? $141,820. An in-state student at UNC Chapel Hill now pays triple what it cost when Foxx went to school. And, by the way, the minimum wage was 38% higher in 1968 than it is now, in inflation-adjusted dollars.2What's even worse is that Foxx sponsored the "Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act," a bill to strip away federal regulation of for-profit colleges -- colleges that notoriously prey on lower-income students, have disturbingly low graduation rates, and leave their students with higher-than-average levels of debt.3 And no wonder: Foxx's top campaign contributors are the for-profit colleges themselves.4 Foxx needs to be put in check.If you think that Rep. Foxx shouldn't get away with her absurd remarks, add your name here.We can't let elected officials go scot-free with such ridiculous, out-of-touch views.Sources:1. Youtube: Virginia Foxx on student loans2. National Center for Education Statistics: Average undergraduate tuition and fees, 1964-20073. National Bureau of Economic Research: The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector4. OpenSecrets: Virginia Foxx's Top 20 Campaign Contributors
We have a super awesome team here at Rebuild the Dream. Our Organizer Director, Caroline Murray, is one of the coolest, most bad-ass, most down-to-earth women (and organizers) I've ever met. The Democracy Collaborative did an awesome interview with her. It's inspiring and definitely worth reading... her work with housing co-ops in Massachusetts is amazing.Some excerpts:
"I grew up knowing that something was very, very wrong with how our economy worked. I understood from a very young age how fragile the middle class was."On her work with the Alliance to Develop Power in Massachusetts:
"ADP was a project of the NLIHC and part of a national campaign to win new federal legislation that would stop these landlords from profiting off the backs of low and moderate income tenants and the tax payer while at the same time createnew financing mechanisms to keep the housing permanently affordable.While most of our allies around the country went on to find non-profit housing developers to purchase the apartment complexes -- we latched upon a novel idea that was actually being touted by Jack Kemp, Secretary of HUD – why not buy them ourselves as membership-based, democratically governed corporations? Here was an opportunity to convert ownership of the housing to the people who lived there and develop long-lasting leadership. We could keep it permanently affordable for generations to come. We could stop capital flight by controlling the money that flows in and out. And we could alter the relations of power between landlord and tenant."By the way -- ever get an email from us and wonder who "...and the rest of the Rebuild the Dream team" is? Here we are!
Recently, Van sat down with Rick Perlstein at Rolling Stone to talk about Rebuild the Dream and progressive values. It's a great interview that gives good insight into what we believe in. Awesome quote:
The stuff that's made America great—liberty and justice for all; the idea that there should be a middle class that you should be able to get into by working hard; that no matter what your gender and race is you should be able to participate fully in society; that the environment has a value that should be protected by government action, that children shouldn't be made to labor under awful conditions but in fact every child should be in schools learning—all those values are the values that progressives and liberals defended in the last century and still defend every day. We are the ones who are defending America the beautiful through our environmental commitments. We're the ones who are defending the Statue of Liberty's stand for the newcomer through our stand for immigrants. We're the ones who stick up for liberty and justice for all including lesbians and gays and other folks who might be left out. And yet we never claim the deep patriotism that our work implies—to the great detriment of our own cause and of the country. And I'm now, having had my own patriotism challenged repeatedly, willing to stick up for my own love of this country.
We did it. Rebuild the Dream is now officially a New York Times Best Seller. We will debut at #15 in Hardcover Nonfiction on the April 22nd list and start hitting more bookshelves across the country to spread our message. Writing this book has been an intimate endeavor for me, giving me a chance to reflect on the journey from Oakland to the White House and back.A LONG WALK BACKThis book push has made me feel better than I have since I left Oakland to go to the White House three years ago. The worst thing about going through the kind of train crash that I suffered is losing your own voice. Not physically, like I did last week while doing non-stop TV and radio interviews, but politically and even spiritually.In a big national media meltdown, everyone is forced to relate primarily to the caricature you have become – either to attack it or defend it. In such situations, your true personhood is displaced, subordinated, misunderstood – even among your allies. You become a symbol, a talking point, a target, a martyr, a victim, a hero – but no longer just “yourself,” at least not in the way you have come to understand that self.For awhile, whoever “I” was, became unknowable and was lost not just to the media but even to myself.VOICE REGAINEDAt first, I thought of this book as a step in the process of getting back on my feet. I figured I could put some smart ideas out there and try to use my notoriety to have the discussion that I wanted to have. As such, I had intended for this book to be a fairly dispassionate treatise on the state of modern politics.Instead, writing this book became a very personal journey for me. It was a gift to have the time to review my life and my work, connect some dots, pull out some lessons, begin to make sense of it all. I thought about my father and tried to come to peace with his death.Along the way, I found my voice again. It feels really good to be back.A WIN FOR OUR ORGANIZATIONI want to thank everyone who supported this book for always being there for me. None of this would have been possible without the support of countless groups and members of the Rebuild the Dream community.Some of my friends and family were worried that the right-wing would go on the warpath and derail our efforts. Indeed, the same old people dredged up the same old talking points on hate radio and on the extremist blogs, but the mainstream media ignored them. This time, the fear-mongers’ message faded, and it was our positive message that took off.The momentum from the book has put wind into the sails of our organization, Rebuild the Dream, especially our two primary campaigns: one to cut student debt and another to fix underwater mortgages.We’ve shown what a small group of dedicated people can do. I am looking forward to the next chapter of struggle and celebration together.
In the January State of the Union address, President Obama announced plans to form a financial crimes task force that would investigate... you know... all that awful stuff that happened back in 2008. Then in February, the state attorneys general and five of the nation's largest banks reached a settlement that came out of mortgage fraud: $25 billion.Although we weren't satisfied with the $25 billion (which only equals a few thousand per family affected) we thought a task force was the right idea.Now that it's been a few months, progressive strategist Ilyse Hogue (one of our favorite people!) is asking, "So, about that task force... where is it?" Here are some excerpts from her article -- and definitely check it out.
"My curiosity was piqued again this week when I got an e-mail from CREDO Action protesting new information that the task force established to investigate what went wrong never received the staff that it was promised. And while the source of the hold up is unclear as is exactly how many staffers have been assigned, what is becoming clear is that even the promised fifty-five investigators would be ill-equipped to achieve its goals. That news got me wondering where things stand more generally with task force, lauded by progressives and homeowners alike when it was announced back in January.The reasons for acting with speed and strength are clear and compelling:1. The Moral Imperative: Americans are sick of seeing bankers go free while they foot the bill [...]2. The Economic Imperative: Unresolved mortgages are a huge drag on economic recovery [...]3. The Political Imperative: If none of those reasons are enough, a glance at the politics of the situation should motivate even the most hard-hearted political operative to action. As Mike Lux put it in his excellent Daily Kos piece last week, there are 11 million underwater homeowners. This is an important constituency in a close election [...]Yeah. We're annoyed too, Ilyse. We're annoyed too.