No More Austerity

Photo from No More Austerity march.From the march of 50,000 people against austerity.

Some people are driven by a need for appreciation. Some are driven by money. Not me.... I'm driven by an addiction to new experiences, and on Saturday, I did something that was a first for me: I marched in protest!

My husband, my son and I made our way to London by train and then took the underground from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus. We were running about 15 minutes late, and I was feeling anxious about whether the march had already left and we missed it.... and I hadn't written down directions; would we find the starting point? As soon as we rose on the escalator from the depths of Oxford Circus Underground Station, I realised how unfounded these worries were. My eyes were instantly pulled toward a No More Austerity sign on the wall of the ticket hall... and then to a TFL employee with a pink mohawk. As we ascended the last steps leading to the street - carrying our pushchair, our home made sign and our child - I could feel the levels of excitement in the air rising in tandem.

On the journey, we had been painfully hungry and hoping we would have time to grab something to eat, but we completely forgot about our hunger as we drew closer to the assembled protesters and deeper into the electrifying hive of activity. We obtained a sign that read "Gove Out" and more leaflets than we knew what to do with.

Photo from No More Austerity march. Sign reads "tax the corporate moguls" with pictures of the starbucks, google and amazon logos.

We weren't there with any particular group, but we filed in near the NUT teachers' union. (My husband is actually a member of the NASUWT teachers' union, so this seemed close enough). Not that this mattered as our place within the march kept changing, having to occasionally stop to sort out our child. This turned out to be an advantage, because we got to see the wide range of people who were there to protest, and perhaps more impressively, just how far some people had come to march, including considerable representation from Wales. One person in particular caught my eye, having beautifully hand-crafted a banner that shamed our paint-still-wet cardboard made hastily that morning. It was turquoise, white and purple macramé and read "Tax the Rich."

Photo from No More Austerity march. Beautiful handmade macramé sign reads "Tax the Rich." It's colours are turquoise, purple and white.

The demonstration took us from just outside of BBC studio to the green outside Parliament. Interestingly, BBC didn't mention a single word about the protest of 50,000 people on their doorstep. ITV mentioned it briefly.

The following day, I began to dive into my pile of pamphlets and political literature. Some of it was just plain bat shit! (Entertaining however). A lot of the literature made excellent points. One such point was made in an A3 booklet from a new political party called Left Unity. It contained several articles written by different members, and the one that really caught my eye was written by Kate Hudson called European Elections: A Rising Left Amid the Far Right Danger. The article explains that although news coverage is extremely focused on the rise of far right political parties such as UKIP, the rise in far left parties has been nearly as great and in some cases greater.

Dreading the rise of the right, I have been throwing my support behind Labour as the best alternative, although they don't truly represent my opinions and views. Both in America and Britain, the major left wing parties have become - in fact - moderate parties, attempting to pander to both sides. Before the European Elections, I scoured the internet for a party that was on the left and pro-EU. The best I could come up with were the Liberal Democrats. Every other party was either formed on an anti-EU policy or - at best - non-committal to either side of the debate.

I have always been proud to be an unaffiliated, independent voter, open to considering the best candidate for the job regardless of their political affiliation. However, the only thing that remains constant is change, and I now feel I need to openly support the growing wing of politics that I was inaccurately led to believe was shrinking. Yesterday, I had another "first experience." I joined Left Unity!

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

Three Filthy Words

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I have a guilty indulgence.. watching Ted Talks when I should otherwise be productive. My biggest hot-button, crusader issue is US student loan debt, so I am anxious to see a Ted Talk that addresses this topic and possible solutions. As of today, no talks have been posted, but I have found a few conversations, and I found some of the comments in these conversations to be.... sub-Ted. The mention of just three little words will quickly divide a room:

Student... Loan... Bailout 

For those of us who are drowning in student loan debt (myself included) our stance is a fairly easy to comprehend. The point of view of those vehemently against student loan bailouts is rather simple, too. They don't feel they should have to pay for our educations and that bailing out students won't teach them responsibility. Although this point of view has a legitimate concern, their objections are misguided by stereotypes and utterly uninformed. I could go on at great length about the pros, cons and misconceptions about a proposed student loan bailout, but instead I will focus on just one misconception:

The Stereotype of the 20 Something Student Loan Debtor 

I don't diminish the financial struggles of recent graduates faced with repaying loans, in fact with every passing year students are graduating with higher and higher debts to repay... but.... the 20 somethings are not the group most burdened by their student loan debts. In most situations, this age group will be single, childless and able to live virtually rent free at home with their family. In their late 20s and 30s, when they meet someone special and want to move in together, maybe even get married and have children and/or buy a home, that's when they will most feel the suffocating affect of their student loans (especially if both partners carry high debt). But it doesn't stop at the 30 somethings... there are plenty of student loan debtors in their 40's, 50's... even their 60's! That's right... grandparents are struggling with their student loan payments.

How can this be? Grandparents with student loan debt? There are three reasons (that come to mind) why even grandparents are paying on student loans.

1. Following redundancy, many middle aged and older Americans found themselves uncompetitive in the job force. Despite years of service and experience, they were suddenly considered "unqualified." In order to compete, they needed to return to school and earn qualifications.

2. Many of the grandparent student loan borrowers are simply still in repayment from the debt of their youth. Deferments, although very simple to obtain, lead to a student loan debt that spirals out of control, as the interest continues to accumulate and then becomes CAPITALIZED. This means that the interest is added to the principle, causes monthly interest accrual to grow. If their situation was ever so bad that they defaulted, the debt can nearly double in a matter of just a few years.

3. Perhaps the most tearful amongst the grandparent student loan debtors are the ones that just wanted to do the best by their own children. These are the cosigners of plus loans.

As it stands now, I am  highly likely to someday be amongst the grandparent student loan borrowers. My son is only 2-years old, but I am 24 years from seeing the repayment or forgiveness of my loans.

I find this idea that a student loan bailout won't "teach graduates a lesson about financial responsibility" patronizing when applied to the entire population of Americans burdened by student loan debt. I find it utterly disgusting that anyone should wish upon another human being that they "learn about finances" by becoming indebted for sums of money that could buy a house... or two or three houses.... before they have ever had the opportunity to manage the finances of a household; before they have any idea of their realistic income potential.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com