No Tears for the Adjuncts: Debt Bondage in the Digital Age

by Carter Brock
File under: Fake Freedom02 Mar 2014 20:42 EST

With the minimum wage once again coming to the forefront in the national discussion, another related employment controversy is also receiving coverage in the mainstream press. For the compassionate yuppie crowd, this one hits close to home.  The outcry is over the preponderance of low-paid, part-time adjunct instructors on college campuses. The issue is getting so much push you'd think February had become 'Adjunct Awareness' month. (This piece from SUNY-Albany professor Lawrence Wittner popped up on multiple sites just last week.)

Now ordinarily this is the kind of story to which Fakenation would be sympathetic. There are strong arguments being made against higher ed's gluttonous administrative structure. The adjunct instructor's plight amounts to low-wage exploitation any way you slice it. These were people lead along by the false promises of the academic carrot, only to be discarded in adjunct purgatory once they'd been financially sapped. And being at the bottom of employment seniority, Millennials are falling into this trap.

Paging through these articles, the assertion being made is that there is too much administration, too much misspending, and that budget money should be better re-distributed to those doing the actual teaching. While this seems plain enough, the problem is that for all the talk about money, the narrative has so far failed to include the students, the very people who are funding the whole shebang. Increased pay for adjuncts is presented as a benefit for students, but nowhere is runaway college pricing questioned, nor student loan debt mentioned as the driver of the higher ed economy.

This is a major deficiency in the thinking that's been presented. It presumes that the current university pricing model is fine, just flip who receives the money. Without a call to simultaneously reduce the cost of college, raising adjunct pay is a toothless reform for students. It won't change the fact that college education doesn't really educate, that students are paying more for degrees that are worth less (yes, that includes STEM),and that everything is predicated on $1 trillion of imaginary, hope-it's-there-in-the-future money (student loans). Laughably, the above video ends with the recommendation that we "keep on dreaming"...

Getting back to professor Wittner, we have a college instructor arguing that college instructors should receive more pay. Well, what do you know? Again, it really doesn't matter to students how their tuition is divided, once they've already been drained. But someone like Wittner can never effectively argue to end the student loan gravy train because it would destroy his profession's very livelihood. For these people to thrive, the debt must continue to build.

When will it stop? That's the key question. College has doubled in price in just the last ten years. Can it continue to rise exponentially? Will today's $100K turn into $200K or $500K by the time our children are 18? Dear God, this rocket has to come back to earth at some point. Right?

Unfortunately, the outlook isn't too promising, not with a financial system decoupled from economic reality, existing completely in the virtual realm. This is the nightmare of debt bondage in the digital age. At one time, loans required tangible assets, they required collateral, and they were thus at least somewhat bound by physical, earthly limits. But now a loan is just a data point in a computer, conjured with a keystroke, and it can be replicated infinitely. The only limits that remain are the size of the hard-drive and the scope of one's ambition.

It is impossible to default on this debt. We have already seen that favored institutions will be bailed out if their finances fail. If the bubble pops, tax payers will be stuck no matter what. Universities are already willing to claim that a college degree should cost $100K. Being financially invincible, why not go for $200K or $500K?

It's the same story across the credit-creation ponzi scheme. A nation like Greece goes bankrupt, and they're made to pay their debt by, get this, taking on more debt. Just keep on going. It's an ever-expanding debt vortex that will swallow the world. With compounding interest, how long before the claims of what's “owed” grossly outweighs the reality of what exists? (We might already be there if you include the multitude of financial derivatives.)

Recognize these debt claims for what they are: complete exaggerations, complete fabrications. Don't buy in. Otherwise you will “owe” so much for your education, for your home, for your healthcare, for your national and municipal debt, that in the end you will be left with nothing.

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