Welcome to the Anti-Debt Agenda

The average American works ten years of their life just to pay interest.

Americans are routinely forced into debt for education and medical care – which are paid for by taxes  in many other nations. Credit cards are a very poor substitute for union cards.

Norwegians, Danes, Czechs,  Germans, or Swedes do not need to borrow for college – it is free. The Germans and Dutch do not need to borrow for health care – everyone is insured, and deductibles cannot exceed a few hundred dollars.

As Astra Taylor says: “Working people in America are robbed twice. You’re underpaid at the job, and then you’re charged interest because  you need student loans to get an education, and then you’re going into debt for medical care, and you may need other loans just to pay rent or put food on the table.”

Student debt, medical debt, and carceral debts (for bail, probation, and court costs)  should not exist at all.  These debts are the foundation of what Tressie McMillan Cottom calls “negative social insurance…..  it doesn’t actually make us more secure. It only makes our collective insecurity more profitable.” 

Our blog will not focus on consumer debts for  homes, new cars or flat-screen TV’s. These debts may just reflect bad personal decisions. The existing bankruptcy laws are probably adequate remedies.

What we will oppose are the debts that arise from the lack of social insurance. The creditors here are clearly not entitled to full repayment with interest. We must expand the  category of forgivable debts. 

As Robert Meister asks regarding student debt: “Why not raise taxes and provide higher education as a publicly funded good that does not depend upon individual access to private credit markets?

“If you add up the lifetime debt service that former students will pay on $1 trillion, over and above the principal they borrow, you could run a very good public university system for what we are paying capital markets to fund an ever-worsening one.”

This blog will discuss and reprint articles on the size of the problem, along with proposed solutions.

Always feel free to provide comments, criticisms, and suggestions.


Recent Blog Posts

structured settlement buyers

Expose The Vicious Settlement Buyers

A little-known area of financial abuse involves “structured settlement” annuities.  A structured settlement is often used in compensation for injuries or accidents – i.e. car crashes, medical malpractice, and class-action lawsuits. The victim is set up to receive their money through periodic payments –this is the ‘structure’. For example, the recipient might get $2,000 a month to age 65, and $1,000 a month thereafter.  There is not a lump sum cash advance –which is a good thing. There are many stories of lump sums being dissipated all too fast, with huge resulting debts.  Most attorneys and judges advocate for structured…

student loan forgiveness

Update On Student Loan Forgiveness in 2024

Student loan forgiveness can be quite confusing.  Here is a brief overview: Back in 2020, the Biden administration announced a plan to forgive $10,000 per debtor, for virtually the entire student debtor population – about 44 million borrowers. (The amount would be $20,000 if a student had been poor enough originally to also receive a Pell Grant.)  A married couple with student debts could be earning $250,000 a year today – but they would still have received $10,000 apiece in loan forgiveness. This might harvest votes in wealthy suburbs, but it seemed excessive to Republican opponents. This plan relied on…

Anti-Debt Agenda Heroes #4 – Karl Denninger

Karl Denninger has maintained a lively blog called Market Ticker. He is a tech-industry entrepreneur who writes bluntly about politics, technology, and individual rights. If you combined Bernie Sanders with Rush Limbaugh, you might have Karl Denninger. He often speaks about health care…..and on the Market Ticker post of 3-30-2017, he proposed a series of laws to “clean up” the health sector. These still sound good today! Here are the regulations he would propose: 1. All providers must post, in their offices and on a public website, a full and complete price list which shall apply to every patient. 2. For a bill…

child support debt

Child Support Can Be A Serious Debt Problem

Readers may remember the controversial 2015 shooting of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man,  in South Carolina.  A policeman was convicted for murder in the case, after a video surfaced showing him shooting Scott from behind. But few people ask: “Why was Walter Scott running away?” The sad explanation: child support. Scott had been repeatedly sent to jail for failure to pay child support. By the time of his death, he owed $18,000, and there was a warrant out for his arrest.  He had ended up in a vicious cycle: he couldn’t pay child support because he couldn’t hold a job,…

student debt scams

Beware Of Student Debt Scams

2023 was overall a good year for student debtors, even with some legislative reversals. However, borrowers are still receiving phone calls, emails, letters, and/or texts offering them relief from their federal student loans, or warning them that student loan forgiveness programs would end soon.  Usually, the so-called student loan debt relief companies offering these types of services don’t offer any relief at all. Often they’re just fraudsters who are after your money. Here are some examples of the false claims made in these communications: Communications using this type of aggressive advertising to lure borrowers are NOT coming from the U.S. Department of…

medical debt

Can We Ever Solve Medical Debt?

If you are concerned about medical debt, you have to start with the hospitals. Of the six million Americans who owe more than $5,000 in medical debt, 72 percent attribute their debt to bills from acute care, such as a single hospital stay or treatment for an accident.  There is a movement to limit medical debt…..but  it is inconsistent across the states.  That’s no surprise. The American hospital system has always been an unwieldy combination of private funding, public funding, federal and state regulations, and charity. Medical debt is not inevitable, however. We Americans are too cheap to establish straightforward…

An Epidemic Of Insurance Claim Denials

An Epidemic Of Insurance Claim Denials

A Kaiser Foundation survey on 9-29-23 makes it clear– we are seeing a large increase in insurance claim denials.  When insurance companies deny claims, patients eventually pay the price. These bills can easily turn into medical debt, with troubling consequences; people take steps that put their health at further risk.    1 in 7 people with medical debt have even been denied medical care because of their debt.  The insurance companies themselves admit that 41 million in-network claims were declined during the 2021 plan year. Among the for-profit insurers who sell on Healthcare.gov,  17% of  patient’s claims were denied. According to Kaiser,…

legal aid

Free Legal Aid For Bankruptcy Filers

A non-profit firm called Upsolve enables many bankruptcy filers to pay nothing in legal fees. Here’s the background: Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorneys usually require their clients to pay in full before filing the case. You cannot blame them…if a lawyer does not collect their fees up front, their bill could later be discharged along with the rest of the client’s debts. This creates a big barrier for low-asset, low-income bankruptcy filers. They must come up with $2000 or more in cash before filing Chapter 7. But now there is good news. Upsolve was born in 2018 with seed funding from…

“Creeping Socialism” Would Be Good For America

Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, and Joe McCarthy-style conservatives constantly complain that “Democrats would impose European-Style Socialism on America.” And how bad would that be? Will Americans be hopelessly corrupted by national health insurance, mandatory vacations, paid maternity leave, rent subsidies, or larger child allowances? After all, Australia hasn’t been destroyed yet – despite having gun control, a national health system, a substantial minimum wage, 4 weeks mandatory vacations and 2 weeks guaranteed sick leave. Actually, millions of older Americans already have socialism, and they love it. They strongly approve of Social Security, Medicare, and military pensions. They aren’t really opposed…

small claims court

Challenge Medical Bills in Small Claims Court

Small claims courts have been a fixture throughout America for over seventy years. In the state of New York, for example, there are Small Claims Courts in each of the 62 counties — including at least one in each of the five boroughs of New York City. Most other states have similar coverage. In small claims court, there is usually a single judge with no jury and no witnesses. The courts are typically informal – designed to make the legal process accessible and affordable. The judge usually asks the plaintiff and the defendant to simply “Tell us your story in…

medical credit cards

Medical Credit Cards: Pro or Con?

The most frequent settings for medical credit cards have been dentist’s offices, cosmetic surgery, veterinarians, hearing services, vision services and primary care. However, the cards are increasingly offered to cover surgeries and emergency services provided at hospitals and doctors’ offices. (Some of the newer lenders are owned by private equity, which to me is automatically a call for concern.) The business appeal of these cards is that providers don’t have to be in the financing or debt collection business. They receive full payment quickly. Some products advertise to providers that they’ll be paid in two business days, while others advertise…

Myths of Single Payer

Readers of this blog are aware that I am a strong advocate of health care reform. However, I am very cautious about a total overhaul of our system. I have a low tolerance for bad math and empty promises – which both appear all too often in the promotion of Single Payer. Here are some specific points of propaganda that concern me……….. Myth #1`- Administrative Costs for Providers Will Plummet Single payer advocates have a fantasy where medical staff will spend perhaps 30 seconds to enter claims that are straightforward, never challenged, with no prior authorization required…. Unfortunately,  the real…

Anti-Debt Heroes – The Debt Collective

The Debt Collective first formed in 2012 as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Early members wrote the  Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual , and launched the Rolling Jubilee, a mechanism for purchasing portfolios of people’s debt on secondary debt markets — and cancelling it. In 2015, the Collective organized the nation’s first student debt strike, against Corinthian Colleges, a predatory for-profit college chain. (Note: The Education Department eventually deployed its existing legal powers to wipe out$5.8 billion in debt held by 560,000 students of Corinthian Colleges.) The Debt Collective team today is a mix of staff, volunteers, and advisors that coordinate nationally…

Anti-Debt Hero #2 – Jared Walker

For the last ten years, Jared has headed up a medical charity called Dollar For. At first, he simply raised money to help pay medical bills for low income families. However – he then realized that many of these families could have qualified for free hospital care. Under the Affordable Care Act. non-profit hospitals must waive or reduce charges for lower-income uninsured patients. The hospitals must prove that they are providing a community benefit, thus justifying their tax exemption. (A study in Cook County- Illinois in 2016 showed that hospitals there avoided over $200 million a year in property taxes….

Anti-Debt Hero #1 — Alan Collinge

Alan Collinge has been waging a media war against student debt for about 20 years. He uses news articles, facebook posts, and interviews to further his cause. His organization is called Student Loan Justice.org, and his goal is to get politicians and the media on the side of debt relief. Here is a sample of a recent Collinge communique: “We have to flex this muscle we have.  Our opposition is overwhelming the media with anti-cancellation, anti-borrower hit pieces.  Will you please step up, and give it a shot in your local newspaper, or a paper in your state? Anyone can do…

In Praise of Medical Advocates

A hospital patient’s first bill is usually for an impossible, back-breaking amount….but typically all the insurers have already negotiated a substantial discount. However — most patients do not understand this. They have no one to reassure them, counsel them, and to fight for them if they have no insurer. Americans are used to fixed prices at Walmart or the grocery store; they do not want to bargain with the doctors and hospitals they must trust with their lives. Patient advocates can be incredibly important. I am impressed by a new firm called Resolve. The idea for Resolve began in 2016,…

High Deductibles Hurt Hospitals, Too

It is not just the patients who can suffer. Medical providers are losing money on deductibles as well. Consider these statistics from Jacqueline LaPointe’s article in RevCycle Intelligence: It’s no wonder that hospitals can sell their old debts so cheaply to collection agencies. Most hospitals are not very aggressive on debt collection. (Thank goodness!) A Johns Hopkins study found that between 2018 and 2020, only 28 out of 414 hospitals in Texas sued any patients at all. Fewer than ten of these hospitals garnished bank accounts and seized patients’ property. Hospitals told the study that litigation is used as a…

Ambulance Debt Should Disappear

If you call 911 and the fire department comes, you will generally pay nothing. In virtually all incorporated cities, the fire department is a public service. It is financed by  local government—usually with property taxes.   However–  if you call 911 for an ambulance, you could be charged over $1,000, even for a short ride.  Ambulances are normally not a free public service. In many states the typical balance bill can be over $1,000. It helps to have health insurance,  but you must be careful about deductibles and exclusions. A medical emergency can easily put you straight into debt. (Air…

Pending Bankruptcy Reforms Favor Debtors

Pending Bankruptcy Reforms Favor Debtors For many years, typical consumers could choose between filing under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the US bankruptcy code. In Chapter 7—the far faster option—an independent trustee liquidates the debtor’s available assets and makes distributions to creditors. In Chapter 13, debtors contribute their income to a trustee who makes payments under a three- or five-year plan. Chapter 13 cases are often unsuccessful, with fewer than half of filers ultimately getting their discharge. Lawyers generally want to be paid in advance on a Chapter 7 case.This drives many filers into Chapter 13, where attorneys can…

medical debt

Medical Debt Is Worst In The South

The Affordable Care Act of 2009 required all states to expand Medicaid for the working poor. The federal government would pay all the costs of expansion for three years, and 90% of the cost thereafter. However, this expansion became voluntary after a lawsuit in 2012…..and ten Southern states have still refused to participate. This leads to chronically high medical debt for low-income residents.  In conventional economic terms, this resistance is inexplicable: these states are passing up billions of dollars in federal money financed, in part, by taxes on their own residents.   Medicaid expansion would boost employment in the health sector,…