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Squatters of the Lower East Side

As New York City was transformed by real estate and finance interests in the 1990s, a group of squatters on the Lower East Side waged battle for affordable housing

In October 2013, I visited Fly in her apartment in a squat on E. 7th Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When she first moved into her building in 1992, she was granted a space in a section of the squat that had been gutted by fire. It had no floor or windows; no heat, no electricity, no running water. With the help of fellow squatters, she rebuilt the apartment over a period of several years.

During my visit, she brought out a thick photo album, one of many she has to document the history of the building. There, in the photo album, was the room where we sat, but twenty years earlier, sunlight streaming through gaping holes where there are now windows; where there is now a floor, there were just beams and the ceiling of the apartment below.

AUTHOR:Cari Luna
PUBLISHED: April 1, 2014
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5805 words)

Wall Street Isn't Worth It

Who’s providing the real value in our economy? Quiggin argues that we shouldn’t be ready to dismiss the idea of dramatically shrinking the financial sector, which now makes up more than 20 percent of the U.S. GDP:

I’d like to look at a specific question raised by the discussion of private returns and social value, namely: can Wall Street, in its present form, be justified? That is, does the share of income flowing to corporations and professional workers in the financial sector reflect their marginal contribution to the total value of social output, so that, if their work ceased to be done and their skills were allocated elsewhere, we would all be worse off?

I argue that society as a whole would be better off if the financial sector were smaller, and received much smaller returns. A political strategy based on cutting the financial sector down to size has more promise for the Left than any alternative approach now on offer, and is a necessary precondition for a broader attempt to make the distribution of wealth and power more equal.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 16, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3206 words)

The Soul of Student Debt

Why do we treat student differently than other debt? An argument that it is "a form of social control":

"As states disinvest from public higher education and compel students to take on ever-increasing debt loads to fund their studies, the experience and purpose of higher education is transformed. The pursuit of a college diploma becomes an entrepreneurial activity, a species of personal investment and risk-taking that places the attainment of future returns above all other concerns. By integrating higher education into the circuits of financial capitalism, the state encourages debtors to look to the market for self-improvement and personal security. Like the subprime mortgage borrower or the worker with a 401(k) plan, the indebted student is taught to view access to credit and the financial markets as the golden ticket to prosperity and security.

"Student debt subjects the borrower to a distinctly capitalist pedagogy, transforming higher education into an increasingly expensive commodity that is bought and sold on the market. But as the legions of student loan debtors can attest, investment in a college education is no longer a guarantee of remunerative employment or personal financial security. It is an increasingly risky investment that can bring the student debtor into severe financial distress, and in the worst cases, to the door of the bankruptcy court to seek relief."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 14, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3707 words)