Fall 2015 – The Debt Issue
Fall 2015

Table of Contents

The Debt Issue

From the Editors

Why We Did an Issue on Debt

Good debts? We know it sounds crazy. But there’s a quiet revolution brewing in how we move money around, and we want our readers to know about it.

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YES! illustration by Steve Brodner.

“Don’t Owe. Won’t Pay.” Everything You’ve Been Told About Debt Is Wrong

With the nation’s household debt burden at $11.85 trillion, even the most modest challenges to its legitimacy have revolutionary implications.
Charles Eisenstein

Hero or Coward: Could Skipping My Student Loan Payments Start a Revolution?

A college professor is calling for a massive student-debt strike next year with only one necessity: that as many debtors as possible refuse to pay.
Yessenia Funes

When Energy Bills Skyrocketed, These Neighbors Banded Together to Keep the Lights On—And Won

For nearly 20 years, utility company Central Hudson has operated more or less unchallenged—until Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson came along.
Laura Gottesdiener

Infographic: The Real Reason You Have So Much Debt (It’s Not Crazy Spending)

$11.85 trillion in household debt has more to do with stagnant wages (and predatory banks) than shopping sprees .
Heidi Bruce & Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz

Infographic: A History of Debt Forgiveness and Relief

As long as there has been lending, there have been times when the people’s debt becomes a crisis. Here’s a look at the policy solutions governments have been using, starting in ancient Sumer.
Jennifer Luxton & Lindsey Weedston
Photo from Shutterstock.

Will Government Make Good on Its Promise to Forgive Student Debt?

Up to a quarter of the nation’s workers have spent 10 years working in public service on a promise of student loan forgiveness.
Ava Kofman
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I Owed My Parents Everything—But My Son Will Owe Me Nothing

Why family debts shouldn’t be about money or expectations, but about love.
Shin Yu Pai

We Asked Our Favorite Illustrators What Debt Means to Them

Here's what they gave us, from comics to collage.

Goodbye McMansion, Hello Simple Life: What I Learned From Thoreau

The philosopher’s lessons include how to let go and find happiness—even after crippling debt and a heartbreaking divorce.
Kaci Yoh
Borrowers and investors of Salish Sea Cooperative Finance. Photo by Paul Dunn.

For These Borrowers and Lenders, Debt Is a Relationship Based on Love

There could be a different financial system, one where debt allows us to honor our freedom rather than our servitude.
Nathan Schneider
Alex Cedeno in Cleveland. Photo by Paul Dunn.

Own a Home in Just Four Years? This Co-Op Program Keeps Workers in the Neighborhood

Nearly half of Evergreen’s worker-owners have purchased homes through the program.
Yessenia Funes

The Interest-Free Lending Circles That Help Friends and Families Do DIY Loans

Who needs banks when you have communities? And organizations like Mission Asset Fund have even figured out how to use the system to raise credit scores.
Liz Pleasant
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How Creative Finance Launched Worker-Owned Co-ops In Post-Sandy New York

Half of small businesses don’t make it past the first five years, and owners lose everything trying to pay off the loans. The Working World lets co-ops stabilize before repayment even begins.
Araz Hachadourian

Solutions We Love

Explore Section

Terry Tempest Williams: “Survival Becomes a Spiritual Practice”

The author and activist talks with YES! about millennials, climate change, and how she can't imagine being alive at "a more thrilling, challenging time."
Sarah van Gelder
People We Love

When Gamers and Activists Collide, It’s Not About Winning—It’s About Social Change

From computer screens to street play, these three game developers are redefining the medium by revealing a powerful new social potential in games.
Tony Manno
YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton

6 Strategies to Make Powerful Social Change—Starting With “Stay Woke”

Bree Newsome’s removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse reminds us that real change comes from people power.
Mistinguette Smith
The Page That Counts

Only 11 Percent of Kids’ Books Are About Characters of Color

How nearly half the country's children are underrepresented in literature, and another 31 facts about our world today.
Miles Schneiderman & Tony Manno

Culture Shift

Explore Section
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How Lentils Started an Underground Food Movement

Renegade farmers in Montana break from a long history of Big Ag and harmful monocrops.
Raj Patel

The Color of Food: How Gardens and Farms Can Help Us Heal From a History of Racism

When we work together, share meals together, and laugh together, we’re repairing relationships with the soil as a community.
Natasha Bowens

The Last Gift of Eduardo Galeano: Stories of History for the Sake of the Future

The Uruguayan journalist and historian authored more than 40 books, but his legacy will live on in our cultural imagination.
Andy Lee Roth

Don’t Just Divest, Reinvest—From Fossil Fuels to a Healthy Economy

Reinvestment could also unite students organizing for other forms of divestment, like prison divestment and divestment in solidarity with Palestine.
Meaghan LaSala