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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Jan 28, 2021

Even before a national pandemic that sent the country into a crisis, almost 40% of Americans wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency. Nearly a third of Americans have medical debt, and over half have defaulted on it. Student loan debt has surpassed $1.6 trillion, and the average college graduate has $32,000 in student loans, going up every year. The Debt Collective argues that access to debt has masked stagnating wages and deepening inequality, and they join us with a call to action.

Documentarian Astra Taylor wrote the foreword for a new book written by the Debt Collective, Can’t Pay Won’t Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition, and she joined us with New York Times writer E. Tammy Kim to discuss this informative and inspiring manifesto. With debt cancellation emerging as a key area of debate for the future and a catalyst of youth radicalization, Taylor considered the economic benefits of economic disobedience. Taylor and Kim highlighted critical historical precedents and clearly connect student debt to those debts tied to healthcare, fraudulent mortgages, payday loans, and incarceration. They presented an alternative to debt forgiveness—debt abolition—and urge us to recognize that together our debts make us powerful and that “you are not a loan.”

Astra Taylor is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and political organizer. She is the director, most recently, of What Is Democracy? and the author of Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone and the American Book Award-winning The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age. She is co-founder of the Debt Collective, a union for debtors, and contributed the foreword to the group’s new book.

E. Tammy Kim writes for The New York TimesThe New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker. She is a former attorney.

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