The 21st Show

Where The Candidates Stand On Student Debt; Catholic Diocese Lawsuits; Sears’ Radical Past


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

On The 21st: Four plaintiffs have sued every Catholic diocese in the state of Illinois, and they want bishops to publicly list the names of every priest who was credibly accused of sexual abuse. Plus, with Sears bankruptcy filing, many are thinking about the retailer’s storied history. That past includes how the company’s catalog helped disrupt Jim Crow-era racism. But first, Americans owe a total of nearly $1.5 trillion in student loans. We’ll break down where Illinois candidates stand on how to fix the problem of student debt.

Election Day is officially two weeks from today. We’ve been recording interviews with candidates running for several state-wide offices and we’ll be playing those for you all of next week.

Before then, we’ve also been asking our listeners what questions they had for the candidates. Jeff Martin from Springfield asked us, what would Illinois candidates to do "reduce the exorbitant cost of obtaining an education?" 

The average student in our country owes more than $30 thousand in debt. And, this is an issue that directly affects more than 40 million people nationwide. That’s according to Forbes.

Illinois Newsroom reporter Lee Gaines set out to answer this question for Jeff, and she joined us in the studio to tell us what she found.

Also joining us on the line we had Natalia Abrams. Natalia is the Executive Director of, a nonprofit that advocates for state and federal policies to lessen the impact of student debt. 


Over the past year, Catholics have been seeing the issue of sexual abuse come up yet again. Whether it’s the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, or the grand jury report in Pennsylvania which found that nearly 1,000 children were abused over a period of 70 years.

Here in Illinois, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan is also investigating church authorities. And last Thursday, this story took another turn. Four people have sued all of the Catholic dioceses in the state of Illinois. They say that there were abused by priests in Rockford, Peoria, and Springfield, and, that all six dioceses in Illinois have covered up sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

The plaintiffs also want the six Illinois dioceses to release the names of all priests who have been accused. Their lawyer, Jeff Anderson, has also filed similar lawsuits in California and Minnesota.

Jeff wasn’t able to join us on the show, but he did send a statement. In it he said he filed the suit because of a danger of harm to kids, parishioners and people. “If we are going to protect our kids then these names need to be known and revealed," he wrote. We also reached out to the six dioceses and have their statements available here.

Heidi Schlumpf is a correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter. She joined us on the line from Chicago. 

Cristina Traina also joined us on the line. She’s a professor and chair of religious studies at Northwestern University. 


Last week Sears announced it was filing for Bankruptcy and closing 142 of its stores that are losing money. Four of those stores are here in Illinois. This, of course, has had a lot of people talking about the loss of jobs, the impact on nearby real estate and what this means for the future of big retail. 

There was also a Twitter thread started by Louis Hyman, professor at Cornell University, that sparked a lot of interest and got us thinking about another side of Sears: Not its softer side. But its radical one.

Hyman tweeted: "In my history of consumption class, I teach about Sears, but what most people don't know is just how radical the catalogue was in the era of Jim Crow."

So what can we learn from the way Sears was a power disrupter?

Louis Hyman joined us on the line from New York. He’s an economic historian and the Director of the Institute for Workplace Studies at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. 

Story source: WILL