Sunday, November 29, 2009

Debt Burdens

I graduated from Queens College of the City University of New York in 1967. My instructors all were either tenured or in tenure-track positions — I was never taught by an adjunct. Except for very nominal registration fees, the cost to me was zero.

Queens College still is a bargain. In-state, full time students pay about $5000 a year in tuition, and many qualify for some sort of financial aid. If they're living with their parents, it's manageable — less so for those who must be self-supporting. What I'm wondering, though, is why we no longer can afford to provide free post-secondary education?

Two thirds of those attending college depend on loans to pay their way through, and the average debt upon graduation is over $23,000. Starting out in a job that pays $35,000 a year, such a level of debt is an incredible burden. Starting out in an economy that might not provide any job at all makes the burden far greater. Graduates in bad financial straights may defer payment, but interest continues to accrue.

The result is young people putting their lives on hold. Student debt is one reason for delaying marriage and children. It's also a reason to hang onto essentially crappy jobs — just to keep up with the loan payments. Taking a risk means risking bankruptcy — a bankruptcy where student loans and credit card debt are not forgiven.

We are wasting a hell of a lot of talent by strangling it with debt. If I could get my hands on the throat of a bank that has been collecting government subsidies for offering high interest student loans, I would squeeze. Hard.

I don't have solutions. We are at a point where the evil rich should be hammered into pulp by the collective (Yes! Collective!) baseball bats of virtually everybody else, but don't expect anything from Timmy Geithner, whose asshole is open to the fucking of anybody with sufficient assets.

The New Deal wasn't about economics. It wasn't about socialism. It was about morality. It was about doing the right thing. Now, all of that is lost. Had Roosevelt been able to push through a national health care program, you can bet nobody would be trying to dig up the money to pay for coverage so as to avoid paying fines. Frankly, I think the whole "compromise" with single payer is sickening.

Welcome back to the 19th century. Bend over, working people. There's a lovely assortment of shafts all ready to fuck you — hard.

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