My friend Brad forwarded an e-mail to me in response to an online petition that’s been making its way around Facebook (and other places), asking Papa Government to forgive billions of dollars of student loans. The e-mail was addressed as a reply to another friend who (saddled with law school debt) had earlier forwarded the petition to Brad.
In the e-mail, Brad made an excellent argument which I’ll quote:
I’m 98% sure I can’t support this…
…I understand that student loans suck and I feel lucky to not have any of them. So if you and the other 90% or so of college students that have student loans get bailed out…then what about me. My parents put away a $100 a month from the day I was born for my brother and I to be able to pay for college in full. My parents came up with real money to pay for college and not loans. Shouldn’t they get bailed out too?
For background, the chart below shows the rising cost of annual room, board and tuition expenses (I do not believe they are indexed) at Public and Private schools in the United States. [link to Excel data]
CNN Money reports that the cost of higher education has far outpaced price inflation over the last 25 years or so. What I was really looking for (but couldn’t find given limited time) was a 40- or 50-year trend, which would go back far enough to look at the price of higher education before government began subsidizing the hell out of it. I’ve seen these data elsewhere, and it’s pretty damning.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’d be happier than a pig in shit if student loans were forgiven. But it’s not going to happen, no matter how many Facebook signatures they collect. A Student Loan obligation, like any other sort of tax or government fee, is simply one of many means by which most people, most of their lives, are kept largely enslaved by the system.
The system, for those of you not in the know, is not set up for you to get ahead. (Thanks, dad!)
If you’ll allow me to take some license with the argument Brad sets forth, above, there are plenty of people whose parents saved up and paid for their education, there are a lot of people who worked their asses off all through college and paid for their own education, and there are plenty of other people who either didn’t go to college, went to a community college, or went to a lesser school than they qualified for academically, because they couldn’t afford a 4-year degree at a better school. The “forgive student loans” petition doesn’t help these people who were arguably injured the most by the onerous cost of higher education, which is itself a consequence of the existence of the federal student loan/grant programs.
We have arrived at this problem, of unaffordable education, precisely because the government has tried to make education affordable for the masses.
If you want to criticize all the parasites in the banking industry and in the government, that conspired or otherwise caused the affordability problem in higher education, I won’t get in your way: I don’t want to give any of them one thin dime more than I can get away with. Insofar as student loan obligations are pretty much bullshit to begin with, and that everyone whose income has derived principally from these subsidies over the past 30 or 40 years has really been stealing from the nation’s productivity, I won’t object at all if you want to personally repudiate them. But it’s pure nonsense to try and “work within the system” to remove the chains and shackles placed upon you. On the other hand, whenever the entire system crumbles under its own weight, you won’t have to worry about all those fraudulent obligations any longer!
Understand that an awful lot of people were genuinely harmed by this program (and others like it) in ways that you or I can barely fathom. What you’re saying is, “I want a career that allows me to be my own boss, one which is protected by a State-sanctioned monopoly, one which allows me to bill my clients upwards of $100-200/hour, for the rest of my life. I want all of these privileges, and I don’t want to be inconvenienced in the least.”
I do not think I’m out of line to accuse this complaint of approaching the height of selfishness.