Smart, Young, and In Deep Debt


American’s owe nearly $1,000,000,000,000 worth of student loan debt.  All those zeroes? That’s $1 trillion dollars.  What portion of that is yours?  If you’re under 30, our share is somewhere around $292,000,000,000, or $292 billion.  For those between 30-39, who make up the majority of those in debt, their share is $302,000,000,000 ($302 billion).

If depressed is what you feel when you see those numbers, or when you think about what you have to pay this month in student loans, I understand.  Thinking about having to start paying back student loans after graduate school is plenty depressing.

But this is an issue that is has nothing to do with our personal worth; it hasn’t anything to do with our “choices,” and has everything to do with the economic and education systems that swindled us all.  It’s about the smart, young, and talented having to start off our careers, our lives, deep in the pockets of Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, CITI, and Bank of America.  About having a student loan bill that is higher than our rent.  About not being able to even consider buying a house because we are so steeped in repayment of our student loans.  About having to sacrifice our health and well-being because Sallie Mae keeps calling.

That it is seen as an occasion to cheer for a young, 25 year old with a degree in his pocket paying off his student loans should infuriate us.  That he couldn’t even earn a salary that would allow him eat well, have decent shelter, have adequate health insurance, and pay off loans in a reasonable amount of time without it being a financial burden, is an issue that we should all be angry about.  This is not a congratulatory moment for him.  That individualizes a systemic crisis.

Don’t let CNN or anyone else convince you that this is all you need to do to get out from under the weight of debt: move to the hood, get a great paying job (if you’re a man, this will be slightly easier), and cut down to “the essentials”.  The essentials for whom?  What if you have a chronic illness?  What if you develop one eating week old meat and rotten vegetables?

No, this is a moment for us to look our student loan creditors and our alma maters right in their face and flip them a serious collective bird.  Ya’ll lied to us.  You told us that if we went to college, that what we were doing was “investing” in our future.  Well look where that got us: $1 trillion dollars in debt, and no end in sight.  We will owe on this “investment” until we’re all dead.

Every day it gets harder
Just the cost of livin’ pullin’ me down
I try to stay above water
But these bills got me ’bout to drown

I can’t keep livin’ this life
Robbing Peter but still can’t pay Paul
I just been fightin’ this fight
But I don’t know what the point of it all

I keep a positive mind
But it’s hard to flow
When your cash is low
I’m workin’ days and nights
Still I can’t get up out of this hole

Because I gets paid on the first, played on the last
And struggle all through the middle
Every month I gets paid on the first, played on the last
And struggle all through the middle

M-O-N-E-Y never seem to multiply for me
Ain’t nothin’ movin’ ’cause I keep losin’
M-O-N-E-Y never seem to multiply for me
Ain’t nothin’ movin’ ’cause I keep losin’

Them bankers know that they own us
Though I swear it’s more than slavery
They give each other a bonus
While our children live in poverty
What a shame, what a shame

I keep on teachin’ my kids
You work hard, you’ll go far in this life
But the reality is
I’m slavin’ on to the bone to survive

“Paid” by Eric Benet and Eddie Levert, 2010


American Student Assistance
Josh Mitchell’s “Federal Student Lending Swells”

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