Matt Taibbi On "The Dirty Little Secret" Inside The Student Loan Bubble
On the heels of President Obama’s signing of a measure keeping federally subsidized student loans at a relatively low rate through 2015, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi exposes how the high price of U.S. college tuition and the federal expansion of student debt to pay for it pose a major threat to the economy. In his new article, Taibbi writes: "The dirty secret of American higher education is that student-loan interest rates are almost irrelevant. It’s not the cost of the loan that’s the problem, it’s the principal - the appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008." As Democracy Now notes, during the following interview with Taibbi, "...throw off the mystery and what you’ll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults." The federal government is poised to make $185 billion over the next 10 years on student loans, with no way out for the young borrowers: "Even gamblers can declare bankruptcy, but kids who enter into student loans will never, ever be able to get out of this debt."
Excerpted from Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article:
Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal
The federal government has made it easier than ever to borrow money for higher education - saddling a generation with crushing debts and inflating a bubble that could bring down the economy
How is this happening? It's complicated. But throw off the mystery and what you'll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults. For this story, I interviewed people who developed crippling mental and physical conditions, who considered suicide, who had to give up hope of having children, who were forced to leave the country, or who even entered a life of crime because of their student debts.
They all take responsibility for their own mistakes. They know they didn't arrive at gorgeous campuses for four golden years of boozing, balling and bong hits by way of anybody's cattle car. But they're angry, too, and they should be. Because the underlying cause of all that later-life distress and heartache – the reason they carry such crushing, life-alteringly huge college debt – is that our university-tuition system really is exploitative and unfair, designed primarily to benefit two major actors.
First in line are the colleges and universities, and the contractors who build their extravagant athletic complexes, hotel-like dormitories and God knows what other campus embellishments. For these little regional economic empires, the federal student-loan system is essentially a massive and ongoing government subsidy, once funded mostly by emotionally vulnerable parents, but now increasingly paid for in the form of federally backed loans to a political constituency - low- and middle-income students - that has virtually no lobby in Washington.
Next up is the government itself. While it's not commonly discussed on the Hill, the government actually stands to make an enormous profit on the president's new federal student-loan system, an estimated $184 billion over 10 years, a boondoggle paid for by hyperinflated tuition costs and fueled by a government-sponsored predatory-lending program that makes even the most ruthless private credit-card company seem like a "Save the Panda" charity.
Why is this happening? The answer lies in a sociopathic marriage of private-sector greed and government force that will make you shake your head in wonder at the way modern America sucks blood out of its young.
As Taibbi concludes,
"something has to be done to sort of check this availability of credit and force colleges to make more rational decisions about pricing and about - and force kids to understand better the consequences of what they’re getting into when they sign up for these loans."
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