Exorbitant Cost Of Pseudo-Educating America: The Next Two-Trillion Dollar Bubble

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Ben Tanosborn,

At $1.2 trillion student debt, we may only be 60 percent along the way, but rest assured that it won’t take but 3 to 5 years before this spectacular bubble bursts... and it will do so on the economic backs of the poor, and the ghostly – ghastly might be more apropos – remnants of a fast disappearing middle class.
Two weeks ago, while doing a final screening of old papers kept for no-apparent good reason, I came across a few notes from a graduate business course which I taught over three decades ago.  An underlined hyphenated-word stood in front of me teasing both my memory and reason for its use: Porno-Economics.  Then, I quickly recalled that my reason for its use had absolutely nothing to do with the economics of porn; and how I explained to my class – mostly graduate engineers with families trying to attain an MBA attending evening classes to improve their chance for career advancement – with my intended meaning appearing in parenthesis in the notes: “worthless economic activity for no other reason than to stimulate and fulfill greed.” It would be more than a decade later that the true father of Porno-Economics, and Federal Reserve Board chairman, Alan Greenspan, would show up (December 1996) with his celebrated cute-ism of Irrational Exuberance… as prelude to the infamous Dot-com bubble burst (1999-2001).
Politicians under our anarchical capitalist system either shrug off their shoulders to the inevitability of economic cycles that citizens must endure, or simply acknowledge a need for change, and often the establishment of much needed controls.  However, at the end of the day, both Republican and Democratic politicians embrace the same laissez-faire attitude and leave the doors wide open in our economy for anarchy to come in; after all, if we accept Darwinism, and the idea of a predatory continuum in the animal species, why not let the course of natural events reign over economics as well?  Contrary to all irrational promulgations by self-proclaimed spiritual prophets, the meek will not inherit the earth... it will continue to stay in the hands of the ruling class, the elite in possession of all wealth.
Whether Alan Greenspan at the helm, or his two successors, Ben Bernanke (2006-2014), and Janet Yellen (currently), whatever was/is their intent when establishing fiscal policy, the results have been, and continue to be, the same: an accelerated redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the wealthy elite; the last bubble to burst in real estate (2008) shifting the wealth distribution in this nation to obscene extremes.  Now we are putting the final touches to the next entry in this bubbly parade: a $2 trillion float (or rather, hearse) representing student loans unlikely to be repaid in our existing Barbell Economy.  And the moment of reckoning is just around the corner…
We in the United States are superbly entrepreneurial when it comes to Ponzi schemes or pseudo-economics hocus-pocus in matters of greed.  Needless-to-say, politicians in America thrive at the prospect of simplistic answers solving society’s problems with little or no effort required from them; and student loans, guaranteed by an irresponsible government, have been a panacea for politicians hiding our nation’s true level of unemployment, our flight of jobs overseas, and a leadership throwing us to unplanned-globalization to be devoured by waiting predatory international capitalist wolves.
“Go and get educated, you weakly fools, learn to compete; it’s a tough world out there.”  And with that push by the Knightly Elite, Americans by the millions have entered a path offering them skills or greater opportunity, instead of taking the alternate route to an almost guaranteed permanent welfare.  In their obsequious tradition of creating self-serving opportunities and promoting waste, legislators have allowed the creation of a field of uncontrolled helter-skelter, unqualified schools (new or existing) offering shelter to mostly unemployed or unemployable men and women wearing student uniforms.  Yet, as this throw-away part of society gets “educated” there are none-to-few jobs waiting for them.  These “money advances,” appear as the only way to subsist.
But if these last three decades have proven to be the golden age for bureaucracy in our traditional colleges and universities, creating inefficiencies parallel to those rampant in military procurement, we have seen the advent of something even worse: proliferation of presumed “learning centers” (trade schools, ‘colleges-universities’…) which for the most part (if not all!) have a selfish mission, regardless of the PR-statement; and that is, questionable, unmerited profits – for profit-making institutions; or undeserved benefits and compensation to “principals” of non-profits.  In either case, the resulting ongoing scam, and the bubble thus created, will bury us deeper in debt.
And no, there appears to be no light at the end of this corrupt-politicians’ tunnel.
What about all these certificates of completion, bachelor degrees, masters and PhDs by the bushel... doesn’t that make us a more educated, productive society?  If such were only true!  It would be research-worthy and interesting to qualitatively measure the societal capabilities of the average American with 14 years of education and the average European/Asian counterpart with just 10.  I have my own idea how the comparison might go, and it’s not flattering to our investment skills in education.
For now... we’ll just wait until this bubble bursts.

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swmnguy's picture

The trouble is, most of what we call "Education" is actually employee-paid job-training.  For jobs they don't even have yet, and which may not even exist.  If the point of today's Education in America were to actually teach people how to reason, and then to connect them with information and the best practices of the day, at least people would understand their world better.  But when Want Ads require a 4-year degree for a receptionist, the scam becomes too obvious to ignore.

nuclearsquid's picture

Someone plugged this book a week or two ago in one of these comment threads.  I'll have to say, it is one of the best reads I have ever had, and really makes me question steering my son towards the same high priced degrees I have. 




DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Seems to me a college kid who is thinking about the future could study hard things that others cannot / will not, of course that would imply hard work and less partying...

-- Russian and Chemistry double major

-- Applied Math and Electrical Engineering

-- Biochemistry and Mechanical Engineering

-- English and ANY Engineering

-- Geology and Spanish

-- Mandarin and almost anything!

-- Economics and Poli-Sci  <---not!


GotGalt's picture

DoChen, I agree with your sentiment.  For these current prices to be really worth the cost, one would need to be all-in on gaining advanced skills that the average plebe has no chance of acquiring and take full use of what we assume and hope are extremely skilled professors that are willing to give of their time inside and outside the classroom to impart the highly technical skills.  Anything less, and one is more or less pissing away $100,000 anymore.


I also totally agree that languages are where it's at for today's youth around the world.  Want job opportunities?  Be able to speak many languages at will and be ready for global travel to go where the jobs are.  I think it is similar to how people grow up in a super depressed area with zero jobs and zero opportunities, yet refuse to leave for greener pastures.  Their refusal to leave basically dooms them to become part of the FSA.  Today's youth would be so much better off learning Spanish, Mandarin, English, Russian than waste 4-6 years of time getting a degree in Sociology.  Intensive language learning absolutely need to be incorporated in our public education starting as young as possible.  This is just another way that private schools are leaving public schools behind in my opinion. 

Antifaschistische's picture

I'm embarassed to be American sometimes.  Yes that hurts me to say it.

Family moves in down the street.  THeir son seems pretty wierd to me.  I find out they are from Syria.

The kid JUMPS two grade levels.  Yes, he's like a 13 year old Junior because he tested so high.

...and the 77024 zipcode ain't known for retards.

...while Chinese 17 year olds go to school 14 hours a day, 6 days a week.   I wouldn't want to do that either...but we have to compete with them on the world stage....and they are winning.

FredFlintstone's picture

I'm embarassed you are an American too. Just kidding, you made it too easy for me to resist.

asdasmos's picture

Posted Elsewhere:


1) The taxes are not worth the value being returned.

I don't have a problem paying taxes, so long as they go to something worthwhile. I will end up paying around 33% - an entire 1/3rd of my income - in my 2013 tax return. Yes, I am getting a refund, but when I am paying tens of thousands of dollars and not getting the services I should receive for that investment in my country, celebrating the return of a few hundred dollars seems absurd.

Where is my benefit from my government for all of this? Do I have free healthcare? No. Do I have a world class education for my child? No. Do I have any kind of guaranteed income should I lose my job? No.

No, instead, I have a country which is the only one in the world to tax its overseas citizens. A country that bails out banks who prey on those who just want a home to raise a family when they become insolvent - but when it happens to me, and I short sell my home, the IRS is there, ready to tax me on "phantom income" - forgiven debt.

I have a country that spends billions on fighting wars for political gain, but does nothing when there actually is evidence of WMD use against others. A country that hemorrhages so much money on military spending, it must turn around and take loans against my child's future - her income - in order to continue to pay for programs we don't need.

2) I'm tired of people being surprised that I'm American because I have manners, common courtesy, and the ability to see the other side of issues.

Seriously, the number of people I meet who think Americans are rascal-riding land whales (like in the movie Wall-E) with handle-bar mounted machine guns, a sack of Big Macs in the front basket, a clinical addiction to NASCAR, and a passion for the modern day artist that is Jerry Springer - it's just too much. I've been introducing myself as Canadian because apparently I'm so polite, that's where they mostly assume I'm from.

3) The fact that none of this is ever going to change, regardless of what party is in charge, and the fact that the American government continues to shred the constitution a little more each year, until it doesn't even matter anymore.

You may not think of America as a police state, but it is. Nobody's going to come grab you in the middle of the night, unless you're reported as a terrorist of some kind. At that point, just forget about "police work" and get ready for the SWAT team.

Nobody is going to take your children way from you, unless Child Protective Services is called, and someone decides - for whatever reason - that it's "in the child's best interest" to be removed.

Nobody is ever going to interfere with your access to medicine, unless you're trying to get something that isn't ridiculously expensive from another country; in that case, get ready for being charged as a drug trafficker.

Nobody is going to freeze your bank accounts, passport, and other means of movement, unless the IRS believes you haven't given them enough money. Suddenly you have debt to prove isn't there, and it will all get "sorted out" at the blistering fast speed of government efficiency. Or you could just pay the amount they say and it all ends quickly.

4) The fact that the future for my child in the US is so dark.

All this debt, and it's going to fall on her and her children. She's broke, and she doesn't even know it yet. Disgusting.

Well, I count myself fortunate that I don't own a home in the US - it affords me the ability to even consider leaving it all behind. There's so much propaganda about how wonderful America is but, when you look at it without those rosy lenses on, what you really see is horrifying.



CH1's picture

I don't have a problem paying taxes, so long as they go to something worthwhile.

I DO! They are taken by force or by a credible threat of force. In honest language, that's called robbery, and it's criminal.

If you want to give willingly, that's your choice, but taxation is terrorism - people pay because they're afraid not to.

Otto Zitte's picture

If its good for people they do it without coersion. Government coersion. So whatever the government is doing, we wouldn't fund it.

Dingleberry's picture

Embarrassed? No.

Disgusted? Yes.

But this is what you get when you go socialist in this country.

We are far too diverse and complex to ever be a Sweden.

Schools are hard left now, and always will be (thanks to teacher unions).

Result: everyone is equal....equally stupid.

At least they all got 4.0's

All Risk No Reward's picture

We need to updat eour consciousness.

Schools are hard Robber Baron.

The whole "left"schitick is just Muppet cover for "fascist controlled."

Real live "power to the people" leftists are killed off and/or school buses full of children are blown up and blamed on them.

America isn't moving towards "the left," it is moving towards authoritarian dictatorship...  most likely with some kind of thin *ss Muppet deceiving veneer.

Antifaschistische's picture

When I have lunch with 3 Indians, 2 Taiwanese, 1 Samoan, 1 Russian, 1 Vietnamese  and 1 Chinese....and they're laughing and how easy schools are in America and telling war stories of their own homeland education --- okay, I'm embarassed and disgusted.

My church listed the graduating senior and they all sound so smart. gpa's, 4.9, 5.7, 4.8, 4,7, etc.   holy cow.   they all sound like geniuses.   Does anyone at freakin public schools get a B anymore?    Getting a 4.0 used to mean you were actually both smart, and hard working...because in my graduating class of 800 had TWO!!  

JRev's picture

As a recent (almost) grad of a "good" school, I can tell you that HALF of those degrees won't actually get you full-time employment, even for dilligent workers. We live in a world where trilingual Suma Cum Laudes of major Universites are bussing tables. This is the America I'm growing up in, brought to me by... well, if you're over the age of 30, you probably had a hand in it. I'd imagine most ZeroHedge commenters did at one point in their lives. But us youngn's (the smart ones, at least,) are willing to forgive, provided you stop selling people this shit.

It's the 21st Century, we don't need usury to teach people even the most complex of skills. I'm a liberal arts dropout, a better programmer than half of my CSE buddies, and more employed as a freelancer than they are job hunting out West. And even if you do find gainful employment in those degrees, who would you be serving? The spy grid? The military? Agribusiness? State-enforced energy monopolies? My buddies who are employed in a "traditional" setting work for Apple, Microsoft, DuPont, Northrup Grummond, and IBM, respectively. Oh, and one's a banker. Honestly, I dunno how they sleep at night, but I also don't know how anyone born in the "good times" sleeps after selling their children down the river, either.

Milestones's picture

dcrb-Would also suggest some classes in history-primarily ancient history. "Those that are ignorant of their history are doomed to repeat its failures"  ( Have seen many versions of Sayantana quote)               Milestones 

OldPhart's picture

I finally went to college in Jan 93.  I was 34, no job, on welfare (and hating it), forced to fill out stacks of forms every month for whatever earnings I managed to make, then having the earnings taken out of the welfare, sneered at for going to school and still trying to work odd jobs.

This is California.  I took advantage of our community college that was charging something like $12 per unit and as a resident most of the fee was waived.  The books however, holy shit, the cost.  The most expensive college book I was forced to buy was for the required Art History (one of the toughest courses for me).  After the first semester I found out that after twelve units per semester they could no longer charge you for the classes.

Fuck ya, double load...My 12 units became 24 and I whipped through the Associates in Liberal Arts and Associates in Science in a year and a half.  No debt.

Applied to the nearest Calif State University, locally known as Communter U, sent in the application three times and they lost it each time.  Finally went in person and actually walked it through the fucking office until I was enrolled.  They had the same rule, after so many units per quarter, 12...they couldn't charge for tuition.

The worst quarter was 27 units.  Had Intermediate Accounting 2 (of 4), auditing 1, male bashing 101, white male bashing 101, coporate bashing 101, and religion bashing 101 (four core required courses), spanish (forget which level), and some other 'broadening' course that was required.

Accounting, Auditing 1 and Spanish were 4 unit classes, the rest were 3 unit classes.

Got my B.S. in BS in June 96 (Accounting)and took every accounting course they had in the syllabus.  Debt $4,000.

Went on to do the same with MBA...but a job interrupted it.  I think I still have 24 units to complete one of these days. Total debt $9000 combined.

Debt paid off long time ago.

In that whole time I got exactly one scholarship.  $500 from Orville Reddenbocker, wanting to fund an older, male student who is trying to reinvent his life.  I love that company, but can't stand popcorn.

I will shoot myself before ever placing me and/or my family under the thumb of welfare or other government benefit in my lifetime. 

max2205's picture

Yeah, what you said

The Most Interesting Frog in the World's picture

I highly object to the authors use of the words "porno" and "worthless" in such close proximity!

JamesBond's picture

Nothing a small present from the CDC won't fix.




ToNYC's picture

Bless the debt slaves who bit the credit bisquit; Long May they Serve!.

I Write Code's picture

Hundreds of billions of that are likely fraud perpetrated by the "trade" universities, fake students, dropouts, or even legit and well-meaning students sold certificates and degrees in massage therapy and the like.

I think there are relatively few kids who run up bills over $50k unless their parents were rich in the first place.  Now $50k is a big burden given salaries where they are today, but it's hard to say it's THAT big an individual error.  I think the average is around $20k, though that probably includes a lot of dropouts.

babylon15's picture

Almost every private university is over 50k *per year* right now.

Peak Finance's picture

Correctly identifies the bubble, but then blames it on..... capitalism?????????


laissez-faire attitude and leave the doors wide open in our economy for anarchy to come in; after all, if we accept Darwinism, and the idea of a predatory continuum in the animal species, why not let the course of natural events reign over economics as well? 

The government CONTROLS THE PRICE OF MONEY everything else economically is secondary to this fact. Yes, it would be nice to have some additional targeted regulations maybe here and there, but, I say again in bold, if the GOVERNMENT CONTROLS THE PRICE OF MONEY laissez-faire has FUCKALL to do with your economic problems.


MagicMoney's picture

Poor fool doesn't understand that Uncle Sam collecting interest on non-dischargeable student loans is not capitalism, nor is loan guarantees for that matter. It's comical to believe this is "anarchy". Laughable premise.

CryptoCoinUser's picture

My point exactly, Peak Finance.

The author of the article is still fundamentally bamboozled by the Statists that have hijacked terms like "Laissez-faire" and "anarchy" to blame the Free Market for all the Cronyism, Moral Hazard, and Miss-allocation of Resources that they themselves mooch off.

He must have attened public schools (or private schools modelled after public schools), where they make sure to never teach critical thinking, let alone a non-Marxist version of history.


JRev's picture

Critical thinking, you say? :P


That's what an "Elite" pedigree will get you. For most of human history, it was taught before the age of 10. If you don't already know the Trivium, learn it and thank me later. (Not you personally, anyone who comes across this link haha)

egiscodr's picture

Education is hardly worthless. But, you have to understand supply and demand of the workforce. Skilled positions pay more, but will be a hard degree to acquire. The easier degrees are not worth getting because the barrier to entry is low. MBAs are a dime a dozen.

Postal's picture

MBAs are a dime a dozen.

And that's why not having one gives certain employers reason to pause: If they're so easy to get, why don't you have one?

WMM II's picture

"And no, there appears to be no light at the end of this corrupt-politicians’ tunnel."


uh.... that's not their tunnel.




TeethVillage88s's picture

Dude, I either have to get a Teaching Job right away OR Figure out how to get certified in the next 6 Months!!!!!

What do you think. You got a way or what??

Dingleberry's picture

I am intimately familiar with the college industry.

Colleges are bastions of liberalism, democrats, utopianism, idealism....until it comes to cash.

Then it's "fuck you buddy, pay up or get the fuck off my campus". 

The good news is that the amount owed is so much, and greed in this racket so entrenched that not even Obammy can do anything about it. Any "help" they give just makes the beast want even more.

If these kids thought they got "educated" in college....wait till they figure out what they did to themsleves financially. More importantly, who did it to them.

That will be the REAL education. Reality can be a bitch, but she cannot be denied.

prains's picture

what's the alternative?


work where?

learn from whom?

achieve costructive thought how?

Dingleberry's picture

The alternative is the same alternative that you need for everything that cheap, free flowing gov-backed money touches (i.e. extremely high, untenable prices: e.g. healthcare, housing, and yes...EDUCATION).


I'll let you guess the fix. You probably went to public school. You went to college. Let's hear some of your analytical skills. See if you "education" was worth it.


JRev's picture

Make your own job. Do or produce something that people value, but do it now. In 10-20 years, it'll be the only employment the "Proles" can find, and you'll be lucky to be ahead of the curve.

Joe Camel's picture

I feel stupid and contagious.  Here we are now, entertain us.

Platinum's picture

All the kids will eat it up, if it's packaged properly.

Civilization's picture

I'm amazed to find someone on ZH blaming "laissez faire" "Darwinistic" economics for public schools or anything else. Any government activity that seeks to confer economic benefit will have corruption as the consequence, unintended or not.  Darwin's insight was that species adapt to changing conditions to survive. Give a bureaucrat a salary, and is he going to adapt, or perpetuate the problem? 

Civilization's picture

I mean "poor schools," not "public"


Ghordius's picture

eh? the true "Darwinistic" point behind public education is the competition among countries. the one with the better (public or private) education has an edge over the other

this is a point for which europeans, with their 28 countries with each a distinct education system compounded in complexity by national and second/third languages, are keenly aware

Sweden, for example, went years ago into a new scheme of competition between public and private schools. but the gorilla in the room is India, it spent incredible amounts of money for high-tech education, particularly for IT professionals

worldwide, each country has a focus, in education. some try for an edge in the "elite" schools and universities, others try for the best basic education for the masses, and others try to find an optimum or poach. don't forget that some countries import freshly university educated young people in the hundreds of thousands, for example the US with state-funded educated young Germans, where in some years it was freaking 100'000 per year

JRev's picture

Social Darwinism is hardly about competition, and schooling is hardly about education. Do you know who coined the term social Darwinism? It wasn't Darwin. Look up Francis Galton, study his background, and find out what social Darwinism is REALLY about, 'cause I got news for 'ya: They weren't talking about you, me, or anyone else here for that matter when they spoke about the social progress of Man.


While you're at it, do some research on the Prussian system of education. The commonality and collaboration between social Darwinists, eugenicists, bankers, industrialists, and the fuckers who set up public schooling will turn your gut.

Here's a head-start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8&list=PL463AA90FD04EC7A2

jeffgroove102's picture

Yeah, the internet is steadily dismantling the current paradigm as we know it. Nothing new here, the jig is up.

Last of the Middle Class's picture

All girls can be cheerleaders, there are no losers at sporting events, and critical thinking, especially that aimed at the socialist system, is not allowed. The funny thing is that as the pool of losers that get these worthless degrees gets larger the critical thinking about what went wrong is inevitable. JAFGS Justg another f*cking government scam!

AdvancingTime's picture

Political pandering at its best! A student loan is designed to help students pay for university tuition, books, and living expenses. It seems that many students are borrowing against their future at an almost unimaginable pace, unfortunately the money is often used for things other then education.

Too many young people and others taking student loans "living expenses" go on to include cars, trips, vacations and more. All this has a very dark side that will effect the lives of these borrowers going forward and has the potential to grow to crisis dimensions in the future.

In many ways society is encouraging young people to take on this debt and to hock their futures. This is akin to the, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" way of thinking. More on this subject in the article below.


JRev's picture

Dear ZeroHedge,

I'm a 22-year-old college dropout who attended a "major research University." I didn't go to the "best" school I got into, but instead settled on (what I thought was) a pragmatic blend of cost and pedigree in the University of Michigan. In a year and a half, I amassed the equivalent of a small mortgage worth of student loan debt, but to my surprise, I was the only person on campus I talked to who found this predatory lending environment at all abhorrent, or even concerning.

They all looked at me half-cocked when I told them a liberal arts degree wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Now I find, even, that engineering degrees of top 20% students from "one of the best departments in the country" have significant woes finding employment in their field. Fast-forward a few years... I've paid my debts, and for less than it would have cost to finish out the brainwashing process, I bought a good chunk of land. And a dwelling to put on it. And solar panels. And greenhouses. Chicken coop's up next.


...and now all those friends who thought I was crazy want to come live with me. Turns out working as a pizza delivery guy with 60k in debt and a useless piece of paper is a miserable life. So, if any of you old fucks out there are thinking of sending your kids off to college, even in a debt-free manner, don't. Teach 'em something useful, teach 'em to live without The System. I wish my parents had.


Sincerely fucking usury every single day,

This guy.


shovelhead's picture

Smart kid.

My son went to Colorado to do the same. He wants me & wife to come out. We just might in a couple of years. I might have to study on that framing square to remember how to cut a roof, but I got a few stud tossing days in me yet.

As long as I don't have to walk too fast.

JRev's picture

Please wish him my sincere best, "radicals" like ourselves are some of the few who are doing something meaningful against this tyranny. I'm trying to get my father to retire out here with me as well; I can't help but shake the feeling that small, multi-family dwellings of friends and kin will be the only way to thrive in the future while maintaining ownership of... well, anything.

Professor Fate's picture

Great post there JRev. 

Fate the Magnificent
"Push the Button, Max" 

shovelhead's picture

Are you fucking kidding me.

These kids are never going to pay these loans. With what? A minimum wage job? Are they going to take their bicycles?

Hello taxpayer, you just got screwed again by Big University and Big Govt. again.

justsayin2u's picture

If a guy graduates with 100k in school debt, gets married to a girl with a good income and becomes a house husband, under Obamas dictates he never has to pay off his school loans.  He has to pay a max of 10% of his income which is zero.  The mythical taxpayer (anyone over 50k/yr) picks up the tab.  How could that be wrong.

blue gkm's picture

yep story sounds familure. I am a 32 year old college drop out from chicagos south side. Went to niu for 2 years before i realized the set up. Left school with 5k in loans and became a truck driver at 21. bought 3 properties (1 cash) and paid all loans owed to any major institution. I now live debt free. All my friends that graduated from college are still paying back their loans makeing equal or less then i do.