Not a good way to get going. (
by Dan Burns
Jul 9, 2019, 7:30 AM

Getting rid of student debt would be great, but…

I had an absolute blast in college, and learned a great deal as well. But my own experience doesn’t mean that college is for everyone. Here are all kinds of statistics; among them, about a third of high school graduates don’t go on to college. A lot of people just are not into it.

The number that is actually right to the point, in context here, is that about 18% of adult Americans currently have student loan debt. (That is, from this article, 44.7M have it, out of an adult population of about 250M.) In other words, 82% don’t. I wholeheartedly support forgiving all student debt, in no small part because I agree with suggestions that our whole education debt system is to a large extent a deliberate means of conditioning young people to acceptance of lifetimes of debt slavery, as part of the natural order of things. But I’m seeing a big blind spot being indulged, on the part of the progressive candidates for president, and others, who are putting out plans for student debt forgiveness.

Namely, what kind of commensurate goodies are going to be provided for those who don’t have student debt?

A lot of the people out on the construction sites, and factory floors, and doing home care for seniors, and so on, don’t necessarily have a particularly high opinion of the college “suits” in corporate offices, who haven’t come through with decent raises in forever and who keep hiring all those asshole managers, to begin with. And if you think they’re going to accept, indeed with cheerful support, seeing their debts canceled, while nothing is being done to rectify their own financial travails, well, you’re wrong.

Another thing. I left college with relatively little debt, and was very lucky to find myself in circumstances where I was able to pay off what I did have, early. I don’t expect to get money back for education debt that I paid off in 1992. But plenty of people who have paid theirs off, however long ago, will assuredly raise a ruckus.

Progressive priorities like minimum wage increases, and/or making it easier to unionize, are great, but even if they can be made to happen they don’t have that politically important short-term punch that large-scale student-debt forgiveness would. And that punch is what would help keep progressives in office, with increasing majorities, long-term.

My own #1 idea is that we take the windfall from bringing down the big banks, and nationalizing Big Filthy Fossil Fuels, and so on, and start just mailing out checks. But for that to happen we’d need big progressive majorities to start with, and leadership willing to do whatever it takes to ram such policies through, or around, courts packed with Trump-appointed judges. Doesn’t seem real likely, for a while yet.

Bottom line, for what should be the big progressive priorities for those without student debt, why not ask them?

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