Thursday, April 26, 2012


CBS News did a piece the other night about student loans, interviewing a couple of young persons with high college debt by way of illustration. One young woman was bemoaning that, because of her student loan, she would not be able to get married or buy a house. I had to run and get a hankie to dry my tears.

Certainly the cost of a college education today is a problem, and something must be done about that, but does this young woman not realize that the position in which she finds herself is the consequence of her own choice? Did someone say to her on graduation day, “Here’s your diploma and, surprise, a $106,000 debt that you did not expect?” She wanted a college degree and she chose to engage in these massive loans in order to get one. Now she has the degree and she regrets that her choice is hindering her options to do other things, as if that was somehow unfair.

Part of growing up is learning to make good decisions, and one way that we do that is by making bad decisions. But making bad decisions is a “teaching moment” only if we suffer the consequences of that bad decision, and only if we recognize those consequences for what they are. Increasingly we, as people and as a nation, are not willing to do that.

The young woman was asked how she could ever unburden herself from the debt and her response was to express a hope that the government would pass a bill that would “help students by voiding some of the debt like they did with homeowners.” Sign up for student loans that you can’t pay, buy a house that you can’t afford, and hope that the government will cancel your debt, leaving you with whatever it is that you incurred the debt to obtain. No consequences.

We rail against our government for “bailing out the bankers” whose bad decisions put the banks in jeopardy, but then we turn around and want the same government to bail out homeowners who bought homes they could not afford, and students who cannot pay the loans they signed up for to obtain the degrees which they hold. The homeowners don't want to give back their houses, and the students don't want to void their degrees; they just want their debt cancelled.

We elect people to office and when they turn out to be corrupt we keep reelecting them and blame the Koch Brothers, or the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision for the anti-populist legislation that they create. We complain about their performance and continue to reelect them, and never once do we accept that the government we have is the consequence of our own voting habits.

Does this angry voter have a clue what she is saying as she screams at her Senator in a letter, “It is you and your fellow nutcases who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for what? Votes.” She decries the bad policies they have advocated, and admits they have done so in order to pander to the desires of a majority of voters, blaming them rather than the voters to whom they have been pandering.

The minute we recognize that the government we have is the consequence of our own voting habits then we will change those habits and we will have a better government. For so long as we are blaming it in the Koch Brothers, the Supreme Court and the legislators themselves, then we are stuck with the government we have.

We build houses in tornado country and, because it is cheaper, buy insurance that excludes tornado damage. Then, when a tornado damages our house, we clamor for the federal government to step in and give us money to rebuild our house, unwilling to accept the consequence of choosing insurance that did not cover our loss.

The list is all but endless and, if you listen to the promises of politicians on both sides, the underlying promise is “I will protect you from the consequences of the past.”

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