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The Student Loan Bubble

It’s the financial portion of the higher ed bubble, and it’s about to get ugly.  Either defaults will begin in earnest, or you and I will be forced to subsidize them through a bailout.  Of course, since student loans are now exclusively financed through the government, anyway, we’re holding the bag, either way.

Which is why we were not surprised to learn that the Federal government has now delivered yet another bailout program: this time focusing not on banks, or homeowners who bought McMansions and decided to not pay their mortgage, but on those millions of Americans, aged 18 to 80, that are drowning in student debt - debt, incidentally, which has been used to pay fordrugs, motorcycles, games, tattoos, not to mention countless iProducts. Which also means that since there is no free lunch, all that will happen is that even more Federal Debt will be tacked on to replace discharged student debt loans, up to the total $1 trillion which will promptly soar far higher as more Americans take advantage of this latest government handout. But when the US will already have $22 trillion in debt this time in four years, who really is counting? After all, “it is only fair” that the taxpayer funded “free for all” bonanza must go on.

The latest debt bailout, not surprisingly is not titled “Yet another taxpayer funded bailout for those who bought things they can’t afford on credit” as that would not be very politically prudent, especially for those politicians who still have taxpaying citizens as their voters. Instead, its name is the much more PC: “Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan.” Alas, it really should be called the former, because what it does is it incentivizes Americans to borrow even more Federal student loans, well aware that there will now always be a cap on the associated monthly interest payment which will never leave a mark regardless what the full underlying loan notional is. It also provides for full debt discharge should the borrowers end up with cushy Federal jobs – because the one thing the US government needs afford is more debt-saddled government workers.

I particularly like this part: using student loans to bloat the federal bureaucracy even more, and create even more of a courtier class:

So much for student debt being non-dischargeable: borrow hundreds of thousands, but make your monthly payment of a hundred or so bucks, and in 20 years you will be debt free, courtesy of US taxpayers. Actually, scratch that: one doesn’t even have to make a payment!

In some cases, borrowers with low incomes could be required to make a zero-dollar payment and would still be considered current on their loan. Monthly payments can increase or decrease each year based on the borrower’s income and family size.

For those who think getting full debt forgiveness in 20 years is far too long, why there’s a loophole for that too: just go “work” for Uncle Sam:

Borrowers with public-service jobs may qualify for loan forgiveness after just 10 years.


Posted in Economics.