Draconian Measures Used to Penalize Student Loan Debtors
People, student loan debtors are being treated differently from other debtors. Is this fair? Why the emphasis on penalizing people for going to college? Is this an effort to prevent poor and middle class people from getting an education?
Do you think it is okay for the government to use draconian, i.e., cruel and life-destroying, soul-defeating methods to punish student loan debtors for not being able to pay off their loans?
Aw… am I using hyperbole here?
Nope. (But gotta love that word “hyperbole.” Makes me feel so special whenever I use it…)
In 21 US states, your driver’s license can be taken away from you if your student loans have gone into default. That’s nearly half the country. And this includes states such as California (once a “liberal” state) where a car is practically a necessity for getting around and for getting a job. In fact, some employers require a driver’s license and proof of auto insurance as a prerequisite for certain jobs.
In some states, your professional license can be taken away. So… if you have a license to practice law, medicine, to cut hair, to teach, to fix the plumbing, etc., you can lose your license to work!
Does this make sense? How would debtors pay off their debts if they’ve lost their licenses to work and to drive?
If someone is having trouble paying their bills, and our primary concern was to try to get them to pay those bills (not to destroy that person’s life,) wouldn’t it make more sense to assist them with finding a better-paying job so that they’d be in a better position to pay off their debts? How does it benefit our society to ruin the lives of college graduates by penalizing them for life for simply not having the money to pay off their debt? Immigrants who come to the US usually receive assistance in finding work and housing. Why not provide that same assistance to our very own, fellow US citizens?
Why do we emphasize punishing the poor people who can’t afford to pay their debts? Why aren’t we punishing the employers who refuse to pay their employees a decent, living wage? Or the landlords who charge unreasonably high rents, thus preventing their tenants from paying their other bills on time?
Student loan debt is the ONLY debt that cannot be written off in bankruptcy. Is this fair? Why are billionaires, such as Donald Trump, allowed to declare bankruptcy for debts accrued due to foolhardy and reckless decisions while student loan debtors–who come from poor or middle class families–are not? In fact, gamblers can write off their debts via bankruptcy. Does this make sense? Do we want to reward people for being irresponsible with their money but punish people for trying to make their lives better by obtaining an education?
Student loans are a form of financial assistance. Wealthy students don’t need them because their families can afford to pay their college tuition. It’s those of us who come from poor or middle class families who apply for financial assistance to attend college and are offered student loans.
Scholarships and grants that cover the entire cost of tuition are rare these days. Most students will not be able to obtain scholarships or grants that cover all of their tuition costs and are forced to take out loans in order to go to college.
Increasingly, many jobs require a license or certificate, if not a degree. Either way, that means, going to school and taking some classes. Does it make sense to penalize people who have financial need (otherwise they wouldn’t be applying for financial aid) by taking away their bankruptcy protections, driver’s and professional licenses, etc.? Do we really want to discourage poor people from going to college and trying to pull themselves out of poverty? Again, while at the same time, we’re encouraging gambling and financial irresponsibility by offering bankruptcy protections for gamblers, millionaires and billionaires?!
Is that really what we want to do as a society?
Being a college student is hard work. It requires countless hours of studying, researching, writing papers, taking exams, and having one’s work scrutinized and graded. It can be a stressful time for students who take their studies seriously. Why is this hard work not respected? Do we want to send the message to students that their hard work will not be rewarded? Have we become such an idiocracy that we want to discourage people from not only thinking and learning but for trying to make their selves and their lives better by working hard to achieve a dream?
Student loan debtors can have their wages garnished, their tax refunds confiscated and–get this–their social security benefits taken from them. Is this fair? Does it even make sense from a practical standpoint? Does the punishment fit the “crime?” What is the crime exactly? Trying to obtain an education?
In a few years, we will have a huge population of elderly people who will no longer be able to work yet won’t be obtaining social security benefits in their retirement, won’t have money saved in the bank, won’t have children to help them–because they never started a family due to this oppressive debt–won’t have a home to live in, because they postponed buying a home and starting a family due to this debt, and our society will have a massive crisis on its hands.
What will we do with all these disenfranchised student loan debtors whose entire lives were spent dealing with an impossible to pay off debt so that they never accrued any nest egg, savings or family unit of their own? These will be broken, damaged people who wanted to contribute but were not allowed to fully contribute to society and not allowed to achieve their dreams. People who never really lived but spent their lives struggling financially. Are we going to just kill them off like the Nazis got rid of its “undesirables”? Or are we going to attempt to pay for their health care and basic living needs (while we continue to fund war and the surveillance state?)
Whether we decide to suddenly become a compassionate nation that takes care of its elderly or we continue to be a cruel, heartless, sociopathic nation that that rewards selfishness and greed, we’re going to have a crisis once a critical mass of people grows old with this massive debt. Why are we creating this crisis right now?
Even from a practical standpoint, does it make sense to create a huge population of disenfranchised, broken, defeated people who wanted to contribute but instead will be disabled and damaged from years of impoverishment? These are people we’ll need to take care of eventually. These are people who were our best and brightest who we chose to crush with massive debt and draconian punishment of it. We can, in fact, head back in time. We can go back to the days when poor people had no chance of ever bettering themselves, when only the rich had access to decent health care and education, when cruel and unusual punishments or torture were implemented by the wealthy and privileged against the disadvantaged whenever they dared defy the social order or status quo. Wait a minute, would that involve going back in time? Or are we there right now?
What’s truly heartbreaking is that this country could change over night. In fact, instantly, we could truly be a great America again. It doesn’t matter who’s president, really. What matters is us, we the people, and what we want. As long as we stick together and stand by each other, we can make our politicians bend to our will. (Problem is, we are not sticking together. We are out to get each other–dog-eat-dog!)
But like all of our nation’s problems, the student loan debt issue is a solvable problem. In a heartbeat, we can solve this problem. We can restore bankruptcy protections for student loan debt starting NOW. Then we can start working on other solutions, such as, restoring scholarships and grants that cover tuition costs, eliminating the student loan program altogether (because poor people can’t ever guarantee they will be able to pay off debts–they’re poor dammit!,) lowering or even eliminating the cost of college tuition. Offering free educational programs, especially job-training programs, so that people really will have opportunities to learn and grow and potentially increase their income potential.
This blog first appeared on Disqus: Click HERE to read