From THOM HARTMANN
Our young people are drowning in a sea of debt, and it all started with Reaganomics. And Reaganomics is a lot like cancer. Most people don’t know they have cancer until it reaches the later cancer stages, when it becomes much harder to treat. In the early stages, cancer starts off as inflammation. A few cells grow slowly initially. But then, the cells begin to rapidly multiply, and the cancer begins to pick up steam. As it picks up steam, the cancer takes on more and more of the body’s resources, and starts stealing the body’s energy and tissues. Pretty soon, the cancer completely overwhelms the body, and, without treatment, the person dies.
Reaganomics has done the exact same thing to our economy and to the American people, and right now, we’re on life support. For proof of that, just look at the student loan debt crisis in America. Billionaire banksters and for-profit schools are making a fortune off of America’s young people. The average debt for a 25-year-old American student has risen a staggering 91 percent over the past decade – and most of that is student loan debt.
Over 38 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt right now, totaling over $1 trillion dollars. Student loan debt exceeds both credit card and auto loan debt in America, and the average is over $23,000. And, according to a study by Hamilton Place Strategies, by 2023, the average amount of debt that college students graduate with will equal what the median college graduate will earn every year. That’s insane!
That same study found that average student loan debt at graduation has increased by over 200 percent since 1993. But it didn’t always used to be like this. Believe it or not, there was a time in America when the vast majority of college graduates didn’t leave campus thousands of dollars in debt. College used to be affordable for most Americans, and students could easily work their way through college to fully pay for it.
The number of baby boomers with college loan debt when they graduated is virtually nothing compared to the number of students with debt today. But then Reaganomics started to kick in, and everything changed. The price of college tuition has risen more than 1,100% over the past 35 years. Back in 1980, the average cost for a year of college was $8,756, and much of that was paid for by a wide variety of government supports and scholarships. As of 2010, the average cost of a year of college was over $21,000, and most of that support has dried up.
And as college tuition costs have skyrocketed, more and more American students have found themselves having to take out student loans to pay for a college education. In fact, since the 1990’s, when Reaganomics was really picking up steam, cumulative student loan growth, or the number of students taking out student loans, is up over 511%. And it really hit the full-blown “cancer stage” in the 2000’s, thanks to George W. Bush, who put Reaganomics on steroids. This is a problem that is almost uniquely American, because the soaring costs of college and growing mountains of student loan debt aren’t even an issue in most developed countries.
According to the 2010 Global Higher Education Ranking by Higher Education Strategy Associates, the average total cost of a year of college in Norway (factoring in education and living expenses) was just over $8,000. Same with France and Mexico. And in Germany and Latvia, the average total cost of a year of college was just over $6,000.
A college education in America used to be that affordable, but Reaganomics changed everything. It’s time for a college education to be affordable again. That starts with a national debt jubilee, with the government paying off all outstanding student loan debt in America. At just over $1 trillion, the government could easily find savings in other areas to pay for it; it’s less than we’re paying for either of George W. Bush’s illegal wars! And a clean slate would do wonders for our economy.
But more importantly, let’s get back to the ideals of Jefferson and Lincoln, who both worked make a college education free for anyone who’s worthy of it. Jefferson started America’s first totally free college, the University of Virginia, and Lincoln started the Land Grant Colleges by giving enough land to colleges all across the nation that they could use the income from that land to give students free or nearly-free tuition.
In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson once wrote that, “Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.” And while we’re at it, let’s ban for-profit schools from getting any kind of government aid whatsoever. That’s a type of government welfare that our society really can’t afford, and today it reaches into the billions of dollars every year.
The only way that “the education of the common people” can “be attended to,” is by wiping out the mountains of student loan debt that thirty-plus years of this cancerous Reaganomics has created, and making college affordable again. It’s time to get smart about getting a good education in America, and in the process, kill off a large part of the cancer that is Reaganomics.