Sunday, June 11, 2017

"Meet The Three Headed Debt Monster That's Going to Ravage the Economy," writes MN Gordon

A three-headed consumer debt monster is about to ravage our economy, writes MN Gordon in an Acting-Man essay that was republished on And what are the three heads?  Auto loans, credit card debt, and student loans.

As Gordon points out, all this massive debt is backed by essentially no collateral. Regarding credit-card debt, Gordon says this:
[C]redit card debt has been run-up purchasing 72-inch flat screen televisions, avocado toast, and combination platters at Applebee's. How does a creditor recover the cost of a meal that was consumed 2 years ago?
Of course, auto loans are secured by the cars that are purchased on credit. But, as Gordon put it, new cars lose value "nearly as fast as fresh tomatoes turn to rot." Thus, a repossessed car is rarely worth as much as the debt it was  meant to secure.

And of course student loans form the third and most vicious head of the three-headed consumer debt monster. As has been often reported, student loans have now outstripped credit card debt and auto loans as the biggest sector of consumer debt (excluding home mortgages).

The federal government issues more than $100 billion in student loans every year, and student loans are backed by absolutely no collateral.  How do you repossess a law degree from Thomas Jefferson Law School or a liberal arts degree from Vassar?

The entire postsecondary education industry--from Harvard University to Bob's Barber College--subsists on federal student-aid money. The for-profit colleges get almost 90 percent of their revenues from the federal government. Most for-profit colleges could not last a month without regular infusions of federal cash.

And although no one wants to admit it, at least half of the outstanding student-loan debt--totally $1.4 trillion--will never be paid back. The Department of Education is hiding the true default rate by putting borrowers into economic hardship deferments, forbearance programs, or long-term income-driven repayment plans. But the reality is this: most of the people in these shell-game programs will never repay their loans.

One might think that all this federal cash is adequate to sustain America's colleges and universities, but they are continually searching for more money. Nationwide, tuition rates have gone up nearly every year for the past 25 years. Tuition costs for graduate programs have reached insane levels because the federal government put no limit on the amount a student can borrow to get an MBA or law degree.

And where has all this student loan money gone? As Gordon observed, "it has been dispersed into oversized professor salaries, oversized lecture auditoriums, and oversized sports complexes."

Most of us would feel better about the runaway cost of higher education if our universities and colleges were providing real value for students' tuition dollars--if a college degree or graduate degree led to a good job and a better life.

But average wages in real terms have gone down over the past 30 years. Although the higher education industry repeatedly points out that the wage differential between high school graduates and college graduates is increasing, most of this growing gap is explained by declining wages for non-college graduates.

Of course, higher education's defenders like to point out the intrinsic value of a university degree--a better appreciation for culture, an enhanced ability for civic involvement, greater tolerance for people with opposing points of view.  The late John Kenneth Gailbraith, some old white guy from Harvard, expressed the intrinsic value of education as follows:
Education is, most of all, for the enlargement and the enjoyment of life. It is education that opens the window for the individual on the pleasures of language, literature, art, music, the diversities and idiosyncrasies of the world scene. The well-educated over the years and centuries have never doubted their superior reward; it  greater educational opportunity that makes general and widespread this reward.
But this is bullshit. It was bullshit when Galbraith wrote it, and it is overripe bullshit today. Our colleges and universities--our elite universities in particular--have become cesspools of racial and sexual-identity politics, Brownshirt-style intolerance for diverse political ideas, and Orwellian breeding grounds for groupthink.

In short, over a period of less than 50 years, our nation has constructed a higher education system that forces millions of Americans to take out student loans they cannot pay back in return for overpriced educational experiences that do not lead to better jobs or to better lives.


MN Gordon. Meet the Three-headed Debt Monster That's Going to Ravage Our Economy. Republished at, June 10, 2017.


  1. This is what the American Independence is all about. The Founders of U.S.A has also massive debt to England. I do not what and how the bankruptcy laws back then perhaps is much harsher or it is only available to the English merchants. History repeats, and revolution is inevitable.

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