THE CRAZY DANCE OF STUDENT DEBT

It’s Monday, June 24, 2019.

It’s the 645th anniversary of the outbreak of St. John’s Dance in Aachen, Germany.

Apparently, the good people of Aachen just started dancing. And they couldn’t stop. Eventually, they collapsed, but not before screaming in pain and hallucinating.

Scientists aren’t completely clear why this happened. It could have been stress from the plagues and flooding of 1374. 

Those of us who have endured the Trump era in American history understand the feeling.

Bernie Sanders offered a plan today to erase the nation’s $1.6 trillion in student debt.

He’s trying to one-up Elizabeth Warren, whose debt elimination proposal is just slightly less extensive.

If the Democrats are looking for an issue to get in good with millennials, student debt is it.

There are few young people between the ages of 18 and 35 who aren’t affected by this issue. Both of my kids are. And the amounts they owe are nothing near what some young people took out in pursuit of the careers grownups prodded them toward: medicine, law, education, science.

But the proposals to eliminate or ameliorate student debt aren’t about pandering to a generation of voters.

Think about that number: $1.6 trillion.

Instead of that money going to pay back financial services companies, imagine it going to carmakers. Home builders. Tourism.

Actually, Sanders’ proposal is a double-whammy on bankers. He’s proposing a so-called “Wall Street speculation tax” that would affect financial investment transactions. So they get hit on those and lose those higher-than-they-should-be interest payments once the debt is wiped out.

My wife and I paid for most of our kids’ college education. But we couldn’t pay for all of it, which is why they carry the loans they have.

Plus we thought that maybe they should bear some responsibility for the educations they were receiving.

I’m not as sanguine about that idea now. For all the grief millennials get about being attached to their cellphones and being sensitive about everything, they are a generation that doesn’t have it easy. A lot of the job opportunities available to their older relatives have dried up in professions such as law, the corporate world and journalism.

And every time somebody decides to start a war somewhere in the Middle East, they’re the ones who will fight it.

One other reason they have it tough: this student debt crisis, which paralyzes them financially, even if they have found good-paying jobs.

The current administration has shown zero interest – you’ll pardon the expression – in solving this problem. 

Indeed, the woman taking up space in the Education Secretary’s office, Betsy DeVos, seems hellbent on holding student debtors’ feet to the fire. How dare they try to educate themselves when they could have fine careers as Amway salespeople?

One criticism I’ve heard of these debt forgiveness plans is that it’s unfair to those who managed to pay off their loans.

You know what else is unfair to them? An economy stifled because much of a generation can’t save money for homes, cars, travel or retirement. 

We tell kids they should go to college. And then we make it a lifelong financial burden and, in the process, hurt ourselves in the process.

I’m not sure whether Sanders’ or Warren’s plan is the better one. Right now, I just like the idea that they’re thinking about this.

Solving the student debt crisis sounds like a good reason to dance. Although not to the point of exhaustion.

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