Free College: The Answer to Liberating Millions of Debt-Stricken Americans
BY: MARK MIZELL, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR
As a high school senior, I have begun the grueling process of applying to colleges, and upon applying to my top three picks I have noticed a constant: the cost. So now amid the thumb twiddling and nail biting as I await a response, I find myself contemplating a topic that often takes up residence in the minds of High School seniors: the future. Consequently, I have ample time as I wait, and an audience of High Schoolers possibly fellow seniors, so I turn to politics to look at what this nation has in store not just for me or you, but for our entire generation going forward in the age of student loans and impending crippling debt.
Let’s face it, we are all going to college – the Gen Z version of the popular 50’s slogan might as well be Readin’ Ritin’ Rithmetic’ COLLEGE BOUND! This itself is far from an issue, as we are on track to become the most educated generation in history. The problem lies, as with all aspects of American life, with the cost. No matter how you fill out your FAFSA (which might cover the main entree) you’re likely to take out a loan or two to pay for those tasty side dishes such as housing and textbooks. According to Forbes as of 2018 there are 44 million borrowers in the U.S. who owe a collective 1.5 trillion in student loan debts with the average student in the class of 2016 owing over $37,000 apiece. Saying that this has caused a problem for the economy would be a tremendous understatement. Many officials predict that a massive recession is imminent, including staunch Libertarian and economic doomsayer Ron Paul (take his comments with a grain of salt) due in part to the “largest economic bubble in the history of mankind.” But why has student loan debt pushed the economic doomsday clock so close to midnight sending stock brokers and bankers alike into a frenzy? The answer lies with the end of the 20th Century definition of “the American Dream.” Just a few short decades ago the average American life was comprised of a few aspects: house, car, spouse, children, career, and financial security. To many of us this seems as unattainable as the fountain of youth, but keep in mind this was when milk was 10 cents, gas was a dollar, and Johnson’s “Great Society” was in full swing. But, why does all this matter? It matters because, only 63% of Americans own homes, the lowest it’s been since The Great Depression with a mere 34% of Americans under age 35 being homeowners. As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, the old “basic amenities” are becoming more and more unattainable to the average citizen and much of the blame lies with the accumulation of student loan debt financially crippling young Americans at an early stage of their lives, forcing many to rent homes or reluctantly move in with their parents or other relatives. Since the housing market imploded in 2007, mortgage rates and home prices have drastically increased making it increasingly difficult for debt stricken millennials to find homes. On the topic of cars, the vast majority of college educated 20-30 year olds are moving to the large cities dotting the American coasts, this has led to the rise of ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft and alleviated the need for an automobile with those who need them taking out extra loans to pay for them adding to the issue. But why does purchasing homes and cars strengthen the economy? It all boils down to the influx of capital flushed into the economy and by extension the stock market when Joe Smith graduates loan free, buys a house, buys a car, and goes on vacation to Daytona Beach every summer, all things the average American cannot afford due to increased prices, stagnant wages, and above all student loan debt. So what is the big issue, the great antagonist to be vanquished liberating millions of debt stricken Americans, this great allusive foe dear reader, is none other than capitalism hiding in plain sight on billboards and in TV commercials. With every aspect of American life being monetized for the benefit of titanic all powerful corporations, the common citizen is thrust into a vat of fiscal uncertainty filled to the brim with debt in which the only escape is drowning. But, how do we solve this great puzzle? The answer is just as simple as the question: Socialism. Despite it’s taboo connotation left over from McCarthy era fear mongering, you’ve lived within arms reach of Socialism your entire life – every road you’ve traveled, bridge you crossed, and letter you’ve gotten are all products of small amounts of Socialism. Looking beyond its venomous first impression, what can Socialism do for you and the rest of America’s citizens of all ages, to tackle our most pressing issues and possibly prevent an impending economic disaster.
One of the key ideas behind Socialism in America is “Free College.” To get a common argument out of the way, the word “free” means taxpayer funded. However, it is free for the recipient for the time being. This policy resolves the issue of taking out loans for new students giving them a head start once they graduate and join the workforce and for the other Americans who are often reluctant of their tax money going towards some college students tuition, look at it as an investment; a portion of property taxes already go towards paying for public schools K-12, so why should four years of college be any different. But, what about the existing 1.5 trillion dollars in student loans already owed by American’s? The answer is loan forgiveness programs. Back in the early days Barack Obama’s presidency, members of his cabinet foresaw the impending economic crisis we now know as the 2008 recession, and concluded that it was being caused by Americans being unable to buy amenities since the vast majority of their income going instead, towards paying off previous loans. Sound familiar? In a futile attempt to stimulate economic growth, the government began giving hundreds to thousands of dollars back to Americans in their 2007 tax returns, costing the nation a small fortune. If it had been successful, it would have prevented an economic disaster, but as we know, it didn’t. Albert Einstein’s famous quote aside, the loan forgiveness program would apply the same concept but to a systematic payoff of all federal loans allowing Americans to spend their hard-earned cash instead of sinking thousands into the loans of years past. This is no far fetched concept, many non-socialist senators and congressmen/women have proposed this idea, as well as Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making it a key point on her platform. By alleviating the problems of loan debt, the prices of goods and services will decrease stimulating the economy. Additionally, under this socialist program, the toxic manipulation of Wall Street and the economy would be nonexistent and all benefits would go directly to the American people as a whole.
To all my Seniors out there, I hope this assisted in passing the time as you wait for replies to your applications watching your entire future hang in the balance. And to everyone else, I hope this gave you a glimmer of hope, to a brighter future in which those near fictions of yesteryear grow nearer to a reality and our lives are dependent upon the size of our dreams and not our pocketbooks. To many this may have seemed like a rant and in many ways it was, however, it never hurts to seek an unlikely future, for the more people who seek it the nearer it draws to the present. *gets off soapbox*
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