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Student loan debt mortgaging futures of young Americans

By: The Gazette editorial
July 26, 2013 Updated: July 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm
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A bipartisan group of senators reached agreement July 17 on a plan to restore below-market interest rates for newly issued, federally subsidized student loans. The plan was immediately hailed as breakthrough by President Obama, and the legislation is expected to move quickly through both chambers of Congress. But like most fast moving bipartisan plans in Washington, this deal is terrible public policy. The student loan program itself is fundamentally flawed. Congress should scrap it and start over.

The same day that United States Senators announced their bipartisan deal on subsidized loans, the Consumer Financial Protection Board issued a report estimating that federal student loan debt passed $1 trillion. Total debt, including student loans from federal and private sources, passed the $1 trillion mark in 2011 and is now more than $1.2 trillion.

Americans owe more in student loan debt than in credit card debt. And today's average college graduate enters the labor market more than $27,000 in the red. Managed responsibly, debt can be a powerful financial tool that allows those with good ideas, or underdeveloped talent, to access the capital they need to reach their full potential. But at it's core, debt can also severely limit an individual's choices if not managed properly. For far too many young Americans, government-subsidized student loans have become a form of financial enslavement that robs the future of hope.

According to the Federal Reserve of New York, the percentage of 25-year-olds with student loan debt has grown from just 25 percent in 2003 to almost 50 percent today. And New York Fed data also shows that one in four student borrowers who have begun repaying student loans are behind on the payments.

Huge debt obligations make saving for a house or car, or starting a family, next to impossible. And once borrowers start missing payments, their credit scores suffer, which can prevent qualifying for a mortgage, buying a car or starting a new business.

An entire generation of Americans is having their economic lives delayed or destroyed by a program that generates about $5 billion in revenue annually for the government.

Worse, there is no evidence that college loans make higher education more affordable. In fact, most research suggests the exact opposite is true: More federal student loan aid leads to higher college tuition price tags, especially at private institutions. Just as federally subsidized sub-prime mortgages became a disaster for the millions of Americans it was supposed to help, government-backed student loans have become a slow-motion calamity for the young Americans it was supposed to aid.

Instead of inducing more and more Americans to go deeper and deeper into debt, the federal government should focus its efforts on breaking up the existing higher education monopoly. A good place to start would be by decoupling all federal student aid programs from the current college accreditation system.

Only by expanding the universe of higher education business models can spiraling education costs be brought back down to earth for all Americans. - The Washington Examiner

Whether New Yorkers want Anthony "The Mad Sexter" Weiner as their next mayor is entirely their own choice, but the outcome affects the rest of us, and not just smart-alecky columnists and writers for late-night comedians.

The mayor of our nation's largest city is, ex officio, a national political power with considerable influence outside the city limits. Witness current Mayor Michael Bloomberg's sometimes-quirky crusades against large, heavily sugared drinks and public displays of tobacco products.

Weiner's interests run, not to public health, but to texting sexually explicit photos and messages to women strangers he has met over the Internet. The surprise is that he got responses from so many presumably sane women, although the one who said "Your health-care rants were a huge turn-on" was certainly pushing the mental envelope.

And rant is what Weiner did in Congress. The Democrat's anger and combativeness on the House floor, however, were unmatched by any record of significant legislative accomplishment.

When his Internet avocation became public, he felt forced to resign from Congress.

His then-pregnant new wife, Huma Abedin, a talented, extremely attractive and very private top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, stood by him, although she skipped the customary awkward appearance of the wronged wife at her wayward husband's side at the usual mea culpa news conference.

He left office in June 2011, with the usual commitments to seek repentance and rehabilitation and to repair relations with his wife - in short, to become a new, or at least a better-behaved, man. He also said that more embarrassing moments might surface. They did.

In many rehabilitations, there are relapses, and Weiner's came - and it may not have been the first - just days after he gave a warm, redemptive interview July 2, 2012, to People magazine in which he said he tried daily "to become a better person."

That same month, he was sexting a 22-year-old woman. Apparently having learned nothing from his previous scandal or the truism that nothing on the Internet is truly private, he sent her descriptions of his sexual fantasies and photos of his genitals. The photos, which Weiner seems to send out like other people send thank-you notes, were posted on a website named, as if Weiner needed even more grief, "The Dirty."

According to The Associated Press, "The woman said Weiner exchanged nude photos of himself with her, engaged in phone sex with her, promised to help her get a job at the political website Politico and suggested meeting in a Chicago condo for a tryst."

But after six months - it took her that long to catch on? - the 22-year-old became disenchanted with the relationship. Her excuse, she told the New York Post, was that she was "young and dumb," and while she had thought she was in love with him, she now wanted to expose Weiner "as a creep," a task the former congressman seems to have accomplished on his own.

Until now, Weiner had been doing well in the mayoral primary set for Sept. 10. He was leading in the polls, and last week one less-dirty snapshot of the citizenry showed that 59 percent thought he deserved a second chance.

Weiner is exceptionally resilient in his shamelessness, and New Yorkers are certainly entitled to choose the person they want to lead them. But if his conduct hasn't disqualified him, his choice of sexting alias, "Carlos Danger," should.


Email Dale McFeatters:

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