Vice has a series of infuriating interviews with folks who have taken out loans to receive college educations and have moved to Europe, in part, to avoid paying them back. I pledge my support in the general election to whichever candidate promises to do everything in their power to turn Gitmo into a debtors' prison to punish these awful people.
On the one hand, I do feel a modest amount of pity for the people who were sold a bill of goods: No, your Peruvian Flute major with a Problematics Studies minor at a tiny liberal arts college was probably not worth $50,000 a year, and the government has done no one any favors by inflating the college debt bubble by guaranteeing so many loans for so many underqualified people studying so many useless subjects. Plus, it's hard (though not impossible!) to discharge student loan debt. The market is totally skewed.
On the other, though: too bad? I mean, you took out the money. You received goods (food, housing) and services (an education provided by people who have probably spent decades learning about their subject and teaching) worth a not-insignificant amount of money (college grads still make way more than high school grads, on average). And now that this money is gone you think you shouldn't have to pay it back because … well, you just don't want to?
The most aggravating thing has to be the self-serving justifications given by the little princes and princesses who have run off to friendlier climes. Consider, for instance, Brian, 29, who has $40,000 in debt:
I think at this point I owe about $40,000. I really, truly, honestly don't want to pay it back. Sure, I realize the responsibility I took on when I signed the papers and agreed to take out the loans, but I should have never had to do it in the first place. I feel some sort of civic duty not to pay them back, as if my small protest will make any kind of difference.
You feel … like it's your civic duty … to not pay them back. How does that make you feel, Mrs. White?
I assume Brian's a him,* but I take your point, Mrs. White. It's bad enough to rip off the people who gave you money to better yourself — at least have the decency to feel a little shame about it, you know? I bet "Brian" has a whole hard drive full of music that he's illegally downloaded because, like, he doesn't want to enrich the big music corporations and besides information wants to be free and oh yeah he wouldn't have bought the albums anyway so hey it's not stealing no big deal.
"Brian" is pretty awful, obviously. But Mario, 34, makes me want to burn the whole world down. His parents have been forced to sign over their home to someone else and flee the country to escape his $160,000 in debt — but that's cool, because he doesn't really like America anymore anyway.
To be honest, I just don't see myself living in America again — for reasons outside of student debt. My parents are moving back to El Salvador, where they're from, and then I'll have no ties to America. I don't really like America or the direction it's heading. For now, I don't need to care about going back there.
If Donald Trump and Ted Cruz really want to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment, they should just tell this story at every campaign trail stop. We'll get those borders sealed up lickety-split.
I know that debtors' prisons would be a controversial solution to this problem, but it makes a lot of sense: Gitmo is emptying out, after all, and we need to do something with that space. I can't think of a better way to handle such scofflaws.
Except, perhaps, debtors' drone strikes.
*Very cisnorm of me, I know.