End of Week 159 – Various Frustrations…

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As far as getting anything done toward losing weight goes, this week was a disaster.  I ate close to plan, but exercise was a loss.  Between my screaming neck and left shoulder, and being very short-handed at work, it was almost impossible to get to my gyms.  I did more in the morning, but was not able to get into my second workout at the new gym until Thursday.  I managed to attend the Zumba with weights class on Friday.  The only problem with that is I’m afraid I may have re-strained my neck and shoulder.  I’m stiff, but not as bad as last Sunday, so maybe it won’t be as bad as last week.

This past week I was scrolling in Facebook, and saw a shared opinion article by someone named Lee Siegel, that first appeared in the New York Times (NYTimes.com, June 6, 2015, Opinion).  The article was titled “Why I Defaulted On My Student Loans.”  I read the entire article and the bio information on the writer at the end.

My first reaction was anger at the writer.  According to the bio, Lee Siegel is now a successful journalist and author having written five books, articles for publications like Harper’s and The New Republic, and currently writing a memoir about money.  The reason I am angry is that he not only explains why he initially defaulted on all his student loans; he explains in great detail that he NEVER plans on paying them, even now that he is successful.

As I read the article I received a mental picture of a person who thinks he is above everyone else.  Someone who borrowed money to get a college education, only to decide that education should be handed to him “on a silver platter” so to speak.  It has nothing to do with his background.  He claims to be from a financially modest family and there is no reason to think that is not true.  The choice he faced according to the article, in simple terms, was to either go into a career to make money, pay back his loans, and be unhappy; or, do that for which he was educated, be happy, and default on the loans.  He picked the latter because he “deserved better”.  Well, hell, don’t we all??

I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we could all just borrow money to buy intangibles like education, travel, bill consolidation and other things that cannot be repossessed, and then just say “Forget it!  I don’t want to pay it back!”?  Of course, the first reaction of most of us would be, “That would wreck my credit!”  Mr. Siegel acknowledges that, and even goes so far as to say it’s ok to destroy your credit rating.  “Don’t be afraid,” he says.  He gives tips on how to handle life with bad credit.  Things like “Marry someone with good credit,” and “get as many credit cards as you can before your credit is ruined.”  Wow.  Doesn’t he know issuing banks review credit even after the card is issued?

In the article Mr. Siegel rails against the upper class and their tax breaks, greedy universities, greedier banks, and society in general.  In other words, the fact that these loans will never be repaid is everyone’s fault but his.  My problem with his position is that it is not the banks, universities, the upper class, or government that end up paying for all the defaults.  It is us – those of us who are still in the modest, lower middle class part of life – and the students who are abiding by the terms of the contracts they signed.  You can be sure any cost created by student loan defaults is somehow trickling down to those of us idiotic enough to pay our bills.

Mr. Siegel has a solution for the problem of the rest of us having to pay for his (and all defaulters’) loans.  He says everyone who owes for education should simply not pay.  He seems to think the system would change.  I’m sure he is correct.  We would end up with no financial aid, fewer schools, educated “haves”, and oppressed “have-nots”.  Is our system of higher education perfect?  Far from it!  I know there is a growing gap in this country between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”  As a member of the “have-nots” I see it everyday.  However, I still have faith that being able to go to college is a way to move up – but, higher education is only the beginning.  The rest is up to the individual.

Yes, we need changes in our system.  Once I got past my anger at Mr. Siegel’s pass the buck (literally) deadbeat attitude I saw he made some good points.  The government is not very good at making loans or collecting them.  Tuition has spiraled out of control and out of reach.  Mr. Siegel says if all the student borrowers stopped paying, then the government would have to guarantee an education instead of guaranteeing loans for an education.  I beg to differ.  Just based on dollars and cents and our basic economic system, I really believe mass non-payment would cause higher education to disappear before it would be guaranteed by the government.

I was amused to read that decades after Mr. Siegel defaulted on his loans the Department of Education is still trying to collect them.  I hope they continue for a long time.  If the rest of us have to pay for his college education, at least he can put up with the junk mail, emails, and other communications from the Dept. of Ed.  I paid my student loans, and I will continue to teach my son that when you make a promise, you keep it!

Until next week….

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