Bubble Wrap

For new college graduates and people out of school for only a few years, financial worries are enormous. Home prices, even if they are starting to fall, remain very high relative to ordinary incomes, and higher mortgage rates are no balm to money worries either. All Americans carry more debt on average than in the past but the increase for young people is most striking since young workers generally earn the least. Between college loans and car loans, people in their 20s are amazingly burdened financially compared to earlier generations, especially compared to my own generation of late-stage baby-boomer.

G. Pascal Zachary, AlterNet. Posted November 18, 2006.

I went to college in two distinct periods of my life, first in the late 70s and early 80 when I got my B.A. and M.A. Then I went back to school in the 90s to get my Ph.D. In between I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and then a teacher in France. I still have loans from both periods of my life.

Even though I have never missed a payment, I still have a dozen or more years left before I will pay off my education. One source of my debt, for example, is that until recently the University of Texas did not have a tuition waiver program for graduate students. Texas, unfortunately, had no loan forgiveness program for Peace Corps service either.

I have not exactly led a traditional life, so maybe I am not a good example of the issues discussed by Zachary. I did not even consider buying a house, for example, until I was well into my mid-40s. I am, as he puts it, a late-stage baby boomer. Still, debt relief for student loans, excessive credit card interest, and predatory/sub-prime mortgages, seems only just, especially for those of us who went to school in the last twenty five years.

It seems shocking to me that this piling on of debt– a process, like many other bad things first begun in the Reagan administration– is only now beginning to get any attention. Much of this attention, of course, is due to recent kick-back scandals that may yet touch my alma mater. It may, in fact, come up in the next election if trends continue.

It’s a classic case of shifting the costs of credit, education, and home ownership, all of which have real social benefits, onto the backs of the individuals who can least afford it. I have already posted (April 11) the clip from the the In Debt We Trust documentary trailer. Danny Schechter, the journalist behind the documentary, has also set up an associated resource page called Stop the Squeeze.org.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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