I am a Student Loan Deadbeat. This is a story of how I accumulated nearly $200,000 of student loan debt, escaped the illusion of debtor's prison, and manage to get by in spite of crushing debt. I hope this serves as a guide for others who are struggling with overwhelming student loan debt, and helps them see that there is life after default.
I expect to be mocked and ridiculed by libertarians, those sanctimonious Randian cheerleaders who pepper their rants with the phrase personal responsibility while bragging about working 20 hours a day at 5 different jobs to pay their student loan debt and validate a rigged system.
And I expect to get death threats from tea party plebians who will grunt, in a nonsensical manner, something about me being a taker and mumble the afterthought, "if ya couldn't afford schoolin', maybe ya shoudda got yerself a job, ya damn libbrul."
I know I'll hear from right wing conservatives who believe that I got myself into this mess and, because other people in my situation paid their extortionists for freedom, I must do so as well, or starve and sleep on the street as punishment.
And I'll get the certain condemnation from Christians who will judge me for not obeying my masters; those brilliant Cruzian elitists who think Jesus preached capitalism and died for the sins of the wealthy.
But I write my story anyway, in spite of the risk of ridicule and death threats and judgment. I write my story because today, in America, lives are being ruined by a rigged student loan system. [i] Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens just like me are struggling with student loan debt they cannot pay. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens just like me are in default. This is America's shameful little secret, and it must be exposed.
They tell me my total student loan debt is approximately $185,000 and increasing everyday, with about $90,000 in default. I've carried some of this debt since 1986; I know I've paid approximately $40,000 over the years, and they tell me I owe more today than the total of all the original loans combined, thanks to interest, penalties, other usurious fees.
If the numbers seem fuzzy it's because my student loans, private and federal, have been sold and resold and serviced and managed and payments lost and interest rates changed so many times that it's become impossible for me to track. I'm not sure what I owe, to whom I owe it, what I've paid or the interest I'm being charged. About that student loan interest rate fight in Congress? I couldn't have cared less. Frankly, my student loan debt could be a $1 million now and it wouldn't make a bit of difference.
I'm married to this student loan debt. For better or for worse, richer or poorer, she has stayed with me through a divorce, a bankruptcy, and years of unemployment. As I grow older and less able to pay with each passing year, she becomes more demanding, a cranky old woman losing her hearing, continuously nagging me in increasing volume, unable or unwilling to hear my responses. She annoys me daily and will be at my side when I die. But the annoyance is trifling compared to my glee over the fact that she, too, will die, right along with me.
Like so many other naive souls -- poor, wretched trophies of human traffickers -- I was lured into my trap with a promise of a better life. But, unlike the others, led to their traps by shadowy, sneaky pimps, I was coerced by flashy hustlers who deceived me with legitimized aplomb. Those oh-so-righteous bankers who rode into my life on sedan chairs, supported on the shoulders of the U.S. government and shaded beneath a banner sporting all the colors of law.
The trap was skillfully planned and executed, born of a brilliant collusion among government, bank and financial industry scoundrels. Through contracts, social and legal, they bargained for their benefit (obscene profit for themselves) while guaranteeing me a lifetime of servitude and unmanageable student loan debt.
"Those loans paid for your education. It's your responsibility to pay them back."
My response: I earned my education through hard work and perseverance. If only I could have purchased it, I would have saved myself years of hard work, hours of sleepless nights reading and studying, stress-filled days worrying about making the grades and passing the classes, and thankless jobs, struggling to impress temporary bosses in unpaid internships so maybe, just maybe they would hire me upon graduation.
Student loans DID NOT pay for my education - I earned my education. But because I was born to the 99%, the gate to the opportunity to earn an education was locked to me. Student loans allowed me to rent the key to open the gate; student loans allowed me to join the lucky children of of 1%, those born within the gates who will never need a key.