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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/26/12

Will a Young Generation's Dreams Be Rescued - Or Bundled and Sold on Wall Street?

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Richard Eskow
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Interest rates for student loans will double on July 1 unless Congress acts. That's outrageous -- but the fiscal abuse of our nation's young people runs far deeper than that. An entire generation has been trapped into debt servitude and joblessness by the implacable machinery of Wall Street greed. Bank-servile scolds insult the young people of America while the bankers' economic engines strip-mine their financial future.

Jobless or overextended college graduates aren't even allowed to declare bankruptcy -- a privilege that's extended to every reckless investor and mismanaged corporation in the nation. Once they finally find work, college graduates face years of garnished wages to repay the loans that funded their often-overpriced educations. If they haven't repaid that debt by the time they grow old -- a very real possibility at the cost of a college education today -- they'll even be forced to surrender part of their Social Security benefits.

That's indentured servitude.

Meanwhile banks have been slicing and dicing student loans into derivative financial instruments called "SLABS" -- student-loan asset backed securities. We've seen this movie before -- the one where big banks mass-market loans to a population with stagnated wages and dwindling economic prospects, then bundle them and sell them to investors who haven't reviewed the way they were underwritten and sold.

Hey, what could go wrong?

It's true that many of these packaged debts are backed by the U.S. government -- but not all of them.

Why are these graduates facing such a bleak job market? Because Wall Street's gambling on other financial bets crashed the economy, leaving an entire generation without much of a future to give them optimism and hope. Their parents can't help them much, because most of their assets were taken by Wall Street, too. So as an entire generation of college students graduates with unprecedented debt -- and joblessness that's unprecedented in modern memory -- they're looking forward to a lifetime of reduced expectations.

And just like their parents, these young people are being told the the banks aren't the problem: They are.

Half of today's college graduates are un- or under-employed. The total amount owed on student loans is greater than our country's entire credit card debt. The banks were rescued in a multi-billion dollar bailout (that did not turn a profit), but If anybody talks about a WPA-like program to rescue young people the bank-funded political crowd gasps in horror.

Instead of help, young people get comments like this now-notorious one from perenially ignorant GOP representative Virginia (Ginny) Foxx: " I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there's no reason for that."

Ginny Foxx is acting out the last in a four-step process to crush the soul and spirit of a generation:

First, cut funding for colleges and universities throughout the country, driving the cost of a college education out of reach of most Americans. And while you're at it, play footsie with the for-profit college industry, giving out student loans for paper mills that churn out worthless diplomas at inflated prices -- but whatever you do, don't tell the students that!

Second, lobby to "privatize" much of the student loan industry. Turn Sallie Mae, the agency created to help students, into a greed-driven get-rich-quick scheme for greedy executives (See "Sallie Mae's Jets") who used government money to lobby for their own get-rich-quick schemes and turned the student loan program into a taxpayer-funded money tree for already-rich bankers. (To their great credit, the Obama Administration and Democrats on the Hill did a great deal to roll back this part of the greed machine with last year's student reform law.)

Third, deregulate Wall Street and allow them to wreck the economy, forcing an entire generation to face the bleakest job future in modern memory.

Fourth, condemn them for their own situation. That distracts some people from the real cause of this generational misery.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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