On April 25, 2012, student loan debt in the United States will have already reached $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000), in excess of credit card and auto loans, say organizers with Occupy Student Debt Campaign, a group calling for a day of action to “celebrate” this momentous occasion. An article from Salon explains this further:
When there are Americans whose Social Security checks are being garnished to pay off their outstanding student loan debt, then it is clear that the United States has a problem. And the rising number of seniors who haven’t paid off loans taken out decades earlier is only one of several reasons to be alarmed by a report on student loan debt released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in March.
Total debt, as of the end of the third quarter of 2011, had reached $870 billion, a number, the Fed was quick to point out, that eclipses what Americans owed on their credit cards and on their auto loans. According to a more recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the amount currently owed on both federal and private student loans has already broken the trillion-dollar barrier.
That’s not just bad for the people struggling to pay off their debt — people who, according to CFPB student loan ombudsman Rohit Chopra, are being punished for “doing exactly what they were told would be the key to a better life.” The burgeoning debt numbers also pose a growing threat to the larger economy: money spent paying back student loans is money that isn’t stimulating overall economic growth. Who will dare risk becoming a first-time home-buyer, for example, or buy a new car, when still struggling to pay back thousands of dollars on their education?
The ramifications of this are, as we can see, huge to say the least. Political response to this has, unsurprisingly, been half-hearted and incompetent at best. A slightly condescending article from the Washington Post shows us the reaction from Republican hopefuls, starting with Rick Santorum, recipient of a Juris Doctor from the Publicly-funded Dickinson School of Law: