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Shooting Ourselves in the Foot: Student Loan Debt

Let me ask you all something that has been on my mind a lot. What happened to our people? To our fellow Americans, and our society where the majority stopped caring about one another? The stories I have heard from my father, yes, he is a "Baby Boomer," but one of the early ones that took on more of the "Greatest Generation" attributes are heartwarming. Those stories always make me feel like I'm missing something that we are missing something. Or maybe we just forgot how to care for one another genuinely. To have sympathy, to have a heart, and to come to the aid of someone else. The "Greatest Generation" wasn't perfect, but they worked hard to make things better, and one of those things was creating a community. It's interesting to think about these stories and wonder why during my father's generation, it started disappearing and when "Gen X" it pretty much no longer existed.


The stories of my father when he was growing up in Houston, Texas, was that almost everyone in the neighborhood knew one another, and not just knew that you lived in the house but knew you. The parents would borrow each other's tools. They would help a neighbor do home renovations, repairs on their cars, have multiple neighbors over for cookouts if the kids were outside playing one mother, or a few would keep an eye out on them, they would help when of the other ladies was pregnant. Growing up hearing these stories, I thought my father was just lucky, but he told me he couldn't remember a neighborhood that wasn't like that. When I was younger, my first two jobs, I worked with older generational people, and they were "Baby Boomers" as well. They remembered growing up the same way my father did, and this was in Virginia.


From these people, including my father, I learned that if one of their neighbors got into a bind of some sort, be it financial trouble like someone losing a job, maybe illness, or any problem, the neighborhood came to the rescue. If they didn't have the money to buy the parts to fix their car, others would pitch in to buy the parts, and they would all work on the care together. If bills were piling up due to loss of employment or illness or unexpected pregnancy, everyone would pitch in what they could so that this one neighbor could make ends meet.

Now let me get to the point I am trying to make with this post. One of these stories was a couple's only child was going to be accepted into college. This child was the first in all their family that would go onto college. However, there was a problem. They couldn't afford to send their child to college. I'm hoping all of you are reading can see where the story goes from here. Their neighbors found out and were just as excited as the parents for this child to go off to college. Why? Because their kids grew up with children and pretty much, this child was an extension of their own family. They all pitched in money to help this kid go to college. Now let me ask you some final questions before continuing in regards to how we have been and still are shooting ourselves in the foot as a society. Could you honestly tell yourself or anyone that you live in a neighborhood just like the ones described above today? Could you find a community like that today? If you're like me and live in a small block, could you say you know all your neighbors or even your direct neighbor? I can't, and I bet the majority of you have the same answer as me.


Let me put this out there. I am in no way a supporter of or do I honestly like this particular house representative. Still, the responses to her are hopefully going to help me show you how a lot of us in our country have become callused to other's suffering. On January 28, 2020, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) put out a tweet supporting the idea of canceling student loan debt. I've gone over how this is a bad idea, it'll cost us in the end anyway because nothing is free, but some of the responses she received showed an I don't care about other's problems, not my problem, shame on them, blame them kind of mentality. There are multiple examples of the cold responses but I just want to list a couple of them showing that neighborly love is almost nonexistent.


1.) "In this country, if one takes on debt, it is one's responsibility to pay it back. Not one's neighbor, or workmate, or a stranger. To do otherwise is to teach irresponsibility."


I agree to the point that it is no one's responsibility other than yourself to pay your debt and that my Millennial generation has had a hard time taking responsibility for our decisions and actions. Yet if this one person would look at the whole picture, that society, parents, primary schools pressured Millennials, into having to go to college. The prior generations didn't have to pay half the cost that Millennials have to pay for a college education. Maybe this person wouldn't be so cold. Maybe, if they could see how a lot of Americans used to care for one another. That if he or she has a neighbor that is having a hard time paying their student loans back, making life difficult, having severe issues with affording just to stay afloat and live, they will help them out. Possibly see them at the grocery store and buy their groceries for them. Or see them at the gas pump and buy them a full tank of gas. Or it may spare some cash, put it in an envelope, and put in in their mailbox with a note saying, "put this toward your student loan bill for the month." People that are struggling with the crushing student loan debt and doing their best to pay it off or even just trying to survive would greatly appreciate the small gestures of kindness from their neighbor and their fellow American.


2.) "I'm not voting for anyone who believes PROMISSORY notes should be canceled. It's a morality issue for me."


So this person says it's a morality issue for them not to support any politician that wants to cancel student loan debt. My questions to them are, where is your morality when all you have to do is research the horrible impact that devastating student loan debt can have on one of your fellow Americans? Where is your morality when a single mother or father attempted to improve their life by going to college to make a better living for their child, but the debt became too much, and now they are struggling to just keep a roof over their child's head? Where is your morality when a family is struggling to make ends meet when both parents have to work and at times work two jobs each to just afford the rent. To purchase the most food they could afford, to keep the lights on and ac/heat running because student loan debt eats up more than half of the monthly salary? Where's your morality when a person was going to college, was passing all of their classes and the future looked bright to the point they wouldn't need help paying their student loans, but an unfortunate incident happened? Maybe they got injured and couldn't attend classes for a while, and after so much time, the student loan bills come a calling. Or perhaps a family member got hurt or sick, and the family need help with extra revenue to make ends meet, so they dropped out. Where is your morality with this scenario?


My point with these two examples is, a lot of us use words like responsibility and morality to help us feel for someone else's problems. It makes us feel better, and that is most likely due to we all are stuck in one sick cycle. We didn't have anyone help us, or have the government bail us out when we made a mistake or need help, so why should we care about people today that have issues? Well, as the old saying goes, "Two wrongs don't make a right." Yet these types of people will be the first ones crying or begging for help when something has a substantial negative impact on them. For the sake of arguing, I'm going to guess that these two examples from the article are probably "Baby Boomers," and I’m going to say they are getting close to the point in their life they are going to retire. Now let me give them the benefit of the doubt that they saved up money through their lifetime, have a 401k and IRA, and some investments. Let me also say they calculated what they would need for every month and year of their twilight years in retirement. Now I'm going to throw a wrench in their planning because part of their plan to make ends meet and live a comfortable retirement life was also having that Social Security check. Still, since we Millennials are hopefully going to start taking over the government in the next few years, we see that it is not our responsibility to ensure you have money for retirement. They should have been more responsible when they were younger to save and invest more for their golden years. So we're getting rid of social security. Now they'll cry foul and say they paid into the system and they should get their money because, without it, they'll be short of what they need every month. Yet don’t forget, they paid for the prior generation and we are paying for them. So we now feel that we no longer need to continue paying into a system that Millennials and future generations will most likely not get to enjoy. It’s a morality issue for us, and it is also taking personal responsibility for ourselves because that extra money in our paychecks can now go to future investments for our retirements.


It’s simple, if they want to play this type of game with us Millennials, it would be effortless for us to play as well! But that is not the point and not what needs to be done. The end of this post is, we need to bring back the compassion, having sympathy for other’s unfortunate circumstances. I'm not saying they have to support the government canceling student loan debt in return for all of us getting screwed. However, look into supporting initiatives, companies, and non-profits that are and will help with these issues, which are helping to pay off student loan debt. With a combined effort from all fellow Americans, we can accomplish greatness. We can not only put a massive dent in the total amount of student loan debt but possibly pay it off, and it'll be a lot cheaper compared to letting the government cancel this debt and pass the cost on to everyone in the form of a new tax. Just think about it, per the Pew Research Center there are 157 million working Americans toward the end of 2019. If every one of these working Americans were to put in $5 dollars a month toward student loans, that would be $9.4 billion dollars. Now take that number and divide it by the average amount of student loan debt the borrowers have, and we would pay off the loans for 285,454 borrowers at the average of $33,000 per person. Even better is if every American put in $5 a week, the price of one or two cups of coffee a week. That would be $40.8 billion in one year, and that would mean 1.2 million borrowers would be free from their debt.


Helping thy neighbor doesn't have to be complicated; it can be easy. So my message to my fellow Millennials and the prior generations is, scratch the backs of us Millennials regarding student loan debt, and we'll scratch your backs to ensure society and the economy do much better, so your retirement is golden! Because in the end, the better we Millennials do, the better the prior generations will be.

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