Dear Lee Siegel,
I read the recent article wherein you bragged about defaulting on your student loans. For your sake, I hope no one employed by the IRS read it and felt like I did: hacked off that you stole from me and others like me.
You talked about how, when you went to the bank at the tender age of 17, the evil loan officer convinced you to sign your life away. What you leave out is the fact that your grown adult mother was with you, and that neither of you were physically barred from leaving the bank unless you signed on the dotted line. Your mother was likely aware even at the time that *she* was not in a position to be saddled with that much debt. Taking out the loan was therefore a mistake on your part because obviously education did not teach you responsibility, and a mistake on her part because she trusted you to fulfill your obligations. To blame it on the loan officer might be a popular response, but it's not terribly original: “Loan officer pushes loans” is a bit like saying “sad panda is sad,” after all.
You can take heart, however, in the knowledge that not everyone fell victim to those evil, predatory bankers. I too listened to loan officers explain student loans and parental cosigns. But unlike you, I walked out of the bank knowing that the responsible choice was to attend a school that did not require my parents to take out a second mortgage. Maybe that's because I was 18 and more mature than you were at 17. Maybe that's because my parents and teachers had spent 18 years teaching me that I was going to have to earn what I got.
You talked about how school got more expensive, so your parents compromised the integrity of their finances. I do appreciate the fact that you transferred to a less expensive school. To be honest, that's the only statement that indicates that this piece was actually written by an adult. I too made a decision when school got more expensive: I chose to take a break from school and serve my country. The bonus was that after I completed that service, the military paid for my education and I never had to take a loan out at all.
You talked about how you chose life instead of crippling debt. How nice that must have been for you. Was the life you chose worth the increased interest rates and taxes that choice inflicted on responsible citizens?
You talked about how if everyone defaulted, then the universities would be publicly shamed for charging exorbitant tuition rates, and banks and collection agencies would be shamed for their greediness.You gave brief mention to the fact that everyone defaulting on their debt *at the same time* could create chaos in the entire economic system, but you glossed over it because it's “immoral to make people pay for the hamburgers they have already eaten” or to expect people to pay for the education they were given on credit. Granted, in your case I would probably make an exception because based on your apparent education I would currently be advising you to get your money back - but that in no way applies to everyone across the board.
You talked about choosing to default so that you wouldn't have to “suffer in a job that did not reflect how you could best benefit society - as a writer.” If this piece of narcissistic drivel is to be held up as an example of you benefitting society, then I think I'd prefer to be telling you what I'd like on my cheeseburger: bacon. Extra bacon.
You know who suffers in jobs that “don't reflect how they can best benefit society”? Grown ups. Grown ups get jobs - whether they are in the field of their education or not - and fulfill their financial obligations. Grown ups pay the bills if they've used the service. Grown ups don't expect others to make up for their own shortcomings. Grown ups don't brag about how they cheated the system at the expense of other citizens - some of whom are currently paying for your default when they could be sending their own children to college.
A Grown Adult Army Veteran with Bachelor's Degrees in Political Science and History and a Day Job in Newborn Photography
(But you can call me Virginia for short.)