Saturday, July 24, 2010


I've been watching a series of economically-related documentaries through Netflix streaming and a theme has emerged: the institutionalized fleecing of the American lower socioeconomic classes. It's easy to make money off the poor because (a) they are unsophisticated, uneducated, easily led, and can't identify when they're being sucked in, followed by (b) they aren't organized or well-represented politically so they have little recourse once they DO get sucked in.

Ordinarily I tend to take a laissez-faire attitude about all this: if people are too dumb to spot a scam, well, to hell with them - Darwin rules. However, I mollify that attitude when deceptive practices are at work. Some of the lending practices that led to the economic collapse in 2008 appeared to be deceptive.  And now something very similar appears to be happening with respect to education.

The worst part of the whole scheme is that it smacks of assisted suicide: it's difficult to pin full responsibility on any one entity.  One person acquires the drugs, a second person mixes the cocktail, a third person inserts the needle, a fourth person loads the cocktail into the IV, and the guy who wants out actually turns the dial to start his own fatal drip.  Who, then, was responsible for killing the guy, especially if one or more of the precursor people weren't informed of the final intent?

Similarly, corporations and now educational institutions, including legitimate ones, hire outside contractors to do the marketing that brings them clients.  Often times, those corporations claim NOT to know what tactics their hired recruiters are using (whether this ignorance is intentional or not is a separate debate). 

What was once the dominion of the subprime mortgage market has made a predictable progression to education:  take on too much debt, lose your job because other people have lost their houses and the economy tanked, then lose YOUR OWN house, then look for ways to improve your income potential so you can get out of this mess - the obvious recourse is education.  And now I see the same lines of bull being used to sell access to education (which means student loan debt) as were previously used to sell access to houses that people could not afford.

Sometimes those ads even use the same graphics and stylistic wording as were used by the subprime mortgage ads of yesteryear.  And sometimes they just seem to be downright deceptive - AND sexist to boot!  Yesterday, NPR ran a piece that included commentary on "Obama's educational program for single Moms".  If you are an uneducated, unsophisticated woman, of course you'd automatically associate "Obama" with "bail-out" - some kind of great financial deal for you, as it was for so many others!  Yet NPR stated unequivocally that no such program exists.  The Obama administration does NOT have a free or even partially-free money program for mothers, single or otherwise.  And yet the ordinary person can't surf the internet for ten minutes before seeing claims that include the terms "scholarships" and "grants", which are both euphemisms for "free money":

WHY is this worth commenting on?  Because when poor people take on student loans under the guise that it's tied into some larger good deal that Obama created for them, they default on them in significant numbers, just as they did with houses.  Yet ANOTHER form of mass loan default!  And who pays for all of it?  The taxpayers, of course.  The very same people who paid for the subprime mess.  As such, it's not "their" problem, the sheep being led to the shearing - at the heart of it, it's OUR problem.

I don't have much sympathy for stupidity, but I have far less sympathy for deceptive practice.  I'm not sure why little is being done about this situation.

No comments:

Post a Comment