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Thursday, June 13

Wanted Dead or Alive High School Dropout Making $200K/yr: SALLIE MAE offers $50 million reward for capture of Ed Snowden (UPDATED)

"More likely that the [college] student loan market will continue its expansion and increasing numbers of students will be subject to what can only be described as a sort of debt peonage."
-- Philip Pilkington at Naked Capitalism

Things took a strange turn last night on MSNBC's The Last Word during Lawrence O'Donnell's interview with a friend of Edward Snowden. Mr O'Donnell began pressing Mavanee Anderson, a 2008 alumni of Vanderbilt University,  about whether she thought that college helps a person's intellectual maturation process. No, that hadn't been her experience, Ms Anderson replied.

Ms Anderson also said that too much was being made about Ed Snowden's educational background; that he'd gotten a GED after he dropped out of his senior year in high school and that he'd taken a few college courses. But Mr O'Donnell was persistent:  if Ed Snowden had only gone to college, might he have emerged mature enough in his thinking to avoid taking the kind of uncompromising position that he's demonstrated in his actions against the State?

The singular contribution that college makes to intellectual maturation is on display every Saturday night among certain guests who appear on CNBC's Suze Orman Show to plead for her financial advice. The guest is a college graduate, the gender is male or female, the age is 30 or 40 Something; he's carrying about $80K in college student loan debt and $50K in credit card debt, facing bankruptcy and/or foreclosure on his home, and earning about $100K/yr in salary before taxes.  And as Suze has pointedly said more than once to this American guest:  The only reason you finally came to me for help is that the credit card companies cut you off, isn't it? Yes, the guest meekly acknowledges.

A spokesperson for Booz Allen Hamilton said, after the company got around to firing Ed Snowden, that it hadn't paid him as much as the $200K/yr he'd claimed to be making, although it's unlikely the company figured bonuses and projected overtime pay into a base salary of at least $125K.  Whatever his exact income, for a 29-year old with no children he was making a good salary in a career with great prospects for advancement in a field with great job security. And he accomplished all that without miring himself in student loan debt.

Ironically, his lack of a college degree rankled him, according to Maveen Anderson; it's easy to see why given that his critics since he became a media sensation have dismissively described him as a high school dropout.  However, Edward Snowden, simply because of the publicity he's received, is the worst nightmare for con artists who've sold a college education and student loan debt to millions of unsuspecting American parents and children as a necessary rite of passage for financial success in the USA. Now see where this particularly cruel scam has led; read Philip Pilkington's March 9, 2012 report for Naked Capitalism, Student Debt in the U.S. Continues to Blow Up:

"Perhaps the most obvious indicator that the US has become a society of debtors is the ever-expanding market for student loans. Recently clocked at $870 billion and rising quickly, this market has been a focal point for the recent Occupy movements. The White House knows that this is a key issue among potential voters and recently tried to provide some relief to debtors by placing a cap of 10% of discretionary income on the repayment of such loans – down from a previous cap of 15%. But of course placing a cap on how much needs to be repaid is hardly a solution to what appears to be a much larger problem.

"Student loans are growing at a remarkable rate. Between the second and third quarter of 2011 they grew from an estimated $852m to an estimated $870 billion – that’s an increase of 2.1% in only one quarter; and this while other types of consumer debt either declined or remained flat. And even these estimates are pretty fuzzy because, as the New York Fed highlights, the market is highly complex and difficult to gauge:
Student loans support the education of millions of students nationwide, yet much is unknown about the student loan market. Relevant data are limited and, for the most part, anecdotal. Also, sources tend to focus on recent college graduates and do not reveal much information about the indebtedness of parents, graduate students, and those who drop out of school.
"The rapid expansion of student debt appears to be due in large part to the increasing numbers of Americans enrolling in third-level (what Americans call “advanced”) education.

"The market for student debt has also become remarkably complex.
Unsurprisingly, the burden of this debt – at least, that which is counted – is falling on the shoulders of the young, as the chart below indicates.[...]"

Read the rest to the bitter end, if you have the stomach.

(*) To be fair to Mr O'Donnell, he did say after grilling Ms Anderson that Ed Snowden had started an "invaluable debate" that "like so many debates we are having too late."  Mr O'Donnell is wrong in part. We've had this debate before, it's just that the Surveillance State keeps moving the goal posts on the American public, journalists and Congress. 

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