We’ve heard it all before. The mountainous debt, constant partying, and falling academic quality offered by many universities across the nation have begun to call the value of an undergraduate degree into question. Yet, more and more students head into college. Why are we, the nation’s youth, so prepared to cast ourselves into tens of thousands of dollars in debt for an increasingly devalued, but increasingly expensive, piece of paper? The answer is one part psychological and one part cultural – but all parts social.
Nate Galt | United States
This country is facing a major economic crisis- 1.5 trillion dollars of unpaid student debt. The next generation of college graduates will have hundreds of billions of dollars in borrowed money, most of which they will never be able to repay. After home mortgages, student debt is the second-highest type of consumer debt, higher than credit card debt. With solutions to student loans being thrown around on the campaign trail, it’s time to talk about the future.
Craig Axford | Canada
Government shutdowns and flirtations with default by putting off raising the federal debt ceiling have become regular occurrences in Washington, D.C. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised given the number of representatives and senators regularly expressing disdain for the very institution they were elected to run, but still.
Americans like to believe their nation is exceptional, and it is: it’s the only developed nation on the planet that doesn’t guarantee all its citizens healthcare, higher education is more expensive there than just about anywhere else, it has the only government that it’s possible to shut down without having to resort to violence, and it’s the only nation that flirts with suicide by requiring votes on its debt ceiling.
That’s right. No other governments have even one, let alone two, kill switches built into their system. And why would they? What’s the point? Unless the intent is to erode public confidence in government it makes no sense for elected officials to even contemplate closing down popular national parks or giving all the people in charge of enforcing our public health and safety regulations an extended unpaid holiday?
The habit of shutting down the government now and then (as well as the continuing resolutions passed to avoid them) is an unintended bug in the American system rather than a feature of it. So too is the necessity to authorize more borrowing periodically once the national debt has reached a predetermined threshold. Both of these bugs are extremely dangerous but, unfortunately, they are likely to remain unfixed for the foreseeable future.
America’s founding fathers were revolutionaries. As such, they were no fans of the British government, which by the late 18th century was already well established and quite recognizable to any citizen of the 21st century. Though King George III was the titular head of state, like his contemporary successor Queen Elizabeth II, he had very little actual power to match the privileges that came with his hereditary title. Parliament was already very much in charge.
Nothing like what took place in Philadelphia following the American Revolution had ever been seriously considered, let alone attempted, in London. To intentionally sit down and craft rules for a new government quite literally being built from scratch was a radical idea if ever there was one. To call America an experiment is not an exaggeration. As with any experiment, the outcome is unknown until it has come to a close. The American experiment hasn’t ended, but so far it certainly has produced some unanticipated results.
In creating the modern world’s first republic, America’s victorious rebels were faced with the task of establishing rules for a country that no longer had centuries of tradition to fall back on. The norms of the mother country they had just abandoned had evolved over hundreds of years of power struggles between the aristocracy and the crown, with a nascent merchant middle class increasingly making its own demands over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The newly independent colonies wanted to distinguish themselves from the nation they had just liberated themselves from, but how?
The US Constitution settled for a president instead of a monarch, while the House of Representatives took the place of the House of Commons and the Senate stood in for the House of Lords. Each elected member of these respective branches is subject to regular fixed terms of office, with the power balanced more or less equally between them rather than resting largely in the representative branch (i.e., parliament) alone. With the exception of the extremely rare and difficult case of impeachment, the US Constitution provides no opportunity to hold any single officeholder accountable for failure during the period between elections, let alone the government as a whole. Federal judges receive lifetime appointments, something else not seen in any other developed representative democracy to this day.
In a parliamentary system, the failure to pass something as routine as an annual budget triggers a crisis. Under the Westminster parliamentary model followed in the UK, Canada and several other members of the Commonwealth, this crisis brings down the government and forces the monarch or her designated representative to dissolve the government and call an election. In unstable periods when minority governments are common, elections tend to be relatively more frequent, while in less turbulent political times a majority government can persist for five years or so before facing a vote.
Likewise, when a parliament authorizes spending beyond the government’s anticipated revenues, it is understood they have necessarily approved an increase in the national debt. Therefore, there is no need to consider raising the debt limit independently. From the perspective of citizens living in parliamentary countries, it makes no sense that the same Congress that approved deficit spending one month can spend time the next flirting with a refusal to allow any borrowing. It’s like having a government that doesn’t know its own mind.
Unfortunately, the kind of crises that bring down governments in parliamentary systems has become commonplace in the United States. Budgets go years without being approved, with Congress lurching from one continuing resolution to the next while various factions hold federal employees and the citizens dependent upon their services hostage until some pet project or favorite policy or another is approved in exchange for keeping things running for a while longer. A Prime Minister Donald Trump would either be facing a vote of the people at this point in the budget process or a leadership challenge by members of his own caucus. One year in office would be unlikely, but four would almost certainly be impossible.
I’ve been living in Canada for the better part of a decade now. On most days I find myself feeling pretty ambivalent about the monarchy if I even think about it at all. That’s not because I can see equal merit in both sides of the argument regarding having someone born into the role of head of state. It’s because I recognize all societies require a sense of continuity and for some countries that can take the shape of a monarchy that has existed in one form or another for centuries. A woman that appears on our money while playing an entirely ceremonial role is harmless, if not for the actual person forced into the job by an accident of birth then at least for the rest of us.
I’m not feeling so ambivalent about having a parliament, however. I have strong opinions about the two Canadian prime ministers I’ve lived under so far. But the extent of my approval or disapproval aside, at least I know that the nearby Pacific Rim National Park will, weather permitting, always be open and that with the exception of national holidays at the local Services Canada office the door will never be locked. Even the UK Brexit debacle hasn’t convinced me parliaments are less effective or ultimately less democratic than the divided governments that have become the norm in the US.
If for some reason, it turns out parliament can’t do its job there will be an election lasting a little over a month while the people try to vote one in with a sufficient mandate to do it. In the meantime, things will go on pretty much as before without any nightly news reports about government employees unable to pay the rent because someone got it into their head they wanted to build a wall. I know it’s incredibly unAmerican to say so, but if you were to put me in a time machine and send me back to 1776, I would tell the founding fathers to get rid of the monarchy if they must, but at least keep the parliament.
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By Jack Parkos | United States
There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country…One is by sword. The other by debt. – John Adams
The US national debt is rising at a dangerously high rate. In fact, it is nearly impossible for me to write the exact amount of the country’s debt as it will change every second. Right now, the United States national debt is at 21 trillion dollars and is approaching 22 trillion. One can observe the rising rate by looking at the US national debt clock. America is the most debt-ridden country out there, which is something truly frightening to look at. Even as tax revenue goes up, the debt too goes up.
Many may wonder: how could this possibly happen? Quite simply, it was irresponsibility with our government. They keep spending more and more and never learn their lesson. Like a teenage girl with a credit card, they either had little knowledge of money or simply did not care. Essentially, we gave the teenage girl a credit card that won’t cancel, and we set her free to the mall. Now “she” racked up a bunch of debt, and someone must pay that off.
Naturally, this responsibility will fall unto the taxpayers. It would make the most sense that those who voted for the Congress that got us into the mess to pay it off through their taxes. But this will not be the case. The next generation will be the ones forced to pay off the debt, they will have trillions in debt slumped unto the backs of their shoulders. Already, the national debt per taxpayer is over $178,000. This will only continue to rise.
The Tyranny of Debt
The people who will be paying off this debt did not vote for the leaders who put them into this crisis. They had no say in the matter. The past generation forced this onto them. The responsibility mostly lies with the Baby Boomers. Since they did not vote for this and must pay the cost through taxes, are they not being subject to taxation without representation? Certainly, they are. Taxation is already high enough-now, and now the wallet of the American will have to feel the burden of another man’s debt. The colonists fought a revolution over taxation without representation, and now we simply punish future generations with this!
People can typically avoid credit card debt by being responsible. When they are not responsible they must pay back their debts. This is seemingly just, as they are paying debts that they got themselves into. But if someone was forced to pay another’s credit card debt, would this be justice? Would it be fair to punish someone for an act they did not commit? Any reasonable person would find this unjust.
Similar to paying for another’s credit card debt is paying the debt of the last generation-it’s simply unfair. Not only is it unfair-it is tyranny.
The current state of the debt is a crisis. We are already trillions of dollars in debt and Congress does not show any sign of changing its poor habits, still signing trillion dollar spending bills and raising the debt ceiling. Perhaps Congress needs to be taught a high school level economics course; where you learn to not spend money you don’t have.
Even if Congress stops its bad habits (which is unlikely), there is still trillions to be paid off, the next generation would see taxes increased and spending cut. The debt is owned by Essentially paying for services they never used. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. The boomers gave millennials debt and the millennials are giving the current generation debt. If the current generation does not pay it off, the next will get the debt. This process cannot continue forever, economic failure will result if this keeps happening.
The future does look dark, but let this be a reminder to my fellow younger citizens that you should care about politics. The actions today will ultimately affect your future.
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By Adam Burdzy | United States
“Trade school? Is that, like, a place where you learn how to trade things?”
Every parent thinks that his or her child is smart in their own special way. This leads to Mom and Dad pushing Johnny to go to a nice university, where he will learn how to think, how to be a productive citizen, and most importantly, how to be a lawyer, doctor or even a professor.
Johnny decides to apply for a school that he seems to like, and is lucky enough to get accepted. Little does his parents know, Johnny doesn’t have what it takes to become a doctor, he can’t argue his way to become a lawyer, and he has no people skills, so there is no way that he will become a professor. But he tries anyway, and in his third year, he drops out. Not only did he waste three years of his life, but now he is in massive debt. After realizing he isn’t good enough for these kinds of careers, Johnny becomes depressed and has to work two jobs, the McDonald’s morning shift and the Taco Bell night shift, just to make enough money to get by.
This is something that occurs too often. About half of the people who enlist in a college or university will graduate. Johnny should have gone to trade school. Trade school is the university for people who aren’t good at the career choices offered by colleges. With the rise of labor jobs in the United States, we need more people to fill these shoes. These people are the backbone of society. Sure, some of the jobs offered may not seem that pleasant. In the end, however, the positives of attending a trade school are higher than attending a college.
To graduate from a trade school, you need about two years of schooling. To receive a bachelors degree, you need to have four years of schooling. And to make matters worse, most students will then apply to another school to get their masters degree, which takes another two years. Most people with a bachelors degree won’t be able to find a job as easily as a person with a masters degree. So you just wasted six years of your life, compared to two.
Not only do you save time in a trade school, but you also save money. Lots of money. To graduate with a bachelors degree, you will spend anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 in those four years. Most of this money will come from student loans, or from outside scholarships. Trade school, on the other hand, costs about $33,000 to attend for 2 years. This is the average amount that students pay for one year at a university.
At a trade school, you get more opportunities to become whatever you want, and you focus in on one specific career. These career options are vast and can vary from construction work to being a commercial pilot. The wide array and the fact that you focus on one certain skill allows for you to dedicate your time to become what you want, and you don’t need to take all those classes that universities require you to take, even if they don’t relate to your major or minor. If you are going for a biology major, there should be no reason as to why you should be required to take an intro the 1700’s literature, unless you really want to.
Before you go to college or send your kids to college, take into account the benefits of attending a trade school. I am not against universities, and if the job you want requires a masters degree, then, by all means, go to college. However, if you are undecided like many college students are, then visit a trade school, find out about their work programs, and inform yourself before you make a decision that could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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