Thank you for making this, whoever you are.
How Are We Supposed to Know What the Government Does?
You should probably be afraid, at least a little, of the federal government. The reason for this doesn’t have anything to do with conspiracy theories about fluoridation or the Obama administration hoarding ammo to keep it out of the hands of True Patriots. It’s simpler than that: you should be worried about the US government because it is huge and well funded and powerful and, most importantly, you don’t know what it’s doing.
The civics class version of government—that there are three branches, each with its own checks and balances and blah blah blah—is hopelessly outdated. For one thing, the legislative branch is paralyzed by partisanship and a set of rules that make it impossible for it to do anything but stop laws from getting enacted. For another, as documented by the Washington Post in 2010, the governmental agencies that are in charge of “national security” have grown like not-all-that-benign tumors, consuming billions of tax dollars, constructing massive top-secret facilities, and employing hundreds of thousands of people whose job descriptions you don’t have the security clearance to know. The national security state is vast and unknowable, practically its own branch of government at this point, with its own secret history. Millions upon millions of documents are classified, many unnecessarily. By some counts, there are more pages of classified documents in the US than there are unclassified—and the government spends $12 billion a year keeping all that information under wraps.
Commentary: How the College-Industrial Complex drove tuition so high
No one else is going to tell you this, so I might as well.
You sit here today, $30,000 or $40,000 in debt, as the latest victims of what may well be the biggest conspiracy in U.S. history. It is a conspiracy so big and powerful that Dan Brown won’t even touch it. It’s a conspiracy so insidious that you will rarely hear its name.
Move over, Illuminati. Stand down, Wall Street. Area 51? Pah. It’s nothing.
The biggest conspiracy of all? The College-Industrial Complex.
Consider this: You have just paid about three times as much for your degree as did someone graduating 30 years ago. That’s in constant dollars — in other words, after accounting for inflation. There is no evidence that you have received a degree three times as good. Some would wonder if you have received a degree even one times as good.
According to the College Board, in 1983 a typical private American university managed to provide a bachelor’s-degree-level education to young people just like you for $11,000 a year in tuition and fees. That’s in 2012 dollars.
Instead, those of you at private colleges paid this year an average of $29,000.
And back then a public college charged in-state students just $2,200 a year in tuition and fees — in today’s dollars. You could get a full four-year degree for $8,800. Today that will get you one year’s tuition, or $8,700.
Notice, please, we are not even counting the cost of all the “extras,” like room and board. This is just the cost of the teaching.
It is, as a result, no surprise that total student loans are now approaching $1 trillion. They have easily overtaken credit-card debts and car loans. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, total student loans have basically tripled since 2004. Fed researcher Lee Donghoon says that in the last eight years the number of borrowers has gone up by about 70%, and the average amount owed has also gone up about 70%.
Related: The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers, a sum greater than the earnings of the nation’s most profitable companies and roughly equal to the combined net income of the four largest U.S. banks by assets.