Global Crisis/Innovation Blog 

 Greek Referendum? Why Not a U.S. STUDENT Referendum? 

By Shlomo Maital 







Why am I  not surprised that the weakest leader on the face of the planet, George Papandreou, Greek PM, the former history professor turned “leader”, has buckled knees, turning the EU bailout offer to the Greek people in a ‘referendum’ so they can reject it – two years after the onset of the crisis.  Has he been asleep for two years? Why now?  Don’t get me wrong – it was obvious from the beginning that Greece cannot pay its debts, not even part of it, not even the interest.  But what a cowardly act, to blame the people for scotching the EU offer rather than standing up bravely and saying, sorry, I accept responsibility, Greece cannot, will not pay.  Papandreou will have to resign, and frankly, good riddance.

   But if Greece can have a referendum,  why not American college students? 

    Here are the facts, according to USAToday.  As U.S. colleges and the government pass the buck on to hapless students,  raising tuition and forcing them to borrow, the amount of new student loans last year topped $100 b. and the total outstanding amount of student loans topped $1 trillion.  American students now owe more money on their student loans than Americans owe on their credit cards (!) according to the Federal Reserve.  And guess what. If you’re an American and have a mortgage, you don’t have to pay it. You can walk away from your home and let the bank worry about it. But if you’re an American college grad and have heavy student loans, you will be hounded by the collectors for the rest of your life, even if you’ve decided to make your career in a Tibetan monastery.

    Contrast how America rips off its students with, say, Germany, where qualified college students study almost tuition-free.  Which country would YOU invest in, over the long run?  Which country has a better future? Many of the American student loans go to pay tuition to private for-profit universities, which have grown rapidly.  I used to believe that higher education was a public good.  In America, it is a private ‘bad’. 

     American college students, drowning in debt – start an Occupy Mass. Ave. movement (that’s the street, at the end of which, you find MIT and Harvard).  Demand your rights.  Demand a referendum, in which college students vote on the following issue:     Do you believe American college students should be ripped off by government and banks, to pay exorbitant tuition on borrowed money, mortgaging their whole future, forcing them to pick high-paying jobs when they’d rather do more socially-valuable things, just to pay off their student loans?   If the Greeks can vote democratically to avoid paying old debts, why not American college students?