This weekend the New York published an opinion piece by Lee Siegel in which he says he was confronted with the choice of "giv[ing] up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and [taking] a job that I didn't want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society." He "chose life" and defaulted on his loans. He, of course, then goes on to further support his choice.
Aaron Taylor offers this response:
I recently authored a post lamenting the effects of misinformation on the decision making and outlook of student loan debtors. My premise was that most of the commentary on student loans betokens a fundamental misunderstanding of the student loan system, particularly, the scope and extent of income-based repayment options. This misinformation is especially dangerous because much of it is peddled by individuals who position themselves as experts and publications that are viewed as trustworthy.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times, entitled “Why I Defaulted on My Student Loans,” highlights my point in glaring fashion. The author, Lee Siegel, writes about how he “chose life” over repaying his student loans, as if the two are mutually exclusive. In fact, the idea that life is made better by defaulting on student loans is simply foolish. It is a rather privileged view that could only be proffered by someone with two Ivy League degrees (from Columbia) and a cushy writing career. Siegel weaves together a tale that is almost romantic in its delivery. But the absurdity of this seduction is captured in two pieces of advice he offers to those considering following in his footsteps:
• Get as many credit cards as you can before your credit is ruined.
• Live with or marry someone with good credit.
Overload on credit cards. Marry (or co-habit) and mooch well. How’s that for financial planning? This type of egregious advice-giving is precisely what motivated my post. Debtors are struggling; they need real solutions, not fanciful exploits that would only worsen their situation. If you think ruined credit, garnished wages, and creditor harassment is “choosing life,” there are millions of people who would vehemently beg to differ. It is absolutely essential that we educate ourselves about student loans and stop allowing misinformation, like that spewed by Lee Seigel, to make matters of worse.