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Joseph Robinette Biden Jr tosses occasional and minimal scraps to ordinary people, but as US President his real job is to serve the needs and desires of the moneyed class. That's why forgiveness of student loan debt is simply not on Biden's agenda.

May 6, 2022

I never went to college, so I never had student loans, but I have some second-hand experience with that racket.

Stephanie, my wife, went to college on a scholarship, but she needed loans for grad school, and she made payments on those loans through her 20s, 30s, and 40s. It was an expense we couldn't afford, but she felt (and legally was) obligated, so she paid, and paid, and paid.

She's gone, but I'm here to tell you, student loans are absolutely a criminal enterprise. The victims are barely adults when they sign for the loans. They usually have little grasp of adult finances, and how the payments could impact their lives and budgets in ten, twenty years.

The major difference between student loans and loan-sharking is that the Department of Education won't send someone to break your legs. We appreciated that distinction, but it wasn't much.

And good luck paying the loan for your college degree if you don't get a job in your degreed field — my wife never did. She was an office worker like me, but making loan payments as if she had a much higher income.

Most of Stephanie's payments went toward the interest, and the principle never seemed to go down. She renegotiated the payments twice, a bureaucratic process where they pretend to 'help' by reducing the payments thirty bucks a month but adding five years to the term.

Her student debt was a factor in why we had to leave San Francisco — we couldn't afford rent plus her loan payments. It was why our vacations were always weekends and day trips, never two weeks in any far-from-home location. It was why we never bought a house. It was why her wheelchair was manual, not electric. Her student loans bled our budget, and even bankruptcy doesn't dissolve student loan debt, thanks to legislation backed by Senator Joe Biden.

Permanent disability is the only way out of student debt. If you become disabled, so that it's physically impossible for you to hold any job, then your student loan debt will be 'forgiven'.

Well, Stephanie got kidney disease, which left her weak, eventually unable to walk, and took giant chunks of her time for dialysis. She couldn't work, so she won the grand prize — the debt for her student loans was cancelled. Eventually.

We didn't have a lawyer to navigate the paperwork, so we didn't even know disability was a way out until almost a year after Steph was officially disabled. That year of payments certainly wasn't refunded, but after she'd filed the forms to satisfy the Department of Education that she was unemployable, four months later they 'forgave' the debt. We celebrated with pizza and champagne we couldn't afford.

That's not the end of the story, though. There's one last gotcha. Stephanie may have known about this, because she handled the minutia of her student debt, but it was sure a surprise to me:

Even after her student loan debt had been abrogated due to permanent disability, she was still required to file paperwork annually, to re-certify that she was still permanently disabled.

The required annual filing date, to re-establish that Stephanie was still permanently disabled, came while she was in the hospital dying. I was unaware of it until months later, when I slowly and sadly started handling the many assorted legal tasks required after a death. In a stack of Steph's unopened mail was a letter from the US Department of Education, and I wondered what it could be, since her student loan debt had been canceled years earlier... right?

Ripped open the envelope, and imagine my surprise. It was dated two weeks before my wife had died. I burned the letter so this isn't a quote, but the gist of it was, 

Dear Stephanie,

The deadline for re-certifying that you're still permanently disabled has passed, so your student loan debt has been reinstated. Please make payment in full of [more than the value of Stephanie's estate] immediately.

Yeah, it wasn't even "resume the damned monthly payments." The note had come due, and they demanded every dime, at once. The Department of Education is Mr Potter's Bank from It's a Wonderful Life.

I wrote the fuckers a letter, barely able to restrain myself from opening with Dear Fuckers, and explained that my wife couldn't re-certify her permanent disability because she was dead.

They sent two more letters threatening to turn the debt over to a collection agency, but I didn't respond. Their third letter, their first acknowledgment of my letter to them, came three months later. Instead of demanding money, they demanded only a certified copy of my wife's death certificate.

Two months after I'd sent that, their next letter said that Stephanie's student loan debt was finally, really and truly canceled, again. It's been almost four years since her death, three years since her debt was 'forgiven' the second time, and they haven't yet asked me to re-certify that she's permanently dead, so I guess my wife's student loan debt has finally been cleared. I'm still watching the mail for that next letter, though.

You either pay the money, or become disabled and stay disabled, or die. That's how student loans work. Hell of a racket, ain't it? And it sucks money straight from ordinary people to America's moneyed class, so Joe Biden isn't going to do anything about it.

Are you still waiting for the Democrats to do something to ensure a right to privacy and abortion, etc? That's not happening. Won't happen.

For almost all my life, Republicans have called for Roe v Wade to be ended. Americans' right to abortion has depended solely on that ruling, so it's always been only a matter of time until the ruling went the other way. Can't say you didn't see it coming.

For almost all my life, Democrats have said abortion is a woman's right, vote for us and we'll defend that right, yet with almost 50 years of advance notice, Democrats have done diddlysquat to legalize abortion, by law, nationally.

Also, why are headlines everywhere still saying "If Roe v. Wade falls"? We've seen the rough draft of the ruling. It's not "if."

When John, the previous tenant, showed me this room, he promised it was quiet, and he wasn't lying. There's a busy road out front, but only sirens and the biggest trucks come through my walls. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is nearby and we're under the airlines' approach, but even with the window open, the jets' roar comes and goes softly, like calming waves at the ocean shore.

My bedroom, though, has only one door, and it leads to the kitchen. It's a cheap hollow plastic door, and open or closed, it lets every sound from the kitchen into my room and eardrums.

When the kitchen is empty, my room is quiet indeed, but when anyone's in the kitchen, I hear every footstep, every cracking egg, every opening and closing of the fridges, every beep setting the temperature and timer on the microwave...

When my flatmates, Dean and Robert, are talking in the kitchen, they might as well be in my room, standing over my recliner. If I gave a damn and knew shorthand, I could take down every word. Hearing everything from the kitchen is one of the house's minor annoyances, but I'm already used to it.

For the past ten minutes or so, Dean has been in the kitchen, chop, chop, chop, walk walk walk on the creaking kitchen floor, chop some more, and softly humming old standards from the pre-rock era — Sinatra, Como, etc, because he's even older than me.

Then he started talking. "Oh, I haven't seen you for a while. Thought you were on an extended vacation or something." I assumed our mysterious third flatmate 'L' had come into the kitchen, but there was no answer, and I hadn't heard footsteps.

Dean continued talking, about the book he's reading, and last night's baseball game, but nobody answered. If he hadn't started with "Haven't seen you for a while," I would've thought he was talking to himself, which would be less interesting than whatever this was — Dean talking with an imaginary pookah or something.

After he'd told whoever he was talking to what he was making for supper, finally came the big reveal. "Robert did your work for you," he said, "and killed the rat." Ah, got it. He was talking to Sunset, our flatmate L's cat, because Dean can't stop talking, even when there's no human to talk to.

I glanced at the clock, and Dean had been talking to our flatmate's cat for seven minutes, without stopping, while continuing to chop and stir stuff.

Is that endearing, or is it… a strange thing for an almost 70-year-old man to do? Seven minutes talking to a cat. That's longer than I talk to my cat, far longer than I'd talk to anyone else's cat, and when I talk to cats I never tell them about baseball scores or books I've read or what I'm having for dinner.

Some of the places I've been, without leaving the library… 

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Can the BBC survive the British government?

They're probably the best broadcasters broadcasting, and I love the Beeb, but I knew next-to-nothing about its storied history until reading this. 

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Urbanist guerillas, fed-up neighbors install speed bump on street where Cleveland five-year-old was struck and killed 

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Disney is still trying to avoid paying its writers 

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Could anyone who's ever eaten it possibly be surprised to learn that the founders of the La Choy canned Chinese cuisine empire were not Chinese? 

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The mud glyphs are over 1,000 years old and include humanoid figures, abstract shapes, and an 11-foot-long serpent. 

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U.S. recycles 5% of plastic waste, studies show 

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One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...

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The End
Jacques Perrin
Klaus Schulze
Rob Stein 

Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to All Hat No Cattle, Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S., and always Stephanie...


  1. damn dude, good story about the student loans--did you send to the ava? it's ava-worthy, in my opinion

    1. Someone there must read this site, because occasionally there are reprints from here there, but I haven't sent squat to the AVA in ages. If you say it's worthwhile, I'll trust you and send it, see if Bruce likes it...

    2. It's very eye-opening, ie informative...to me anyway...

    3. Also that story about fucking my neighbors wife fifty years ago, I cleaned it up, if you can imagine that, for possibly the ava, and it just might be better without the explicit sex, good practice anyway and sort of fun to take dirty and make it half-way acceptable...I'll show you the remake sometime if you're interested...

    4. "Without the explicit sex" is only an improvement if the explicit sex is rendered poorly, but you render with splendor...


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