Is there a Baby Boomer so dim in this land of rackets and swindles who thinks that he or she will escape the wrath of the Millennials rising? The developing story is so obvious that only an academic economist could fail to notice. Here’s how it will go: some months from now, as the financial unwind worsens, and the mirage of gainful employment shimmers away to nothing, and the technocrats of Europe meet nervously by some Swiss lakeside (and are seen glumly shaking their heads), and Romney and Obama try to out-do each other peddling miracle cures for the tanking national self-esteem – a dangerous meme will go forth across the internet, and this meme will say: Millennials, renounce your college loans and set yourselves free!
And then something truly marvelous will happen. They will at once disempower the swindling generation of their fathers, teachers, loan officers, and overlords and quite possibly bring on, at long last, the epochal collision of pervasive American control fraud with the hard hand of reality.
I think this will happen, and I would venture even to set the meme loose here and now and watch it go viral. The college loan racket has been an even more cynical enterprise than the mortgage racket was because so many people who ought to have known better, people of supposed intelligence such as college deans, cabinet secretaries, and think-tank Yodas, all colluded to support the false promise that the gigantic cargo cult of higher ed would keep churning out fresh careers forever — when the truth was that the entire groaning vessel of hopes and dreams was already under water and sinking into the eternal darkness.
And is there a Millennial so dim who believes that the promised package of lifetime goodies once called “a job with benefits” waits like a liveried servant to conduct them without friction through the ceremonies of career and family according to premises and promises of an obsolete American Dream? Dreams do die hard. As dreams go it was a pretty good one while it lasted, but like all dreams, it has vanished in the mists of a new morning leaving the dreamers half-sick, anxious, and drained. They have nothing to lose but their fears of the re-po man and the simulated dudgeon of telephone robot debt-collectors.
This idea should catch on as the election season heats up. Like the anti-war youth of August, 1968, burning their draft cards in the streets of Chicago, the Millennials should flock to Charlotte and Tampa this summer and fill the parking lots (there are no streets in these places) with the smoke of their burning loan contracts — and then proceed with the loud repudiation of party politics in its two current useless, lying, craven, feckless factions. The effrontery of these rogues, promising a hundred years of shale gas, and jobs, jobs, jobs, and a personal relationship with Jesus! Send them packing into the bowels of history, then go home and make it work locally, where it will have to happen in any case because the arc of events has a velocity of its own now and that is our certain destination.
The colleges themselves will, of course, implode shortly, along with everything else currently organized on the super-gigantic scale. They are no more prepared for what is about to happen to them than the chiselers in government, banking, medicine, and global corporate enterprise. We will wonder in retrospect how they ever managed to winkle 50-grand a year for their absurd promises, and how we permitted young people with undeveloped powers of judgment to sign their financial lives away on terms even more stringent than their parents’ mortgages. When the universities do go down, tossing their employees overboard in the process, it will be interesting to see the former faculty chairpersons and distinguished professors of econometric modeling learn how to plant kale and care for chickens side-by-side with their formerly-indentured students. I can imagine a period of turmoil in America even harsher than, say, the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s in China where officials, professors, and authorities of all kinds were paraded through the angry mobs wearing dunce caps. Weird things happen in history.
The college loan money will not be paid back anyway, so Millennial youth ought to seize the golden opportunity to make the deliberate point that the years of swindling are officially over now. This strange jubilee could, and should, change everything.