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Activist #MMT - podcast

May 1, 2022

Welcome to episode 119 of Activist #MMT. Today's the first in what I hope to be at least a modest series of student debt horror stories. This first story is with New Jersey high school technology teacher, Dalton. Dalton was the first in his family to attend a four-year college. He minimized his costs by attending an in-state school, living off campus, and working multiple jobs while talking classes.

(A list of the audio chapters in this episode can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Dalton graduated in 2015 with a bachelor's degree and $47,000 in debt. In the seven years since, he's paid back $36,000, but his loan principal has only been reduced by half of that amount: $18,000. His interest rate is currently above 5%.

Interviewing a teacher regarding the topic of student debt has been particularly illuminating. A teacher is educated, and they spread that education to their students, who then go out into the world and help businesses produce more, and more efficiently. You would think this has resulted in many times more in profit and wealth than $47,000, for someone. Why then, would you burden their teacher with a debt, when he's clearly produced many times more than that in value for the economy – in other words, society, or us!

Even if we pretend it truly is necessary for students to pay for their own education, it still makes no sense to put a crushing burden on someone who clearly generates many times more than that overall.

More than 90% of all student loans are owned by the US Department of Education. The US Department of Education is fully funded by the one institution that can only pay for things by creating more money. Our public money – not taxpayer money, our public money – can indeed pay for all of it, a reality that makes the burden of student debt particularly egregious. Whatever benefit the lenders get from doing this, it's got nothing to do with a measly $47,000 – it's also got nothing to do with money.

If you like what you hear, then I hope you might consider becoming a monthly patron of Activist #MMT. Patrons have exclusive access to several full-length episodes (including parts two and three with Brian), right now. A full list is here, each with a brief highlight. Patrons also get the opportunity to ask my academic guests questions, such as my recent episode with Warren Mosler. They also support the development of my large and growing collection of learn MMT resources. To become a patron, you can start by going to Every little bit helps a little bit, and it all adds up to a lot. Thanks.

And now, onto my conversation with Dalton. Enjoy.

Audio chapters

  • 4:22 - Booker the dog
  • 5:07 - Sunshine by Johnathan Edwards (with a little performance by me!)
  • 7:38 - Dalton introduces himself
  • 8:43 - First impressions of MMT
  • 10:28 - The real reason for not having universal healthcare (and having student debt)
  • 12:57 - Deciding to go to college, and how to pay for it
  • 15:37 - Steadily increasing, but fixed interest rates
  • 18:16 - First in family to attend four-year college
  • 19:23 - What if you had no student debt? Purchasing a home.
  • 21:57 - Student debt is unfortunate but necessary. School must have a cost.
  • 23:18 - Looking back, now knowing MMT (paid back double)
  • 25:31 - A teacher creates productivity worth way more than the cost of their education
  • 28:09 - Permanent caste system
  • 30:19 - Goodbyes
  • 33:28 - Duplicate of introduction, but with no background music