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57-year-old student-loan deadbeat Lee Siegel pretends to be a cash-strapped millennial

June 8, 2015

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Siegel :Working for a living is beneath me

When I read the title of the New York Times opinion essay--“Why I Defaulted on My Student Loans”–I expected to read the usual sad saga of the naive 23-year-old who got talked into majoring in White Privilege Studies at his $60,000-a-year liberal arts college and then found that the only job he could qualify for was delivering pizza for tips:

“There would be a national shaming of colleges and universities for charging soaring tuition rates that are reaching lunatic levels. The rapacity of American colleges and universities is turning social mobility, the keystone of American freedom, into a commodified farce.”

Except that the author of the article, Lee Siegel, is actually 57years old. He’s not a pizza man on a bicycle, but, rather, as his tagline has it, “the author of five books.” And also, over the years, an editor for such prestige media as The New Republic and  Artnews. He’s written for the New Yorker, Harper’s, and the New York Review of Books.

His essay should more properly be titled “Why I Deadbeated on My Student Loans Because Working for a Living is Too Demeaning for a Snowflake Like Me” Here goes:

“Maybe the problem was that I had reached beyond my lower-middle-class origins and taken out loans to attend a small private college to begin with. Maybe I should have stayed at a store called The Wild Pair, where I once had a nice stable job selling shoes after dropping out of the state college because I thought I deserved better, and naïvely tried to turn myself into a professional reader and writer on my own, without a college degree. I’d probably be district manager by now.

“Or maybe, after going back to school, I should have gone into finance, or some other lucrative career. Self-disgust and lifelong unhappiness, destroying a precious young life — all this is a small price to pay for meeting your student loan obligations.”

Eeew, managing a shoe store! Or destroying his “precious young life” by working in finance!

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Let’s see–when Siegel was 17 (he was born in 1957), the year was 1974. This was long before rampant tuition inflation by administration-bloated colleges. In fact, the average undergraduate tuition and room-and-board costs for college back then was less than $4,000 a year. That would be about $20,000 a year in today’s dollars–but the dollar amounts of loans don’t rise with inflation, so Siegel probably owes, at most, about $16,000 for his entire college education. I don’t think $16,000, even with interest, would be hard to pay off for a famous writer like Lee Siegel.
Posted by Charlotte Allen

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