Bob Hildreth has a howler of a piece at the Huffington Post about the amount of student debt professional degree holders graduate with. Generally, when folks talk about student debt, they stay away from talking about medical school, law school, and business school. Those professions are way more lucrative than almost anything else, and so it is hard to really gin up support for the idea that these folks are really getting squeezed. But not Hildreth. He actually goes to bat for the richest among us, and the result is hysterically funny.
The very first sentence sends a knowing reader into a fit of knee-slapping amusement: “Becoming a doctor, lawyer or business person have long served as paths out of poverty, as well as symbols for many of the American Dream.” That last part about the American Dream might be true, but that first part is a joke. This is the sort of fictional story we tell ourselves and make our movies about, but if you think getting a 4-year undergraduate degree and then a 2 to 4 year professional degree is a typical path for an impoverished kid, you have no business running an organization called “Families United in Educational Leadership.”
Hildreth continues: “Professional salaries are under attack.” The horror! Whatever will we do when doctors, lawyers, and business people take salary cuts?! And more: “the current long-term glut of lawyers is suppressing wages and decreasing the likelihood of employment in their chosen field.” A booming supply of lawyers is leading to competition that reduces their six-figure incomes? That sounds terrible! What kind of society is it that doesn’t pay its unproductive parasites handsome salaries? Not one I want to live in.
Hildreth keeps on coming: “And, impacting MBAs, banks have shed their highly-paid traders and corporate finance officers.” Understand when you read this sentence that Hildredth is upset at this. He sees traders and finance officers getting terminated, and it causes him to weep instead of giggle with joy. It causes him to think that those MBA recipients are really not getting a fair rub. They might have to settle for some sort of $50k/yr job instead of making $200k manipulating numbers on a computer screen.
The real kicker in the piece comes about midway through. Hildreth, apparently non-sarcastically, unleashes the following:
We used to take comfort in believing those who held our lives in their hands were sufficiently well-off — that they weren’t worrying about money problems when they should have been treating us. That’s not true anymore.
Then he produces a chart showing how much starting professionals make and how much their monthly debt payments would be if they opted for a 10-year repayment plan. Note here that this is the early repayment plan. There are 20-year repayment plans that would be cheaper. But let’s look at the 10-year repayment plan for doctors, those who do actually hold “our lives in their hands.” According to Hildreth, the starting salary for doctors is such that after their monthly debt payment, doctors net $5881/month, which amounts to $70,572/year. In Hildreth’s world, a starting salary that nets you $70k per year after debt payments is not “sufficiently well-off” to avoid “worrying about money problems.”
Hildreth goes even one step further towards sheer mouth-gaping absurdity and observes: “Even worse, many professionals meet their spouses in graduate school, leading to double debt.” Hildreth might be the first person in history to have concluded that two high-salaried professionals marrying one another makes their positions “even worse.” In the dystopian world where two medical students married each other, they’d somehow have to get by on a combined household income of $141k after making their debt payments. Doesn’t your heart just ache for that household? Don’t you read about their plight and want to get out into the streets and tear down tuition-based higher education altogether?
Hildreth’s piece is the most out-of-touch thing I think I have ever read in the massive literature that is student debt complaining. It is without a doubt the paradigmatic example of what not to do if you want people to take serious the issue of student indebtedness.