2012 is the year the student loan bubble finally popped. While on one hand the relentlessly rising total Federal student debt crossed $956 billion as of September 30, and was growing at a pace that will have put it over $1 trillion by the end of 2012, the one data point confirming the size, severity and ultimately bursting of this latest debt bubble was the disclosure in late November by the Fed that the percentage of 90+ day delinquent loans soared from under 9% to 11% in one quarter.
Which is why we were not surprised to learn that the Federal government has now delivered yet another bailout program: this time focusing not on banks, or homeowners who bought McMansions and decided to not pay their mortgage, but on those millions of Americans, aged 18 to 80, that are drowning in student debt - debt, incidentally, which has been used to pay for drugs, motorcycles, games, tattoos, not to mention countless iProducts. Which also means that since there is no free lunch, all that will happen is that even more Federal Debt will be tacked on to replace discharged student debt loans, up to the total $1 trillion which will promptly soar far higher as more Americans take advantage of this latest government handout. But when the US will already have $22 trillion in debt this time in four years, who really is counting? After all, "it is only fair" that the taxpayer funded "free for all" bonanza must go on. The latest debt bailout, not surprisingly is not titled "Yet another taxpayer funded bailout for those who bought things they can't afford on credit" as that would not be very politically prudent, especially for those politicians who still have taxpaying citizens as their voters. Instead, its name is the much more PC: "Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan." Alas, it really should be called the former, because what it does is it incentivizes Americans to borrow even more Federal student loans, well aware that there will now always be a cap on the associated monthly interest payment which will never leave a mark regardless what the full underlying loan notional is. It also provides for full debt discharge should the borrowers end up with cushy Federal jobs - because the one thing the US government needs afford is more debt-saddled government workers.