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$59,000 for Graduation??  Cool !!
Oh Wait—That's Not a Gift.
May, 2006

Millions of college and high school grads will walk off their campuses in the next few weeks and become what most of us already are: working Americans.

Most of those kids will have an inventory of graduation gifts to their credit—everything from new clothes and jewelry to new cars, perhaps even houses for a wealthy few. But they all get another gift that won't be so much fun. Most of them won't even know they receive it.

Every working American owes his or her share of the $8 trillion national debt. It just comes with the paycheck, because the cost of that debt is paid through taxes—directly through our federal income taxes, and indirectly through the higher prices we pay to corporations to cover the cost of their federal taxes. Today, the average working American's share of the national debt is nearly $59,000. So every new graduate must add that debt to the student loans and credit card debt he or she probably already has.

The reason most of the graduates won't know they've been burdened by this debt is that nobody is going to send them bills, or demand that they start making monthly payments. In fact, their senators and congresspeople will hide the debt from them, as they always have—by just ignoring it—while they spend more and more of our money on everything from wars to widgets—all the while failing to tax us enough to pay for the spending.

But, alongside the rest of us, those new grads will be paying for the debt, right out of their pockets, every day, every month, every year—possibly for the rest of their lives. This debt, just like the debt on credit cards, cars or houses carries an interest burden. And just as with all those voluntary forms of indebtedness, the interest is always paid—always first. The cost of that interest is now more than $200 per month for every working woman and man in the United States. More than $2500 per year. Every time we earn a dollar or spend one we pay some of the interest.

So, happy graduation, kids! Sorry about the really crummy present we all gave you. We just never seemed to be able to admit that we owed all that money, and we just kept ignoring it. Hope you'll handle it better than we have.


copyright © 2010, J. C. Adamson