New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Debt of Gratitude

February 22, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Randall Amster

Less Earning, More Learning

by Randall Amster

I’d like to share a story, a personal story, a common story, an American story. For nearly two decades, I have carried the burden of a crushing student loan debt, well over six figures and impossible for me to fathom paying off in this lifetime. While I have written before about debt in a more generalized sense — advocating for a “Jubilee” as the ultimate stimulus and a chance for all of us to start anew — I’ve never connected it publicly to my own plight. The reasons are complex, but have to do with fear, fear of vulnerability, fear of judgment. I suspect that many people burdened by debt feel similarly and are often constrained to bear the pressures silently.

My story is relatively straightforward. I attended a private college (majoring in physics and astronomy, which did not yield any obvious career potential for me) and then a private law school. After clerking for a federal judge for a year, I was hired in the fall of 1992 to work at a large corporate law firm in mid-town Manhattan, complete with the accoutrements of privilege and compensation. I seemingly “had it all,” at least on the outside, and any rumblings of discontent — after a lifetime of being a working-class person — seemed somehow ungrateful. (more…)