by David Atkins
After all the happy Objectivist talk of the last week, it's time to step back into the real world:
It isn’t easy to stand up in an open courtroom and bear witness to the abject wretchedness of your financial situation, but by the time Doug Wallace Jr. was 31 years old, he didn’t have much left to lose by trying. I'm sure if all these people stopped drinking, smoking and socializing they'd all be millionaires today.
Diabetes had rendered him legally blind and unemployed just a few years after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University. He filed for bankruptcy protection and quickly got rid of thousands of dollars of medical and other debt.
But his $89,000 in student loans were another story. Federal bankruptcy law requires those who wish to erase that debt to prove that repaying it will cause an “undue hardship.” And one component of that test is often convincing a federal judge that there is a “certainty of hopelessness” to their financial lives for much of the repayment period.
“It’s like you’re not worth much in society,” Mr. Wallace said.
Nevertheless, Mr. Wallace made his case. And on Wednesday, nearly six years after he first filed for bankruptcy, he may finally get a signal as to whether his situation is sufficiently bleak to merit the cancellation of his loans.
The gantlet he has run so far is so forbidding that a large majority of bankrupt people do not attempt it. Yet for a small number of debtors like Mr. Wallace who persist, some academic research shows there may be a reasonable shot at shedding at least part of their debt. So they try...
No one keeps track of how many people bring undue hardship cases each year, but it appears to be under 1,000, far less than the number of people failing to make their student loan payments. In its most recent snapshot of student loan defaults, the Department of Education reported that among the more than 3.6 million borrowers who entered repayment from Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009, more than 320,000 had fallen behind in their payments by 360 days or more by the end of September 2010. About 10.3 million students and their parents borrowed money under the federal student loan program during the 2010-11 school year.
Let 'em eat cake. Mitt Romney's coming to town and he needs a tax cut while eliminating their aid. Or maybe Obama will stay in town, and Romney will pay a little more tip money in exchange for smaller cuts to their aid, in order to reduce the deficit caused by a struggling middle class at a time when borrowing money is incredibly cheap. After all, whom else are you going to vote for?
It's still a moral imperative to vote for the lesser evil. But it's not surprising if guys like Doug Wallace Jr. just stop voting entirely.