[NOTE: THIS ESSAY WAS WRITTEN IN LATE 2000, SO ANY INFO CONCERNING INTEREST RATES IS FROM THEN]
I always deeply suspected that America was an ass-backwards, hellbound place. When I graduated from college, I found out I was right.
When one graduates, one is expected to perform the following sequence of events:
Start paying off debts while simultaneously assuming new ones
I had some trouble getting the ball rolling on this sequence. I got a BS office job pretty quickly, but it took me almost 7 months of resumes and degrading interviews to get a job. Anyway, once I got one, I decided it would be nice to actually be able to get to work in the morning.
I walked into the car dealership. I felt the presence of The Man.
Long story made short, a bizarre alignment of the stars with the Saturnian moon Ganymede made a shiny, new 2000 Nissan Sentra affordable, at least for me. After much haggling with the car salesman (whom I am now convinced are the second-lowest form of life, above only insurance companies) and much resisting of their efforts to sell me "acid rain protection coating" and "extended tire tread warranty", I worked out an acceptable payment plan.
I was delighted to walk out of the dealership with 5.9% interest on my auto loan, the application for which was approved immediately. Furthermore, I got exactly what I wanted and was not tricked, duped, or hoodwinked into buying anything superfluous.
Ed 1, The Man 0.
On the way home, something struck me as odd. Just a few days before, I had unexpectedly received a letter informing me that the interest rate on my (sizeable) student loans had been arbitrarily increased to 8.2%. The more I thought about this, the more perturbed I became.
Auto loan from big, evil, nasty, bloodsucking corporation = 5.9%
Student loan from great, happy, liberal, wonderful government = 8.2%
As if this wasn't bad enough, I began to consider the process involved in securing these loans.
Auto Loan = walk into dealership, say "Gimme a fucking loan", wait 5 minutes for credit check, walk out with car.
Student Loan = Submit initial application in addition to your last 2 income tax returns, your parents' last 2 income tax returns, a summary of the value of your parents home and other property, wait 5 months, receive notice that you'll be loaned about 30% of what you asked for, wait in line at loan servicing center for 3+ hours to get check.
So the evil multinational is willing to loan me whatever amount of money I want in order to buy perishable consumer goods, yet my government gives me about half (if I'm lucky) of what I need to pay tuition (thereby forcing me to make up the rest) in order to get an education, and at a higher interest rate on top of it.
The higher interest rate is indicative of nothing more than the fact that Nissan Motor Acceptance has more faith in me than the United States Government.
America — may it always be easier to shop than learn there.