FreedomFest Forum

Big Brother Is Watching You: The Giant Conspiracy to Destroy Your Right to Privacy

“Three can keep a secret…if two are dead.” — Poor Richard’s Almanac

Last week, the entire high-tech sector fell out of bed after new reports revealed that private companies were selling– and politicians were buying– the personal information of 50 million Facebook users, prompting government regulation of social media.

However, the Facebook scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy know your every move, even when your cellphone is turned off. And now Amazon and Google have carried invasion to its zenith with the acquisitions of companies making smart doorbells, thermostats and other home security devices. As one analyst put it, “Now they can see your door and hear what’s going on in your house. They can tailor marketing to your consumption patterns. They can fine-tune delivery to catch you when you’re home. In theory they can even let themselves in.” Scary!

CNBC’s Rick Santelli, father of the Tea Party movement, told me this is a “biggie” and could derail the tech and social media industry for some time as government intervenes to start regulating Amazon, Facebook, Apple and other tech companies. Investors, beware!

Action to take: “Big Brother Surveillance Panel” has just been added to our “Emergency Summit” at FreedomFest. We will have a special session with top security and privacy experts: “CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? How Business, Government and Even Your Doctor are Monitoring You and Mining Your Data, and How You Can Once Again be a PRIVATE Citizen.” Join us at www.freedomfest.com.

Normally, we record all sessions at FreedomFest, but upon request of many of our speakers, we will turn off the tape recording so they can speak freely. You must be there in person to hear it all.

Why meet at FreedomFest? Steve Forbes says it best: FreedomFest is where the best ideas and strategies are fleshed out.” That’s exactly what we plan to do at this special meeting — determine the best strategies to protect ourselves from the unfolding privacy crisis.

 Mark Skousen is the founder and producer of FreedomFest and the editor-in-chief of Mark Skousen’s “Forecasts & Strategies,” now in its 38th year. He is a Presidential Fellow in economics at Chapman University. Go to www.freedomfest.com, or call toll-free 1-855-850-3733, ext. 202 to register.

Emergency Meeting at FreedomFest 2018 by Mark Skousen

Special Alert! We are suddenly headed down a dangerous road that could spell disaster for our country and your investments.

The turning point came almost overnight.

Based on my sources in Washington, the Trump administration is determined to engage in a confrontation with China and other trading nations that could undermine the whole global free-market economy, with grave political implications.

“It’s bad,” I was told yesterday by one of my confidantes in the White House. “The President is determined to double down on its fight with China, in an attempt to bring them to the bargaining table.”

Instead, it may ignite a “chain reaction” and a global trade war where everyone loses, including the United States. Higher prices, another recession, even war could be on the horizon….

I was told that Trump is still being unduly influenced by Peter Navarro, author of “Death by China,” and the most dangerous anti-trade protectionist in the White House since the Hoover days.

On top of that, yesterday Trump named John Bolton, a hawk who is known for taking a hard line against Russia and advocating military force against North Korea and Iran, as his national security advisor. This could mean war sometime in the near future.

In short, we are witnessing the dark side of the imperial Trump.

No wonder the DOW tanked 700 points yesterday, signaling what could be the end of the bull market on Wall Street.

The first year of the Trump Administration had mostly positive results, with much needed tax and regulatory relief for American businesses and workers. The stock market soared on the policy changes.

But 2018, an election year, is turning out to be an entirely different matter under this mercurial president.

President Trump is now reversing course and stubbornly refusing to back down.

It’s not only the prospect of a major trade war that has investors and citizens running scared. It’s his new Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, who is aggressively raising interest rates. Mortgage rates are now approaching 5%, the highest in years, threatening to cut off a growing real estate market.

At the same time, Trump and the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are pushing through a gigantic $1.3 trillion federal budget that is bankrupting the nation. In a period that economists regard as full employment, we should be running a surplus. Instead, the deficit is expected to exceed $1 trillion next year, ballooning our national debt to $22 trillion or more. With interest rates rising fast, this spells doom for our economic sanity.

In short, the Trump White House is in chaos, as reflected in the numerous firings and resignations – more than any other administration in recent history.

Emergency “Economic Summit” at FreedomFest

For these reasons, we have decided to hold an emergency “Global Economic Summit” at FreedomFest, July 11-14, at the Paris Convention Space, Paris Resort. All FreedomFest attendees will be invited to attend this special private meeting.

Normally we record all sessions at FreedomFest, but upon request of many of our speakers, we will turn off the tape recording so they can speak freely. You must be there in person to hear it all.

Here are the experts and insiders we have invited to present:

  • Steve Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, and a Trump insider who worked closely with Larry Kudlow, the new economic czar, to push through the Tax Cut and Job Act of 2017. Can Kudlow make a difference and keep Trump from blundering further? Moore has the answers.
  • Grover Norquist, president of the Americans for Tax Reform, whom CNN calls “the most powerful man in Washington.” Grover was instrumental in passing the tax cut.What are he and ATR doing to reverse the tide of big government? Grover will hold his famous by-invitation-only “Wednesday Meeting” on July 11 to give us an update on how we can be instrumental in winning this important fight.
  • George Will, political analyst for MSNBC, and former analyst for ABC and Fox News; Ross Douthat, conservative columnist for the New York Times; and Larry Elder, libertarian talk show host, will unmask the media’s powerful role in the growing crisis.
  • Steve Forbes and John Mackey, co-ambassadors of FreedomFest, will assess the trade war’s effect on business in North America, Asia, Europe, and other nations, along with former Carl’s Jr CEO Andy Puzder.
  • Rich Lowry, editor-in-chief of National Review, and political columnists John Fund and Deneen Borelli will assess the impact of the Trump agenda on the 2018 elections.
  • Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News legal analyst, will cover the growing legal debates inside the White House: Will they derail the Trump agenda?
  • Roberto Salinas, president of the Mexican Business Forum, on the anti-Trump backlash in Latin America that is fomenting political and military unrest south of the border; and Barbara Kolm, president of the Austrian Economics Center, will report on the European reaction to Trump’s trade war and the “America First” policy.
  • Jim Rogers, Doug Casey, Keith Fitz-Gerald, Peter Schiff, Robert Kiyosaki, Alex Green, and a host of other financial experts will prepare you for the impact of the new Trump and Federal Reserve policies on your investments. FreedomFest is the only liberty conference with a full three-day investment seminar inside it. Why? Because financial freedom is essential to personal freedom. We want you to have both.

Why FreedomFest? Steve Forbes says it best: FreedomFest is where the best ideas and strategies are fleshed out.” That’s exactly what we plan to do at this special meeting – determine the best strategies to protect ourselves and our money from the unfolding Trump crisis.

Don’t miss your chance at a seat at this special emergency meeting. Registered Yet? Click here or call 855-850-3733 ext 202 and let our friendly staff help you secure your spot. (Early bird ends March 31, save $200 now.)

Why I Won’t Be Watching the Oscars

I used to love the glitz of Oscar night. I saw all the movies, reviewed them for Liberty, rooted for my favorites, and predicted the winners. I looked forward to Billy Crystal’s opening monologue, the mash-up of Best Picture nominees, the performances of the nominees for Best Songs, Barbara Walters’ pre-show interviews, the schmaltzy in…

Shaming the Blame Game by Jo Ann Skousen

The following post showed up in my Facebook feed the morning after the federal government was shut down. (Again.) It was posted by a young woman whose intelligence and compassion I admire, but whose wisdom and logic are sometimes lacking:

Our “Family Values” President pays off Porn stars he slept with while his 3rd wife was pregnant and Republican controlled Congress shut itself down. I just can’t handle all this winning.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico still has no power.

Her post is typical of the 21st century grasp on politics and public policy: Someone is to blame, and it isn’t my team. So let me muddy the waters with some non-sequiturs and ad hominem attacks. Because the other side is always wrong, no matter what they do, no matter which team I’m on. Here’s how I responded:

I don’t think he’s ever been a “family values” president (whatever that means) and it was primarily the Democrats who blocked the vote to extend the budget. But other than that….”

What followed was a flurry of comments defending Democrats and blaming Republicans, ending with “Republicans don’t want a deal, they want to blame the other side, same as always.” I found this hilarious, since the post began with my friend blaming the Republicans for everything from infidelity (a bi-partisan issue if ever there was one) to shutting down the government (when 90% of Republicans voted to extend) to the hurricane in Puerto Rico.

I laughed at the irony of how circular and disingenuous a blame game becomes—beginning with my friend implying that people who value marriage and good parenting and integrity would support Trump’s infidelity.

But the federal budget is no laughing matter. Here’s what we could do, instead of looking for someone to blame for this temporary shutdown of the federal government (which has been done many times before, and has always ended in Congress voting to award back pay to those who were temporarily furloughed):

The Real Issues

How about we address the real issue? How about we stop raising the debt ceiling and kicking the can trillions of miles down the road? How about we reduce government spending and live within our means?

If we want to do some blaming, how about we blame business for an economy where two million fewer people are getting food stamps this year than last year, because they’re working now–and paying taxes! Win win for the budget (and I kind of have to share the blame with the Republicans this year, truth be told).

How about we get out of the Middle East and stop dropping expensive bombs on dusty villages? That could reduce the budget by billions and keep a few national parks open. Heck, how about we privatize those national parks?

How about we stop incarcerating people for smoking or selling pot? That could save $70,000 a year per inmate, plus the cost of a lifetime of welfare when they get out because no one wants to hire them, plus the cost of enforcing the war on drugs.

How about we consider an across-the-board spending cut in every federal department? That would motivate bureaucrats to look for places where they’re wasting money, instead of looking for places to “use it or lose it.” That’s what families have to do when they earn less than they want to spend. Balancing the budget is a true “family value” that I could support.

I didn’t vote for Trump (although I was glad Hillary lost). I’m not  defending any politicians here. I just want the blaming and divisive team politics to end. Let’s look for genuine solutions to problems, instead of looking for someone to blame.

Jo Ann Skousen is founding director of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival and co-producer of FreedomFest, “the world’s largest gathering of free minds,” which meets July 11-14, 2018, in Las Vegas. For information go to www.freedomfest.com or call 1855-850-3733 ext 202.

The Sneaky, Dirty, Truth about Those State and Local Taxes

New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney complained to Neil Cavuto in a recent interview that “this new [federal] tax bill is going to hurt New Jersey in a big way.” Acknowledging that “one percent of New Jersey residents pay 42% of the taxes,” he warned, “We have to push the pause button on the millionaires tax” to keep millionaire residents from fleeing the state—and taking their wealth with them. He was referring specifically to the elimination of state and local taxes as a deduction from federal income taxes.

It’s about time they figured this out, because the jig is up.

The sneaky, dirty little truth about the deductibility of state and local taxes is this: High-taxing, high-spending states such as New Jersey, Minnesota, Oregon, New York, and California have been fleecing taxpayers in other states for years. How? By taking the federal taxes paid by Nevadans, Texans, Floridians, etc., and using it to refund their own state and local taxes. They could get away with their high tax rates (as high as 13%!) in part because taxes were deductible. In essence, federal taxes have been funneled into the state and local coffers of high-tax states for years.

Let’s look at a simplified, hypothetical example. Let’s suppose Floridian John Smith has an income of $2,000,000 and is in the 39% federal tax bracket, with an effective rate of about 34%. (We’re talking about the 1% here, the ones who pay 42% of the taxes, according to Sweeney.) He owes the IRS about $672,000.  (Ugh! That’s a huge amount of money!) His cousin, Jane Doe, lives in California and earns exactly the same amount of money. But she pays 13.3% income tax to California, and the real estate taxes on her modest $7 million California home are $25,000 higher than John’s property taxes. Until now, she has been able to deduct those state and local taxes from her net income, reducing her taxable income to $1,709,000. Her bill to the IRS is $615,000, or $57,000 less than John’s. In essence, taxpayers in low-tax-rate states have been carrying the big spenders in the high-tax states for way too long.

For Steve Sweeney, Jerry Brown, and legislators in other high-tax states, the game is over. New Jersey’s newly elected Governor Phil Murphy campaigned heavily to reinstate the “millionaires’ surtax” imposed on the wealthiest citizens—a tax that former Governor Chris Christie had lifted. Now Senate President Sweeney is aghast to realize that the Golden Geese can move to friendlier waters if too many of their eggs are going to be confiscated. “We can’t afford to lose thousands of people who make up a large piece of our tax base,” he admitted to Cavuto. “We have to rethink this millionaire’s tax, because they can leave.”

What a novel realization—people have choices! They can move! They can take their money with them! The besmirched 1% are finally being recognized as valuable. They run businesses, hire employees, buy homes, and pay taxes. Lots of taxes. Even Jerry Brown has suggested that California might have to rethink its budget and pull back on spending because of the new tax bill.

Most Americans are unhappy about losing the deductibility of state, local, and property taxes. At first glance, I was one of them. Why should we pay income taxes on the money we already paid in taxes? Is it “income” if you never even see it in your paycheck? But legislators of high-tax states have bilked the residents of more budget-conscious states long enough. Their sneaky, dirty little secret is out. Losing the deductibility of state and local taxes is putting pressure on legislators to be more frugal and use tax revenues more effectively. Until we can eliminate income taxes completely, that’s a step in the right direction.

Jo Ann Skousen is the founding director of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival and the co-producer of FreedomFest, “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” We’ll be talking about tax policy at FreedomFest this July at the Paris Resort, Las Vegas. For information go to www.freedomfest.com or call 1855-850-3733 ext 202.

 

Knights in Black Satin?

It’s awards season again, that glittery time when Hollywood elites gather to praise each other’s work, comment on each other’s clothing, and make political statements we mere mortals in suburbia couldn’t possibly understand without the help of their stunning insights.

The circuit began with the Golden Globes on January 8 and will culminate in the awarding of the Oscars on March 4. At the Globes, all the gals showed up in sexy black evening gowns to show their solidarity with women who have been mistreated, abused, harassed, or misunderstood. It made me think of junior high: “What are you going to wear?” “I don’t know, what are you going to wear?” “Muffy Sinclair is wearing plaid overalls and knee socks.” “Ooh! Me too! Me too!” Suddenly the elite of the elite were controlling what all the women would wear to the Globes. And not one dared to be different.

Regardless of how I feel about their particular issue, I find it curiously troubling that these powerful women stood up for the power to speak out by controlling what other women were going to wear. Any woman who had chosen to express her own voice by wearing red or blue or white, no matter what the reason, would have been castigated by the press and by her peers. Just as women knew they had to play the Weinstein game if they wanted a role in Hollywood, they knew they had to wear a black dress if they wanted to fit in. Nothing has changed in Hollywood. You either toe the party line or move into another career.

Let’s face it: many of these seasoned women in their glitzy black dresses had to have known all about the Hollywood casting couches long before Harvey Weinstein’s shame became public. They endured it to get ahead, and then kept quiet about it when other women had to endure it. Sorority hazing at its worst. Not until it became public and, might I say, fashionable, did they join in with their #MeToo stories. Until then, they dared not risk the careers– for which they had paid dearly– by speaking out against Weinstein and his ilk. In fact, they embraced him. They played the game. Even after they were rich enough and famous enough and awarded enough that they didn’t need to. Now, to assuage their guilt and cover their shame, they’re shouting the loudest and pointing the longest fingers. And pressuring other women to play along, like it or not. It’s okay to point a finger at the men, but don’t dare include the powerful women who helped them get away with it.

We’ll all hide together in our black dresses.

Jo Ann Skousen is the founding director of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival, where she wears brightly colored dresses while screening great movies. The film festival is included in your ticket to FreedomFest, “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” For information about submitting your film or attending the festivals, go to www.anthemfilmfestival.com

“Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used to Be”

A few weeks back I was hunched over breakfast of french toast and eggs at the counter of a genuine Fifties-era diner in my hometown in rural northern California when a fellow sitting a couple of stools away started to wax nostalgic about the “good old days.” To him that meant the late Fifties, the supposed “golden age” when Lim’s Cafe, the restaurant where we were sitting, had opened in Redding on a commercial strip of state highway known as the “Miracle Mile.”

“I’d go back there in a minute,” he said.

Really? I thought. I was a carefree five-year-old in 1957 (the fellow at the other stool looked to be a bit younger than I) but even then I think I knew that Fifties America wasn’t some sort of utopia.

I didn’t have to resort to the smart phone in my pocket to come up with a bunch reasons why my dining companion was mistaken.

The Cold War and the Red Scare. Segregation. The “vast wasteland” of “lowest common denominator” network television that gave us the “Beverly Hillbillies,” America’s No. 1 show for many years running. Life before the Pill and safe, legal abortions. Polio. The world before angiograms and heart bypass surgery. Back when women were pigeon-holed into teaching and nursing careers and when being gay condemned one to a life of fear and shame.

But I knew where my counter mate was coming from. A few minutes earlier he’d been discussing with the waitress and another patron the local crime problem (mostly petty theft by drug addicts) and remembering “the good old days” when people hereabouts could leave their cars and homes unlocked.

Still, I couldn’t imagine giving up the world we have today—with all its options, personal freedoms, mobility, and miracles of medicine and technology—for a “simpler” bygone time, just for a false sense of security.

The conversation in the diner that morning reminded me of one of my favorite books, the 1974 classic by Otto Bettmann: The Good Old Days—They Were Terrible!

If you don’t know it, buy it, read it and pass it on.

Born in Leipzig, Germany, to Jewish parents, Bettmann fled Nazism in the mid-Thirties, and arrived in New York with two trunk-loads of photographs, engravings, line drawings and other material that became the core of the lucrative Bettman Archive, a go-to resource for publishers for decades.

In The Good Old Days—They Were Terrible! Bettmann, known as the “Picture Man,” used some of his vast archival material to debunk the nostalgia for life in America between the end of the Civil War and the early 1900s.

In the brief introduction he wrote: “I have always felt that our times have overrated and unduly overplayed the fun aspect of the past. What we have forgotten are the hunger of the unemployed, crime, corruption, the despair of the aged, the insane and the crippled.”

The past we nostalgically pine for, he argued, wasn’t “spared the problems we consider horrendously our own, such as pollution, addiction, urban blight or educational turmoil.”

The 207-page volume is organized into 11 chapters—from “Air,” “Traffic” and “Housing” to “Work,” “Crime,” “Food and Drink,” “Health” and “Travel.”

Before the advent of the automobile, horses—three million by one estimate at the start of the 20th century—befouled our streets, “attracting swarms of flies and radiating a powerful stench.”

Manure and garbage dumped on the sidewalks of our fast-growing cities rotted to a slimy mess that smelled “like bad eggs dissolved in ammonia.”

Industrial pollution in places like Pittsburgh killed trees, grass and flowers.

Poorly constructed housing and commercial buildings became firetraps for residents and workers.

In city slums children “slept under doorways…gravitated to prostitution and crime.”

Life wasn’t much better in rural America, Bettmann writes. Women faced endless drudgery. The “young country wife…soon acquired the calloused hands, stooped back and careworn features that marked her station.”

Workplace accidents were tragically common and child laborers toiled for “$1.50 to $2.50 a week.”

Poorly-lit streets favored the criminal element. In Chicago, “muggings were commonplace, even in daylight.”

Corruption and graft, from policemen to politicians, were widespread. Citizens sometimes took matters into their own hands. The “lynching epidemic” of the late 19th century was “perhaps the darkest stain on the history of the United States,” Bettmann writes.

Before improved transportation and refrigeration, fresh produce, fruit and meat were at a premium, even for the well-off. In 1872, Harper’s Weekly “complained that in markets throughout New York there were cartloads of decayed fruit such as bruised oranges and rotten bananas ‘to partake of which was almost certain death.’”

Milk and butter and other foods, including candy, were routinely adulterated.

Doctors, Bettmann writes, “were mocked as ‘inveterate prescribers’ feeding medicines of which they knew little into bodies of which they knew less.”

(In my hometown, circa 1900, toxic vapors from copper smelters to the north and west denuded hills and killed fruit orchards dozens of miles away— and led to a pioneering class-action lawsuit and injunction. A lynch mob strung up two brothers charged in a stage hold-up and left their bodies hanging for passengers on the Central Pacific Railroad to see.)

By surveying the “not so good old days” Bettmann concludes: “we will find much to be grateful for. We are moving forward, if but slowly.”

In the years since Bettmann wrote The Good Old Days—They Were Terrible! the pace of progress has picked up dramatically. At the risk of sounding Panglossian I don’t think there’s been a better time to be alive than the present.

If I run into the fellow from the diner again I’ll give him a copy of Bettman’s book and gently admonish him that “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.”

In the meantime I gave a copy to my daughter, a sophomore at UCLA. Just in case she starts feeling nostalgic about the Nineties, her good old days.

Freelance writer Marc Beauchamp lives in far northern California. Among this former jobs he worked for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Kyodo News Service in Tokyo, Forbes magazine in Los Angeles and the Nasdaq Stock Market in Washington, D.C.

FreedomFestForum is a publication of FreedomFest, the “world’s largest gathering of free minds,” held at Paris Resort Las Vegas July 11-14,2018. For ticket information, go to www.freedomfest.com.

The Smartest Girls I Know

When I first met Deja and Zhane, they were living with their mother in a Section 8 housing unit in Yonkers, New York. Their mother was what most people would describe as a “typical welfare mom”—she got a job once in a while, although the risk of losing her benefits if the job didn’t work out made it difficult to get off welfare. But she was proud of those girls! They didn’t go out on school nights, studied hard, stayed away from boys and drugs, and won numerous school awards. When Zhane was offered the opportunity to attend a scholastic camp during the summer, her mother hustled to contact everyone she knew who might be willing to sponsor the girl with a donation of $20, $10, even $5 if they could spare it. I was one of the hustled. More than once. And I was happy to help.

I lost track of the girls when they stopped attending our church, but I ran into Deja recently at the grocery store in my middle-class neighborhood north of Yonkers, where she is working as a clerk and saving money for college. She also works at a Burger King in the evenings, but she enjoys her grocery job better. “I like the customers, and I feel like ‘somebody’ here,” she said. I asked about her sister, and we caught up.

Zhane is also working two jobs, trying to earn enough money to pay off the debts she accrued after one year of college. “She didn’t want to owe all that money,” Deja told me, “so she’s working to pay it off before she goes back to college.”

Smart girl.

According to statistics compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank and the Chronicle of Higher Education, an estimated 40 million Americans are currently saddled with outstanding student loans totaling over a trillion dollars. Many of them are well into middle age now, with little hope of ever paying off their debt. In fact, student loans are the only debt that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, and if the loans aren’t paid off by age 65, when Social Security kicks in, payments to Sallie Mae will be deducted off the top. So add student loans to the inevitability of death and taxes—and don’t plan to leave that fancy engagement ring to your heirs, because Sallie Mae will be first in line when your will is probated.

The average student debt is $30,000, but many students owe well over $100,000 when they graduate, and it isn’t unusual today for graduate students from Ivy League schools to amass debts totaling over a quarter million dollars. Unless you’re fortunate enough to land a six- or seven-figure job, those loans will never go away. Never.

Deja and Zhane might not be in college yet, but they know the difference between “aid” and “debt.” Other college students aren’t so wise. One of my own students, repeating a required English course for the third time, was rather flippant when I cautioned her that she was amassing a huge debt without making any progress toward graduation. “I don’t have to pay for it,” she said proudly. Thinking she meant that her parents or grandparents were footing her tuition bills, I reminded her that she should be more respectful of their money. “Oh no,” she crowed, “they don’t have to pay either. The school gave me financial aid!” This poor, foolish girl thought “aid” meant “help.” She had no idea that it really meant, “Let me hold the door for you as you step into a lifetime of debtors’ prison.”

At the university where I teach, I encourage my students to purchase their textbook, an anthology of classic literature, on Amazon. Cheap, used editions are seldom available at the college bookstore because the book is updated every three years, making the older editions conveniently obsolete. Half the time the new edition is the only option, and they can’t sell it back at the end of the semester because a new edition is usually about to come out. But I don’t care which edition they use. It’s classic literature, after all! Most of my students find the book online for $5 or so (one found it for a penny!), instead of paying $120 for the new edition at the bookstore. However, last semester I received an email from the dean: “Please encourage students to purchase their books at the college bookstore. Remind them that this is to their advantage, as they cannot use their financial aid if they purchase books online.” So let me get this straight: My students are better off borrowing $120 from Sallie Mae and paying 4-8% interest for the next 20 years than they would be if they simply skipped Starbucks for one day and bought the book online with cash? What kind of new math is that?

“Learn-now, pay-later” is one of the main reasons tuition has skyrocketed in the past two decades. When students can enroll without putting a penny down, they don’t give enough thought to how much it’s going to cost them later, and colleges can raise tuition almost indiscriminately. When our daughter began college at a private southern California university 15 years ago, she was awarded a scholarship that covered 50% of her tuition. We were delighted, and budgeted accordingly as we allowed her to select this expensive school. By the time she graduated four years later, however, the scholarship was only covering 25 % of her tuition, because tuition had doubled in those four years. How can anyone plan for college, when tuition is changing that drastically?

I fear for this generation whose future is being sold for a mess of pottage. Fully 60% of students accept some kind of loan for college, without ever considering the consequences. Most of them are mere teenagers when the university’s suave, educated, comforting grown-ups tell them to sign their lives away on the dotted line because “that’s the way everybody does it.” After all, it’s financial aid. The government is helping you get ahead. Aren’t you lucky.

I’m not suggesting that these loans should be forgiven. I don’t really have a solution for the 40 million Americans who are already hopelessly strapped with debts they knowingly contracted. I certainly don’t think free college is the answer. But something has to be done. Banks would not be awarding these astronomical, uncollateralized loans to unproven debtors if the government weren’t guaranteeing the loans by making them undischargeable through bankruptcy, and college tuitions wouldn’t be rising beyond the ability to pay if these loans weren’t creating artificial demand.

As I left the grocery store that day I congratulated Deja again on her wisdom in avoiding debt. By saving her own money for college, she is more likely to spend it carefully on a degree that truly interests her, and she’ll study more effectively because she won’t want to waste the money she has worked so hard to earn. She’ll live at home with her mother and sister instead of paying $1,000 a month for dorm life, and she plans to attend community college before transferring to a university, which will also help keep her costs down. She expects to have enough saved to pay for her first year of tuition by September. And she sleeps well, knowing that her savings account, not her loan balance, is growing. Smart girl.

Jo Ann Skousen teaches literature at two universities and is the co-producer of FreedomFest. Join us at the Paris Resort in Las Vegas in July when university presidents Dianele Struppa (Chapman) and Gabriel Calzada (UFM) will debate Doug Casey and Katherine Mangu-Ward (Reason) on the topic “Is College Worth It?” For tickets go to www.archive.freedomfest.com/register-now/ or call 855-850-3733 ext 202