"Sixteen Tons": the student debt edition

When I was a kid, we used to sing Merle Travis's Sixteen Tons in the car on long trips: it's a poetic masterpiece, capturing the clash between a worker's proud and indomitable spirit and his impossible, inescapable poverty trap (chances are you've heard Tennessee Ernie Ford or Johnny Cash perform it).

The plight of the worker indebted to a company store analogizes regrettably well to the current student debt crisis: to get paid, you have to incur debt, but the debt is titrated so that it always exceeds your wage, so that you have to work as hard as you possibly can just to keep from sinking. And since student debt is the only debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy and the only debt that can be charged against your Social Security, it will literally haunt you until the day you die — and then come back to make claims against your estate.

So Steven Brust (previously) and Mark Hall's student-debt remix of the lyrics, "Sixteen Credits," is particularly apt, in a ha-ha-only-serious way.

Some people say a man is made out of gore
Well a student is just a credit score
A credit score and a mind that's spry
A future that's bleak, a bank account that's dry

You take sixteen credits and what do you get?
Close to your degree and deeper in debt
St. Peter don't you call me cuz I must stay
I owe my soul to Sallie Mae

Enrolled one morning, it was drizlin rain
"Get a degree" was the school's refrain
Should I study English, or should it be Math?
Decades of debt was the only path.

You take sixteen credits….

Sixteen Credits [Steven Brust and Mark Hall/Dreamcafe]