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What would happen if everyone just... didn’t pay? What would a default of $1.5 trillion USD held by a government against millions of its citizens look like? Presumably the administrative costs of hunting down that much money from so many sources would be prohibitive. I’d guess that an attempt to garnish the wages of half the country would end in rioting, so that wouldn’t work well.

> What would a default of $1.5 trillion USD held by a government against millions of its citizens look like?

It wouldn't be half the country first of all. It's a small minority of adults having problems paying their student loans (mostly those that were wildly reckless in their easy borrowing). The median student loan is a mere ~$13,000, against a median full-time wage of nearly $50,000.

If you took out $250,000 in student loans for a career path that pays $65,000 max per year, that's on you for being so financially foolish. It's not difficult to look around at cost effective alternatives to such a crazy student debt load.

You can easily go to extremely high quality in-state public universities at a modest cost. A four year degree in the US will get you a $60,000 salary on average right out of school. The typical person holding the median full-time job making $50,000, does not even have a four year degree. After five to seven years in the job market, your income is going to be $75,000 or more. You can do better than that in engineering fields. The unemployment rate with a four year degree, is typically about half the national U3 level, you practically can't not be employed.

Here's the fact of the matter: US wages are so extraordinarily high, a four year degree is a steal, just so long as you don't do something crazy like take on $200k in debt for a path that can never pay a good wage.

Go to an in-state public university, pay $10,000 to $15,000 per year net (a part-time job, as was very common in decades past, is still a good idea, along with seeking grants), get a job making $60,000 and work your income up to closer to $75,000 to $90,000 over time. That student debt becomes meaningless. It is not complex.

"too big to fail" comes to mind. I'm not sure what it would look like in this case though. Probably a bunch of hand-waving, (forceably) forgiven debts.

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