Uncle Sam Wants You

Uncle Sam Wants You

Uncle Sam Wants You

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
April 2 2010 2:00 PM

Uncle Sam Wants You

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When did getting a job as a government bureaucrat become "public service"? The pernicious notion that there’s something morally superior to working for the government as opposed to working in the private sector-you know, the kind of jobs that actually pay the salaries of all those "public servants"-is enshrined insidiously in the new student loan reform act . The act rewards people for becoming taxpayer-supported employees and having the kind of job security and benefits most private-sector workers (shall we call them "private servants"?) can only dream about.

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I support the overall act, which itself is a government takeover of the college loan program. That program made lots of people rich for handing out government funded and guaranteed college education loans to students-just  the kind of distortion of the market that helped fuel our economic meltdown. But the members of Congress, I mean "public servants," who brought you the bill think so highly of working for the government that they created a provision whose perverse incentive is to make working for the government even more attractive.

Under the " Public Service Loan Forgiveness " program, people who keep up with their loan payments will have the remainder of their debt forgiven after 20 years, but those who go into "public service" will have the loans forgiven after 10 years. How does the bill define "public service"? Quite broadly. While the bill extends the break to most people working for nonprofits, anyone who works for any government entitity-federal, state, or local-is covered. Therefore an employee of the Commerce Department gets the break, but someone who starts a business doesn’t. A clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles gets the break, but someone who runs a car rental franchise doesn’t, etc. To which I say, "Give me a break."

Photograph of red tape by Stone/Getty Images.

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.