Think you can live long enough for the government to forgive your student loans? Think again. In fact, the government says it will never forget or forgive, and instead will take it out of your Social Security check, each month. We have Congress to thank for that.

As a result of legislation passed in 1996, people over the age of 65 can have their Social Security checks garnished to pay off student loans. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, there are over 700,000 seniors on Social Security who are still paying on these loans – and over a quarter of those loans are in default.  As a result, up to 15% of their Social Security checks are being garnished. It’s legal, as long as the remaining amount of the check is at least $750.

According to the GAO report, outstanding student loan debt among seniors was approximately $18.2 billion in 2013 – a 650% increase from 2005.

The whole concept of student loan debt slavery is an aberration as well as an obscenity. In virtually every other industrialized nation, a college education is either free, or can be had in exchange for a year or two of national service. In the United States, it has been reduced to a commodity and a profit center.

Of course, there are those self-righteous conservative jackasses who clear their throats and proclaim that “A debt is a debt and must be repaid!” Yeah? Tell that to AIG and Goldman-Sachs. Tell that to Donald Trump, who has bankrupted numerous companies during his “career” as a billionaire real estate magnate.

Wall Street got a free pass in 2008 with a big, taxpayer-funded bailout. It’s long past time to show college graduates the same consideration.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.