In the News

According to Abramsky, among the most enthusiastic supporters of the measure are conservatives.

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To hear the political advocates talk about it, you'd think the economy had a sadistic grudge against twenty-somethings, torturing them with spiking college prices, burning housing markets, and crushing health care costs.

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By 2001, the median consumer debt for households under 35 had tripled to $12,000, according to Tamara Draut, author of "Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead."

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"Americans are cutting corners to get ahead financially and professionally. That plays out most dramatically when the stakes are highest and the competition is at its most fierce," he said.

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In the cultural arena, the results were supposed to be an unhealthy concentration of sales among a small and increasingly sensationalistic class of blockbusters. "The forces that give rise to winner-take-all markets have been growing stronger and will continue to do so," the authors wrote. "In all likelihood they will accelerate."

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According to Draut's book, the average 25-to-34-year-old spends nearly 25 cents of every income dollar on debt payments more than double what people the same age spent in 1989.

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"Decades ago, you had to be creditworthy to get a card," says Cunningham. "Now, credit offers are everywhere-and it's because the industry knows that, as consumers, we will likely charge more than we can pay, and they'll benefit by raising our interest."

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Credit-card companies spend a lot of time enticing students to sign up for a card because they are lucrative customers.

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Draut is one of the experts who claims the problem has reached "epidemic" proportions - yet the issue continues to worsen as more and more graduates and young people find themselves drowning in debt.

As more and more young people get in too deep, students, parents, educators and lawmakers are proposing solutions. The seeds of a grassroots activist movement against debt are being sown. But is it too little, too late?

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"The money-celebrity culture has changed peoples' values and elevated ends over means," Callahan said. "You have a natural human impulse to (gain an unfair advantage) filtered through changing incentives and societal values, which I suggest creates more cheating. It's a self-fulfilling dynamic. People think they need to cheat just to compete on an even field."

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