Forgiving $ 50,000 in student loans is a bad idea for Biden and America
Some prominent Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren, are put pressure on President Joe Biden to write off up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt by issuing an executive order. It’s a bad idea on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start.
It shouldn’t be controversial to insist that US citizens 18 or older are adults responsible for what they bought when they signed up, as “Glengarry Glen Ross” puts it., “on the dotted line. »Taking a loan that you don’t understand is not a fraud, no matter how much you might wish it was, and there is no compelling reason to make that debt go away with a biden pen stroke.
But the debate over loan forgiveness is now driven by emotion rather than reason. For his supporters, it is a humanitarian act to help people who apparently have been tricked into taking out loans to go to college and whom only miserable cronies would reject. To opponents, it’s another example of decadent Americans wanting taxpayer bailouts for their personal choices, a gift from the liberal boomer to their own grandchildren no one will ever see again.
Forgiving student loans is bad policy
I realize this all sounds like a passionate call for young people to get off my lawn, but I’m not a Baby Boomer, Millennial or Gen Xer. My small group of the population born between 1958 and 1964 was too young for Buffalo Springfield and too old for Nirvana. I come from a working class family, the first to go to college, and have spent years repaying student loans that in the late 1970s were issued at inflation rates of almost 14%. I understand the impulse to take this financial grindstone and make it all disappear.
These are all powerful talking points, but perhaps not in the way Democrats might hope.
So let’s talk instead about whether loan forgiveness is good policy at a time when the Democratic Party is resisting an infallible margin against the authoritarian political movement known as the modern Republican Party. There are three reasons the loan forgiveness plan is primarily hurting Democrats in the short term. These are cynical and unpleasant questions to discuss, but they will not go away within the next two election cycles.
First, Republicans will present this as a costly giveaway that shows how much Democrats care about college graduates and not at all about workers – and for once, their class war rhetoric won’t be entirely wrong. The beneficiaries will be a select group of Americans.
Indeed, Republicans never miss a turn. They will pick up examples of atypical Americans such as those described recently in a New York magazine article it was, to put it mildly, unnecessary for the sake of forgiveness. It starred a 40-year-old man who admits being transferred to an expensive school to study film production, a 20-year-old whose remaining debt of $ 9,800 is preventing his elective breast reduction surgery, and a gay couple – both full-time professionals with graduate degrees – who feel they don’t have enough money to adopt a baby. (I am familiar with these costs; I am an adoptive father.)
If this is the compassion and social justice argument, these examples will not resonate with the non-academic working class who already feel squeezed by other debts for which no magic relief is available, like medical bills. and housing.
Democrats could counter the fact that minority students, not middle-class whites, would disproportionately benefit because they are more likely to carry student debt as a group. But most of the beneficiaries overall, they would be whites with a college education, and at $ 50,000 a pop, these are the students who have made some pretty expensive choices. (The first cycle middle leaves college with over $ 30,000 in debt.)
To his credit, Biden seems to understand this problem, and he has said explicitly that he cannot support a plan that ends up being subsidize Ivy League training. Schumer and Warren nevertheless seem determined to enter directly into this political buzz.
Second, it is a bad idea (in politics and military strategy) to pay twice for the same victories. If the goal is to expand the Democratic coalition, reward a group that already leaning towards the Democratic Party – university educated voters – while shrugging off those who have failed serious illnesses and other inevitable problems is not the right way to go.
It is one thing to consolidate the base; it’s another to alienate winnable voters by doing so.
Third, the insistence that this be done by decree – a habit that both sides must break – without any significant legislative reform around the education debt (which could include reforming bankruptcy laws, abolishing bankruptcy laws). interests or even, perish thought, making colleges partly responsible for a situation they helped create) means there is no way to present this plan as anything other than a one-time voter buyout . Biden, wisely, prefer a legislative solution, but last week White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the administration was examining the extent of legal authority On the question.
Joe Biden should hold on
Democrats should not underestimate how an executive order debt elimination will create resentment all over the place – among those who did not go to college and have crippling debts of other kinds, among those who went there but made the choice not to go into serious debt. , among those who went to pay their debts, and perhaps most worrying, among future voters who will never get the same deal.
Unless the plan is to engage in cyclical student debt bailouts, future generations will continue to fight while they must hear about the Golden Day of Atonement, which has been granted to Democrats in Canada. the middle class then disappeared into the mists of history. – and Republicans will make sure today’s students remember it that way years from now.
Reform is what we need: I took out student loans with my eyes wide open, but too many degrees aren’t worth the debt
College is too expensive for many reasons, but waving a benevolent hand and simply forgiving debt will create social antagonism, undermine the fundamental virtue of paying off debt, and perhaps most importantly, in the short term, will hurt capacity. of the Democratic Party to defend control. government of utterly false republicans.
With all the problems facing the United States in 2021, is the student loan forgiveness worth the political capital Democrats are going to have to spend to get it? Biden doesn’t seem to think so, and he should stand firm.