I know I’ve covered this multiple times, but we need to cover it again. Today, President Biden is expected to announce a plan to “cancel” up to $10,000 in federal student debt for those earning under $125K.
Friends, debt isn’t just "canceled." Whether it’s the federal government or a private lender, you don’t just erase loans off the books. What’s really happening here is the responsibility to pay back that money is being shifted from the people who borrowed it to you, the taxpayers.
Stated differently, those who borrowed money from the federal government and spent it on an education which they received, their responsibility to pay back a large chuck of their loan is now being transferred to you, the taxpayer.
It’s not fair. It’s not ethical. It’s probably not legal. And it's certainly going to make inflation even worse. But that’s not stopping this President from trying to do it. In fact, many liberals are saying $10,000 is not enough, and that he ought to “cancel” all federal student debt.
Every reason people cite to support this effort is quickly destroyed with logic. Let’s review a few of these:
REASON 1: “Most colleges are too expensive.”
Agreed, but that is not a compelling reason why the federal government should take money from the majority of Americans who don’t pursue a college degree to pay for those who do!
To the extent lawmakers have a role here, it’s to address the NUMEROUS underlying issues that have caused tuition to rise faster than inflation. (Well, at least faster than inflation prior to Biden taking office.) The role of government is NOT to saddle people with someone else’s individual debts!
REASON 2: “Public K-12 education is ‘free’, so college should be as well.”
By that logic, all post-secondary education should be publicly funded, including grad school, law school, trade school, med school, PhD programs, etc. Where do you draw the line?
K-12 provides important knowledge and fundamental skills needed to be a productive member of our society. Everyone can benefit from a K-12 education, as does our nation as a whole. (Which is why it’s compulsory and publicly funded.) The same absolutely CANNOT be said for college.
REASON 3: “A college education helps people get better paying jobs, so the federal government should incentivize that.”
Really?! It’s true that government incentivizes people to pursue certain career paths when it benefits our general welfare (e.g. teachers and healthcare providers in rural areas). But when did it become the federal government’s role to incentivize career choices based on someone’s projected income? That’s not a valid reason.
REASON 4: “Canceling student loan debt will help stimulate the economy.”
First of all, we’re already in an inflationary spiral, which means additional federal stimulus is a foolish idea. But setting that aside, why not use taxpayer dollars to pay off everyone’s car payment? Or mortgage? Or credit card balance? Wouldn’t that also help stimulate the economy?
Two issues here: (1) offloading student loans to the taxpayers would actually be one of the LEAST effective ways to stimulate our economy, as numerous studies have pointed out. And (2) not everyone has the same debts. So government paying off student loans would inequitably benefit people with those debts, leaving everyone else out to dry. That’s not a moral use of taxpayer dollars.
REASON 5: “It will help lower income people.”
Okay, but remember it would help higher income people disproportionally more. The University of Chicago released an exhaustive report on this very issue, illustrating how student loan forgiveness would benefit the top 10% of income earners just as much as it would the bottom 30% COMBINED. This is highly regressive.
Many people are rightly questioning the value of a college education these days. For those who decide college is in their best interest, it’s important that tuition be fair and affordable. Making that happen requires a multi-pronged approach, and state governments have a leading role to play.
But putting you on the hook to cover someone else’s student loans is NOT a reasonable part of that solution.