Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Possible topic for 29 August – Biden’s student loan forgiveness program

Another possible topic for this coming Monday is Biden’s recently announced student loan forgiveness program. You can read the White House’s fact sheet about that program here. There’s been some criticism of the program by (mostly) Republicans; some of that criticism is summarized here (from CNBC), here (Sen. John Thune on PBS NewsHour), and here (Yahoo!News). That criticism seems to boil down to five issues: (1) it will fuel inflation; (2) it favors wealthy borrowers who went to Ivy League colleges and are now earning a lot of money; (3) it’s unfair to those who didn’t go to college, or who went to college but didn’t incur debt to do so, and to those who’ve paid their student loan debt; (4) in America, everyone should pay their debts; and (5) it doesn’t address the underlying problem of the continuing rise in the cost of college.

Paul Krugman rebuts the inflation argument (no. 1) in a 25 August New York Times opinion piece. The argument that the program favors wealthy borrowers (no. 2) is inconsistent with the program’s income caps, although it could be argued that the income caps ($125,000/year for individuals, $250,000 for couples) should be lower. The argument that everyone should repay their debts (no. 4) made by Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and others has given the White House the opportunity to remind the public that those critics were happy to have their Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans forgiven; probably not a fair comparison, but amusing. It’s also rebutted by US bankruptcy law, which He Who Shall Not Be Named has taken advantage of at least six times and who is also notorious for stiffing his contractors, lawyers, and others. I don[t recall Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz complaining about that.

As to the argument that the program doesn’t solve, or address, the rising cost of college (no. 5) seems entirely specious to me; the program also doesn’t cure cancer or put an end to war, but those are not sensible reasons to criticize any program that doesn’t do those things.

The argument that the program is unfair (no. 3) may have a bit more legitimacy, but it might be worth thinking though exactly whom it’s unfair to and how, and the extent to which that unfairness might be outweighed by benefits to those whose loans are forgiven and to the country as a whole.

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