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29 Aug, 2022 14:07

Biden just helped millions of student loan debtors. So why are people mad?

The US president signed an executive order to forgive a large sum of federal student loans for millions of Americans – but not everyone is happy
Biden just helped millions of student loan debtors. So why are people mad?

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that the federal government would implement student loan forgiveness for tens of millions of borrowers across the country, marking perhaps the first time for many young Americans that their government has done anything to significantly impact their lives.

I, for one, stand to benefit from this. Thanks to the fact that I received scholarships when I went to university, I ‘only’ owe about $14,000 in total for the four and a half years I attended. My debt is pretty much erased under this plan. Several of my friends and family members are also receiving some breathing room from this, and I think it’s fair to say we’re quite pleased with the results – even if it didn’t totally zap our balance. 

Still, the public reaction has been diverse but also rather predictable – and it appears that no one is really that elated. The elite certainly isn’t and that’s reflected by, for example, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal describing it as a “Half-Trillion-Dollar Loan Forgiveness Coup” that is “easily the worst domestic decision of [Biden’s] Presidency and makes chumps of Congress and every American who repaid loans or didn’t go to college.” 

This is the paper that represents a lot of corporate America’s opinion – which is generally disdain for working-class people. That is to say that a lot of the media reaction reflects the privilege of those people who didn’t need to take out loans for college, e.g., the wealthy. Those people didn’t benefit from this program and they feel that it’s coming out of their pockets through their tax dollars. 

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is painting those who are happy about the loan forgiveness as suckers who are being bribed by their Democratic Party adversaries ahead of the midterm elections. It reminds one of the middle school class president candidate who promises a jacuzzi in the school lobby – except what seemed far-fetched actually came to be. 

The Republican Party’s base is both the same pro-corporate interests that aren’t concerned with working-class Americans, plus riled-up blue-collar, heartland Americans with less education. It’s that latter part that Republicans are focusing on, trying to paint the loan forgiveness as a hand-out to liberals that takes away from ordinary workers. This is why many people are floating the question of whether those that didn’t go to college should just receive a $10,000 direct deposit. 

Finally, there are those progressives within the Democratic Party who point out, accurately, that Biden’s campaign platform promised to wipe all student loan debt. Biden’s plan is gracious in that it eliminates $10,000 for all borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, or up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients who meet the same requirement, plus it reduces interest rates and caps income-based payments at five percent of income. But that is not the same as blanket loan forgiveness. 

These folks, in my opinion, have the most legitimate concerns. After all, the real problem is that college in America is deeply unaffordable and inaccessible. Instead of forgiving a swath of debt that might help about half of student loan debtors, the Biden administration should have cut all debt. That’s what they promised, after all. The right would argue that this would essentially socialize higher education, making it free, and they would perhaps be right, because higher education in America should be free. 

As I said at the beginning of this piece, I benefited from this policy. I am not really complaining about how this played out because I thought the odds of any debt relief helping at all was about 50/50. If buying voter enthusiasm was the objective, however, I can say that I – and, more importantly, the people I talked to on this – are no more enthused by Democrats now than we were before, since the idea of student loans in the first place is, to be frank, stupid. 

From this point of view, it is indicative of just how profound the problems in the country are, particularly for young people, when an objectively helpful policy for tens of millions of people is largely met with contempt from every angle. Biden did help millions of people, but the conditions that he ameliorated were so fundamentally unjust and illegitimate that this is not even worth celebrating.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.