When should you cancel student loans?

On Wednesdays, my friend Bob meets me at the treadmills in the gym around 8 a.m.

Once the treads spin happily, we take a look at TV headlines such as “New York Democrats Call 100% Income Tax ‘A Good Start'” and “Some Republicans support the issuance of concealed carry permits as part of the birth certificate process!”

Then we started yelling at each other, because I speak loudly, he’s deaf and we’re old.

This week’s dispute was student loan forgiveness.

Bob is a business owner, a moderate conservative, a firearms enthusiast sensitive to gun regulations, a taxpayer who wants to pay less.

He thinks student loans are not to be forgiven! And I don’t agree. But then he realizes that he also thinks some student loans should be forgiven! And I don’t agree! I think!

The real problem isn’t that we can’t agree on what the various nuances of student loan forgiveness should be. We just know that the federal government is unable to enforce them.

Student loan debt in the United States now exceeds $1.6 trillion, shared among about 45 million people. Much of it should never have been borrowed, including payments to (sometimes) fraudulent for-profit colleges and mediocre non-profit colleges. Often the money is used to qualify for professions that don’t pay enough to justify the debt, or never-completed programs.

Bob began with, “You have to admit these easy student loans have skyrocketed tuition.”

I replied, “Conservative state legislatures cutting 70% of the percentage of public college budgets from the general fund hasn’t helped!

Bob: “Nobody borrowed them?” What is the lesson if we cancel the loans? »

Lane: “Why is it the only debt forgiveness that bothers you? What about those who return houses to banks without penalty? Or wealthy people who repeatedly declare bankruptcy? »

The student loan problem was huge in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders led a pack promising forgiveness, but Joe Biden’s measured approach to this and other progressive issues helped him to get the nomination.

Loans are back in the news this week as Biden promised to make it easier for some borrowers to get loan forgiveness. The move came as Warren and others pushed for Biden to write off all student debt, and weeks after he delayed restarting loan repayments until September.

Biden is correct in understanding that for many of us, “forgive everything” sounds crazy. This would include canceling loans to the wealthy who took advantage of the low rates, and to the doctors, lawyers and other professionals whose degrees propelled them to wealth, and that money would then have to be partially clawed back by less wealthy taxpayers.

After the screaming was over, Bob and I agreed that we wanted the loans forgiven, but only for people whose hard work, or generosity, or provable poverty, showed they deserved it.

But that’s basically the system we’re supposed to have now. There is a “civil service loan program” through which debt is forgiven, and programs ensuring that borrowers do not pay more than 10% of income, and others where remaining debt is canceled after 20 years of payments.

What prompted Biden to act was Washington’s inability to properly manage these programs. A little skill on the part of our government in running its sensible programs, such as targeted student loan forgiveness, would quell a lot of outlandish demands.

The opinions of columnist Lane Filler are his own.

About Judith J. George

Check Also

Loans | Student loans: do the math first

At the beginning of the academic year for higher education, many consider a student loan …