The Student Debt Forgiveness Crusade Should Be Led By the GOP
The Student Debt Forgiveness Crusade Should Be Led By the GOP
Just last month I finished paying off my student loans from 2001. The debt amount wasn’t that much in the scheme of things, but I put off paying it for several reasons. One, the interest rate was low, and I had higher interest rate debts to tackle. Two, I am notoriously bad with my own financials. Three, the closer I came to paying it off, the more politicians began talking about student debt forgiveness. I wondered if I should wait to see how that played out. In the end, I concluded my debt was no one else’s responsibility and it was mine to pay back. As the Biden Administration pushes forward with student loan forgiveness for some, the GOP should take the lead on the crusade ahead of the 2022 midterms. There are compromises to be made that make it a winning issue for conservatives.
I am no fan of David Brooks, however, his opinion piece in The New York Times contains many of the same thoughts I have been having over the last few years. As with most things from David Brooks though, he still gets it wrong. Brooks piqued my interest with his hypothesis and then lost me completely with his conclusion:
“Social change over the past few decades has made me much more supportive of income redistribution than I used to be — especially redistribution that invests in human capital. But it’s got to be distribution downward, not upward.”
No David, income redistribution is not logic we should have when it comes to support for student loan forgiveness. I don’t care whether it’s upward OR downward. Any consideration of student loan forgiveness should not be based on student incomes upon graduation. Certainly not via the writ of the President’s pen. If a debt is to be repaid by anyone other than the debtor, then the debtor should make the request with explanation and supporting reasons. The GOP could and should lay out what supporting justifications might be however, giving them a winning message ahead of November.
Who should or shouldn’t be the recipient of any student debt forgiveness is the central debate at the moment. As David Brooks points out in his NYT article:
“…forgiving student debt is exorbitant. As Adam Looney of the Brookings Institution has pointed out, widespread student loan forgiveness would rank among the largest transfer programs in American history. And plans to forgive all federal loans would cost more than was spent from 2000 to 2019 on unemployment insurance, the earned-income tax credit or food stamps — programs that actually go to those in need.”
Any loan forgiveness we consider at a federal level should be based on not only the family income before entering higher education, but the societal conditions of the family as well. For example, a student outperforming his peers in a troubled neighborhood and/or high school should be rewarded for his effort to escape his current position within it. I think the GOP could find much bipartisan support around this suggestion.
Just a few weeks ago, I was having this debate with a young black man in my office looking to buy his first home. As I pushed back against the idea of taxpayers forgiving student debt at all, he kept using the phrase “people who look like me” in his justification to support the concept. I responded that I didn’t think race should play into the matter at all. By the look on his face, I don’t think he even realized I might interpret his phrasing that way. “No, no, I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t think race should be used either. I meant coming from a poor urban neighborhood!” Granted, I do believe the stats might still conclude there is racial component to who lives in poor urban neighborhoods, but that’s secondary to who should get student loans forgiven.
Another question we need to address is who SHOULD take advantage of higher education. We keep pushing kids to go to college and not everyone needs nor should get a higher degree. My favorite speaker on the topic is Thomas Sowell. Watch as he digs into the many facets of the question:
What type of student loans should be forgiven is the next piece of the equation the GOP should spell out for taxpayers. Irma the housecleaner might not love her taxes being used to pay off my niece’s $120K choral singing degree! I did not make that up. My brother paid good money for his daughter to get a degree at Baylor University for a choir degree. Not even a performance arts degree. Just how to sing in a group. What does she do with that degree now? She manages a convenience store for low-income residents in an Austin neighborhood! Seriously! I am not shy with my eye rolls and ridicule when I talk to my brother about this.
Biden says he’s going to forgive federal student loan debt.— Senator Melissa Melendez (@senatormelendez) April 28, 2022
The waitress, the truck driver, the fast food worker, who didn’t go/couldn’t afford college, will pay the college debt for others.
On the other hand, however, are several industries that need qualified employees and can’t find them. We do need more nurses, tradesmen, and assembly-line workers. Many others that I can’t think of to be sure. But we do have gaps in what universities are putting out versus what America needs in terms of job opportunities. Most of the roles needing to be filled don’t require a four-year degree to begin with. Most simply need a two-year degree or certification program. Again, The GOP should lead the discussion on what jobs America needs filled and the programs taxpayers should support.
Why should we support some concept of student loan forgiveness? Again, David Brook’s gets it wrong. He says in his opinion piece at The New York Times:
“Anybody with a degree already owns an incredibly valuable resource — a college education. Adults with a bachelor’s degree generally earn about $1 million more over their career than people with just high school degrees.”
This is a faulty premise on its face. Having a college degree doesn’t necessarily lead to good employment opportunities at all. Not all degree programs are equal. See my niece above. Her choral degree begat her a $40K/year job IF she was lucky. Why the hell should taxpayers fund anything of the sort? There is no societal value to some types of degrees. Degrees, like everything, are devalued the more of them you give out. Simple supply and demand.
Government backed loans and subsidies directly to colleges is a horrible way for us to fund higher education. We are not discriminating on what degrees or purposes those loans are supporting. Instead, we are encouraging administrative bloat at colleges and inflating the cost of getting a degree to boot. This is sheer madness.
A better way to manage the goal of increasing higher education for our youth is to have a tri-lateral buy-in from government, the universities AND private industry.
That last point leads me to the next point in the equation. Where do we need graduates to go within the U.S.? Texas doesn’t need more people in Austin! America does need more tradespeople everywhere. We might need more agricultural graduates in some parts of the country. I gather we need more teachers in both urban areas and rural areas. We need certain tech-based graduates where manufacturing plants are located.
The GOP could create a unifying message of education loan forgiveness based on where degree recipients choose to gain employment with their degrees.
Lastly, when a loan needs to be repaid or forgiven should be part of the calculation. Should students who elect to take on educational debt just have some of it wiped out because of the aforementioned reasons? Or should graduates have a timeline in which they are required to pay it off themselves BEFORE being able to apply for forgiveness? Perhaps five to seven years of repayment is necessary before considering any government-based write-off. No one put a gun to a student’s head compelling them to take out debt for higher education. There are thousands of grants and scholarships for students to take advantage of. The GI Bill offers another taxpayer opportunity for students to get an education. Should those options be utilized first before taxpayers are on the hook for more money?
Again, the GOP should be creating the messaging around this topic instead of letting the Democrats run away with the narrative. It’s a winning conversation for Conservatives to have. Now is the time to have it as Biden fumbles another ball:
Look, I’m not even sure I want more kids to go on to college now that I have a better grasp of what universities are cramming into our children’s heads. Ideas like CRT, reparations, gender fluidity, socialism, etc… But if we are going to support the idea of taxpayer dollars funding formal education beyond high school, then we need to discuss the parameters openly. The Progressives are bringing the debate to the table, but the GOP should be the one winning the arguments.
Welcome Instapundit Readers!