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Canceling student loan debt

It is widely anticipated that President Biden will announce a plan today to forgive a considerable portion of student loan debt in the U.S. Early reports indicate that:

Individuals earning under $125,000 with federal student loans will receive $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Married couples earning under $250,000 with federal student loans will receive $20,000 in loan forgiveness. The plan purports to completely eliminate student loan debt for approximately 15 million Americans and reduce loan balances for another 30 million Americans.

The President’s executive order comes on the heels of a multi-year build up around alleviating the burden of over $1.7 trillion in student debt. The plan is likely to draw mixed reactions:

Those who benefit directly from the forgiveness are expected to view the move favorably, though some are already contending that the amount of the forgiveness is insufficient. The average student loan debt holder owes over $37,000. There is real concern that President Biden lacks the constitutional authority to simply wave away student loan debt through an executive order. The decision will almost certainly be challenged in court. Conservatives warn of the “moral hazard,” of eliminating a contractual obligation entered into by a student in exchange for a service.

Both the burden of student loan debt and the consequences of absolving it are worth exploring. There is genuineness in the cries of young people who feel duped. There is also merit to the idea that people who did not attend college, but who pay taxes, should not be asked to share the load of student loans taken out by people who did attend college with an agreement to repay the loans.

But the President’s action and the responses to that action will largely miss the elephant in the room. Forgiving a portion of student loans is putting a band-aid on an infection without treating the underlying infection.

For the last 18 months Americans have been learning the hard way that cheap money is very expensive. Floods of federal dollars rained down during the COVID pandemic, in concert with widespread disruptions of our economy, have

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