What is just?
It’s the burning question on everyone’s mind right now as politicians and regular citizens on both sides of the aisle weigh the benefits and drawbacks of President Biden’s proposal to cancel existing federal student loans.
What about people who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college? Does it treat those who “made the right choice” and repaid their debts fairly? Do I stand to benefit from this?
All of your inquiries are valid ones. The issue of cost is also important. According to the White House, annual costs average $24 billion. Since our national debt is already close to $31 trillion and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has recently warned that efforts to reduce inflation may cause “some pain to households and businesses,” the question of how we will pay for this is urgent.
The most pressing issue, however, is who will foot the bill. And who foots the bill when society fails to provide the essentials for its continued well-being?
A good friend of mine named Neil is in his 30s but looks much younger than his age because he learned early on the importance of moisturizing his skin.
Anyway, despite the fact that my friend Neil did not have any children, he has been forced to pay for public schooling and other services he does not use for over 40 years.
Is that a fair system for Neil and other taxpayers who do not have children? Or, do we, as a healthy society, need to invest in our children’s future by paying for their education? Where people in Arizona can look at the plight of their Kentuckian neighbors in the wake of devastating floods and feel grateful that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is there to help them, rather than bitter that no such disaster has struck Arizona.
No matter how you ask the question, “who is going to pay for this?” the answer is always “we are.” This is true whether we’re paying for something up front by addressing problems as a society or later, when dealing with the more costly fallout of ignoring our problems. We are repeatedly confronted with the truth that we must work together to survive.
With an estimated price tag of $300 billion, Biden’s loan forgiveness plan is a sizable investment. The impact of $1.6 trillion in student loan debt held by 45 million borrowers is unclear. What will it cost society and the economy to have millions of Americans’ potential stifled?
But that is not how we approach issues, vote, or run the government.
This explains why billions have been spent throughout history to fix problems that could have been avoided for millions. Take the current homelessness crisis, which was once considered to be “someone else’s problem” but is now everyone’s concern.
Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have been widely criticized for their strident opposition to forgiving existing student debt. It turned out that they also got their much larger Paycheck Protection Program loans written off. They are completely without scruples, and their followers are unmoved by their hypocrisy. The situation has always been like that.
But there are concerns to think about if you’re genuinely curious about issues of fairness or economic impact. If higher education is the key to breaking into the middle class, then surely having student loan debt is an indication that one is making an effort to improve their financial situation.
You can find people who take advantage of the system, like Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s fictitious slacker barista, and you can find people who repeatedly file for bankruptcy but still get loans in business, but that doesn’t mean that they are the norm.
Like many others, I left college deeply indebted and often went to bed hungry as a result of my financial commitments. I was relieved when I finally was able to pay it off. And it makes me happy to think that maybe some of the money I pay in taxes will help ease that load for someone else.
Numerous Americans, including the poorest among them, are currently submerged in student loan debt. This feels like a FEMA situation, and I’m glad the government is responding. You can think I’m crazy, but doesn’t helping those in need also fall under the category of fairness?
This article was first published in the Los Angeles Times.
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