Student Debt Cancellation Would Insult Millions of Responsible People | Opinion

You have to hand it to the charter members of "the Squad," the 2018 liberal additions to Congress so named for their cohesion and aggressiveness. As their agenda comes under fire, even from within the ranks of their own party, they show no sign of withering when it comes to one of the most wildly radical and redistributive planks of their agenda: the cancellation of student debt.

The 43 million borrowers currently paying off student loans have one thing in common: they willfully entered into an agreement to receive money for college, with the promise to pay off the loan using income from their chosen professions. For years now, many graduates have realized that they borrowed ridiculous amounts to pursue career paths with salaries wholly inadequate to pay off the balances.

Is that my fault? Is it my responsibility? Is it yours?

It is not. And yet today's Democratic priority list contains the wave of some magic wand that simply makes those debts go away. $1.6 trillion. Poof! And why?

Because "student debt is policy violence," according to a December 1 tweet by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). The congresswoman pledged to keep "fighting to relieve families across the country," so that "our policies & budgets reflect their lived experiences."

Here is the "lived experience" of millions of Americans over the last few decades: they accumulated student debt. They entered the workforce. They paid off their student debt. For some, it took a long time and deep sacrifice. But they did it. They did it because that's what a mature, principled adult does.

It is hard to quantify the insult that top-down debt cancellation would deal to the legions of college graduates who met the obligations they voluntarily shouldered. Imagine the joy, the sense of accomplishment, accompanying the moment when the last dime of debt is paid off with money earned by the first fruits of real life. This is the kind of event that builds character. It is a key plot point of the American dream.

But the dream of today's Left is to untether the masses from the responsibilities of life, replacing those burdens with the gifts of beneficence of ever-expanding government, so its preferred party can enjoy the ensuing gratitude over a lifetime of elections. Those who rob Peter to pay Paul will always enjoy the support of Paul.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 22: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) speaks during a news conference on the treatment of Haitian immigrants at the U.S. border in Texas on September 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photos of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback grabbing Haitian immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico have caused outrage amongst Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are now calling on President Joe Biden to stop the deportation of immigrants to Haiti. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The debt-cancellation crowd has suffered a blow, however, in the form of a rare moment of self-awareness from the Biden administration, which has finally found a liberal agenda item it is not willing to adopt. Student loan payment pauses, initiated under President Donald Trump amid the worst of the pandemic, are set to expire on February 1. Democrats at the extreme ideological edge had hoped for the new debt-free norm to last forever.

And why wouldn't it? The reckless H.R. 1 seeks to make permanent the ransacking of election norms that took place last year in the name of COVID prevention. Blue states and big-city Democratic mayors will be the last to liberate the citizenry from pandemic restrictions. The virus opened a Pandora's box of authoritarian policy possibilities; those who took advantage will not be easily dissuaded.

Pressley's Squad colleagues wasted no time in mobilizing their personal stories to push back against Biden's hesitancy. "I have over 17,000 in student loan debt," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). "We have a moral obligation, an economic obligation, a political obligation to cancel student loan debt."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) added, "I worked full time Monday through Friday and took weekend classes to get my law degree, and still, close to $200,000 in debt."

Where to begin? In the case of AOC, that remaining sum might have been repaid by now if she had been living somewhat more modestly on that $174,000 congressional salary she has drawn for over two years. I will never begrudge a member of Congress her Tesla or clothing allowance, but such a budget shakes the foundation for griping about a remaining debt that is 10 percent of her annual income.

Rep. Tlaib envisioned a career path as a lawyer, which requires additional years of schooling that can carry considerable cost. How have countless attorneys managed to repay their debts in the past? By making money as lawyers and socking away enough to knock down the debt payments—just as millions of borrowers in other fields have done over generations.

There is more borrowing today because college costs have skyrocketed—another byproduct of big-government fever dreams. An endless supply of government money, from direct payments to subsidies to relief spending to loans, has destroyed what would otherwise be a sensible market, featuring colleges charging what students can afford.

Government meddling exploded the costs of college, leading to a massive appetite for loans, with no backstop to prevent the ill wisdom of borrowing beyond the likely ability to repay. Who hasn't heard the sad tale of a social-science or literature major staring down a quarter-million in debt while slogging through the workforce at $40,000 a year?

These are prime targets for the debt-cancellation brigades. AOC called it a moral, economic and political obligation. The morality is vacant and the economics are without merit. But the politics are obvious.

Mark Davis is a talk show host for the Salem Media Group on 660AM The Answer in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Townhall.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts