Congress, not president, legislates and allocates
The U.S. Supreme Court in recent weeks put an abrupt stop to President Joe Biden’s promise to write off many student loans that Americans have borrowed but not yet paid back.
Americans are in stark disagreement about whether or not writing off loans at taxpayers’ expense is the correct approach. Like many political issues today, this has divided America. Likewise, it has divided my friends and co-workers.
I’ve heard some people offer impassioned arguments in favor of student loan forgiveness. They say they’ve seen first-hand how student loans have weighed heavily on many Americans who can’t get out from under this immense debt.
On the other hand, I’ve heard from those who strongly oppose the idea of writing off at the taxpayers’ expense bills that private individuals have run up.
Most making these impassioned pleas have personal experiences that help trigger their beliefs.
To be clear, as a matter of policy, I believe broad-based student debt cancellation is a bad idea.
Like syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg last week stated in his column, I believe sweeping student debt forgiveness rewards people with an asset — a college or graduate degree — who are better equipped to pay it off than many other debt-burdened Americans.
However, Goldberg also stated that student loan debt forgiveness of relatively small debts held by lower income community college graduates could be viewed as more defensible.
Either way, these are debts that were incurred by students or parents with a plan for future employment and the ultimate ability to pay back the debt.
Shouldn’t the plan always be repayment when taking a loan for anything in life?
Indeed, everyone is going to have an opinion.
I know I do.
As a student, I worked at a local grocery store three or four days a week all through my college years. When I got the opportunity, I additionally took on work as a free-lance reporter for my local newspaper covering borough council meetings in southwestern Pennsylvania. I also worked in a work-study capacity in my college’s Student Life office. With each of these employment opportunities, I socked away everything I could, withdrawing the funds only twice a year in the form of a cashier’s check payable to the University of Pittsburgh.
And when funds ran short, I borrowed student loans. After graduation, I made monthly payments for about 10 or 12 years until those loans were paid off and I was relieved of my college debt.
This, of course, is some of the reason I disagree with a plan to remove student debt incurred by other former college students. But it’s only part of the reason.
Frankly, I don’t believe that any of these impassioned arguments is the entire reason why student loan forgiveness should be approved or denied.
The problem with the idea is that the attempt came unilaterally from the Oval Office, rather than from Congress.
And that is exactly what the Supreme Court ruled last month when it halted the Biden administration’s attempt to forgive more than $400 billion in student loan debt.
If the president wants to have taxpayers pay debt incurred by others, he can do that only by convincing Congress to do it.
In 2021, Joe Biden questioned how much authority he had to cancel student debt “by signing with a pen.” Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he didn’t have the authority to do that. But under intense pressure from the far left, they reversed course.
In denying the action as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has upheld that Congress, not the president, has power of the purse. The court didn’t rule that student debt can’t be forgiven; it merely said that government has to do it right or don’t do it at all.
Whatever you think is the right policy on student debt, one thing is clear — whether it’s Joe Biden, Donald Trump or anyone else occupying the Oval Office, the president is not elected to legislate.
Executive orders can be reversed by the next executive. But federal legislative action — and allocation of funds — must originate from Congress.