Apparently, there is a limit to President Biden’s largesse, and it’s somewhere south of $50,000.
Biden said this week that he would not eliminate $50,000 in student debt, shooting down a proposal that prominent Democrats introduced this month. But that doesn’t mean he’s against any debt reduction.
Biden, listing off the six-figure debts he said his children incurred attending private universities, said that he understood the burden of the student loan crisis but that he did not believe he could eliminate $50,000 on his own without congressional action.
“My point is: I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating. I am prepared to write off the $10,000 debt but not $50 [thousand], because I don’t think I have the authority to do it.”
He’s wrong, but why quibble?
The same authority that allows him to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower allows him to forgive any amount. The Department of Education, which reports to the president, has the authority to adjust or forgive any student loan debt at its discretion. There’s no limit on how much can be written off.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other lawmakers introduced a resolution in early February calling on Biden to use executive action to wipe out up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all borrowers, arguing that the secretary of education has broad administrative authority to cancel the debt.
The pair are still pressing Biden to commit to eliminating $50,000 in debt, writing in a joint statement that while the administration reviews their options, they remain “confident” that Biden will ultimately agree with experts “who have concluded that the administration has broad authority to immediately deliver much-needed relief to millions of Americans.”
While it appears clear that the president can write off such debt, it’s not clear that he should.
Student loan debt is voluntarily borrowed. No one forced students to take out such loans. Forgiving the debt makes it part of the national debt, essentially spreading it to all Americans.
There’s not a great case for taking the debt freely borrowed by some of us and forcibly spreading it to everyone. Such a move would push more national debt onto people who never took out student loans and those who took out such loans but paid them back.