Joshua Heath | Joe Biden’s New Deal for Students

Joshua Heath commentary

President Joe Biden’s recently released executive order on student loans is a major policy accomplishment, one of the most landmark progressive achievements of the 21st century.  

In one fell swoop, the White House canceled $10,000 in debt for 43 million Americans with student loans — and up to $20,000 for those who received a Pell Grant — and introduced comprehensive reforms that will change the game for young people dealing with debts in the future.  

More specifically, Biden has crafted a new, affordable loan plan that will only require you to pay back, at most, 5% of your discretionary income after graduation. 

And if an individual is currently unemployed or not making above poverty wages, they won’t need to contribute anything at all.  

In addition, this new program effectively abolishes interest for all student loans; borrowers will be expected simply to take care of  their initial balance. This is a transformative change that will prevent the ghastly situation where Americans, even after making timely payments for years, hardly end up making progress on their debt.  

Predictably, as is their wont, congressional Republicans howled at the news of these new reforms. To their mind, Biden’s new program was a mindless giveaway to the snowflakes, that will allow millenials to unethically avoid having to repay the money they took out.  

The most prominent talking point on the right is that Democrats are engaging in “student loan socialism,” making noble working class Americans who didn’t go to college subsidize the gender studies degrees of those who did.  

For the government to step in and help the young with tuition costs, then, is something akin to a horror.  

Of course, this is a ridiculous argument. Most of these GOP leaders went to college during an era when state and federal governments invested heavily to ensure higher education was affordable, which made student loans almost unnecessary.  

Starting in the 1980s, with the rise of the conservative movement, politicians started shifting the burden of paying for school away from the public sector and onto young people. Thus the steep increase in tuition costs.  

President Biden, with his executive order, is effectively reversing this injustice, and reducing the financial burden millennials were forced to take on. Morally however, there is no difference between the government subsidizing higher education from the start and keeping prices cheap, or pitching in later to help borrowers with their loans.  

So the complaints of congressional Republicans like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are little more than cynical posturing designed to incite the working class and score political points.  

Furthermore, some say this policy was a bad idea since it is unfair to those who already paid off their loans. However, one must always remember that every moment of progress neglects certain people.  

Children of the 1950s who got the polio vaccine received a leg up over Americans born generations earlier. Same with those who came of age in time to have their health care costs subsidized by Medicare, their home purchases facilitated by FHA loans, or college paid for by the GI bill.  

We are all lucky to be the recipients of certain reforms that help us during the eras in which we live. For the millenials, assistance with student loans is one of those golden moments that makes our lives a little easier.  

Likewise, future generations will be aided in their own unique ways; that’s not an injustice, it’s just how history works. 

This new program is a classic example of how smart government policy can change the game for working Americans. 

By cancelling a significant portion of debt, Democrats have given tens of millions of people a fresh start in life that will make climbing the economic ladder a good deal easier.  

Furthermore, eliminating interest will allow many to take big, constructive risks in their professional careers. Now folks will be encouraged to go back to school and get more education without worrying about taking on loans that trap them in an endless cycle of financial hardship.  

Many on the left have wondered when Democrats would find their spine again, and start accomplishing the sort of bold ideas that previous generations of liberals were known for. 

This new reform should calm those fears. That’s good news for Americans, and all who believe in humane, compassionate government. 

Joshua Heath is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.

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