The Biden administration’s student loan debt relief plan has caused an outcry among those who argue that college graduates get preferential treatment at the expense of hard-working, self-sufficient tradespeople.
It’s wrapped up in the language of fairness, but this discussion divides classes. And it misses the overall vision and value of the plan.
1. We need to restore the middle class
First, consider the plan part of the broad range of social and economic policy initiatives aimed at restoring the middle class, relieving Americans of debilitating and discriminatory burdens, and countering predatory lending practices.
According to the National Consumer Law Center’s Project on Predatory Student Lending and Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, “For decades, the predatory for-profit college industry has exploited the promise of higher education, perpetrating massive loan fraud. students trying to build a better life.”
The industry, notes the project, “specifically targets low-income students, students of color, single parents and veterans. Many are the first in their families to go to university.
2. Don’t overlook the value of higher education
Second, recognize the value of higher education as a pathway to economic empowerment for women, African Americans, veterans, and first-generation students. These groups have been disproportionately affected by student debt and who will benefit the most from the relief package.
Almost 90% of the relief will help those whose annual income is less than $75,000.
3. If we want to talk about fairness…
Third, on the issue of fairness, on what moral basis do groups who have managed to game the system for their own benefit invoke injustice, when Biden’s action offers their fellow citizens the opportunity to climb rungs of oppressive debt to middle class security?
What was fair about using taxpayers’ money with the 2010 Troubled Assets Relief program to bail out a financial system to the tune of $700 billion for questionable and abusive business practices?
Another view:Canceling student loans doesn’t fix the system
What’s fair when the Paycheck Protection Program for COVID-19 relief has been cited by Inspector General Michael Horowitz as the biggest fraud in American history and opponents of the plan of Congress got a loan forgiveness for their dubious expenses?
What is the point of relieving contributing members of the community from heavy debt incurred in the interests of personal growth, education and advancement – the benefits of which add to national wealth?
Look beyond polarization to find a common good
The uproar over student debt cancellation reflects the chronic dysfunction and polarization of our national discourse. This raises the question of the appropriate means to correct the imbalances in our system and invites skepticism as to whether the plan is a legitimate exercise of executive action, an excess of presidential power or a purely political maneuver to garner votes in the next elections. .
It distracts us from the imperative of finding common ground and creative solutions to address inequalities and injustices in our social fabric. It perpetuates a combative narrative where one group’s gains are seen as another group’s losses.
Instead, we must rise above the classist fury of these debates and focus on the substance of our social contract. Faced with an ever-widening wealth gap, faced with new technologies that are transforming the workplace and purchasing power, faced with challenges to the effectiveness of our democracy and its institutions, we have no choice but to view the pursuit of equity as a moral imperative and a shared adventure, freed from the constraints of political ideologies now without political relevance.
This is the challenge at the heart of how we as a community must define the common good.