Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the Biden administration's student loan "forgiveness" bailout scheme, which critics argue is flatly illegal. The New York Times described the contours of the case by noting that it deals with "the legality of one of the most ambitious and expensive executive actions in the nation’s history: the Biden administration’s plan to wipe out more than $400 billion in student debt because of the coronavirus pandemic." The administration has sought to justify this flagrant power grab by citing "a 2003 law, the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, which gives the secretary of education the power to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision” to protect borrowers affected by a war or national emergency." Opponents of the gambit say this authorization dealt with the war on terror and has no application here. Figures ranging from former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to former Republican Attorney General Bill Barr have agreed that Biden's move on this front is unlawful. Some experts are expecting a decisive loss for the administration at SCOTUS.
The White House has nevertheless been eager to fight this political battle, pointing to favorable polling for the bailout. But follow-up survey questions show support falling off a cliff when voters are informed of policy trade-offs:
I argued against Biden's flagrant abuse of power on multiple fronts last fall:
Beyond the legality of what's happened, which is not some minor legal nicety, experts say the hugely expensive debt 'forgiveness' gambit will fuel inflation, and further drive up spiraling higher education costs. It's an awful idea that more than wipes out the largely illusory 'deficit reduction' of the ludicrously-titled 'Inflation Reduction Act,' in one fell swoop. It's another Democratic inflation bomb. It's also profoundly unfair. Only a small sliver of Americans (13 percent) hold student loan debt, and Biden is forcing everyone else to pay down some of that debt. Most American adults don't have college degrees. Millions of others worked hard and sacrificed to pay off the loans they'd willingly taken out. Others eschewed enrollment in their dream schools, opting instead for more affordable institutions. Everybody who's behaved responsibly is getting punished by this outrageous bailout, which disproportionately benefits wealthier people, including doctors and lawyers with much higher lifetime earnings potential than most Americans could ever dream of. It's a regressive redistribution of wealth -- away from working class people, to upper-middle class and wealthy professionals.
As the nine justices mull over this case, opponents are pointing to nonpartisan authorities' assessments of the policy itself, making the case that it's a terrible idea and deeply unfair -- even if it were somehow upheld as legal. An analysis from Penn Wharton finds that the ten-year cost of the program could approach $1 trillion, with upper income Americans disproportionately benefitting: "We estimate that forgiving federal college student loan debt will cost between $300 billion and $980 billion over the 10-year budget window, depending on program details. About 70 percent of debt relief accrues to borrowers in the top 60 percent of the income distribution." The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget agrees that the final price tag will be in the hundreds of billions, delivering "the majority of the benefits to those in the top half of the income spectrum." Experts at the Tax Foundation, alongside a prominent Democratic economy, warn that the policy will fuel inflation, which continues to hammer average Americans. Others compellingly note that the program would likely increase tuition, pushing the spiraling higher education cost curve even further north, and is "ripe" for fraud. But here's CNN's Twitter account pushing outright activism on the subject:
The fate of Biden’s student loan forgiveness program that would impact scores of borrowers from a wide array of colleges and socioeconomic backgrounds lies in the hands of 9 relatively wealthy people who graduated from a short list of elite private schools https://t.co/vdauyJAl1o— CNN (@CNN) February 27, 2023
Note well that the Left is sticking with its typical class warfare framing, despite the fact that the aforementioned data shows that this illegal scheme forces relatively less wealthy Americans (including the majority who never went to college, and have zero student debt) to pay for the loan "forgiveness" of a sliver of relatively wealthier Americans, who made proactive choices to knowingly accrue debt. The usual "rich vs poor" dynamic, while often misleading and demagogic, doesn't even apply here. I'll leave you with a member of Congress demanding that the Supreme Court "follow the law" by allowing a flagrant executive abuse to stand, thus unconstitutionally obviating the need for his branch to actually serve its mandatory function -- cheered on by another member of Congress, who generously took a brief break from Israel bashing to insist that a separate branch of government allow a violation of the law. A pretty good encapsulation of where things stand these days:
SCOTUS needs to follow the law and cancel student debt. pic.twitter.com/aU5LC5qCPK— Congressman Jamaal Bowman (@RepBowman) February 28, 2023