Tomorrow’s deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is looming. Congress will recess in early August and before that, President Biden wants to get through a $3.5 trillion dollar budget package that he calls his “human infrastructure” legislation, as well as the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Republicans are, unsurprisingly, opposed to how to pay for the bills and don’t want to see cuts to corporate tax deals made by the Trump administration. But there is another major component missing: As long as the president and Dems dance around the issue of student loan forgiveness, we won’t see our economy rebound with the vigor and sustainability necessary to compete i the long term with countries like China.
According to Forbes, 45 million borrowers in the US owe a whopping $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, which is now the second-highest consumer debt category after mortgage debt. Most Republicans appear generally opposed to ludicrous ideas like universal pre-K or expanding dental and vision in Medicare, both of which are in the $3.5 trillion proposed budget deal. And I get it — if babies can’t make enough money to pay for their own toys and childcare then they shouldn’t expect the government to shore up their extravagant lifestyles! As for healthcare, honestly, real Americans don’t need teeth to eat soup!
As reasonable as those arguments may be, I believe that the benefits of student loan forgiveness have a uniquely pro-capitalist, bipartisan appeal that Republicans in Congress are overlooking. If we want our free-market, capitalist society to thrive then we have to lighten the load on generations of Americans who can’t move forward financially because of the massive student debt dragging behind them. When you owe tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, you can’t buy a house, save for retirement, get married, or go on shopping sprees — all fundamental pillars of the spending (and saving) this Yankee economy is based on.
When I went to law school in 2009, I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to repay my student loans. No one puts themselves through three grueling years of 16-hour days spent enduring the Socratic method, outlining and reading hundreds of pages of caselaw a day, and undergoing a Bar exam while simultaneously believing that they will never be able to make enough money in order to pay it all back. That is nobody’s plan. Today, however, over ten years later, I am confronted with the terrifying and depressing realization that I will never be able to pay back all that I owe (and I didn’t even have to borrow for undergraduate school).
The American system of oppressive fees for higher education wasn’t always this way. When my mom went to college back in the late 60’s and 70’s, student loan debt was manageable; even though she came from a family with very limited resources, she was able to work and put herself through college and my dad through law school, buy a home, a car, get married, and save for retirement. Manageable student loans are now a thing of the past.
If Republican lawmakers want a return to the good ‘ol days when people could spend to their heart’s content and pay it all back, and if Dems want to provide relief to Americans unable to get ahead despite how hard they work, then we need to forgive student loan debt as part of these two infrastructure plans. Without it, it’s just not enough.