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Democrats had better be careful when touting student loan forgiveness proposals

2 min read

Out of necessity, Democrats are pushing a lot of overdue social and economic policy proposals. After all, the wealthy, the powerful, and corporations have been getting all the spoils of our expanding economy. Student loans are at the forefront of these programs, and the burden they put on the economy is palpable.

I was all in on Elizabeth Warren’s student loans forgiveness proposal from its inception. The meat of her proposals is as follows:

  • It cancels $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with household income under $100,000.
  • It provides substantial debt cancellation for every person with household income between $100,000 and $250,000. The $50,000 cancellation amount phases out by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000, so, for example, a person with household income of $130,000 gets $40,000 in cancellation, while a person with household income of $160,000 gets $30,000 in cancellation.
  • It offers no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000 (the top 5%).
  • For most Americans, cancellation will take place automatically using data already available to the federal government about income and outstanding student loan debt.
  • Private student loan debt is also eligible for cancellation, and the federal government will work with borrowers and the holders of this debt to provide relief.
  • Canceled debt will not be taxed as income.

An economic analysis from leading experts on student loan debt finds that my plan would provide at least some debt cancellation for 95% of people with student loan debt (and complete and total student debt cancellation for more than 75%), provide targeted cancellation for the families that need it most, substantially increase Black and Latinx wealth, and help close the racial wealth gap.

But then I got a call from Dr. John Theis, a professor at one of our colleges here in Texas and one of my politics and history mentors.

“Egberto,” John said. “Do you support student loan forgiveness?”

I detected by his tone that he knew my answer, and I could detect his stance, as well.

“I support it, Doc,” I replied. “Don’t you?”

“No I don’t,” Theis replied. “It is a bad idea.”

He started to explain the economic concept of moral hazard, but the underpinning thread was fairness. So I asked him to write an article explaining why he does not support student loan forgiveness.

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