There’s a line in a Bob Dylan song that resonates well with what’s happening right now in the aftermath of the 2022 midterm elections, and it goes like this: “My clothes are wet, tight on my skin, not as tight as the corner I painted myself in.”
Some are considering the recent decision by Texas District Court Judge Mark Pittman blocking the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness maneuver to be the axiomatic “corner” for Biden, since the promised cash windfall likely influenced the thinking of a sizeable block of young voters in the midterms. And this degree of influence was well beyond significant.
Statistics reported in the New York Post, for example, indicate that more than a quarter of eligible voters in the 18 to 29 age bracket were motivated to show up this time around, likely enticed by the promise of relief from their self-created debt burden. According to the Post article, exit polls concluded that 63% of young voters favored Democrat candidates—likely salvaging the fortunes of many a vulnerable candidate on the left. For example, the Post notes that the much-publicized Pennsylvania Senate race saw 70% of the youth vote go to John Fetterman.
Other accounts suggest an even higher level of midterm influence by young voters, likely anticipating the proceeds of debt relief. This excerpt from a post on theguardian.com puts the youth vote’s impact in perspective, ”An Edison Research National Election Pool exit poll showed that 18-29s were the only age group in which a strong majority supported Democrats.”
The Biden administration cited language in the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (the HEROES Act) as justification for student loan forgiveness. Judge Pittman, however, determined that this Act did not provide the “national emergency” context the President claimed as justification for the $400 billion giveaway, especially since this rationalization was based on the COVID-19 pandemic that has been publicly declared to be over by the President himself.
Calling the intended giveaway an “unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power,” Pittman sided with the lawsuit brought by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative nonpartisan source of advocacy for public education.
And there are a slew of cases pending in the courts challenging the legality of the forgiveness intent, including a challenge filed by Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Arkansas now pending in the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals. More challenges are likely to surface contesting what some consider a shaky legal foundation for the president’s debt cancellation initiative.
Then, too, there’s the public outcry on the basic premise of student loan forgiveness. For starters, what about those who’ve already paid their financial obligations? And what about the obvious criticism that forgiving outstanding student debt benefits many who need it the least? And what about taxpayers who’ve not attended college or who have paid their own way but are now faced with the possibility of having to absorb others’ obligations?
The move to simply erase a financial obligation voluntarily incurred as the result of pursuing a college degree also ignores one of the most basic parts of the problem…the extreme cost of tuition at so many institutions. With college tuition rates historically rising at a pace more than twice that of inflation, perhaps a serious look at the underlying reasons why and how the $1.75 trillion monster has been allowed to develop would be in order.
Where does it go from Here?
In any event, those seeking to benefit from the student debt relief program are expected to remain in limbo for quite some time. Since the October 14, 2022 launch of the student loan forgiveness program, many millions of hopeful beneficiaries have filed application via U.S. Department of Education’s online portal—22 million in the first week alone. But in the wake of the legal challenges and the likelihood of prolonged court battles, the Biden administration has stopped—for now—accepting applications for debt relief.
So, at this point, the future of this is anything but certain. Whether or not the voting incentive linked to student debt cancellation ends up being honored remains to be seen. No doubt the Biden administration is actively examining alternatives to help push this divisive and potentially illegal giveaway scheme to the finish line…public outrage be dammed!