My Nana often told me, “Don’t spend money you don’t have.” It was sound financial advice. Sadly, President Biden is teaching young people the opposite: Spend what you want, and the federal government will bail you out.
The Biden administration wants to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for those who did not receive Pell Grants and $20,000 for those who did. Forgiveness only applies to those who make $125,000 or less each year. They are also extending the current freeze on student loan repayment past the date of the November midterm elections.
According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, just the proposal to forgive $10,000 in debt per borrower would cost around $300 billion in the first year. Ironically, that will be added to the national debt. According to the U.S. Debt Clock, the national debt is well over $30.7 trillion. The share per taxpayer is more than $244,000. In other words, forgive one debt now, but pay for it later at arguably higher interest rates.
Liberals love to talk about fairness. But what is fair about asking people who never went to college, who paid for college themselves or who paid off their student loans to pay taxes to forgive the student loan debts of other people?
Why should many of my staff who worked hard to pay off their student loans while struggling to start a family and buy a home now be forced to pay taxes so the federal government can write off someone else’s debt?
Why should some of my friends who saved up from the time their children were born and whose children worked all during college to finish school without debt be forced to pay taxes so the federal government can write off $10,000 worth of student loan debt?
My brother works as a manager at a convenience store called Kwik Trip, and my sister-in-law sells appliances at Home Depot. They work hard to provide for their family. Why should they have to pay taxes to forgive part of someone else’s student loan debt?
Liberals are not only hypocritical on the fairness issue, but they are also promoting “income inequality” with this proposal. A report released by the Obama White House in 2016 claimed, “Over a career, the median full-time, full-year worker over age 25 with a bachelor’s degree earns nearly $1 million more than the same type of worker with just a high school diploma (CPS ASEC, CEA calculations).” In other words, they are taking tax money from people who will — according to their research — earn less and use it to help people who will earn more during their careers. That sounds like taking from the middle class and giving it to higher income earners.
As mentioned, Nana’s words stuck with me. Other than the mortgage on the farm, she and my grandfather saved up for each of their purchases. They wanted to be sure they could pay their debts. The Biden administration is teaching young people the opposite lesson. Where does it stop?
When Tonette and I were first married and even when we had our first child, we lived in the upstairs unit of a duplex in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. That is what we could afford. In Mr. Biden’s world, we should have bought a gigantic home and asked the federal government to pay off the loan.
For years and years, I drove around in an old Saturn from the 1990s because that is what we could afford. In Mr. Biden’s world, I should have bought an expensive sports car and asked the federal government to pay for it.
In life, we expect people not to take out loans for things they are unlikely to be able to pay off. We don’t ask other people to pay off our debts. The same should be true for higher education.
Having said all of that, student loan debt is too high. The answer, however, is not for the government to spend billions of dollars it does not have, the answer is to lower tuition.
For decades, the cost of higher education has dramatically increased beyond the rate of inflation in America. As the federal government has increased student loan assistance, colleges and universities have increased tuition.
Most of the increased tuition is funding dramatic increases in the size of the administration on campuses. The latest craze is in diversity, equity and inclusion. One report last year showed that DEI staff make up an average of 3.4 positions for every 100 tenured faculty members. Surely, that number has only grown during the past year.
Want to really help students graduate with little or no debt? Force colleges and universities to focus on the classroom, reduce administrative costs, and freeze or reduce tuition and fees. As my Nana said, “don’t spend money you don’t have.”
• Scott Walker is the president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.