President Biden’s move to cancel student debt reflects his recognition that today’s Democratic Party represents not working, middle class and minority Americans, but the young, White, elites who want less privileged taxpayers to subsidize their affluent lifestyle.
It’s little wonder that students or recent graduates regardless of their earning power would rather have the rest of us pay their debts rather than dig into their own pockets. After all, paying one’s own debts can cut into eating at upscale restaurants, buying an urban condo, and driving the BMW, Range Rover, or Tesla one’s dreams.
Mr. Biden proposed canceling $10,000 per debtor as a candidate in 2020 but progressives are demanding he up that to $50,000 despite multiple studies including one by the New York Federal Reserve showing that student debt forgiveness in general and especially the more generous forgiveness demanded by progressives benefits not the children of poor or working-class families, but rather the privileged and wealthy.
The progressive demand for action has gained traction for a simple political reason: Poll after poll has shown the president’s approval ratings among the younger voters in free fall. According to a recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll, 20% of younger voters have changed their minds about Mr. Biden, raising questions as to whether these voters will bother to turn out for the midterms. If they just stay home, Democratic candidates will find themselves in even more trouble than analysts are predicting.
Progressives are telling the White House that if Democrats are to win this fall, Mr. Biden must deliver on his campaign promise to cancel some, most or even all student debt regardless of how doing so might impact the budget, the deficit or inflation. Thus, Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, president of NextGen America, described by National Public Radio as “one of the biggest vote-mobilizing organizations in the country,” declared in an interview last week that “there is one thing that is really critical in the back pocket of the Biden administration that would greatly help Democrats, which is canceling student debt.” The Washington Post put the problem starkly: “To maintain control of Congress, Democrats will need young people to vote.”
Ms. Tzintun Ramirez along with progressives within the Democratic Party and the media argue that young people overwhelmingly support the cancellation of college debt but ignore the fact that younger voters like others have been less than impressed by the Biden administration’s performance on a wide range of issues which along with the president’s personal performance has contributed to Mr. Biden’s collapsing poll numbers.
What’s more, advocates of student debt cancellation are exaggerating the idea’s support even among young voters. It is true that while half of younger voters who self-identify as Democrats favor student debt cancellation when asked, among young voters as a whole that number drops to about 38%. In another poll respondents gave differing answers with only Democratic identifying young people favor such action while a third of independent and 76% of Republican young voters oppose student loan forgiveness.
More telling is that when Gallup asked voters to list the most important issues facing them virtually no one listed college debt forgiveness as an “important” issue. In fact, the Atlantic reported on a conversation its reporter had with Gallup analyst Justin McCarthy, who said Gallup is unable “to report the percentage of Americans who have mentioned student debt or student debt cancellation because it hasn’t garnered enough mentions to do so.”
These are the young people most likely to vote for Democrats if they vote and they are the ones Mr. Biden hopes to motivate by putting tax dollars into their pockets. Cancellation of $10,000 of existing debt would make it possible for almost 12 million Democratic potential voters to take the money they would have had to pay back and buy a new car or whatever else their hearts desire.
Most of the country is worried about gas prices, the economy and the inflationary spiral resulting from excessive spending in the last few years, but these concerns pale within Mr. Biden’s inner circle when compared to the need to re-energize voters deemed vital to Democratic success at the polls. All the talk about equity is just talk. What it’s really all about is a desperate attempt to buy votes.
And there’s an added benefit. By further subsidizing college attendance more potential college students will be attracted to what they will perceive as a free ride and they and their parents will continue to pay the outrageous sums colleges and universities are charging to provide them “credentials” that are proving less and less valuable as tickets to the good jobs to which college and university recruiters claiming a degree will guarantee them.
This will, in turn, provide the professorate and college bureaucrats who make up yet another leg of today’s Democratic progressive coalition an ability to continue the lavish lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.
• David Keene is editor-at-large at The Washington Times.