Uh oh: Some Dems nervously condemn Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan

Source: Hot Air

I repeat a point I made earlier. Paying a huge bribe to college graduates at a moment when Democrats’ political fortunes are looking up is insanely risky, potentially even disastrous. Maybe the bribe works by tilting a few suburban swing voters who were leaning Republican back towards the Dems.

But even if it does, that’s a net loss for Democrats if it ends up tilting even more furious working-class voters into the GOP’s column. Remember, most Americans haven’t gone to college. If Biden’s bribe makes 20 percent of college grads more likely to vote Democratic and 20 percent of non-grads more likely to vote Republican, Dems suddenly have a very, very big problem. Assuming the GOP can get those non-grads to register and turn out, of course.

That’s a big if, admittedly. Still, the prospect of it happening is sufficiently frightening to some Dems downballot that they’re wasting no time running away from Biden’s new policy.

Pappas represents a swing district which Biden won by six points in 2020. The fact that he’s running scared this afternoon is a red alert to the White House that vulnerable Dems think student loan forgiveness is a political loser even on generally favorable political terrain.

Relatedly, Sen. Michael Bennet was more judicious in his criticism but he’s also uneasy:

Bennet should be safe in a state as blue as Colorado but his Republican opponent is one of the few normie newbie candidates the GOP nominated this year. If there’s a public backlash to the debt forgiveness program on top of a public backlash to inflation, Joe O’Dea might just able to squeak through in that Senate race. At least, that’s what Bennet thinks or he wouldn’t be knifing Biden on the day of his big announcement.

And then there’s poor Tim Ryan, the Dem rep running for Senate in Ohio who’s spent every waking hour this summer repositioning himself as a sort of MAGA populist who just happens to be a liberal. Ryan’s odds of winning in a state as red as his were always slim but that rebranding has probably helped his chances. Or had helped, I should say: Forgiving the debt of college students and no one else is the political equivalent of Biden leaving a flaming bag of sh*t on his doorstep. Somehow Ryan’s going to have to explain to factory workers in Youngstown why the president he supported in 2020 wants to give their tax money to professionals who didn’t have the good sense not to go deeply into debt to go to school. He’s not happy:

I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t Tim Ryan want to defend talking points as convincing as this?

The policy is three flavors of unfair. It benefits the educated at the expense of the uneducated by making the latter responsible for debts incurred by the former. It benefits the irresponsible at the expense of the responsible, those who either declined to take on debt or paid off the debt they owed only to find now that they have to share the costs generated by those who weren’t as wise. And it benefits current college grads over future students, as only loans taken out before July of this year are eligible for forgiveness. (For now.) As colleges inevitably jack up prices in response to the new policy, those future students will be saddled with more expensive tuition. And if they eventually get bailed out too, the cycle will repeat, creating a sort of death spiral in education costs.

A sane political party that’s been bleeding working-class support to the GOP during the Trump era would have done something closer to the opposite of all that, engineering a way to bribe lower-class voters and sticking better-educated ones with the bill. They could have seized on Mitt Romney’s child tax credit as an opportunity for bipartisan compromise, expecting that voters would credit the president’s party on balance for its passage. Instead they’re saddling Ryan and other vulnerable Dems with indefensible regressive wealth redistribution on an enormous scale. Per Penn Wharton, “Between 69 percent and 72 percent of the debt forgiven accrues to the debt borrowers in the top 60 percent of the income distribution.”

Biden knows the regressive aspects of the policy are a huge problem potentially for the party and had a snappy answer ready today when asked about it:

That’s super, but the reason Americans tolerate tax breaks for mega-billionaires and their companies is a combination of fatalism and optimism. Fatalism: The rich always get away with murder and have the wherewithal to rig the game in their favor. It’s not fair but it’s life, as inevitable as gravity. Optimism: Tax breaks for corporations benefit everyone in theory by maximizing the ability of those businesses to expand, which in turn means more jobs for the local community. States don’t compete with each other to offer perks to Tesla and Amazon because they enjoy online shopping or think EVs are cool. They do it because having a major corporation blow into town means lots of hires, and lots of hires means lots of economic growth.

Telling an average joe that the guy next to him deserves 10,000 bucks just because he went to college and took out some loans to pay for it is much harder to defend. I suppose one could say that debt forgiveness is a form of stimulus for the (already overstimulated) economy, but then you’re stuck having to explain why we don’t just give everyone ten grand instead. Lots of stimulus! The student loan debtors can use the money for their loans and the rest of us who aren’t in debt can invest or enjoy the money as we see fit. There’s simply no good moral or fiscal reason to randomly select this group of people for an enormous federal giveaway while cutting everyone else out of the action, including and especially those who behaved more responsibly than the recipients. Democrats deserve to get wrecked for it. And Ryan, Pappas, and Bennet know it.