MORABITO: Leftists are using claims of racism and sexism to try to cancel loan repayment
Progressives in Congress and the media claim that requiring student loan payments is wrong because women and minorities are most likely to have trouble making payments.
The student loan freeze was intended as a temporary emergency measure, but some Democrats want to make it permanent as a way of achieving back door loan forgiveness.
Though the student loan freeze is still months away from ending, progressives are already launching a public relations effort to oppose returning to repayment. The Left and its media allies are trying to get student debt cancelled the same way they try to cancel professors it doesn’t like or anyone with a mean tweet from ten years ago: By calling it racist and sexist.
The Associated Press syndicated an article which was posted by ABC News, which said, “The end of student loan forbearance will be tougher on women,” in part because so many women who were employed before the pandemic are now without a source of income. That is not a student debt problem. That is a problem of school shutdowns that gave thousands of women no choice but to leave their jobs.
Not to be outdone, CNN covered the results of a deeply slanted study, trumpeting in its headline that “Black borrowers liken student loan debt to ‘Jim Crow.’” The study itself recommends neglecting objectivity when it comes to student debt: Its authors write, “Student debt is a racial and economic justice issue, and any proposed solution to the student debt crisis must center the perspectives, lived realities, and voices of Black borrowers, rather than solely use their data to frame the problem.”
Democrats in Congress have also given the uneven distribution of student loan debt as reason borrowers should not have to repay it. Earlier this month, Rep. Ilhan Omar led 18 other lawmakers in sending a letter to Sec. Cardona regarding student loan debt. She framed loan cancellation as a racial justice issue, writing, “Two thirds of all student debt is held by women, with Black women the most burdened of all.” By her logic, student loan debt should be cancelled because of who holds it.
The message is clear: Requiring people to pay their student loan bills is racist and sexist and therefore must not be allowed to happen.
If these arguments sound familiar, it is for good reason. The very same claims were made surrounding the eviction moratorium. On June 22, Reps. Pressley, Gomez, and Bush issued a letter, along with 41 co-signers, to Biden and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky asking them to extend the moratorium: “The need to strengthen and extend [the moratorium] is an urgent matter of health, racial, and economic justice,” they wrote. The ACLU also noted that “Black tenants — especially Black women — disproportionately face the threat of eviction.”
The impact of evictions, just like the impact of student loan debt, varies across demographic groups. But that does not mean the demographics are relevant. A person’s race and sex have never once caused their rent or student loan payment to come due. Those bills exist only because an individual, no matter who they are or what they look like, made a commitment to live somewhere or study somewhere on the promise that they would one day pay for it.
Requiring loan repayment is not evil, it’s good stewardship of federal dollars. The student loan bills that arrive in Feb. 2022 should not be a surprise to anyone. The Department of Education announced on Aug. 6 that it would extend the pause until Jan. 31, and that this would be the final extension. Progressives are turning up the media heat on this administration because it refused to kick the can down the road indefinitely.
Earlier this year, a group of 64 Democrats sent a letter to President Biden, asking him to delay the return to repayment until the end of March 2022 or when employment rises to pre-pandemic levels, whichever is later. The letter argued that the loan pause should be extended because women and minorities are especially likely to have trouble making payments, as if the race and sex of the borrower should have any bearing on the way the federal government treats the loans.
When the student loan repayment restarts, borrowers will have gone 17 months without having to make a payment or accrue interest on their federal loans. While Republicans initially enacted the freeze as a temporary measure, Democrats are fighting against loan repayment in the long term.
For all the hand-wringing about how certain groups of people are expected to struggle with loan repayment, there is surprisingly little discussion of any targeted relief measures that would help borrowers most in need. Instead, the solution offered by the progressive Democrats in their letter and by special interest groups is simply continuing the one-size-fits-all policy that is in place right now. Freezing all federal loans treats all borrowers the same, when the facts show that is not true. Brookings estimates that half of student loan debt is held by borrowers who went to graduate school, and the Social Security Administration has found that people with graduate degrees are statistically our nation’s highest earners.
If federal student loans remain paused in perpetuity, the outcome is nearly the same as cancelling student loan debt for those borrowers. The colleges still get paid with money fronted by the federal taxpayer, and the borrower never has to pay another dime. In both scenarios, colleges lose any incentive to drop their prices, because they know, and they know that their students know, that repayment will never be their problem.
The student loan freeze was always an imperfect solution to the economic ramifications of COVID-19 lockdowns. It was one action that could be done quickly, when the need was most acute, to help people at a time of tremendous economic uncertainty. The freeze was a band-aid; Democrats are using identity politics to pretend it is a cure.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito