Live a debt-free life

More than 200 years ago, Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler foresight captured the corruption in Joe Biden’s student loan cancellation when he reportedly said that a democracy “can only exist until voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury”.

This assessment implicitly implies corruption on the part of politicians willing to buy votes and voters willing to be bought at the expense of their fellow citizens.

Canceling Biden’s college loan, however, represents a new twist on this cynical approach — instead of buying votes with new government programs, you buy them by canceling personal debt.

The motive remains the same because it rests on the same assumption: that those whose debts are abruptly erased with a wave of the Biden magic wand will repay that favor at the polls in two months by voting for Democratic candidates. And, just as crucially, that the rest of us, the overwhelming majority of the population who should foot the bill, are too politically disengaged and disorganized to understand the way more Peters have just been robbed bribe a smaller Paul number.

A great financial benefit will be felt by the recipients, but the pain (expense) is conveniently and deliberately dispersed among the larger body politic in a way that limits its intensity for a single member.

The new twist Biden has introduced — replacing the idea of ​​getting a check from the government with a waiver of having to write one of your own — also affects political dynamics in ways that demand the exercise be repeated and expanded. over time ; there can be no “just this once, just for these debtors” – when the government embarks on debt forgiveness, anyone can and will line up and file claims.

Republicans who speak out against debt cancellation will also see their resistance fade as they suffer at the polls from the perception that they will be reaping a benefit that has been bestowed upon them and that people will increasingly grow accustomed to. more. Indeed, the central genius of the welfare state is that benefits once granted quickly acquire the status of permanence, and that even proposals to reduce their rate of growth can be presented as barbaric.

Democrats thus benefit from the fact that prospective college students can go to college for free as long as Democrats are in power and Republicans are kept out. Aware of such assumptions and frightened by their electoral consequences, the Republicans will gradually abandon the role of skunk at the picnic.

Democrats’ campaign ads accusing Republicans of wanting to end Social Security and throw grandma in the snow will be replaced by ads telling young people that Republicans want to deny them a college education (by cruelly forcing them to pay one way or another).

The nature of the debate therefore shifts from excuse or non-excuse of the loan debt to that of the amount that should be excused. A bidding war therefore ensues in which those politicians who can excuse the greatest amount of loan indebtedness inevitably prosper and win, with the savviest among them already realizing that the final, winning bid is a promise of free college all around.

This will historically draw a straight line between what Biden has done and the idea that no one should have to skimp, save and sacrifice to go to college anymore, because everyone should (and will) go for free.

With the idea of ​​government debt cancellation in exchange for established votes, Democrats may also start thinking about other debts that can be creatively canceled with perhaps even greater effect, because there’s no argument for canceling college loan debt that isn’t. apply equally and probably more powerfully to medical costs, housing (mortgages and rents) and transportation (car payments), given that health care, housing and transportation are clearly more pressing human needs than a doctorate. in Queer Studies from Bumbleweed State U.

If one party in a two-party system is going to make you pay your debts and bills and the other is not, there is a clear electoral advantage to the latter at the expense of the former, suggesting the joint adoption of debt-free “the policy of two in the end.

Underlying all of this is the additional assumption that what Biden has done, contrary to appearances and mainstream economic thinking, does not really amount to shifting debt from one party to another (from the wealthiest to the less wealthy, in this case) because it can all go on that magic federal government credit card that has no limits or payments, the national debt having become so large and incomprehensible that its political importance is disappearing, at least in terms incentive structures for policy-making.

So a heartfelt question for readers, especially those watching with approval what Biden has done – if a married couple with graduate degrees earning $240,000 a year can have their student debt forgiven, what argument? possible can you pitch to explain why a factory worker without a college degree earning $35,000 can’t get his car payments forgiven?

In other words, what logic obliges the first but prohibits the second?

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, earned his doctorate. in political science from the University of Illinois.