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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness

The politics, the policy, and the law.
September 1, 2022
Student Loan Relief: The Good, Bad, & Ugly

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: Dark Brandon has risen, and his latest move to cancel loan payments might be his most aggressive yet. But is it his smartest?

Mr. Wyland (on South Park): Let’s get ready for a great debate.

Miller: This is “Not My Party” brought to you by The Bulwark. While our show was space-wiggling by the pool on a little vacation, President Biden was moving fast and breaking s***.

Terry (on Solar Opposites): Choo-choo, motherf*ckers.

Miller: His latest executive order is a student-loan forgiveness plan that activists have long been agitating for. It canceled up to $20,000 in outstanding student loans for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for anyone making up to $125,000 a year.

Tip Tucci (in Home): That’s a lot of people.

Miller: And the move is making some progressives pretty horny.

Sam Scoot: I shed a tear when I saw this earlier. . . . This is like iconic and truly historic.

Miller: But for me, not so much. Let me explain why with the good, the bad, and the ugly of this move.

Ben Chang (Ken Jeong on Community): Come on, teach: teach!

Miller: We’ll start with the good. Parents, university admins, and a whole industry of scam artists are pushing 18-year-olds to take on insane debt loads that they might not be able to afford.

Loretta Creswood (Annie Ross in Pump Up the Volume): Nothing is more important than a good education.

Ray Gillette (on Archer): Oh, and your friend, crippling debt.

Miller: I’m happy people who’ve been particularly screwed over by this cartel are getting overdue relief. Whether it was someone who dropped out because college wasn’t a fit or teachers and lawyers who ran up huge grad-school debt and chose to give back to the community rather than cashing in. There are many examples of people who are underwater with student loans who deserve a handout.

Chris Griffin (on Family Guy): Thanks, Mr. Biden.

Miller: The bad: This one-time payoff is just slapping on a Band-Aid without fixing the pus-filled infection that is our university system. If you’re 17 right now, you might be tempted to load up with debt, figuring a future president will copy Dark Brandon. But that’s a huge risk, and the college loan cartel that’s scamming you just lets them off the hook.

Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders on How I Met Your Mother): Don’t tell me how to live my life.

Miller: Any loan forgiveness should have been tied to reforming the way we fund our entire broken higher education system. That’s why the best part of the move is the thing that’s gotten the least attention.

Randy Marsh (on South Park): Go on.

Miller: A cap on future student loan payments at 5 percent of a borrower’s monthly salary. But that silver lining is overshadowed by how shitty the targeting is for this relief. If you are a married couple making $250,000 a year, why should you be getting this bailout? You make more than 97 percent of Americans.

Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey on Grey’s Anatomy): Ninety-seven percent.

Austin Powers (Mike Myers in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me): Crikey.

Miller: If you’re someone who worked two jobs through college to pay off your debt, I’d understand why you’d be pissed if you saw some 25-year-old marketing manager at Google making six figures getting this totally unneeded writeoff.

Homer Simpson (on The Simpsons): Can I have some money now?

Miller: And that contrast is why this might be bad politics for Biden in swing states. In Wisconsin, only 30 percent of adults are college grads. Here’s the type of ad Republicans are gonna run targeting the 70 percent.

Actor playing a landscaper: I’m breaking my back out here for one reason.

Actor playing a car mechanic: I wanna pay off some other guy’s debt!

Miller:  Meanwhile, the Democrats continue to pander to their college-educated urban base.

Butt-Head (from Beavis and Butt-Head): I think the problem is you’re just uneducated.

Miller: Here’s the ugly. Okay, y’all, if we want to protect our constitutional democracy, we have to put some respect on the laws and norms. Biden picking a random number out of the air and canceling that much debt for a suspect class of people is obviously not within the president’s powers without Congress passing a new law. Even Nancy Pelosi and Jen Psaki said so.

Nancy Pelosi: People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not.

Jen Psaki: The president continues to call on Congress to cancel $10,000 in debt for student loan borrowers.

Miller: And the Biden administration’s legal rationale for this move—that we’re in some sort of COVID emergency—is preposterous. If we want to protect our system, we can’t give a pass to a president acting like a lawless king, even they have good intentions. Then there’s no leg to stand on when a nefarious president wants to use a fake emergency to put an electric fence and an alligator moat at the border.

Michael Scott (Steve Carell on The Office): Things could get terrible.

Miller: And for all those reasons—

Lenny Wosniak (Steve Buscemi on 30 Rock): I’m out.

Miller: —on this move. But this is affecting people your age more than me. So I’d like to hear what you think. So swipe up for a poll or shoot me a DM. And we’ll see you next week for more “Not My Party.”

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.