The frame for virtually any discussion of American politics at the moment advanced by the hair-on-fire segment of our media elite is that democracy itself is under attack. We are surrounded, according to the likes of CNN’s Brian Stelter (peace be upon him), by those who would tear down the foundations upon which the government and ordered law of the United States of America stands, in a frontal illiberal assault on the institutions that keep us free. Fear the QAnon Shaman and his Viking hat! We all remember how close he came to ruling us all astride the floor of Congress.
How quietly these same voices become when the White House itself engages in actual threats to the rule of law and up-end representative government in order to engage in policy steps that are aggressively at odds with that little old thing called the Constitution.
In this case, this assault comes in the form of President Biden’s intention to “forgive” hundreds of billions of dollars of student debt, in a grasping act of desperation to stem the red wave political prognosticators expect in the fall. It is a high-risk, low-reward act of unconstitutional flim-flammery that will stoke a class-war backlash and dare the courts to respond.
As politics, it is gruesomely crass; as policy, it is utterly backwards; as law, it is obscene.
In other words, it fits right in the Biden administration’s definition of “normalcy.”
As Charles C.W. Cooke writes:
It would represent a middle finger to the Constitution, which vests legislative power in Congress, not the president. It would represent a middle finger to Congress, which has not given the executive branch the authority to give $10,000 each to millions of college students. It would represent a middle finger to the Department of Education, which found last year that it “does not have statutory authority to provide blanket or mass cancellation, compromise, discharge or forgiveness of student loan principal balances, and/or to materially modify the repayment amounts or terms thereof.” Nancy Pelosi confirmed last summer that “the president can’t do it — so that’s not even a discussion.” “Not everybody realizes that,” she said, “but the president can only postpone, delay but not forgive.” Biden’s response? A middle finger.
Set aside for the moment the fact that this is an act of redistribution that, if paid for via taxation, will essentially burden every taxpayer in America on average with a bill of $2,100 to pay for schooling they did not receive at higher ed institutions they did not attend. What Biden has done here is in one step eradicate the sole purportedly decent policy outcome of the “Inflation Reduction Act” — that supposedly monumental achievement whereby working Americans are audited to the nth degree in order to pay for electric car subsidies — and its claims to reduce the deficit. Washington needed another cash shower after that brief act of fiscal sanity.
But if past is prologue, policymakers will take door number 3: charge student debt cancelation to the country’s credit card; aka more borrowing. This path wipes out an *entire decade* of the recently-enacted Inflation Reduction Act’s deficit reduction. pic.twitter.com/cOrjsNs66z
— Andrew Lautz (@andrew_lautz) August 23, 2022
The higher education institutions in America have long been unfairly propped up by government policy, with bloated endowments churning along as the beneficiaries of tax-free non-profit status. They have overcharged Americans of all walks of life for subpar educational experiences, and without any skin in the game, don’t even have to care if the overeducated students they produce are able to maintain a job or function in the economy.
That ought to change, and there are policy steps to take toward that end. Biden’s approach is not that. Instead, it doubles down on a clumsy, foolhardy, fundamentally anti-democratic approach to governance. It penalizes those Americans who worked hard to pay off those student loans. It undermines our fiscal state. It increases resentment. It defies the Constitution.
Otherwise, everything is fine.