GOP injects class warfare into student debt forgiveness debate [column] | Local voices

US Representative Lloyd Smucker described President Joe Biden’s student debt cancellation announcement as “a slap in the face to those who worked hard and played by the rules to pay for their education.” A business owner said in a TV interview that he opposes Biden’s student debt policy because students “don’t deserve it.”

Mike Rowe, the TV host best known for his work on the Discovery Channel’s ‘Dirty Jobs’ series, said the Biden plan was ‘the biggest slap in the face to working people I’ve ever seen before Labor Day. “.

Such reactions prompt these questions: Why must Republicans and conservatives frame nearly every political issue as an appeal to grievance and resentment against those with degrees or “elite”? Why do Republicans insist on hurling insults and grounds for attack instead of discussing the merits of politics?

US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida recently accused historians who met President Biden of being “snobs” working against the interests of “ordinary people.” Speaking on Fox News, Rubio said: “We have people in charge of government who don’t care about working Americans and are completely out of touch with the common sense, wisdom and working class values ​​of millions and millions. millions and millions of Americans who, by the way, these people in power work for.

As others have pointed out, Rubio had just voted against capping the cost of insulin.

No moral failure

My parents were working class, but they instilled in me a desire for higher education. I was lucky. A scholarship allowed me to finish college debt-free, and I funded three years of law school with low-interest federal and local student loans and help from my family. I got a full-time job shortly after graduation and was able to pay off my student loans in full quickly, although my mother rightly insisted that I pay off the loan first. one of my aunts.

College education costs have risen, especially for low-income students. According to an analysis by Douglas Webber, associate professor of economics at Temple University, public and local funding per student for higher education fell by about 25% between 1988 and 2018. Pell grants once covered nearly 80 % of university fees for low-income students. ; it now covers around 32%. States dramatically cut funding for two- and four-year colleges after 2008, and colleges responded by raising tuition.

In many cases, students have been burdened with substantial debt – earning a degree in the workforce during a weak economy is not a moral failure. Many are unable to repay their loans because they could not find employment after graduation. The compounding of interest makes it impossible for many of them to establish credit, buy a home, and enter the middle class.

Other problems with student loans include high interest rates and illusory debt relief. The interest rates associated with student loans are higher than the loan rates many of us took out years ago. Some graduates also report that they took out loans promising debt relief if they accepted employment in a designated career field after graduation. They later discover that the promise of debt relief has not materialized with the job.

Allegations of disrespecting trade and vocational schools to attack two- and four-year colleges are an attempt to create a false conflict. Technicians and tradespeople are essential to our economy — there must be well-paying jobs for technicians and tradespeople. The government should support vocational and technical skills by funding vocational training. Support for vocational training does not mean that graduates of four-year colleges should be punished.

Moreover, the class warfare of conservatives offended by the dignity of recipients is unwarranted – the federal government has spent billions of dollars to aid the rich and powerful, even when the rich and powerful were not blameless in their need.

Incomprehensible hostility

Republican complaints about Democrats’ lack of interest in the working class ring hollow. There were compelling facts and legal justification when, last month, President Biden canceled $3.9 billion in federal student debt for students attending the now defunct ITT Technical Institute.

The Biden administration has also ordered DeVry University to pay millions of dollars for approved Borrower Defense Claims. (As the U.S. Department of Education explains, when schools mislead students or violate certain state laws, students may be eligible for “loan repayment defense.” (this is the discharge of some or all of the federal student debt.) The Administration also approved furloughs for a small number of students who enrolled in the Physician Assistant or Medical Billing and Coding program. at the Kaplan Career Institute.

ITT and Kaplan marketed to working-class students seeking employment in information technology and medical billing. As U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement, “Evidence shows that for years, ITT leaders intentionally misled students about the quality of their programs in order to take advantage of the programs federal student loans, regardless of the hardship that would entail. ”

Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was a major supporter of for-profit colleges and opposed advocating for borrowers to offer students full or even partial loan relief.

Republican hostility toward college and university graduates is baffling, unless they believe such appeals to grievance and resentment are effective.

In my opinion, Biden’s loan cancellation plan will promote greater fairness, equity, and racial justice, although I have concerns about the policy. As Washington Post columnist and PBS NewsHour editorial board member Ruth Marcus noted, the policy may be “poorly executed,” but “it comes from a good place.”

Whether one agrees with the Biden plan or not, his decision to cancel student loans is not a slap in the face to people like me who have paid off our loans, nor an insult to commercial workers. I don’t know who is qualified to judge the moral worth of recipients of debt forgiveness, but it’s clear who is appealing to our worst instincts to divide us.

Gregory Hand, a Manheim Township resident, is a retired United States Army civilian attorney (1989-2017). He served as an army judge advocate in Germany and a local prosecutor in Dubuque, Iowa, from 1980 to 1989.

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