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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

OPINION:

No matter how many times Lucy pulled the football away, Charlie Brown kept thinking the charade was over, but fans of the “Peanuts” cartoon knew better. It’s like President Biden’s latest extension of the student loan moratorium — which came after he had promised, yet again, that he wouldn’t do so. Despite a lack of justification for the program, it has now been extended eight times and is costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

Since the moratorium began in March 2020, federal student loans have been put on pause. No payments are required, no interest is accruing, and all accounts have been placed in good standing, including those that  were in default. Now, the moratorium has been extended through August 2023, 42 months after it began.


With Mr. Biden’s student loan bailout on ice after being ruled unconstitutional, this is the administration’s way of doing an end run around the judicial system. Perpetually extending the pause provides de facto forgiveness, at least for a time.

This extension comes after Mr. Biden declared the pandemic over, yet he continues the pause in the name of a COVID-19 emergency. FDR did the same thing with his New Deal programs — the Great Depression was merely an excuse to enact the very policies that he’d been proposing since the 1920s. The far left has been agitating for a student-debt handout for years, and COVID-19 has been a convenient excuse.

But it’s hard to imagine a group less in need of a bailout or a loan moratorium than a college graduate. By almost any measure, they are faring better than nearly every other demographic, according to the latest data from the Biden administration’s own Department of Labor.

The unemployment rate among people with at least a bachelor’s degree is a mere 1.9%, exactly where it was before the pandemic and about half of today’s national unemployment rate. In addition, 3.4 million more college graduates are employed today than before the pandemic, and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher are the only demographic whose wages have been keeping up with inflation over the last two years. If there’s any group that does not need a handout right now — at the expense of everyone else — this is it.

Despite having weathered the financial fallout from the pandemic far better than many others, college graduates will receive another massive subsidy through most of next year at taxpayer expense.

Mr. Biden has effectively shifted the burden of student loan financing to those who have either paid off their student loans, never took out loans or never went to college.

These interest charges are not trivial, coming in at over $5 billion per month. By the end of August 2023, the lost interest alone will be over $210 billion since the start of the moratorium.

But the deal is much more costly than missed interest payments; taxpayers also lose principal payments on many loans.

For graduates working at businesses with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, the moratorium also counts toward the borrowers’ required 10 years of “public service” before their remaining student loans are forgiven, which is a euphemism for “taxpayer-funded.” This will cost the taxpayer billions more in lost principal payments from these borrowers. Of the 120 months required to be spent working at a nonprofit, 42 of them — more than one-third of the requirement — will have been effectively eliminated.

People should be furious with the Biden administration for effectively taking from the middle and working classes to provide a handout for college graduates, a group with much higher-than-average income that disproportionately votes Democrat.

But lest anyone think that this is ultimately about politics and not policy, recall that this misbegotten student loan-payment moratorium was begun under a Republican administration. It was just as injudicious then as it is now. Policies must be judged by their results, not their authors.

• E.J. Antoni is a research fellow for regional economics in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis and a senior fellow at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.


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