The student loan crisis is a $1.4 trillion debt bomb that’s readying to explode unless some drastic changes are made at every level of the education industry. Everything from how the federal government backs up student loans, to the obvious abuses that educational institutions engage in (because of that federal backing for student loans); to the way we incentivize our kids to go to school—and study degrees in fields that will never make a return on that investment—even to the reprehensible fact that student loans are not dischargeable through bankruptcy the way other debts are discharged has led to the current crisis.
Of course, these are all long-term solutions to a crisis that is about to go nuclear in the near term. As the crisis becomes obvious and unavoidable, it has created a rich field for political opportunism. Just as with other socioeconomic crises, whether it be FDR’s response to the Great Depression or Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty or Barack Obama’s reorganization of the healthcare industry (Obamacare), whichever politician is seen by those Americans most affected by the burgeoning student loan crisis (Millennials and Gen-Z members) will be granted the loyalty of those Americans.
Biden Plays for the Youth Vote
President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party understand that they have no real constitutional ground to address the student loan crisis. Yet, the political opportunity to permanently win over a majority of Millennial and Gen-Z (Zoomers) voters is too much of an opportunity for them to pass up on petty constitutional grounds.
In fact, their refusal to be cowed by constitutional standards is an even greater inducement toward sweeping government action to ameliorate the crisis.
Recently, the conservative Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled against the Biden Administration’s ongoing attempts to use the power of the federal government to erase most—if not all—student debt. Despite this rebuke by the SCOTUS, the Biden Administration presses on.
In that way, Biden, like most Democrats, has demonstrated a remarkable understanding of power and the potency of perception.
Joe Biden has situated himself as the great man fighting the good fight for the dispossessed “little guy” against the Faceless Men of a rapacious and stodgy elite intent on keeping the next generation in debt bondage. While his administration has generally accepted its defeat after the recent SCOTUS ruling, Biden has not given up publicly decrying the decision.
The forty-sixth president continues to make a show of resisting this group by issuing student loan forgiveness to specific subsets of student loan recipients that fall under increasingly narrow federal guidelines.
But the effect is the same in terms of perception. Biden is fighting to liberate the young people of America from onerous, in most cases hopeless, amounts of student debt.
Is it good for the country to transfer over $1 trillion of debt to taxpayers—many of whom did not take out the loans or who may have paid off their own loans?
Does Biden care about that?
Of course not.
This is political gold. The Republicans, just as they did during the major socioeconomic crises of the last century, ceded the ground to the Democrats.
The Democrats, in turn, were more than happy to take up the field and run circles around their Right-wing foes. The perception has become that the Democrats always take up for the dispossessed. Biden’s fight to forgive student loans is no different.
The Millennial and Gen-Z Voters
Student loans over the years have increased in size and cost. Young people have been inculcated to believe that college is the only pathway to a successful life. Society has tailored its expectations and its hiring practices toward this notion as well.
If you want to get ahead, you need a degree—even for jobs that pay little.
This has the stultifying effect of saddling people with hopeless debt in the most important years of their adulthood, right when they are leaving college, and seeking to make a way for themselves in the world.
In fact, onerous student debt has been such a burden for Millennials and Zoomers that it has stretched out the historical norms for when young people settle down, purchase homes, and start families. All this plays into the increasing political radicalization found in Millennials and Zoomers.
Everything has been delayed, in part, because the expense of student loans for young people often outstrips what they can afford on their meager salaries. There are wider cultural changes that were alluded to in the opening above. But these are not going to address the current crop of debt carriers in the Millennial and Zoomer generations.
Had the Republicans addressed this concern from a sensible, conservative standpoint, they’d have a better shot at winning at least some of the hearts-and-minds of the next generation. By ceding this important to the Left, they have made our country susceptible to the most irresponsible policies that the Left can create.
The Democrats will stop at nothing to transfer the burden of this debt from current debt holders to the wider economy. This desire has won over many young people who will vote accordingly.
Joe Biden’s Effective Cynicism
Biden doesn’t give a hoot about student loans. He cares only that he can secure enough votes from the Millennial and Zoomer cohorts to push his sclerotic reelection campaign over the edge. It was, after all, Millennials who swung the 2008 Presidential Election for Barack Obama. Young people again proved decisive in helping Joe Biden in 2020.
The student loan forgiveness ploy just might be the thing that pushes Biden over the finish line in 2024. Young people are galvanized around this single issue and will vote accordingly. Republicans are screwed if that happens.
Joe Biden and the Democrats understand what’s at stake and are playing for keeps.
The Republicans have once again abandoned the field to the radical Left and now have the temerity to wring their hands in consternation and dread at what the Democrats are planning to do. They could have stopped this by addressing the problem years ago. Instead, they ignored it. The Democrats aren’t dumb enough to replicate that mistake.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.