Desperate to get a win before the midterms, President Biden announced Wednesday that he would be canceling $10,000 of student debt for people making less than $125,000 per year and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. This could cost between $440 billion-$600 billion.
At a time when inflation is soaring, many Americans are struggling to pay the bills, and student debt now tops $1.6 trillion, we really should ask ourselves: Is this the best time to pass off more expenses to taxpayers who didn’t take out student loans? The left, of course, is thinking that because the economy is so bad (if they’ll admit it), we need to do what we can to cut expenses for people who are struggling. While I’m sympathetic to that view, the question they are not asking is this: Who will pay to make up the debt?
It's not going to be millionaires and billionaires. It’s not going to be people who took out a loan, used it for a successful career, and now can comfortably afford to pick up the tab for those who also took out loans but were not so lucky. It’s going to be average Americans, especially blue-collar workers who saw that college degrees aren’t what they used to be and realized their path to prosperity would be through construction, plumbing, electric work, auto work, and the like.
In the early 20th century, it was thought that the Democrats were the party of the working class. But as the Trump phenomenon showed, many Americans don’t see it that way anymore. In addition to being turned off by woke dogma, they’re also realizing that the Democrats care more about white-collar gender-studies majors than people who work with their hands. As rough as life can be, blue-collar workers (and even middle-class white-collar workers) realize that if the government stops monkeying around with the economy and just leaves it alone, they can figure out a path forward through hard work and ingenuity. But it’s harder to do that when, just as they’re starting to get ahead, the government changes the rules and begins taking more money out of their pockets. That’s exactly what’s going to happen here.
What about the moral and even theological implications of this? Some on the Christian left like John Pavolitz, are claiming that Christians should support this more than anyone because our entire religion is based on forgiveness. But what Pavolitz and the like miss is that Jesus didn’t forgive our sins in a costless way: He did it at the expense of taking our place and paying our debt Himself. That analogy doesn’t work with the federal government. Because the government takes its money from the people, then they, not the government, will have to bear the costs. So in other words, Pavolitz’s analogy fails because Jesus didn’t forgive our sins by passing them off to others (which is exactly what would happen here). By paying for this by taking money from hard-working Americans who never wanted loans, the more apt Scripture really is: “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15.)
Fortunately for us, Biden’s actions may be unconstitutional. At the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, I am going to be making it a top priority to see whether a lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers who do not wish to assume a debt to which they never agreed is feasible.
Let’s consider the Constitution 101. Which branch of government has the power of the purse: the legislative branch or the executive branch? It’s the legislative. The Biden administration wants to carry out this plan under existing Department of Education regulations. However, he seems to forget that he lost three times at the Supreme Court this year when his agencies took action that would have major economic or social consequences. In such cases, the Supreme Court wants to see explicit authorization from Congress.
Such a suit may also give the court the chance to consider whether the Constitution allows Congress to spend our money on things that are not in the Constitution. James Madison argued that it did not. This Court might agree with Madison. If it does, then it would be the single greatest accomplishment of our lifetimes in reining in Congress’s out-of-control spending power.
We will be exploring our legal options, and our conservative legal allies in other states and in Washington will probably be doing the same. If we can do something, keep your eyes open. It probably won’t be too long before the fireworks start.
Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
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