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No, Biden can’t ‘cancel’ student debt

On Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment last weekend, anchor Michael Che noted President Joe Biden is determining whether he has the legal authority to cancel student debt through an executive order.

“Come on, just do it,” said Che, palms upward. “I think the country can afford one reckless action after four years of Kool-Aid Man.”

It is unclear how “come on, just do it,” was even supposed to be a joke, yet it elicited laughter from the crowd. It is literally the position of those who actually believe the president can wave his finger and make student loans disappear.

If that position is supposed to be ridiculous enough to elicit laughs, someone needs to tell the vast majority of the Democratic Party. According to one December poll, 77 percent of Democrats support Biden “cancelling” up to $50,000 in student debt.

Of course, the president can’t “cancel” student debt any more than he can cancel car loans or home mortgages. Students who willfully took out student loans promised to pay them back as a condition of banks giving them the money. Biden would have to tell banks, “sorry, that money you gave to students? You’re never going to see it again.”

That is, of course, unless the government plans to pay those banks instead of the students – in which case the funds would come from taxpayers. So the middle class would be soaked to pay for a bunch of kids – many of them from wealthy families – to get out of their student loans.

Even Biden seems to be confused as to what he’s proposing. At one point, he said the federal government should not forgive debt for students who went to “Harvard and Yale and Penn.” Exactly who is going to make the determination whether a school is prestigious enough to have their students’ loans remain uncanceled? So a poor kid who takes out a lot of loans to go to Yale will still be on the hook for them, but a poor student that takes out loans to attend the University of Virginia will be off scot-free?

The only reason students not wanting to pay their loans back is because progressive politicians have chosen to take all this caterwauling seriously. Senators like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have pandered themselves into a corner and now have to pretend that refusing to pay loans is something grown-ups do.

In fact, the “canceling debt” issue is to Democrats what building the Mexican border wall has been to Republicans for the past four years – a partisan fever dream that literally can’t happen.

Progressives complain that school tuitions have risen sharply, so students deserve a break. But spending more government money to bail students out of their loans effectively ends up being a subsidy for universities that have stuffed their budgets full of administrators and bureaucrats. For instance, UC Berkeley now spends $25 million and employs 400 people to help “diversity and equity” on a campus where only about 22 percent of the students are Caucasian.

The ranks of Democratic politicians are full of people with hefty degrees that apparently don’t know “canceling” loans don’t make them go away, it just shifts who pays for them. At one point, going to college would teach you such things – now a degree simply teaches you to demagogue until you get what you want.

MORE: Warren’s free college plan solves a nonexistent problem

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About the Author
Senior Reporter
Christian focuses on investigative, enterprise and analysis reporting. He is the author of "1916: The Blog" and has spent time as a political columnist at USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and National Review Online. His op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, City Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has also been a frequent guest on political television and radio shows. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Marquette University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.