Fiscal Responsibility

The Biden administration say they are nearing a decision on student-loan forgiveness, and it looks increasingly likely that the target number will be $10,000 per loan. Democratic leaders (Schumer, Warren) say this would stimulate the economy and relieve many low-income people of crushing debt. While I have supported many progressive initiatives, this is not one of them. The problem I have with it is the issue of fairness, but even more than that, of self-government.

In our family’s case, our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ educations were paid for by work and savings. Student loans are real loans, but differ from others in at least two ways, that they are deferred of payment until after schooling and that they cannot be defaulted through bankruptcy. There are numerous pros and cons that are widely circulated to this issue, but in drilling down on it I have this basic question: can the citizens of a democracy like ours be sufficiently responsible to make important loan decisions like this one?

Fiscal decisions are different from voting decisions in that they affect the decision-maker personally rather than collectively, so there is that. Also, inflation indicates that the economy has already been overstimulated, to me a glaring problem. Am I being too unsympathetic here? Is it a case of an over-protective “nanny state?”

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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8 Responses to Fiscal Responsibility

  1. SusanR says:

    You’re not at all unsympathetic. People who incur a loan obligation do so knowing they, not someone else, have a legal obligation to repay it. How is it fair for us, via our tax money, to have to pay off someone else’s debt? How is it fair for someone who paid off their own student debt to now have to pay off someone else’s? How is it fair to make someone who couldn’t afford their own college education contribute to paying for someone else’s? If Biden goes ahead with this, maybe I’ll ask him to pay off my mortgage … and my credit cards … and maybe my granddaughter’s college tuition.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Exactly, Susan. It’s very hard for a self-reliant person not to take the issue personally. Money itself is not the sin, for most people it’s the accumulation of hard work and determination.


  2. No – you are not unsympathetic because you have honest concerns (as opposed to party-line rhetoric). Personally, I can various sides of the issue, therefore unsure where I stand. After all, I also wonder about the people who paid-off their loans.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Interesting that you are unsure “where you stand,”, Frank. Since you are an award-winning educator of long experience, I value your opinion very much. Perhaps the situation calls for a new societal perspective on education. I seems to me that the quality of public schooling has seriously degraded over time. My own experience as a father and grandfather tells me that and, as further evidence I read these days that a college degree is not as good an indicator of success as it once was. Perhaps the time has come to re-emphasize trade-schooling at the high-school level while at the same time giving more air-time to the reality that college isn’t for everyone. The recent shift upward in working wages would seem to bolster the notion.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      One more thought. One thing motivating the college-loan debt forgiveness idea is income inequality, which is a real thing. The partisan divide has become so extreme that legislators can’t seem to compromise on any issue, much less income inequality. The only thing I can see that might mitigate it would be wide-spread acceptance of ranked-choice voting. It is being raised on the local ballot here in little old Joplin this August. I am a fan of it, hence more later.


  3. Daniel Digby says:

    I, too, paid for my education. I only earned $163 a month (guess how long ago that was), but I had subsidies for housing and tuition. That was also when the most expensive books I had to buy were between $8 and $12. My pay went all the way up to $175 a month until I began teaching to supplement my salary.

    I really can’t imagine how students today can afford $25,000 to $55,000 a year. At least part of it can be offset by living at home and starting at a community college, but still…

    Maybe prolonging your education by starting at a vocational school is a good way to begin, but I really have to wonder whether a university education is worth the expense anymore.

    Maybe partial loan forgiveness isn’t the answer, but education subsidies sure as hell are effective. Finland pays all tuition expenses, but that’s a SOCIALIST country.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Yes, I agree with subsidies as a concept but it’s a dangerous thing. For example, Medicare and Medicaid have enormously benefited older Americans but at the same time are the root cause of exploding the cost of healthcare for younger people. How? By pricing it as a multi-part product payable by government, the one customer with the deepest of pockets.


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