President Joe Biden’s new plan to “cancel” up to $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 annually is at once a dereliction of constitutional duty, a crass political gambit in the lead-up to a contested midterm election, and a morally perverse value judgment that lavishes the regime’s insular, well-heeled voting base at the expense of the median middle-class American.
It is, to borrow a term in vogue in Democratic Party circles these days, a truly “deplorable” act.
It is, however, a very important act that teaches key lessons to Republicans. If there is to be any silver lining from this grotesque and imperious act, Republicans must learn those lessons—and act upon them.
The first lesson is that the Democratic Party is now more confident than ever about who it is that its core voting base is: wealthy, predominantly white, and primarily urban or suburban college educated elites.
This policy cannot be explained in any other way. The majority of outstanding student loans are owed by the richest quintiles in the American income bracket. Student loans are by their very nature only relevant to those who are privileged enough for the four-year elite Rumspringa, which is the modern American university.
The majority of Americans don’t attend a traditional four year, degree-granting university. They prefer apprenticeships and technical training over the substantive claptrap that now dominates our universities.
These are disproportionately the sort of practical, family-centric, salt-of-the-earth Americans who may be behind on their mortgage, auto loan or small-business loan, but are not profligate enough to sign up for hundreds of thousands of dollars in federally subsidized student loans, only to then major in “subjects” like gender studies.
To speak of “canceling” debt is economically, moreover, nonsensical; that cost will merely be transferred to the less profligate, and to those who made more economically sensible decisions. This cost will also be borne by those who chose a less prestigious university simply because they received a higher scholarship. They did the right thing, but they will be penalized for their thrift and prudence.
What about the middle-class plumbers, electricians, and others who forgo family vacations in order to repay their small business loans more easily. Well, they’re now on the hook to help bail out Yale Law and Harvard Law grads.
The Democratic Party, in “reverse Robin Hood” fashion, has fallen from the onetime pro-labor union, pro-welfare party of FDR and LBJ to the party of rich, white kids and the miscreant denizens of America’s higher education cartel.
Even worse, this cartel will be perversely incentivized as a result if this egregious moral risk to continue to increase already exorbitant tuition fees.
Democrats, going back at least as far as the Obama presidency and continuing through this week’s presidential edict, have made a deliberate choice to cater to the needs of wealthy, college-educated societal elites. Democrats have already made their bed in politics. They must now lie in that bed.
Republicans now have the responsibility to do the exact same, but in reverse. Republicans must embrace their core vote base: working-class, blue-collar, and middle-class Americans without a college education.
Too often, Republican leaders have tried to flee their base. The worst secret in American politics, which was exposed to the world during the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, was that the Republican establishment actually hates its own voter base.
But if the Democrats are this committed to mollycoddling the privileged and the well-off, then Republicans have a golden political opportunity to make a sustained play for “normal” America.
The process of political realignment is already underway. Republicans must now simply embrace it and act accordingly in their crafting of conservative-populist policies. If this requires a stronger use of political power to promote good political order, then so be it.
The second, and closely related, lesson for Republicans is—as if we needed another reminder—that “value neutrality” in all things governance is a lie. It will never be achieved even if it were worthwhile to pursue as an end unto its own. (It isn’t.)
In effectuating this student loan “cancellation” boondoggle, the Biden administration has made a very deliberate value judgment to prioritize its core voter base (white college graduates) and a core constituency (higher education bureaucrats) at the expense of those voters and constituencies that Democrats hate; namely, the “deplorables” to which Hillary Clinton infamously once referred.
In other words, the Biden administration decided to reward friends while punishing enemies within the (arguable?) confines of the rule-of-law. It would be great if the Republicans did the same next time they hold the power.
As the often-astute Pedro L. Gonzalez put it on Twitter: “Republican politicians are outraged that Democrats used power to reward the people who vote for them while also punishing the GOP’s Middle American base by forcing them to foot the bill. Republican *voters* should be outraged the GOP won’t play the same ruthless game.”
It is absolutely right.
Biden’s new student loan policy is a travesty of justice. With any luck, if the right plaintiff can find Article III “standing,” the policy will be sued into oblivion as a blatant violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers framework. But perhaps, as a silver lining, Republicans might—might—finally learn a necessary lesson or two about the art of politics in this ailing, bitterly divided republic.
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