Student Debt Remission: Joe Biden’s Millimeter Gift

In politics this is called the mouse hole: a measure cut to the millimeter, capable, with a little luck, of slalom among the critics and turn into success. For Joe Biden, the cancellation of some student debts could very well be one of those mouse holes, particularly welcome with less than 11 weeks in the midterm election.

The facts first of all. On his return from vacation on Wednesday, August 24, the US president announced the cancellation of $ 10,000 in debt for students who had borrowed, guaranteed by the federal state, to pay for their education. The amount can reach $ 20,000 for the recipients of loans reserved for smaller families. At the same time, the president announced that the moratorium on student loan repayment, introduced at the end of March 2020 due to the pandemic, would expire on 31 December. The 45 million Americans who took student loans, averaging $ 32,000 per person, will then have to start repaying them.

After months of delay and hesitation, Biden keeps an election promise, but with a significant caveat. “I’ll make sure everyone in this generation gets $ 10,000 off student debt as we work to get out of this terrible pandemic,” he said in 2020. In the end, it won’t be “everyone”: debt cancellation is reserved for Americans who earn less than $ 125,000 per year ($ 250,000 for a couple). It is difficult, with such a ceiling of resources, to accuse the administration of making a gift to the “privileged” who did not need it.

Americans in favor of debt relief

Critics waited for Biden in turn on this dossier, with diametrically opposed views. On the one hand, those who asked him to be much more generous in debt cancellation, arguing that he could reach $ 50,000 per student. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), arguing that black students from modest families are particularly indebted, had joined forces with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the two leaders of the Democratic left, in this field. In front of? The Republican Party, but also the Democratic Center and all the Americans who, after having repaid student loans, saw in the shadow an excessively generous debt relief. And in the middle? Average Americans: In February, 77% believed (in an poll) that Biden should cancel some student debts, and among them, 21% of Democratic voters indicated they would not vote for him in 2024. if he hadn’t done so t.

Student debt in the United States is no small feat. It amounts to $ 1.7 trillion, more than auto credit or bank card debt. Et le “cadeau” de Biden n’a rien d’anodin: son coût, sur 10 ans, devrait s’élever à plus de 300 milliards de dollars (le chiffre réel est en réalité moins élevé, une partie des emprunteurs ayant déjà fait defect). It’s not the first move: The administration has already forgiven $ 32 billion in student debt, and the moratorium on repayment has cost the federal government more than $ 100 billion in lost interest on the debt.

The tide is turning for Biden

The question now is whether this announcement can turn into an electoral weapon of war for the November elections. Republicans accuse it of being inflationary, a criticism that many experts refute, if only because loan repayments will resume in January. The other more serious uncertainty is knowing how young people will react to this measure. It is no secret that Joe Biden is not very popular in their eyes, many find him too old. This debt relief alone probably would not have been enough to mobilize them. But in addition to the fury over the abortion ban, it could push them to go to the polls.

As always in politics, context matters. In recent weeks, the tide has turned in favor of the Democrats, and Biden is also benefiting: according to a Policito / Morning Consult poll, his approval rating has increased by 4 points in two weeks, while unfavorable opinions have fallen by 4 points. Biden’s “gift” on student debt is no longer that of a president on the ropes, but of a democratic left that finds hope.

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