The debate about whether or not we should “cancel” or “forgive” student loan debt has been raging for years, but a pretty crucial point keeps getting ignored — the fact that doing this is impossible.
When I say “impossible,” I don’t merely mean that the proposals are too expensive or that they wouldn’t achieve the economic boost that they promise. Although I do believe those things are true as well.
A recent Fox Business article by Megan Henney does a good job of explaining those details.
What I mean here is far more straightforward than any discussion about policy details and implications. What I mean when I say “impossible” is that student loan debt “forgiveness” and “cancelation” do not exist. That’s obvious by the fact that absolutely none of the proposals that people discuss using this language actually do anything of the sort.
Let me be clear: Anyone who refers to policies that remove the responsibility of loan debt from the borrowers as “forgiveness” or “cancelation” is misrepresenting reality at best, and lying at worst.
Think about it: To "forgive" a mistake is to absolve it, but that isn’t what these policies do. They don’t absolve mistakes, they just force other uninvolved people to pay for them. They don’t “cancel” the debt, they just pass the buck to someone else.
Just imagine, for example, if a business had a “cancelation” policy like this: Bob orders a product, and then later decides that he can’t afford it. He calls customer service, and the representative tells him not to worry. He can keep the product, but his financial responsibility for it has been absolved.
Then the company sends a bill to someone else for what Bob bought, and expects that person to pay for it. Would anyone in their right mind actually call this sort of thing a “cancelation policy” (let alone a fair one!) with a straight face? I don’t think anyone would, so why do we sit idly by and allow politicians and the media to do exactly this when it comes to student loans?
The truth is that we shouldn’t, and it’s important that we stop. Hearing this topic repeatedly discussed as "forgiveness" or “cancelation,” after all, changes the entire dynamic of the conversation.
People pushing for policies using this language can freely and easily focus, for example, on how tough things are for people with the debt. And so why wouldn't we just want to forgive them? It’s nice to forgive; they deserve forgiveness; any nice person could realize that, why are you so mean?
It is nice to forgive; I agree, and I do exactly that whenever I can. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that “forgiveness” just isn’t what this is — and honestly, there are few things less useful than a debate surrounding a premise that is false in the first place.