Go ahead, forgive student debt

Third, the debt jubilee would be unfair: unfair to people who paid off their student loans; unfair to people who will take them out five or 10 years from now; unfair to people who declined to take them out and worked their way through school; unfair to people who chose community college instead of a private institution; unfair to people with private student-loan debt that the federal government could not disappear without an act of Congress. A debt jubilee might be bad politics too: College graduates helped deliver the election to Biden. Do they really need a five-digit thank-you?

Last, such a policy might prompt universities, colleges, and other institutions to increase tuition on the expectation that the federal government will absorb more of the cost of higher education going forward. It might create moral hazard for students, too, who might take out bigger loans expecting Washington to step in eventually. If it did not, the student-loan crisis would worsen.

For all that, student-debt forgiveness is still a good policy. It may not count as an effective stimulus, but there is no reason to frame it as such, given that debt forgiveness does not crowd out other forms of spending. (The government is borrowing for free right now.) This is a yes-and situation, not an either/or one: Why shouldn’t the government eliminate student-loan debt while also trying to pass another unemployment extension? That gets to another argument for debt forgiveness: Biden can do it unilaterally. Senators cannot filibuster executive orders.