Student debt forgiveness could be Biden's first presidential test

More fiscally conservative Democrats, and many moderate Republicans who supported Biden this election, argue that sweeping student loan forgiveness is precisely the wrong path forward, in part because Americans with a college degree have been, as a whole, less devastated by the economic effects of COVID-19 than their non-college-educated counterparts. While many white-collar office jobs were able to adapt to the pandemic world, by encouraging remote work or moving once in-person activities online, many traditional blue-collar jobs, like waitressing, bartending, and hospitality work, have been warped, down-sized or eliminated.

A late September report from Pew Research Center found that only 12% of people with college degrees were having trouble paying the bills amid the COVID-induced recession, versus 27% of Americans with some college education and 34% of Americans with a high school diploma or less.

There’s also the trillion dollar question of how the government pays for mass debt forgiveness, says Neal McCluskey, the director of the Center For Educational Freedom at Cato, a libertarian think tank. He says the burden of debt relief would likely have to be passed off to other parts of society in some form. “The idea of stimulus sort of goes out the window if we’re just sort of moving under a shell where the money is and where it’s coming from,” says McCluskey. (Some economists argue that concern doesn’t make economic sense, since the federal government issued the debt in a currency it also prints at a time when inflation is low.)