Loan forgiveness would be an unforgivable mistake

“A major waste,” “irresponsible,” and “expensive.” This verdict on broad student debt cancellation — something the Biden administration looks as if it is seriously considering — could have come from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, or, indeed, The Spectator. But the source of this critique is the impeccably liberal Washington Post editorial board.

“A broad cancellation [of student debt] would offer huge, undeserved benefits to doctors, lawyers and others who do not need taxpayers to foot the bill for their valuable educations. The vast number of American taxpayers lacking university degrees would subsidize well-heeled, white-collar professionals,” argues the editorial.

The Washington Post’s argument differs from more conservative attacks on the idea of student debt cancellation in that its authors still want to see the money spent on Pell Grants for poor students, rather than not spent at all.

But the main point, on which anyone other than the progressive wing of the Democratic Party can agree, is that lavishing taxpayers’ money on well-paid graduates is grossly unfair. This would be true in almost any circumstance. Given the gathering storm clouds, it would be gross misconduct.

The economy shrank by 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2022, we learnt yesterday. There are technical reasons why that figure is not quite as calamitous as it appears, but it nonetheless took economists by surprise. Coupled with steeply rising prices, it is yet another unwelcome reminder of the threat of stagflation that hangs over the country — and this administration.

And it makes this a terrible time to think about tackling student debt. As Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has pointed out, debt cancellation wouldn’t just be costly and regressive, but “inflationary.” As she puts it, “Either the president is serious about reducing deficits and getting inflation under control, or he is not. The White House can’t have it both ways.”

Jen Psaki declined to comment on the inflationary consequences of student debt cancellation in a press conference yesterday. Time and again the White House insists it takes the inflation problem seriously and then points the finger at Putin. These arguments would be marginally more persuasive if Biden didn’t keep flirting with unambiguously inflationary moves. As has been pointed out before, there is only so much the White House can do to tackle rising prices. And yet they seem determined not to take those most basic steps.

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The changing face of the Democrats — and the Republicans

That Biden is taking student debt cancellation so seriously may be a worrying sign for the US economy, but it is a helpful indicator of whom the Democratic Party exists to serve these days. Poll after poll shows working class voters of all races moving rightwards. With the prioritization of college graduates over rising prices that hit the poorest the hardest, is the shift really so surprising?

The latest suggestion of a realignment in American politics comes from Emerson’s Midterm Congressional Generic Ballot poll. It gives Republicans a lead among both Latino voters (35 percent to the Democrats’ 32.5 percent) and Asian voters (47.6 percent, to the Democrats’ 42.9 percent).

The sorry state of the White House Press Corps

Is it too much to ask that White House correspondents do their job and hold this administration to account? In an inadvertently damning Politico magazine feature on the “rise and fall of the star White House reporter,” Washington media insiders offer up all sorts of self-incriminating but unattributed quotes about the shallowness of their interests and the lax approach to Team Biden.

The worst of the lot comes from a “reporter who has covered the past two administrations” who complains that “Jen [Psaki] is very good at her job, which is unfortunate. And the work is a lot less rewarding, because you’re no longer saving democracy from Sean Spicer and his Men’s Warehouse suit. Jawing with Jen makes you look like an asshole.” (Misspelling the name of the clothing brand you’re trashing makes you look like a jerk, too, FYI: it’s “Men’s Wearhouse.”) Be nice to the president’s chief propagandist so you don’t lose street cred in DC. Just like they taught you in journalism school.

What you should be reading today

Matthew Continetti: Revenge of the populists
Teresa Mull: More silent films, less Twitter
Gilbert T. Sewall: When sex ed is a crime against children
Edward Luce, Financial Times: The return of the 20th century’s nuclear shadow
Susan Crabtree, RealClearPolitics: Double-edged sword? Trump ramps up role in midterms
Natalie Allison, Politico: Republican who refuses to bend the knee to Trump surges in Ohio

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 41.4 percent
Disapprove: 53.4 percent
Net approval: -12.0 (RCP Average)

Hypothetical Georgia Senate match up
Raphael Warnock (D): 45 percent
Herschel Walker (R): 40 percent (Survey USA)

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