TheGrio Daily

Student Debt Relief: Most Opposing Arguments Make No Sense

Episode 39

“Making a fairer more equitable society does benefit you.” President Biden says he’s following through with a campaign promise pertaining to student loan debt. Millions of borrowers will have $10,000 dollars forgiven and some people are big mad. Michael Harriot explains why you shouldn’t be. 

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Michael Harriot [00:00:04] It’s easy to do this podcast because a lot of the subject matter for this podcast is about, you know, whenever we can’t find a subject, we just say, hey, what are white people mad about this week? And then we just do a podcast on it. So, welcome to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that is going to dismantle the arguments against student debt relief. I’m world famous wypipologist Michael Harriot. Welcome to theGrio Daily. 

President Joe Biden [00:00:44] My campaign for president. I made a commitment. I made it came out that we provide student debt relief. And I’m honoring that commitment today. Using the authority Congress granted the Department of Education, we will forgive $10,000 in outstanding federal student loans. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:04] Yeah, man. Y’all know, I’m sure your people are being mad about Biden’s policy of student loan forgiveness. I mean, I don’t understand why people are so upset about it because, like, you know, if you don’t have student loans, good. But, white people are big man. And we’re going to talk about that today. As a matter of fact, what we’re going to do is look at some of the common arguments and dismantle them one by one. Because, you know, this argument isn’t necessarily Republican versus Democrat or, you know, people who cry themselves to sleep over global warming verses people who want to padlock women’s vaginas until Jesus gives white state legislators the key. This is about privilege versus people in need. And so I think it’s important that we dismantle the most common arguments about student debt. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:05] Now, the first one is that is unfair to people who worked hard to pay off their student debt. And, you know, I don’t necessarily disagree with this one, right. Because, I mean, people did work hard to pay off student debt. If you paid off your student debt. Good for you. Thumbs up. But unfortunately, the Constitution don’t give the president or Congress or the Supreme Court control of the space time continuum. I mean, if I had my choice, I’ll send Joe Biden back in time to drill a hole in the Portuguese vessels that started the transatlantic slave trade, advert reconstruction by warning Congress about the ramifications of the compromise of 1877. And then I’d repay student loans after I was finished doing all that. But since no one has invented a time machine yet, we can only address problems that exist in the current world. Right. So, using the logic that these people present, there are a host of other things that are unfair, like ending slavery with the 13th Amendment was unfair to the people who escaped slavery and risked their lives. The Voting Rights Act was unfair to all the Black people who endured racial terrorism and election violence prior to 1965. The whole concept of Christianity is unfair to all those people who sacrificed their goats before Jesus died on the cross. Of course, it would probably be fairer if the government went back and compensated people who didn’t benefit from the work and money they invested into the American economy. Matter of fact, somebody should do that. I think we should call it. Oh, no. I’ll think of a name for it. Oh, many reparations. Nah, that’s probably a bad name. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:53] The next one is that student debt relief is expensive and we don’t have the money. But actually, we do have the money. So, the White House says that the current proposal will cost about $240 billion over ten years, which seems like a lot because like my bank account, it has a little bit less than $240 billion in it. But the Wharton School estimates that the cost could rise up to 517 million. But let’s suppose that the Wharton School is right on this. All right. If we broke down the payments equally over ten years, we can easily pay it, right? Like, for instance, the 2018 Farm Act gave $428 billion to white farmers. Yeah. Yeah. Like USDA subsidies go generally and disproportionately to white farmers. For instance, the pandemic relief fund for farmers, 97% of that went to white farmers. And 99% of the trade war billions that that we gave to farmers during Trump’s trade war, 99% of that went to white owned farms. So, if we could just, you know, take some of that money from white farmers and pay student debt, or we could, you know, take some money that we disproportionately spend targeting Black people into the criminal justice system. Right. 

Michael Harriot [00:05:26] Like we spend an estimated $81 billion just on mass incarcerations every year. So like, if we just stopped disproportionately targeting Black people and just arrest Black people at the same rate and incarcerate them at the same rate that we do white people, we probably could save $51 billion because Black people make up the majority of people in prison in America. Or how about this? The defense budget, we could get some money out of it. I know what you’re thinking, that you don’t want the soldiers fighting in Wrangler jeans, toting muskets and pocket knives, but that’s not where we spend the defense budget on. Most of the defense budget goes to private defense contractors, and 90% of government contractors go to companies owned by white men. In 2020, we had 166 billion tax payer dollars to five white owned military contractors. Now, what if we just told these people, like, okay, this year, we want our stuff on sale? What are you going to do? Like, y’all know, conservatives love talking about free market. So what are you going to do? Go to another country and sell their big old planes and tanks? Nah, ain’t nobody else is us. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:52] Now, another argument is that, like, if we pay off student loans, it’ll go to wealthy white people. Which is not true. First of all, what people don’t realize is most people who have student loan debt didn’t actually graduate from college. 34% of Americans who borrowed over the last ten years didn’t even receive a degree. 11% of them graduated from a two year college and 10% received like a professional certificate. And 90% of the people who benefit from Biden’s plan make $75,000 a year or less. Now, because they are more white people, they make up the majority of student loan debtors. Right. 55% of student loans go to white people. However, a larger percentage of Black students borrow money from college and are behind on their payments and eventually default on their student loans. Right. In fact, most Black borrowers still own 95% of the student loans 20 years after they finished college, compared to 6% of white borrowers. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:03] One of the biggest fallacies is that we shouldn’t pay student loan debt because it incentivizes people to not keep up their promises. Or we shouldn’t incentivize people who don’t pay debts. And I kind of agree with that, except we are ready incentivized people who don’t pay debt. Right. Like one of the biggest but least talked about reason that this student debt thing exists is because most colleges and universities are in debt. And the biggest group of colleges that are in debt are public colleges. That’s right. Colleges that are owned and funded by taxpayers. So what they do is they raise their tuition to make students pay for that debt. And every student at a public university pays about $750 just to service the debt. About 9% of college budgets go specifically toward servicing debts. And the ones who don’t service the debt by raising tuition. What they do is they issue these things called tax free municipal bonds. They are backed by local and state governments, and you can buy them and usually they’re usually bought by investors or wealthy people. So those wealthy people are making profit, tax free profit, for sending schools into debt or for colleges that we have paid for that are in debt. And how is that not incentivizing debt, but paying the debt or the loans off of individual students is somehow abhorrent. Nah. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:02] Here is another argument that they make, right, that paying off student debt is a redistribution of wealth or it’s it’s socialists or it’s you know, and it teaches people not to work hard. And I kind of agree with that one, too. Right. Because it is a massive redistribution of wealth, right? It is, you know, socialists. You know what else is socialists? Slavery. Slavery was a massive redistribution of wealth. Head rights, which we talk about in an earlier podcast, that was a massive redistribution of wealth. It was a socialist policy. The government gave people land if they owned slaves. How is that not socialism? You know what else is socialism of the New Deal? But Black people were excluded from the New Deal, but it was a massive distribution of wealth. As a matter of fact, when you think about all of those policies, they took Black people’s labor. They took Black people’s wealth and redistributed it to white people. Right. Because we didn’t get the benefit. Right. Black people paid tax money, but we didn’t get the benefit of good schools during segregation or during Jim Crow. We didn’t get to attend those public schools or those public universities that our tax dollars paid for, for most of their existence. And that is a massive redistribution of wealth. But nobody wants to talk about that because any time Black people stand to get something, it becomes socialism or redistribution of wealth or communist. But white people benefit. It’s good economic policy is what they call economic stimulus, right? How are forgiving PPP loans not socialist, but forgiving student debt is, you know, bad. It’s terrible. It’s it teaches people bad ideas. It gives people the wrong ideas of how to navigate through life. Come on, man. It’s just a fallacious idea. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:12] One of the things that people say is that, you know, just simply paying off student loans doesn’t solve the problem. And that’s right. Like, you know, forgiving student loans doesn’t solve the problem of colleges being too costly. Right. And that’s a problem that we need to address. But. It doesn’t mean that paying off those student loans doesn’t mean that we still can’t address the problem of rising costs in higher education. It doesn’t mean that we can’t look at that problem, too. It doesn’t. Nobody passed, the law says. Now, if we pay off your student loans, we can never, ever talk about how colleges profit off students again. Nah, we can still do that, but let’s get rid of the massive social problem that affects the American people first and then let’s address the other issues. All we could do it at the same time. But don’t stop solving one problem because we haven’t gotten to another problem yet. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:21] Now. There’s one argument that like I’ve been really, really trying hard to think about and that I’ve been really trying hard to dismantle. And I honestly, I mean, I’ve thought about it in every different way, and I really can’t find an answer. I mean, that’s the most prevalent, you know, argument against student loan debt. You don’t give a  about people. I mean, that is true. Right. Like, I can’t argue with you not giving a about people. It’s hard for me to explain that. But I will say that the people who argue that it’s not their responsibility to pay off the debt of others or to use their money to help other people get education, they don’t seem to understand how a society works. Like you have to use your tax dollars to pay for school. Even if you don’t have children, you pay for roads that you don’t drive down. You pay for the upkeep of commercial districts for businesses that you might not even spend your money in. Like society works that way because, like, you pay for the fire department and you don’t get a refund if your house doesn’t burn down. But. If your block was littered with houses that had burned down previously, it would affect your property value. When people in your neighborhood aren’t educated, you have higher crime. You have lower wages. You have to put bars on your windows. You have to pay for more police protection. So making a fairer and more equitable society does benefit you. 

Michael Harriot [00:15:13] But again. If your only argument is that you don’t care about people, I can’t argue about that. The only thing I can tell you to do in that case is to download theGrio app. Subscribe on YouTube. To subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and to tell a friend about this podcast. We talk about some good stuff over here and it’s always we’ll leave you with another Black saying. It takes a village to raise a child, but it only takes one match to burn down a village. Thank you for watching theGrio Daily. We’ll see you next time. Thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to 

[00:16:23] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

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