Showing posts with label Biden's student loan forgiveness plan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biden's student loan forgiveness plan. Show all posts

Sunday, November 27, 2022

President Biden's Never Ending Pause On Student-Loan Payments: Hey, It's Just Monopoly Money

 When I was a kid, my childhood friends and I often played Monopoly on those long summer days when time stood still in southwestern Oklahoma.  

Sometimes our games lasted for two or three days. If a kid went broke by landing on Park Place, the player with the biggest bankroll would provide an interest-free loan to keep the game going.

Why not?  It was only Monopoly money. 

Now, the United States is playing a grown-up version of Monopoly. Beginning in 2020, the Department of Education allowed student-loan borrowers to skip their monthly payments due to the COVID pandemic. 

The original pause ended in September 2020 but has been extended eight times.  

In the meantime, President Biden launched his student-loan forgiveness plan to give millions of student debtors $10,000 a piece in student-loan forgiveness.

Biden's plan was challenged in the courts, and the President used this ongoing litigation as an excuse to continue the pause on student-loan payments. 

"It isn't fair to ask tens of millions of borrowers eligible for relief to resume their student debt payments while the courts consider the lawsuit," the President said.

Thus the moratorium on student-loan payments will extend until August 2023 unless the Supreme Court rules on his loan-forgiveness plan by the end of June.

Due to the payment pause, it seems likely that 40 million student debtors will go more than three years without making a single loan payment. During this moratorium, student loans do not accrue interest, and DOE does not assess penalties for non-payment. 

Even better, borrowers in DOE's various income-based repayment programs can count the time their loan payments are paused toward their fixed-term payment obligations. For example, an individual in DOE's ten-year Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) who skips loan payments for three years will only be required to make income-based payments for seven years. Sweet!

How much is the loan-payment pause costing taxpayers? According to the Wall Street Journal, the government will have lost $155 billion in uncollected interest by next month. By extending the break until August 2023, the delay will cost taxpayers an additional $40 billion.

So what? It's only Monopoly money. If the federal government runs out of cash, it can always print or borrow more.

Ultimately, I predict, the U.S. Supreme Court will declare President Biden's student-loan forgiveness program unlawful.  The Bident administration asked the Supreme Court to fast-track the case, but I don't think the Court will agree. It will probably be 2024 before the litigation is resolved.

As the loan-forgiveness litigation winds its weary way through the federal courts, Biden will certainly keep extending the loan-payment pause--probably to the end of his administration.

There will likely be two dire consequences if 40 million Americans are allowed skip making student-loan payments for four years.

First, student borrowers will conclude that they will never have to pay back their loans and will be damned angry if the government forces them to resume writing loan-payment checks after four years.

Second, after allowing student debtors to skip making loan payments for several years, DOE  won't be able to get the student-loan program back on track.  It will become like a car that sits idle in a barn all winter.  When spring arrives, the car won't start.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities continue raising their tuition prices, and students are taking out more federal loans.

To quote from an old adage, if something can't last forever, it won't. DOE's Rube-Goldbergian student-loan program will eventually collapse--perhaps sooner than anyone thinks.



Hey, it's only Monopoly money. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Be Awake, College Students! Massive Economic Turmoil is Coming

A friend sent me a copy of the Magnificat journal's Advent Companion, a selection of daily reflections for the Advent season. Advent begins on November 27, and I read the first entry, which reflects on Matthew 24 and Christ's warning to be watchful.

During the time of Noah, Jesus instructed, people ate, drank, and married until the day the flood came and carried them all away.

"Therefore, stay awake!" Christ cautioned, and be prepared for the hour you don't expect.

As I read the Advocate Companion, I thought this passage would make an excellent advertisement for My Patriot Supply, an outfit that sells emergency food kits with a shelf life of 25 years. 

This is not a religious message. Instead, I warn that our national economy, built on financial speculation and easy money, will ultimately collapse. Perhaps it will be brought on by the cryptocurrency meltdown. If you aren't convinced, read James Howard Kunstler's recent blog essays posted on Clusterfuck Nation.

If you are a college student, this is no time to take out extravagant student loans. Higher education is under extreme duress: Since 2004, 861 colleges have closed their doors, and more than 9,000 campuses have shut down.

Stay awake, and don't take out loans to attend an obscure small college with a tuition rate of $25,000 a semester. Don't enroll in an online degree program unless you are pretty damned sure that an online college degree will lead to a good job.

Just importantly, don't be deceived by all the talk of student-loan forgiveness or by the Department of Education's pause on student-loan repayment--which will last more than three years.

A few people will get their loans forgiven under DOE's borrower defense program based on findings of fraud, and President Biden's loan forgiveness initiative may ultimately be approved by the courts. Still, the President's plan to forgive $10,000 of student debt, if it comes to fruition, will be a drop in the bucket for students paying $50,000 a year in college tuition. 

If you are pretty sure a college degree will lead to a job, by all means, go for it. People with degrees in the medical services field will probably find jobs.

But you are insane if you plan to take out $50,000 or more in student loans to get a humanities degree, a liberal arts degree, or a degree in gender studies.

You are insane if your college degree requires your parents to take out Parent Plus loans that they can't discharge in bankruptcy.

You are insane to take out a Grad PLUS loan to get a graduate degree in business, journalism, or the liberal arts.

Sometimes the Bible has some good advice. Indeed, now is an excellent time to head the biblical admonition to "Stay Awake!" and be prepared for global economic turmoil--which is coming.

 



Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Student Loan Is Like a Reverse Mortgage: The Borrower Decides Whether to Pay It Back

 Tom Selleck has been hawking reverse mortgages for years. As he patiently explains in television ads, a reverse mortgage is just a loan, except the borrower decides how to pay it back. 

All true, of course. Nevertheless, reverse mortgages can have drawbacks. The biggest drawback is that homeowners can lose all the equity in their homes, leaving less money for their heirs.

Thanks to the COVID pandemic, student loans have become much like reverse mortgages. President Trump put a pause on student-loan payments in 2020, allowing millions of borrowers to skip their monthly loan payments without accruing any interest or penalties. 

President Biden extended the pause several times so borrowers could avoid making loan payments for almost three years. The latest delay lasts until the end of December.

In August, President Biden issued an executive order forgiving $10,000 in student-loan debt to everyone with a student loan balance whose income is less than $125,000.

I think the Biden Administration hoped $10,000 in student-loan forgiveness would placate college borrowers who will have to resume making their monthly loan payments in about seven weeks.

Unfortunately for President Biden, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined him from implementing his loan-forgiveness plan. In addition, a federal court in Texas ruled that the program is unlawful.

This setback has prompted student-debtor advocates to call for Biden to extend the loan-payment pause until the legality of his loan-forgiveness scheme is settled in the courts. As Persis Yu, a spokesperson for the Student Borrower Protection Center, explained, "Until the administration can deliver on debt cancellation, it really cannot turn on payments."

Cody Hounanian, executive director of the Student Debt Crisis Center, argues that students should not be forced to begin repaying their student loans until the student-loan program is fixed. 

To restart student loan payments with all this disruption, without borrowers being put back into a system that's stable and settled, to me, is just another obstacle that borrowers really experienced and understand more than anyone else.

The legality of Biden's student-loan forgiveness scheme won't be resolved by the federal courts for months--perhaps years. In fact, the dispute may require a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Suppose Biden succumbs to arguments that borrowers should be allowed to skip payments until the loan forgiveness litigation is concluded. In that case, millions of borrowers will likely go five years without making any payments on their student loans.

And when the payment moratorium finally ends, student debtors can sign up for a generous income-based repayment plan that will allow them to make token loan payments so small that they will never pay off their loan balances.

Thus, as I said, federal student loans will essentially become reverse mortgages. The Department of Education will lend billions of dollars to millions of Americans, and the borrowers may never be required to pay it back. 


Student borrowers can skip their monthly loan payments- maybe for a long time.


Monday, November 14, 2022

A Federal Court in Texas Blocks Biden's Student-Loan Forgiveness Plan. It May Be Years Before Student Debtors Know Whether the Plan is Legal

 President Joe Biden made a campaign pledge to forgive $10,000 in federal student loans. In August 2022, Biden announced that he would fulfill that pledge and offer $10,000 in student-loan forgiveness to anyone whose income is less than $125,000. People who received Pell grants while in college are eligible for $20,000 in student-debt relief.

Biden's Department of Education immediately began accepting applications for loan forgiveness. As of late last month, 26 million college borrowers filled out online applications.

Critics said that Biden was giving a benefit to people who don't need it. People who took out student loans to get a college diploma or a professional degree may very well be able to repay the debt. Critics also said that Biden is requiring blue-collar taxpayers who did not go to college to absorb the cost of loan forgiveness that benefited people who did go to college.

Then the lawsuits started. Earlier this week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Biden's program from being implemented nationwide.

Last week, in Brown v. Department of Education, Federal Judge Mark Pittman issued an important opinion on a challenge to Biden's student-loan forgiveness plan. Judge Pittman ruled that Biden's executive action was "unlawful" and vacated the entire program.

The Department of Education speedily appealed Judge Pittman's ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit is generally considered a conservative or moderate court, and I think it is likely that the court will uphold Judge Pittman.

Other cases will be filed in the coming months, and other judges may rule differently from Judge Pittman. If so, the legality of President Biden's $400 billion giveaway will go to the Supreme Court.

I predict President Biden's ill-considered bonanza will ultimately go down in flames like a World War II fighter plane in a vintage war movie. 

Why?

First,  DOE's primary argument appears to be that no one can challenge Biden's giveaway because no one was injured by it--it's just free money. 

But that's absurd. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that the program will cost $400 billion, and a Wharton School analysis predicts it will cost about a trillion bucks. The consequences to American taxpayers are enormous.

As Judge Pittman observed:

[N]o one can plausibly deny that it is one of the largest delegations of legislative power to the executive branch or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.

 Second, even Representative Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, flatly said that President Biden does not have the legal authority to forgive a portion of student debt owed by more than 30 million people.  

People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. . . He does not. He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power. That has to be [accomplished through] an act of Congress. 

Finally, the plaintiffs argued that DOE launched its giveaway in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because it failed to comply with the notice-and-comment period that the APA required. That's an excellent argument. 

Betsy DeVos, President Trump's Education Secretary, lost dozens of lawsuits because DeVos's DOE tinkered with the federal student loan program without complying with the APA.  Many of those court decisions will be precedents in support of the plaintiffs challenging Biden's precipitous actions.

The federal student loan program is a trainwreck, and millions of Americans deserve relief from college loans they can never repay. But any relief program should be fair and motivated by sound public policy--not reckless handouts to cater to a political constituency.

Congress would take a giant step toward reforming the student loan program if it took just two words out of the Bankruptcy Code. Those two words are "undue hardship."

Honest but unfortunate college borrowers who are insolvent should have their student loans discharged through bankruptcy like any other nonsecured debt.  

Apparently, that simple and fair solution is too difficult for our politicians in Washington to grasp. Thus (with apologies to Eugene O'Neill), Biden's student-loan forgiveness fiasco begins a long day's journey into the dark night of protracted litigation in the federal courts. 




Thursday, October 13, 2022

Biden's Student-Loan Forgiveness Application Lacks Adequate Fraud Protection: But Does That Really Matter?

Honoring a campaign promise, President Biden will forgive $10,000 in personal student-loan debt owed by about 40 million college borrowers. The only people ineligible for this bonanza will be single persons who make more than $125,000 a year or married people making more than $250,000.

Biden's Department of Education released its loan-forgiveness application a few days ago, which is incredibly simple. Applicants must state their annual income to determine eligibility, and most will not be required to verify their income with tax returns or other supporting documents.

Critics say Biden's distribution plan lacks adequate protections against fraud. People who make $129,000 a year may falsely claim they make less than $125,000 in order to receive $10,000 in debt relief.

Although President Biden's loan forgiveness scheme has plenty of flaws, I'm in favor of it. Millions of Americans took out modest student loans to enroll in college and then dropped out without getting any benefit from their educational experience. Wiping out $10,000 in student-loan debt (or $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients) will free many borrowers from all their student debt. I'm okay with that.

Moreover, I'm not too concerned about fraud. The only student borrowers who might scam the program are single individuals making over $125,000 or married couples making over $250,000. 

These high-income individuals are not likely to fraudulently mispresent their income to get a paltry ten grand in student-loan forgiveness. In any event, the Biden administration promises to ask about 5 million loan-forgiveness applicants to verify their income--targeting people with six-figure salaries.

Let's face it. The feds don't really care if student borrowers pay back their loans. The Department of Education paused student-loan payments for nearly three years.  The suckers who made their monthly student-loan payments anyway are eligible for a refund.

About nine million people are enrolled in income-based repayment plans (IBRPs), allowing them to make modest loan payments so low they don't even cover accruing interest.  Virtually all those people will never pay back their student loans.

And as generous as the present IBRPs are, the Biden administration is working on an even more munificent IBRP program that will require monthly loan payments so low that the Brookings Institution estimates DOE will only get back about 50 percent of the money it loans.

So here's where we are. About 40 million people owe a total of $1.7 trillion in student loans, and many of these borrowers will never pay off their debt. As Steve Rhode wrote in a recent essay, the sensible thing for Congress to do is to revise the Bankruptcy Code so that honest but unfortunate debtors can discharge their student loans in bankruptcy.

But apparently, that suggestion makes too much friggin' sense. 

Thus we see people like Tamara Parvizi, who owes $650,000 in student-loan debt, which she can't pay back and can't discharge in bankruptcy. When she went to bankruptcy court, DOE insisted that she be put in an IBRP. A federal bankruptcy judge agreed.  Under this IBRP, Ms. Parvizi will pay $80 monthly for twenty-five years.

The only relief Ms. Parvizi will get is $10,000 in loan forgiveness on almost two-thirds of a million dollars in student debt.

 In essence, our government behaves like an alcoholic who runs up a tab drinking Jack Daniel's at his neighborhood tavern.  Every so often, the drunk comes in and pays off his tab, but he keeps drinking. 

That's nuts, and everybody knows it.

Just put it on my tab.




 



Thursday, September 1, 2022

Like Manna From Heaven, Biden Administration Cancels Half a Trillion Dollars in Student Debt

Like manna raining down from heaven, President Biden will cancel a mountain of college debt. Student debtors making less than $125,000 will get ten grand in relief. People who got Pell grants while in college will get $20,000 shaved off their college-loan balances.

What will this cost the taxpayers? Who knows? Who the fuck cares?

The White House budget office says Biden's plan will cost $24 billion annually for the next ten years. Hey, that's nothing. The feds can find $24 billion under the seat cushions in the Congressional cafeteria. 

Indeed, Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, assures us that Biden's giveaway is peanuts--no more than a "rounding error" in the government's $25 trillion budget. He also said that people criticizing Biden's loan-forgiveness plan are "comically out of touch." 

Maybe the coastal elites are giggling at people who are alarmed about President Biden's largesse, but people in Flyover Country aren't laughing.

On the contrary, the Baton Rouge Advocate, which is a liberal newspaper, criticized Biden's giveaway as bad policy and bad politics:

Bad policy because Biden undermines the notion that debt is an obligation. His move will create the expectation that there will be more debt forgiveness just around the bend, the next time the country faces a crisis.

In addition, the Advocate argued, "Schools will feel free to charge more and young people choosing a course of study will pay less attention to whether their degree will produce a job that enables them to pay back their loan."

The Advocate also says Biden's reckless generosity is bad politics. In the editors' view, "
Biden is spitting in the face of voters who didn’t go to college, parents who worked extra jobs to keep their children debt free, and those who paid off their loans."

In my opinion, the Advocate's editorial represents the view of nearly everybody in Flyover Country who did not benefit from President Biden's latest giveaway. 

Indeed it is disingenuous for the media to suggest that the President's student-loan cancellation initiative will have little impact on taxpayers or that the cost is comparable to a rounding error in the federal budget.

The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, a reputable institution, estimates the cost of Biden's student-loan largesse at half a trillion dollars. When other details are considered--loan forbearance and behavioral changes--the total cost is over $1 trillion.

For those who live in Flyover Country, a trillion dollars seems like more than a rounding error. Then again, perhaps the people in the Heartland are just "comically out of touch."

Paul Krugman: Somebody's "comically out of touch."



Thursday, June 23, 2022

Student Debtors Say Affordable College is More Important than Debt Forgiveness

 National Public Radio (NPR) recently ran a poll to determine what Americans think about student-loan forgiveness. More than half the respondents favor President Biden's plan to forgive $10,000 in student debt per borrower.  

Among people with outstanding student loans, 84 percent support Biden's debt relief plan, and 68 percent want Biden to forgive all student debt (as reported in Inside Higher Ed.)

That's not surprising. If the President offered to pay off my Visa card, I would certainly say yes. 

And here's the NPR poll's most interesting finding: Among college-loan debtors, 82 percent believe making college more affordable should be the feds' priority

The NPR poll results show that most Americans understand why the federal student-loan program is out of control. A college education costs too much. 

Giving student debtors $10,000 in student-loan relief will do nothing to solve the student-debt crisis, which worsens with each passing month. While politicians and pundits debate whether President Biden should forgive some of this massive debt, the colleges keep raising their tuition. 

The United States has too many colleges and too many frivolous degree programs. Too many universities offer over-priced, mediocre graduate degrees that don't lead to good jobs.  

Most universities are bloated with platoons of highly paid administrators who draw higher salaries than the professors. Several for-profit schools have been found guilty of fraud; almost all charge too much for degree programs that don't pay off financially.

It's easy to shower college-loan borrowers with helicopter money-- a one-time gift of $10,000 in loan forgiveness to every student debtor. Kinda like giving a couple of bucks to a panhandler--how hard is that?

It is much harder to grapple with the underlying reasons for the student loan crisis: corruption, mismanagement, and price-gouging at American universities.