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Opinion Biden’s loan forgiveness is an act of stolen valor

2018 graduates of Bergen Community College line up for commencement at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

There are many good reasons to oppose President Biden’s plan to forgive student debt.

First, it is inflationary. As former Obama economic adviser Jason Furman put it, “Pouring roughly half [a] trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless.” At a time when Americans say that one of their top concerns is lifting the crushing weight of the worst inflation in four decades, why would Biden do something to make inflation worse?

Second, it’s regressive. It provides up to $40,000 to a married couple making $249,000 a year and pays for the graduate loans of law, medical and business school students. Biden wants blue-collar workers who did not attend college to subsidize the higher education of white-collar professionals. Under his plan, hospital cafeteria workers will pay for the loans of doctors and nurses; elementary school janitors will pay for the loans of well-to-do parents; auto mechanics will cover the loans of customers whose luxury cars they fix. It is a reverse-Robin Hood plan that steals from the poor to give to the rich. If you wanted proof that Democrats are no longer the party of the working class but a party of the elites, look no further than this.

Third, it is unfair. Millions of parents sacrificed and took on extra work to make sure their kids didn’t start their adult lives in debt. Countless students who did take out loans made sacrifices to repay them — or chose to attend community college or less expensive state schools so as not to load themselves up with debt they could not afford. Now Biden is telling these responsible Americans that they must pay off the loans of those who made irresponsible decisions?

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Fourth, it’s unaffordable. According to the nonpartisan Penn Wharton Budget Model, Biden’s plan will cost at least $605 billion and “could exceed $1 trillion.” Biden just got through boasting how his so-called Inflation Reduction Act would reduce the deficit. Then a few days later, he announces up to $1 trillion in unpaid-for spending, which nullifies all the alleged deficit reduction he claimed credit for just a few days ago?

Fifth, it’s unconstitutional. Biden’s plan is a direct assault on Congress’s power of the purse. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained in July 2021, “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 an act of Congress.” Now Pelosi has flip-flopped and is backing Biden’s power grab. She was right the first time. How can the president of the United States unilaterally spend up to a trillion dollars of the taxpayers’ money?

But here is the worst part of all: Biden’s plan is an act of stolen valor. He is claiming authority for student-loan forgiveness by invoking the 2003 Heroes Act — a law passed after the 9/11 attacks to support the men and women mobilized to fight terrorists and to make sure that they did not default because of their military service. The law explicitly states that it is designed to help the “hundreds of thousands of Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard reservists and members of the National Guard [who] have been called to active duty or active service” and asked to “put their lives on hold, leave their families, jobs, and postsecondary education in order to serve their country.” It authorizes the secretary of education to modify or forgive their postsecondary loans on a case-by-case basis “in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency, regardless of the location at which such active duty service is performed.” In 2007, when Congress made the Heroes Act permanent, it explicitly reiterated that it was acting to address “the unique situations that active duty military personnel and other affected individuals may face” (emphasis added).

Now Biden is using a law designed for active-duty service men and women as a pretext to provide loan forgiveness for those who never wore the uniform. Indeed, he is giving students who did not serve broader benefits than those who did. In so doing, he is effectively turning an entire generation of Americans into military impostors — receiving the benefits of military service they did not render. Imagine if he found a loophole in the GI bill to allow students who did not serve to obtain the same military scholarships as veterans. There would be widespread outrage. This is no different. The bill is called the Heroes Act for a reason. Americans who take out loans they can’t afford to repay are not heroes — and should not be treated as if they were.

So yes, Biden’s plan is inflationary, regressive, unfair, unaffordable and unconstitutional. But worst of all, it is un-American — because it is an affront to all the servicemembers who risked their lives on the field of battle to keep the rest of us safe.