“You want to borrow, you have to pay the man.” Rocky Balboa was right, even in Rocky I.
Rocky didn’t break Bob’s thumb like Mr. Gazzo told him. Bob was behind on his payments and Gazzo didn’t like that.
“How come you didn’t break that guy’s thumb like I told you?”
“I guess if I break the guy’s thumb he’s fired and he can’t make the payments…”
“Let me do the figurative rock!” Just let me do the math! These guys think we’re running some kind of charity or something.
Rocky, Philly palooka although he was, had a tender heart. Yet he collected the debt because he understood the deal. Whether you borrow from a loan shark on the docks or from a major lending institution – and the difference is sometimes negligible – a loan is an agreement, a contract.
“You want to dance, you have to pay the band,” Rocky reminded the terrified Bob.
President Biden, however, is working to subvert the basic tenets of borrowing, understood by everyone from ancient Mesopotamians to South Philadelphia legbreakers. He wants to massively cancel student loans. A terrible idea in the presidential pantheon of terrible ideas. It has already canceled some $17 billion in student loans for 725,000 borrowers through what the White House calls “targeted aid.” But that was clearly just an appetizer.
Biden appears to be considering canceling $10,000 in student debt per borrower. Who will pay for this? We’re going. And by “us” I mean those of us who paid cash the old-fashioned way, or who took out loans and paid them back, or who never even went to college. It’s such a bad idea that even Biden himself pooped it, which like many other things he apparently forgot.
“The idea that you go to Penn and pay a total of $70,000 a year and the public should pay for it? I disagree,” Biden told New York Times columnist David Brooks in an interview last year. Alright, Mr. Chairman. So what has changed?
For starters, Biden’s popularity is plummeting like Wile E. Coyote off a cliff and that little cloud of dust you see when he hits the ground is the fate of midterm Democrats unless something changes. In short, Biden needs a win and he seems willing to pursue it through executive action despite rising inflation and a shrinking economy. The timing for this will never be good, but it’s hard to imagine it being much worse.
If there’s any good news, it’s that Biden doesn’t seem ready — at least not yet — to go as far as Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who wants to forgive everyone, yes everyone , $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. The whole scheme seems grossly unconstitutional and illegal.
My family was not wealthy at all, but my mother, who never attended college, managed our finances with ruthless efficiency. It operated by a simple axiom – don’t buy anything you can’t afford. She was also loath to take out loans unless she knew she could repay them in the short term. My parents put my sister and me through college, debt free. There was no magic involved. They sacrificed themselves. There were no vacations or expensive cars. They lived comfortably but simply, always within their means.
So the Biden administration is effectively saying to people like my mom and millions of others who have paid or are paying off student loans, “You did pretty well, so we want you to pay the loans back.” of strangers, like the kid who borrowed $70,000 a year to go to Penn.
It is first and foremost a wealth redistribution program straight out of the Sherwood Forest School of Economics. And really, Robin Hood and his Merry Men were just a bunch of thieves in ridiculous underwear anyway.
Tuition fees are too high and have increased at rates that far exceed inflation. Of course, one of the reasons tuition fees are so high is that virtually anyone can get a loan, regardless of their ability or intent to repay it. If this sounds familiar, it’s because similar lending practices led to the catastrophic bursting of the housing bubble in 2008. We tend to learn little from history.
Yet if you want to borrow, you have to pay the man. Rocky understood. Bob too. I wish politicians who argue for loan cancellation in the name of “fairness” understand how unfair that is.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.