The Education Department is a Loan Sharking Operation

Photo by Alice Pasqual

President Joe “What’s a Campaign Promise?” Biden seems less interested in student debt forgiveness with each passing day. Indeed, his latest proposal has become, in the words of the Debt Collective December 7, the incredible shrinking debt cancellation plan, with his Department of Education providing the magic and malign elixir that constricts debt relief more each passing month. In November the idea was scrapping interest to reset people’s balances to the original amount. But then came December and, according to the Debt Collective, a new proposal “that would leave most deeper in debt than the day they left school.” Fittingly, on December 15 came the news that 40 percent of student loan borrowers skipped their October payment.  That’s a lot of people sinking even deeper into the debt quagmire.

If you doubt that usurious education lending is the respectable version of loan sharking, you have your head in the sand. The Debt Collective cites a librarian “who originally borrowed $60,000, has paid back $40,000, but still owes $110,000.” Under the November proposal, she would have received $70,000 of cancellation. “But under the new December plan, Kat would get only $10,000 of cancellation and President Biden would expect her to repay another $100,000.”

Alternatively, I suppose Biden could establish a federal workhouse for student debtors, where they could toil unpaid till they die. Why not? His chief GOP rival for the presidency wants concentration, ahem…detention camps for the homeless, to remove this unsightly human blight from city centers so they can serve their proper purpose as playgrounds for the rich, and Biden, ever tacking to the right of his opponents, will want to outdo this idea of concentration camps for the destitute. I’m sure he could weave workhouses nicely into his 2024 campaign tapestry of promised deceptions.

The ed department’s most recent “Proposed Regulatory Text Student Debt Relief Negotiated Rulemaking” contains several chimerically anodyne eye-openers. For instance, the education secretary may “(3) charge interest on the debt…; (4) Impose upon a debtor a charge based on the cost of collection…; (5) Impose upon a debtor a penalty for failure to pay a debt when due…;” Fun times for student borrowers. If this sounds like debt relief to you, I don’t want to hear your version of debt punishment.

In the section on how a debtor can inspect and copy records relating to a debt, the explanation is utterly opaque. It’s a little clearer how one may obtain an oral hearing, but not much. On when the Ed Secretary foregoes interest, administrative costs or penalties, luckless debtors, who have already paid many times more than they originally borrowed thanks to extortionist interest, well, they may throw themselves upon the mercy of a bureaucrat who can decide that charges are “(i) against equity and good conscience: or (ii) Not in the best interests of the United States.” That anyone in the ed department has the faintest idea of equity and good conscience is almost as hilarious as the notion that most of our foreign policy makers could ever, under any circumstances, find their way out of a paper bag.

Just because loan sharks in the White House don’t look like sleazy mafiosi doesn’t invalidate concluding that they are. Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student loans in the nation. It is part of the Ed Department. Many of its borrowers, up to their eyeballs in debt, would have done better taking out a Pay Day loan or patronizing an underworld shark. That a borrower can end up owing so much more than the original sum due to shamelessly eye-popping interest should be a scandal. That it isn’t just proves how comfy we Americans are with the tidier, media-approved whitewashing of crime families running our government.

To outdo Trump, Biden can easily be imagined promoting workhouses for students in debt to white house loan sharks all while crowing that he created the best economy ever and relieved more students of debt than any other president in history. You doubt he lacks the shame to avoid such bold-faced lies? Well, look no further than the so-called Climate President’s fibs about his environmental accomplishments. Biden’s task has been to talk a good game while whittling away proposals for debt relief. This conforms completely in its duplicity and odiousness with his congressional record as bagman for the financial corporations headquartered in Delaware. Anyone who thought Biden would ride to the rescue of the unfairly indebted was delusional.

“Debtors have been telling the Department of Education that their plan is not enough, and the Department’s response has been to make it even worse,” said the Debt Collective’s policy director December 7. But Biden barrels on, “making people pay back debt the President promised to cancel.” It’s almost as if Biden wants to lose Black and young voters – two groups inordinately impacted by the barbaric U.S. system of educational debt-dispossession.

Perhaps with those voters in mind, the Biden gang resorted to shameless spin on December 6, announcing “nearly $5 billion in additional student debt relief.” The ed department’s press release boasted that “another 80,000 borrowers will receive forgiveness thanks to Administration actions,” for a total to date of debt cancellation of “nearly $132 billion for more than 3.6 million Americans.” So why, according to Politico December 11, do progressives in Congress think this unprecedented, super-duper Biden proposal is too skimpy?

Because it is. When even that wild-eyed, leftwing radical, senate majority leader Chuck “Wall Street Over Main Street” Schumer thinks a debt cancellation program is insufficient, well then, Houston, we gotta problem. Schumer along with other legislators wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that the latest plan revealed Scrooges to be running the white house. It “would fall far short of providing the full scale of debt relief that low- and middle-income Americans urgently need.” Never expected to say this: I stand with Chuck.

Biden’s latest so-called debt jubilee comes in response to an earlier program that the skinflints on the Supreme Court deemed illegal last June. They, like much of Congress, complacently countenance an unfortunate student borrowing a few thousand dollars and later, due to ballooning interest, owing ten times the original amount. The fact that the Ed Department supervises loan sharking doesn’t bother them. That education has become the hunting ground for such predation strikes nobody in power as bizarre and outrageous. It takes a group like the Debt Collective to observe the obvious: the U.S. tolerates criminal interest on loans that would make organized crime blush. Indeed, according to the Debt Collective citing ProPublica December 18, Justice Clarence Thomas ruled against debt forgiveness, considering it unfair to everybody else, while “the GOP helped him erase his debts so they could buy his allegiance.” And Thomas is all in with the Dem loan sharks in the ed department.

So once again, the Democrats have succeeded in wrapping the proles in a bind. The only way to join the middle or upper middle management class over which Dems gush ecstatically is through education. Yet the confiscatory cost lies way beyond the means of the average worker’s child. Enter White House loan sharks, offering these helpless students debt servitude until they retire on social security – good luck with that – only to have those government checks garnished by the, dum da dum dum, government! Thus the Dems, with GOP approval of course, created a new class of serfs. That, I guess, is the grim story of life under the enemy occupation of the corporate uni-party.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Lizard People. She can be reached at her website.