I listen to podcasts and news almost constantly, one of the “fringe benefits” of living in a city already obsessed with self-indulgence that has reached new heights of isolation in the era of the ENdemic. My algorithm has me alternating between both extreme progressive and extreme alt-right viewpoints, as well as plenty in between. My own views are a melding of all of the above and I try not to get drawn into either side of the argument in my head. But I do listen to the passion and urgency on each side of the argument, so I do get why it’s so big a deal to each emotional pole.
Yesterday’s news about President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan dominated my content, and I’m trying to find some ability to appreciate the sitaution expressed by one Brittani Williams on ABC News’ website. Let’s let her narrative play out:
“When I became a borrower, I didn’t think about the repayment, I thought about degree completion, and then the economic mobility that would come… I figured I would graduate, get a job and pay those student loans back, and the reality for me was that I graduated, got a job and went back to school a couple of times.”
Williams, a mom of three, said payments on the tens of thousands of dollars of loan debt she still owes are on pause as she pursues a doctorate degree, which she expects to finish in 2024.
Though she too qualifies for $20,000 in loan forgiveness under Biden’s plan, Williams said she sees it as “just a start” and is already worried about restarting payments in the future.
“I’ve already begun to create in my head a scenario for repayment and what does that look like,” she said. “I’m enrolled in public service loan forgiveness and I work for an eligible nonprofit but what does that mean for my forgiveness personally moving forward, and what does that mean for the planning of these next nearly two academic years that I have?”
Williams happens to be a Black female, who are far and away the face of the discourse that yesterday’s news has provoked. Per Labor Department data, Black women earn 63 cents on the dollar compared to white males. According to Gloria Blackwell, CEO of the American Association of University Women:
“Black women face the “perfect storm” of both a racial wealth gap and gender pay gap, which she said combine to keep them further behind their peers both before and during college, and then exponentially so afterward, when they graduate with debt.
“When you are a Black woman and you have this burden of student loans, it impacts every aspect of your life,” said Blackwell. “It impacts whether you can pay for basic living expenses, whether you can afford transportation or even the rent in order to have a decent place to live, let alone save for a house or be able to start a family or take care of your family. It’s a burden on Black women on whether they can save for retirement or afford rent or be able to move to a better neighborhood.”
As a white male, I’m arguably the face of exactly the kind of prejudice and injustice Blackwell and Williams speak out about constantly. And an awful lot of my demographic peers are really pissed off today at the thought of giving the likes of Blackwell and Williams a single dime of relief. FOX News anchors and evangelicals are up in arms about taxpayers bailing out anyone who wasn’t as resourceful as they were to pay back their loans, or someone put themselves through school. Most of them, being older, don’t necessarily grasp exactly how insurmountable the cost of higher education is these days. As an aggressive White House social media team was quick to point out, an overwhelming majority of those doing the most complaining have benefitted from loan forgiveness themselves, and 70% of ALL Americans support some sort of loan forgiveness. So I’m certainly not going to wave my American flag and claim that today’s Gen Zs don’t deserve any help.
But let me offer my own experience. I came from a lower middle-class background and needed to get away from home in order to escape a rapidly deteriorating support structure that as my parents’ mental and health declined became downright untenable. We took out loans for the first two years, which including room and board amounted to approximately $20,000. That’s just south of $72,000 today, for your information. I worked two jobs, one cleaning up an art lab and one working for the sports information director’s office calling in summaries of our hockey games by phone, in order to afford an occasional meal at Ponderosa (somehow survived that awful excuse for steak) and a few beers.
And then I earned the chance to appear on a wacky game show, where my nervousness had me hopping my way across a soundstage at CBS Television City, where I won enough to pay off my last two years in full. I could have paid off the rest at the time, but I chose to buy my first-ever new car instead, which I later chose to foolishly lend to my roommate who decided to take a 15 mile a curve at 80 during a blizzard, which resulted in the car being totaled and power being knocked out for six hours. (Remarkably, he was unhurt, as were the two women he was chauffering back to campus–who were making out in the backseat together with each other when they crashed).
Notice I used the word CHOSE a lot. And the lack of accountability among those who have taken to TV and social media to say President Biden still needs to do MORE is what honestly has me a bit miffed. Williams and Blackwell, and other outspoken Black females, CHOSE to pursue advanced degrees. Most CHOSE to have children while they were pursuing their education. Many CHOSE careers which were less rewarding that others, regardless of whatever overall disparity there is for their race and gender. We all make choices at various points in life. And at least my generation has been educated to accept that we have to bear the burden of whatever consequences our choices have.
I do agree with those on the right who point out the timing and the targeting of those most directly impacted can’t not have some association with the urgency of the midterm elections. There is honestly sheer panic on the Democrats’ side that they are 75 days from losing control of the country, particularly to the likes of those who somehow believe the 2020 election was won by a hoarder of nuclear documents he can’t possibly have the intelligence to comprehend, not to mention love letters from a despotic North Korean dictator. Literally paying for the increased likelihood of votes from a demographic that absolutely must show up and vote in order to potentially prevent this nightmarish reality is as effective a strategy as Biden and his partner in crime have at this point. You remember her, of course? The most auspiced Black female in the country?
By the way, I’m not aware of exactly how Vice President Harris financed her own college education, but I’m willing to bet what little I have that she had an easier route than those who worship her have had.
So may I offer a bit of advice from those who think A) I can’t possibly understand what you’re going through and B) you think $10,000-$20,000 is insufficient to make up for the CHOICES YOU have made?
Go on a game show.
You’re demographically more desirable, and the prizes are much larger these days. Learn the rules, play intelligently, be willing to hop if necessary, and perhaps you’ll be in as good shape as I was at the time when I had no friggin’ idea how I was gonna pay my loans back, and I sure didn’t have a President willing to hand me a penny toward it.
Google this dude’s policies and background if you’re too young to remember it vividly, and tell me what OTHER jingoistic Republican with a TV background he might remind you of.
I’m definitely cheering the fact that hard-working people–regardless of age or gender–who are saddled with the cost of higher education today, both students and their parents, are getting a little help. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out this morning, the issues regarding the cost of that education and the desire to increasingly privatize it are far bigger issues, and ones that neither party appears willing to deal with. It would be silly to think they’d devote the energy needed to do that, particularly now.
But anyone who can’t appreciate that you’ve already gotten a lot more than many of you deserve, and think by standing up at a podium like Kristen McGuire did you represent an objective viewpoint that the world should get behind you will get me to cry more than crocodile tears may be a bit out of touch. Read her story:
McGuire, the executive director of Young Invincibles, a youth advocacy organization, said she is preparing to resume payments on her loans in January, when the pause ends.
McGuire said she did not qualify for loan forgiveness under Biden’s plan, which she said she hoped would not include means testing.
“The president’s wording has been no one who makes a high income will be eligible for this relief, but $125,000 doesn’t really weigh in for regional differences or inflation,” said McGuire. “So because of that, a lot of coastal borrowers or folks who live on the coast or in major metropolitan areas will be excluded from this.”
Kristen, may I suggest since you look so impressive behind a podium, try out for JEOPARDY. There’s no hopping involved in that show, either.
And like any other good contestant, be happy with what you’ve already won, and understand the reason you’re getting it at all is likely due not to helping the choices you’ve made, but the one they WANT you to make this fall.
Until next time…