Thursday, September 29, 2022

Biden forgives millions of student loans; critics fear inflation

Biden forgives millions of student loans; critics fear inflation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden said that US government will forgive $10,000 in student loans for millions of debt-saddled former college students, keeping a pledge he made in the 2020 campaign for the White House.

The move could boost support for his fellow Democrats in the November congressional elections, but some economists said it may fuel inflation and some Republicans in the US Congress questioned whether the president had the legal authority to cancel the debt.

Debt forgiveness will free up hundreds of billions of dollars for new consumer spending that could be aimed at homebuying and other big-ticket expenses, according to economists who said this would add a new wrinkle to the country's inflation fight.

The actions are "for families that need them the most - working and middle class people hit especially hard during the pandemic," Biden said during remarks at the White House. He pledged no high-income households would benefit, addressing a central criticism of the plan.

"I will never apologize for helping working Americans and middle class, especially not to the same folks who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut that mainly benefited the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations," Biden said, referring to a Republican tax cut passed under former President Donald Trump.

Borrower balances have been frozen since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, with no payments required on most federal student loans since March 2020. Many Democrats had pushed for Biden to forgive as much as $50,000 per borrower.

Republicans mostly opposed student loan forgiveness, calling it unfair because it will disproportionately help people earning higher incomes.

"President Biden's student loan socialism is a slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college, every graduate who paid their debt, and every American who chose a certain career path or volunteered to serve in our Armed Forces in order to avoid taking on debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday.

The administration has yet to determine the price tag for the package, which will depend on how many people apply for it, White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice told reporters. Student loans obtained after June 30 this year are not eligible, she said.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the administration has legal authority to forgive the debt under a law allowing such action during a national emergency such as a pandemic. Earlier, Republican US Representative Elise Stefanik had called the plan "reckless and illegal."

American university tuition fees are substantially higher than in most other rich countries, and US consumers carry $1.75 trillion in student loan debt, most of it held by the federal government. Biden said other countries could bypass the United States economically if students are not offered economic relief.

PANDEMIC PAUSE, PELL GRANTS