The Biden administration is floating the idea of forgiving up to $50K of student loan debt per individual. Not surprisingly, this news did not bring hoorays for the unprecedented economic and entrepreneurial boost this would provide to our struggling economy, rather it brought a deluge of “Where’s my check?!?” demands from anyone who doesn’t currently have a student loan.
The “Where’s my check!” crowd are filled with Horatio Alger tales of Herculean sacrifice and even more abundant lessons on thrift. If only everyone were more like they. With each comment comes a demand that others take the same road, make the same choices, live the same life. From none come the slightest recognition that each has benefitted from our “socialist” state and that, perhaps, they might think of the state benefitting others not just themselves?
Privilege is when you think something isn’t a problem just because it’s not a problem for you. Similarly, good economic policy is not just about what benefits you, it’s about the greater good for our country, economy, and our society.
Consider the following:
- My neighbor deducts $6,000 per year off his income for his three children. I don’t have any children. Where’s my check?
- My brother deducts $38,000 each year for mortgage interest on his two homes. I rent. Where’s MY check?
- My marginally-employed brother-in-law just got a $600 stimulus check. I’ve been working two-jobs all year. Where’s my check?
- My property taxes fund public schools and playgrounds. I don’t have children. Where’s my check?
- My neighbor just picked up free groceries from a local food bank. I just paid retail for all my groceries at Kroger. Where’s my check?
- My state taxes subsidize public universities. I went to a private school in another state. Where’s my check?
- My brother died of cancer at 54, and never collected social security. Where’s his check?
- I’m a teacher; my husband is a nurse. My sister manages a hedge fund. She makes a lot more money than we do even though we are essential workers. Where’s OUR check?
- My co-worker took a leave of absence to attend to his sick mother. My mom died in a car accident? Where’s my check?
- I always wear a mask. My co-worker refuses to mask up. She just got Covid and was hospitalized. Where’s MY check?
- My sister deducted almost $20K in child care expenses last year. I’m a stay-at-home mom. Where’s my check?
- My city just opened a recreation center with a pool. I don’t swim. Where’s my check?
- My retired neighbor just got a free a cell phone and a discount on his utilities. I work full-time and pay full-price for all of my utilities. Where’s my check?
- I’ve never called the cops or fire department. Where’s my check?
- My brother just got into college. I don’t want to go to college. Where’s my check?
Too often we view education as a “thing” that you “get” and it “belongs” to an individual, like a car, or a necklace. But unlike a vehicle, or a piece of jewelry, an education is not an item of private property – it is something that is shared – whether through work, school, or raising children – and, it is something that benefits everyone. From the cell phone in your hands, to that vaccine going into your arm, to the sneakers on your feet, all of these things were created, maintained, and improved by individuals who borrowed money, worked hard, and made sacrifices to EARN an education. It wasn’t “given” to them. And, in many cases, these educated people commit themselves to a lifetime of learning so that they can continue to contribute to their communities and professions.
From the cell phone in your hands, to the vaccine going into your arm, to the sneakers on your feet – even if you never went to college, you directly benefit from those who did.
Wealth is not a zero-sum game; wealth is created by individuals whose hard work and innovation bring the tide that raises all boats. While an educated and examined life is important to personal well-bring, it is the work that college-educated individuals do in the decades after college that has resulted in our unprecedented prosperity, and a plethora of social benefits too numerous to count. Even if you never went to college, your life, your family, and your well-being is improved by those who did. This is no different than a college graduate benefitting from those who chose jobs and professions that offered a different path. We all need each other.
This country doesn’t have a money problem, we have a priority problem. And, for those of you who contend that we really DO have the money, take a look at graph below, and then let me know if you have any suggestions.
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