This weekend The New York Times presented an article about the current structure of student loan programs. Briefly: because of changes and tweaks to preexisting law, student loan payments are capped at ten percent of income, and debtors are eligible for nontaxable loan forgiveness on the balance after twenty years, or after ten years if they have a government or public interest job.
The enthusiasm of the Times reporter for this development slights three major problems with it. First, differential forgiveness could distort choices in the labor market, to the disadvantage of the private sector.
Looming over politics in 2012 was Franklin Roosevelt’s admonition in his Second Bill of Rights speech (his 1944 State of the Union Address) for the creation of security. To revive its founding, the government must guarantee various now-fundamental rights including the “right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;” the right to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;” and “the right to a good education.” Together, “All of these rights spell security.”
In this view, security is the highest aim of American politics: “Necessitous men are not free,” FDR insisted. He wanted to replace the Declaration’s pursuit of happiness with security. And the rights involving employment and other forms of security are to be realized, he implies, through the final right he lists, the “right to a good education.” This right of all rights is the key to all freedoms.