I have a book coming out on March 8, and I need a favor. The publisher has priced my book at $30. It turns out that a lot of people don’t have 30 extra bucks to spend on a book right now. So I’d like you to cancel the student loan debt of all my potential readers. Since the book is intended for general audiences, that means you’d have to cancel student debt for everyone.
I know this is a big ask. But there are good reasons to forgive student loan debt apart from my naked desire to have penned a bestseller. Here are a few.
I won’t insult you with the whole “you said you would do it” routine, though during the 2020 campaign you did say you’d “Forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs for debt-holders earning up to $125,000.” No one put much stock in that. Most of us who have been around a while understand that during a presidential campaign, words just sort of happen. Whether or not those words mean anything is the province of historians and art critics, not go-getting people of the world like us, right? Semantics is boring, and we’ve got business to tend to.
The business of bookselling, for example. But other business, too. On my public Facebook page, I asked: “What would you do with the extra money if you didn’t have to pay your student loans?” Almost all responses can be grouped into three major categories: 1) buying or renovating a home; 2) investing in a retirement account; 3) charitable giving or other leisure spending (example: “We might go out to eat as a family, or have a date night. Do things people do when they aren’t accounting for every dollar.”).
To be candid, not a single person said they’d use some of the extra money to buy my book. But I think that was implied. Anyway, my point is that no one said they’d stick the extra cash under their mattress, burn it or stuff it in time capsules. All that money — nearly $2 trillion — would go right back into the economy. Many of the people who responded, ordinary folks in the Middle West and thereabouts, will have an extra thousand bucks or more every month. They’ll spend it. Think of how happy you’ll make the construction industry! Real estate agents! Financial advisors! Retail booksellers!
Lots of people said they would use the extra money to pay off other existing debts, especially medical bills. This course of action is less exciting than buying a tangible thing like a home or a crisp, new hardback book with riveting true-crime stories and incredible cover art. But even that money won’t be wasted. After all, hospital administrators, insurance company CEOs, and their ilk need to make ends meet too. If they can’t, who will finance astonishingly expensive political campaigns?
Speaking of campaigns, I’m sure you know about the elections happening later this year. I’m sure you also know that it is widely assumed Democrats are going to be pestled into red goo if the Senate can’t pass something big, and it can’t just be medium big, it’s got to be big big, so big that it’s noticed by folks who are normally too apathetic to vote in a midterm. I’m sure you also also know that it isn’t going to happen. But you can fix that singlehandedly by canceling debt gnawing at 40 million American adults. Prominent members of your own party say you can do it “with the stroke of a pen.” Do it. Please. It will help me sell my book. A collateral consequence is that you might retain control of Congress and maybe even get a second term as president.
This letter is meant to be a practical appeal, not a moral one. But given that so many borrowers now report owing two to three times the amount of their original loans despite years of regular payments, there are moral points to be made, too. When you were senator, and then vice president, you and nearly everyone else in Washington supported a bailout package totaling over $1 trillion for the biggest financial institutions. A great vulture’s claw descended from the heavens and clutched America’s banks tightly in its grasp, so that they would remain a solid mass and not crumble into grit and gravel. What I’m asking is a little extra food for the worker ants who provide the stable earth beneath that mass. It’s only fair.
There may be drawbacks. Some people who are already very, very wealthy may get mad because they aren’t getting even more wealthy. Perhaps there is a powerful lobby of sour-faced Wall Street Journal readers who, having paid off their own loans, believe that there is a deeper life lesson to be learned from eternal peonage. And many of the same fat hogs who fund your campaigns also fund your opponents, so chances are good that the money you kick back to ordinary folks will pay the tab for more than a few GOP blood orgies.
These drawbacks are more than offset by the aforementioned factors: Economic boosts, political power, fairness and the fact that you said you would do it. Also — and this is critically important — people will have a little extra scratch to buy my book. I hope you’ll consider this favor. It would help me out a lot.
Very Truly Yours,
Daniel J. Canon, Esq.
P.S.: As an alternative, please consider banning my book. That sort of thing can really drive sales.
Dan Canon is a civil rights lawyer and law professor. His book “Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class” is available for preorder wherever you get your books.