New Orleans Managing a radio station means juggling a lot of things, especially with an all-volunteer army. Having spent a career as an organizer working for organizations trying to get their voices and issues, often silenced, to be heard, it is a different experience to be on the other side of the table. Daily, there will be a couple of PR folks pitching this or that show or guest to be interviewed, or survey that should be news. Most of them are easy to ignore. Some of them are hard-right whack jobs or holy rollers, that we couldn’t air anywhere. I scroll through them, regardless, looking for pearls on one hand and trying to figure out how folks are thinking on the other.
I got one recently that caught my eye. My correspondent was flacking a survey they had done with the headline: “1 in 3 federal student loan borrowers spent money they thought wouldn’t have to be paid back.” My first thought was that this one must have been sent by Captain Obvious. The Biden administration had suspended payments at the beginning of the pandemic – three years ago – and the suspension is still in effect, so no one had to pay throughout that period. Furthermore, as all student loan debtors no doubt know, Biden had proposed to forgive $10,000 for all debtors for years until the Supreme Court threw that plan into the wastebasket. More recently, he has still proposed to forgive $39 billion in loans for the 800,000 people who have been paying down their balances for twenty or more years. In short, I didn’t believe that only one in three had spent the money they would have used to nibble away at these loans over three years. Heck yes, they spent the money, and it wasn’t a third, but in all likelihood closer to a 100%!
The key findings of the survey are that:
- Three-quarters of borrowers were confident they would receive the relief they qualified for under Biden’s plan
- Nearly half of borrowers who believed they would receive relief spent money they otherwise would not have
- 37% used the money to pay off other debt, while others spent it on unnecessary purchases.
- 58% are unprepared for payments to resume
See what I mean? A lot of folks are gilding the lily. Student loan debtors thought they were going to get relief. Why not spend the money? They were in the pandemic. They did the rational thing and spent the money. They were supposed to do that, which is why the payments were suspended. Duh!
Maybe not all of it? According to the Washington Post even while facing inflation:
Americans are still better off now than before the pandemic, with nearly 10 to 15 percent more in their bank accounts than in 2019, new checking and savings account data shows.
Believe me, that doesn’t mean that for thirty-six months they dropped the money they would have used to pay the government back into their savings accounts to be ready to write a big, fat whooping check when the dun notices started arriving in the mail again. No way!
Pundits and conservative politicians, most of whom know Mr. Obvious intimately, are claiming Biden was just trying to forgive these chunks of student debt for votes. Who knows, and for sure there’s no way to prove it, but all of these debtors just might remember when election season comes around in 2024, who tried to help them out, and who tried to make them pay every month, when they write another monthly check to pare down their debt. That’s pretty obvious, too.