Biden just erased my student loan debt. If it’s a campaign ploy, I’m all for it | Opinion

The check was mysterious and unexpected; the best kind, really. It arrived in a small, nondescript envelope. Through the cellophane — or whatever those little windows are made of — my full name appeared, printed on very official-looking paper, suggesting it was either a legitimate payout or a meticulously crafted attempt to sell term life insurance.

The good news, at least from where I’m standing — which will become clear in a moment if it hasn’t already?

It wasn’t a fake. There was a real check for $40 inside; not a princely sum, mind you, but better than nothing.

Best of all?

A no-frills statement was attached, revealing a sender: the U.S. Department of Education.

In the simplest terms, it was a refund for the four months of student loan payments I’d made since enrolling in President Joe Biden’s Saving On a Valuable Education or SAVE Plan.

Indirectly, it also served as a winking nod from Uncle Joe after the U.S. Supreme Court Dikembe Mutombo’d his first attempt at student loan relief, subtly imploring me to go online and pull up my account, just to see where things stand … which is precisely what I did.

Two decades ago, I borrowed roughly $10,000 attending The Evergreen State College. Earlier this year, having made payments under the terms offered by various lenders and consolidators since graduation, I still owed more than the day I received my bachelor’s degree — thanks to the interest accrued.

Today, my outstanding balance is $0.

Biden did it, in other words. He made my student loan debt disappear without celebration or fanfare beyond a few vague emails and a surprise $40 kickback — almost like it was orchestrated in the shadows, something better left unspoken for fear of jinxing it.

Critics of the president’s efforts to forgive millions in student loan debt will call it a blatant abuse of power and a desperate campaign ploy designed to buy votes ahead of November’s election. At least 18 Republican-led states are now attempting to thwart the Biden administration’s SAVE plan in federal court.

To suggest that political realities haven’t factored into the Biden administration’s decisions and timing would be daft.

Still, I’m not complaining or apologizing — and neither should anyone who’s been tossed a surprise student loan lifeline.

As things stand, Biden’s complicated legacy now includes providing tangible debt relief to a select but significant number of Americans.

It’s historic, unprecedented and continues to be extremely divisive.

For a generation of college students exploited by the commodification of higher education and an unchecked system, meanwhile, it has the potential to be monumental, unshackling hardworking Americans from a senseless weight that’s done nothing but hold them back.

As far as (alleged) campaign gimmicks go, that’s not bad.

SAVE plan debt cancellations

In 2020, delivering meaningful financial relief for millions of borrowers — in the form of student loan cancellation for some — was a Biden campaign promise.

Whether it helps the incumbent president come November’s general election, now that he’s waist-deep in the political muck trying to make good on his pledge, is another matter entirely.

With more than 40 million borrowers owing a total of $1.77 trillion in loans, according to the Federal Reserve, recent polls suggest the toll of student loan debt will be a significant factor for voters this year. It’s also an issue that continues to sharply divide the electorate.

When it comes to Biden’s approach to the issue?

Well, you have to give the old dog credit for perseverance and creativity.

When a Supreme Court jam-packed with conservative justices invalidated Biden’s big-splash play to erase or reduce student loan debt for an estimated 43 million borrowers last year, he didn’t sulk or make excuses; he went full Dark Brandon.

Almost immediately, Biden pivoted, turning his attention to arcane authorities provided under the Higher Education Act, including the secretary of education’s power to waive student loan debt in certain cases.

Simultaneously, Biden unveiled his administration’s contentious SAVE Plan, which immediately cut student loan repayments to $0 for millions of qualifying borrowers.

Earlier this year — despite the ongoing challenges it faces — students enrolled in the SAVE Plan who originally borrowed less than $12,000 and had been paying on them for at least 10 years began to have their debts canceled. That’s the lucky category I apparently fell into. The order, originally scheduled to kick into gear next month, was fast-tracked to “act as quickly as possible to give more borrowers breathing room,” according to the president.

In April, Biden announced his most ambitious post-Supreme Court rejection plan yet — this one promising some form of debt relief for more than 30 million Americans, provided it passes the expected legal challenges.

Biden laid it all out on the campaign trail, during a stop in Wisconsin, including his vision for canceling up to $20,000 in interest for student loan recipients who now owe more than they originally borrowed.

During a visit to the same state earlier this week, Donald Trump described Biden’s approach to student loan debt relief as a “vile” publicity stunt. In his typical deranged and incoherent way, the former president equated loan cancellation to “illegal amnesty” for immigrants and later blamed it for a ballooning federal budget deficit (as if the corporate tax breaks he championed don’t factor in).

Here’s what’s certain: With less than five months until presidential votes are cast, don’t expect the screeching sound bites or hyperbole to cease any time soon.

The nation’s student loan crisis won’t magically vanish overnight — even if my loans did. Until there’s a real solution, the debt suffocating borrowers whose only real mistake was trying to make something of their lives by attending college in a broken system will continue to hang over us all.

Late last month, the Biden administration reported that 4.75 million people had received some form of debt cancellation to date, to the tune of $167 billion.

If we’re lucky — and the country, however frothing and divided it may be, comes to its senses and denies Trump another term in the White House — it’ll be only the start for Uncle Joe.