Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling, BDN Agree to Disagree bloggers. Credit: Gabor Degre

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Phil: News alert. Did you see Jared Golden ripping into Joe Biden for his inflation-accelerating plan to forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt for thousands of Mainers? Golden said, “This decision by the president is out of touch with what the majority of the American people want from the White House, which is leadership to address the most immediate challenges the country is facing.”

Ethan: I did indeed. When I first read it, I thought the quote was actually from former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin or former President Donald Trump.

Phil: I think Golden is right. It will be interesting to see if Biden has the authority to eliminate these debts with his pen. Get ready for a legal challenge.

Ethan: Not sure what world you and he live in if you don’t understand that making college more affordable is exactly what a majority of Americans want. By almost 2-1!

Phil: We live in Maine where people need inflation to be cut in half, gas to drop back under $3 a gallon, and not have the deficit expand by $400 billion. For those without a handy calculator, that equates to an increase of the deficit of $2,500 a taxpayer.

Ethan: Does he not also live in the Maine where 63% of our college graduates are carrying over $32,000 in debt?

Phil: Yes, and he also lives in the Maine where over a million Mainers have no student loan debt or chose to forgo debt. My sense is they don’t want to take on someone else’s, especially since those who do have college debt, are statistically higher earners already.

Ethan: And currently almost 180,000 Mainers carry such debt and will benefit from this relief. Perhaps you were lucky enough to make it through college with no debt. I was not. And I can tell you, it limits your choices when you get the degree and immediately have to start paying bank executives as a thank you.

Phil: I wasn’t. I spent years paying them off. When you take out a loan it comes with an obligation to pay it back, just like we did. That obligation taught me responsibility and elevated my creditworthiness when it came time to buy a home. When you start handing out loans, and then dangle out there that they will be forgiven, students may become irresponsible. Not to mention we get sustained inflation as a consequence.

Ethan: Kind of like all the Paycheck Protection Program loans that were forgiven to members of Congress and large businesses?

Phil: Yes, that contributed to inflation too. The distinction is that Congress and the president created PPP as a result of the pandemic and the government issuing mandates, which forced many businesses to temporarily close and lose revenue. That wasn’t what happened here. No crisis precipitated the need to transfer financial responsibility for debt from the student to our readers.

Ethan: College debt has been a crisis for a generation. And honestly, the relief should have been a lot higher. But this will free up a lot of people to better survive in our economy where wages continue to fall behind record profits and productivity.

Phil: The problem with higher education costs is the tuition charged to students. Maybe we should address why college costs since 1980 have risen 1,200 percent, while the Consumer Price Index for all items has risen 236 percent during the same timeframe.

Ethan: No argument on that point. In fact, how about we make all state schools free like many countries in Europe do? Then we can both control costs, and not leave millions in debt. Win-win!

Phil: There is no such thing as a “free” lunch my friend. Even a college lunch.