Many of the graduates of Husson University's Class of 2018 decorated their graduation caps for their commencement ceremony on May 5, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)

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Susan Young is the Bangor Daily News opinion editor.

There are two predominant arguments against President Joe Biden’s executive action to forgive some student loan debt.

One is that it is unfair. Put simply by these critics: Why should someone who didn’t go to college help pay the debt for someone who did? Why should someone’s college debt be forgiven when others have already paid all of theirs?

The second, which is a corollary to the first, is the “I suffered, so you must suffer too” argument. Under this rationale, hardship, apparently, is good for you, so suck it up buttercup.

Let’s start with fairness. Through our government and hence our taxes, we frequently make investments in social goods, such as education, transportation, health care, our national defense and business support. Not everyone benefits from each investment. But, we all benefit from investments in each other.

Now, you may say, college debt is different. Students knew what they signed up for. That is true. But, with college debt now topping $1.6 trillion and hampering employment and housing, offering some relief makes sense. Just as it made sense to help businesses that were impacted by the coronavirus, which Congress did through the Paycheck Protection Program — a forgivable loan program that cost taxpayers $800 billion. I don’t remember those complaining about the fairness of forgiving a bit of student loan debt saying this business support (which the Bangor Daily News received) was unfair. Ditto for bailouts for banks and farms and tax cuts that went mostly to already wealthy Americans.

Further, an investment in higher education doesn’t just benefit the student — who will make far more money (and pay more in taxes) over the course of their lifetime after earning a degree — it benefits society by lowering the costs for a variety of services including health care, unemployment, and incarceration. In other words, it’s a good investment.

We have long offered several types of relief to older Americans, with the rationale that they’ve paid their dues and deserve our help. They receive Social Security benefits and health care through Medicare, no matter their income or wealth. True, they’ve paid into Social Security and Medicare through their taxes, but most beneficiaries get more back than they paid in. Maine just launched a new — and very expensive — program to freeze the property tax payments of all residents over the age of 65, regardless of their ability to pay these taxes.

They receive these benefits despite the fact that the oldest American generations — the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers — have far more household wealth, on average, than younger generations. To be clear, too many older Americans live in poverty, a problem that should be addressed with targeted assistance.

So, I cheer for the fact that we are finally offering relief to younger Americans. Relief from their college loan debt may mean they can think about buying a home or starting a family. Maybe they can leave a less than satisfactory job to become an entrepreneur, or imagine, go back to school for a degree that will enable them to advance more quickly in their career or fill a long-vacant niche in their company.

As for the “everyone must suffer” caucus, I honestly don’t know how to address this thinking. The idea that other people must endure hardships because you did -– or, more likely think you did -– makes no sense to me.

Who thinks “I was robbed, so you should be too?” “I had to work a terrible, underpaid job, so you should too?” “I was unable to go to college, so you shouldn’t go either?” That would be absurd.

I subscribe to the notion that we want a better world for our children and future generations, even for people we do not know, not one that includes the same obstacles that we overcame.

I was fortunate to have very little college debt thanks to my own savings, campus jobs and scholarships and, mostly, my parents’ financial support. But, if someone else gets government help with their student loans, I don’t begrudge them the assist.

Now, let’s move on to tackling the rapidly rising costs of higher education.

Susan Young is the opinion editor at the Bangor Daily News. She has worked for the BDN for over 25 years as a reporter and editor.