Political malfeasance on student loans | EDITORIAL

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The idea that we learn from our mistakes, that failure is a stepping stone to achievement, can sometimes be true. But recent research suggests it’s not always so. The White House and Congress stand as a testament to the concept.

“We are taught to learn from failure, to celebrate failure, to fail forward,” Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago told the Association of Psychological Science, adding, “If you just listen to public speaking, you would think that we are pretty tuned in to failures. However, this is not the case.”

Ms. Fishbach teamed with another Chicago researcher in 2019 to examine how humans react to failures and discovered that many people simply ignore setbacks in order to assuage their egos. Instead of processing the reasons for the breakdown and making adjustments to prevent a repeat, they learn nothing.

“And when there is no learning from failures, that’s quite in contrast with the general impression that failures were teachable moments in our life,” Ms. Fishbach said. “Most of the times when we failed, we just didn’t pay attention.”

This sobering observation nicely sums up Congress and the student loan debacle.

President Joe Biden last week made it clear that he’s on the verge of unilaterally canceling some student loan debt. Progressives have pressured the administration to forgive up to $50,000 per borrower as a means of buying votes in the upcoming midterms. It’s more evidence of the bubble in which members of the hard far left reside that they believe saddling American taxpayers with more than $1 trillion in new liability is a winning electoral strategy. At any rate, Mr. Biden seems inclined to settle on a smaller amount, perhaps targeting the amnesty at lower- and middle-class borrowers.

Whether Mr. Biden has the power to take such action through executive order is a matter of debate. Expect litigation once he moves forward. Borrowers who are eager to avoid their obligations will have to wait until the courts weigh in — and may eventually be disappointed.

Supporters of forgiveness argue that student debt disproportionately harms minority borrowers and that drowning younger generations in mountains of red ink is a drag on economic activity. Opponents point out that borrowers voluntarily entered into these loan contracts and that personal responsibility should prevail. They also believe that amnesty would be unfair to those who never went to college, those who toiled to pay their student loans or graduates who avoided going in hock to get a degree.

The latter perspective is more convincing from our vantage point.

But putting aside the merits of the arguments for or against amnesty, it’s important to note that Mr. Biden is preparing to transfer hundreds of billions in loan obligations to the general population while doing nothing to reform existing federal student loan programs. In other words, while he’s magically making student debt vanish with one hand, he continues to write checks to student borrowers with the other. Not only have the president and congressional Democrats not learned from this massive failure, they’re intent on repeating it. This is nuts, even by Beltway standards.

Making college more accessible is a noble goal. But the current federal student loan framework encourages irresponsible lending, incentivizes universities to regularly boost tuition, financially burdens too many students and tortures U.S. taxpayers on the rack. Student loan forgiveness in service to myopic political goals and absent significant changes to the programs that brought us to this juncture in first place amounts to malfeasance.