Esquire skews the truth on college debt forgiveness

August 26, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Student loan relief is going to cost every man, woman and child in America – other than those getting loans relieved – $1,000 each. Esquire tells us that we should all be happy because some people are going to be made better off without it costing us anything. Maybe that’s true if you’re paid like a journalist at Esquire, $1,000 isn’t anything, but for us chickens out here that’s real money.

This is what Esquire says, too: “Biden’s College Debt Forgiveness Plan Doesn’t Hurt You (Even Economists Say So)” is their headline and there’s lots of similar talk there. “ “we”—non-debt-holders—are going to have to “pay for it.” It’s fun to imagine we’ll each get a bill in the mail labeled “Some Guy’s Student Loans,” “ Well, yes, we are going to pay for it. “But the notion is supercharged by claims that these contemplative layabouts are getting a HANDOUT! “ Yes, they are. “There is a zero-sum reaction to all of this that does not seem healthy. “ But it is zero sum. “I don’t lose because someone else gained “ In this case, yes, yes you do. 

Before loan relief, those 43 million people were going to pay back some amount of money to the Federal Government. Apparently – so Esquire tells us – maybe $300 billion. After loan relief, they won’t. So, the Feds have $300 billion less. This means that if the Feds keep spending the same amount then taxes must rise by $300 billion. We have to pay for that. Or, if the feds spend less money (no, don’t laugh!) then we get $300 billion less of good things from the Feds. We’re out the $300 billion of the loan relief. 

Saying it goes on the deficit doesn’t change this – that’s just us in the future. Saying it goes on inflation instead doesn’t help either – that’s just higher prices we’ve got to pay in the future (and yes, doing the math, 0.1% on inflation does add up, over the years, to hundreds of billions of $).

There are about 340 million Americans. Forty million of them are now not going to pay back their debts to the institution that represents all of us. That means the other 300 million of us are going to pick up the tab. $300 billion and 300 million means around $1,000 per American – every man, woman and child that isn’t having a student loan forgiven or reduced. Someone, somewhere, has to pay and there’s only us chickens out here so it will be us.

This truth doesn’t mean that student loan relief should not happen – we’ve all got views on that. After all, we do take money off some citizens to give it others all the time – sometimes at least it’s a good idea. What this is is an insistence that loan cancellation won’t cost us, the average taxpayer, anything is simply wrong.

Esquire ranks around No. 104 for news and media outlets in the U.S. It gains some 29 million visits a month from that position. It’s a part of the Hearst Group which means they have the resources to get this sort of thing right. Which they haven’t.

Sure, we see these sorts of explanations all over the place at the moment. Loan relief isn’t going to cost anyone anything. It’s only good, there’s nothing bad, no downside, so isn’t that great? Except reality doesn’t work that way. If one group of people pay less of their loans from the government back then that’s a cost to everyone else who must pick up the tab. Hey, it might even still be a good idea – although opinions differ there – but denying that loan relief costs each American $1,000 is simply misinformation. It’s not even bias, it’s misinformation. The only reason we’d not call it an untruth is because there’s a certain doubt that journalists at Esquire would even understand it once explained. Which isn’t, you know, a good look?


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