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Inflation Complicates Biden’s Deliberations on Student Loan Forgiveness

  • June 23, 2022

But at the same time, he would end a pause on student loan interest payments for all borrowers, which was imposed in March 2020 and has been extended seven times, most recently until Aug. 31. That would effectively force many of those borrowers to spend less on goods and services to resume their loan payments.

Mr. Biden’s aides believe that pairing the two policies could pull a small amount of consumer buying power out of the economy. By some administration estimates, the two policies could bring inflation down very slightly. At minimum, aides say, they would cancel each other out.

“Given that fighting inflation is the president’s top domestic priority,” Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview, “the key economic fact here is that if debt payment restart and debt relief were to occur at roughly the same time, the net inflationary effect should be neutral.”

Designing a plan to be inflation-neutral, at worst, under the administration’s accounting would require limiting the debt relief to far less than what more liberal Democrats have pushed Mr. Biden to grant.

Opponents of debt cancellation would prefer Mr. Biden restart loan payments and not forgive any debt, which they say would have a better chance of dampening inflation. And they say the administration is making its inflation math appear rosier by looking at the resumption of interest payments as a new policy that could work as a counterbalance to canceling some debt, when the pause was always intended to be only temporary.

The administration’s math showing the paired policies to be neutral for inflation “is not the way I would prefer to think about it,” said Marc Goldwein, the senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog group in Washington, and a critic of cancellation proposals. “But it’s not totally bizarre for somebody to think about it that way.”

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