Phil Williams: No such thing as a free lunch

This past week, President Biden went to his podium once again and attempted to justify his efforts to grow the welfare state with his plan to pay off student loans. Current estimates put the price tag for his student loan bailout at over $400 billion. He justifies the massive expense because, apparently, people who knowingly entered into a contract for which they received a benefit shouldn’t have to be held accountable to their contractual obligations because ... well, because it's “hard," or something equally insulting.

The bottom line is that there is no free lunch. Wholly unrelated to war, or poverty, or natural disaster, such government bailouts are instead simply related to the misguided idea of rescuing people from their own bad decision-making. But they have to be paid for by someone. Like I said, there ain’t no free lunch.

There are a number of things wrong with the concept of bailing out student loans. It can be dissected from all angles: legal, ethical, mental and even moral.

From a legal standpoint, Biden arguably does not have the authority to pay off the loans as planned. The legislative branch has not authorized such an expenditure. The student loan bailout program is being touted as necessary under the auspices of an emergency spending authorization related solely to the COVID pandemic. The same pandemic that the same person (Joe Biden) just announced is over. Even if the pandemic is not over the veracity of Biden’s position that he can spend federal tax dollars to pay off individual debts without further justification simply because he wants to is legally indefensible. Multiple suits have been filed across the nation and within the past few days, a Federal District Court has enjoined the program pending the outcome of further proceedings.

Secondly, I would have to argue the notion of selectively using public funds to pay off an individual’s debts is ethically wrong. Not just legally, but ethically. Consider it: how can a President, who has a fiduciary responsibility to the whole of the American public ethically justify the position that just because times are hard that the government needs to lighten the contractual obligations of certain individual citizens without consideration to those who carry similar burdens?

Has the Biden Administration journeyed so far into the notion of picking winners and losers that it can ethically look in the eyes of one 24-year-old who thought it would be a great idea to borrow $50,000 to get a degree in underwater basket weaving and in a fit of misguided benevolence pay off that debt simply because it came through a university, while at the same time deny any similar relief to another 24-year-old who worked a night job to get a certificate as a journeyman electrician and then borrowed $50,000 to buy the equipment to start his own company? This is ethically indefensible.

But what about the mental assent required for this decision? What about the internal thought processes that had to go into making the final determination to spend someone else’s money to pay off another person’s contract under the guise that doing so is because of hard economic times brought on by a pandemic? But yet the same mind that came to that conclusion recently concluded and then announced that there is no pandemic and there is no economic hard times. Recall that not only did President Biden announce in a recent interview that the “Pandemic is over” but he also just said the other day that “our economy is strong as hell!”

What are we to think of a Commander-in-Chief who can say on one day that he intends to use $400 billion of our tax revenues to pay off student loans because the pandemic has created hard times while at the same time declaring emphatically there is no pandemic and there are no hard times? It is a mental machination that eludes most people, and the only conclusion is that he is knowingly lying, or that he is unknowingly deluded. The same brain cannot conjure all of those conflicting thought patterns without one of those two conclusions, that of lying or delusion. In essence, if President Biden were a witness in my court attempting to testify, I would argue that he has impeached his own testimony. The mental position required for his student loan bailout is in itself indefensible.

So legally, ethically, and mentally, the argument can be made against this student loan bailout without much trouble. But there is another argument that I believe bears equal, and perhaps even greater weight. Can this student loan bailout can be defended morally? What are the effects of telling an entire generation that the debts that they incurred are really not their fault and that they shouldn’t bear such responsibility? The Biden Administration is perpetrating the growth of a welfare mentality in the next layer of our societal evolution. This bailout scheme breeds the kind of mentality that says, “I’m a victim and therefore I should be rescued.” Such a mentality keeps otherwise strong and healthy members of society from learning the value of taking calculated risks. It tells them there is no need to press through adversity. Those who succumb to the welfare mentality risk becoming expectant of reward regardless of their level of personal productivity.

A healthy society cannot survive on the notion that no one should be held accountable for their own actions. The millions and millions of productive citizens out there making a go of it and contributing to their communities who take the great risks, and know the great failures, but also know the great achievements and the satisfaction of hard work, those are the people now being called upon to pat the poor souls on the head that have been said to have borne the ignominy, the burden, the pain of being asked to pay their own debts.

Legally, ethically, mentally and morally, the Biden student loan bailout is a bad idea fraught with negative second and third-order effects. It cannot go forward, and all necessary action should be taken to stop it.

Pastor Adrian Rogers, a longtime Southern Baptist Pastor and former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, had something to say about such a transfer of wealth. In very clear and deliberative terms, Pastor Rogers said: “You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”

There is no free lunch.


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