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APRIL 6, 2022
Dayen on TAP
You Could Just Never Resume Student Loan Payments
If President Biden wants to avoid mass student loan defaults, he can cancel the debt.
The Biden administration has succumbed to the inevitable once again, extending the payment pause on student loans, this time until August 31. As that date is a little more than two months before the midterms, there’s almost no chance the pause will be allowed to expire then, unless Democrats are competing to devise the best act of political malpractice in one election cycle. (Which they may be!)

This is the sixth time since the payment pause was hurriedly instituted at the onset of the pandemic that it’s been extended. We’re experiencing serious economic headwinds thanks to inflation, and there’s always the possibility of another COVID mutation leading to mass sickness and economic shock. But we can be honest and say that the pandemic case for the payment pause has passed, amid 3.6 percent unemployment and two years of surging economic growth.

No, the reason to pause student loan payments is more straightforward than any emergency measure: We’ve paused them for two years without many problems. Moreover, the chaos that a resumption of payments would occasion shows how unsustainable the system was in the first place. It all could be easily avoided by canceling the debt.

President Biden’s statement on extending the pause exemplifies this. He boasts about the nearly eight million jobs created on his watch, and the fastest growth in 40 years, but adds: “If loan payments were to resume on schedule in May, analysis of recent data from the Federal Reserve suggests that millions of student loan borrowers would face significant economic hardship.”

That’s not a function of ongoing pandemic disruption, however; it merely reveals that 40 million borrowers dealing with high debt levels and creaky and at times malevolent payment programs and servicers will just naturally lead to delinquencies and defaults. It’s unavoidable, and we know this because default rates were spiking before the pandemic, a time of similarly low unemployment and solid growth.

No amount of time will “prepare” student borrowers earning modest pay with no savings to handle a large monthly debt payment. And the continued stop and start of the payment pause will likely lull student loan servicers into not adapting their systems in anticipation of expiration. They will likely be caught off guard whenever it does expire, leading to a mess.

Advocates for canceling student loan debt were doing so way before anyone learned the word “coronavirus.” It wasn’t a pandemic-induced crisis, but a crisis in and of itself. If the president is concerned about student loan defaults, ruined credit, shattered financial lives, and the economic implications of young people finding large purchases like homes and cars impossible because they carry too much debt, he has one option: cancellation. It has the added benefit of fulfilling a campaign promise.
Rollups: A Chinese Corner in Chassis and Containers
Effectively all standard containers used in global shipping are made by Chinese state-owned enterprises. The dangers of that circumstance revealed themselves during the pandemic. BY DAVID DAYEN
Tug Life
From Canada to Panama, tugboat workers are being squeezed as shipping companies earn record profits. BY SARAH JAFFE
Progressives Want to Ban Trading of California Water Futures
A new bill would prevent traders, farmers, and industrial users of water from betting on price swings. BY LEE HARRIS
How Oligarchs Stash Money in Foreign Real Estate
The ‘laranja’ business, as seen in Iraqi Kurdistan BY ZACK KOPPLIN & BASMA HUMADI
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