In a recent Gospel reading, Jesus uses the occasion of dinner to make an important point about expectations and generosity. He observes that inviting wealthy guests to a banquet doesn’t really demonstrate true hospitality, because those guests are likely to return the favor, thus paying you back.
Better to invite people whose poverty or physical infirmities make it impossible for them to reciprocate. This shows you expect nothing in return. You get to be generous (a moral good), with no expectation of payback.
Jesus’ point highlights a principle that applies to many aspects of life: If you’re the one throwing the party, assume you’re the one paying the bill.
That lesson is especially relevant just now, as we debate Joe Biden’s proposal to “forgive” student loans.
It’s easy to reject Biden’s scheme as a transparent ploy to “buy” votes for Democrats from among the college educated.
I would also suggest that it’s a dandy way to pay back all those Antifa and BLM shock troops who spent their college years training to become street activists. After all, you want to make sure they remain loyal and ready to be mobilized in time for the next election.
Political concerns aside, however, let’s focus on the moral implications of reimbursement. There are three fundamental moral flaws that make this projected $240 billion program detrimental to the soul, and therefore sinful.
First, and most obvious, it heightens the sense of entitlement that’s already rampant in our society. Welfare and social-assistance programs, originally intended to provide a “safety net” for the poor, have grown into the primary source of income for a large and growing portion of our population.
One-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney took heat for his remark that “47 percent” of Americans are on some form of government subsidy. After the post-Covid stimulus checks, we can assume the current percentage is much higher.
Second (and a consequence of the first), Biden’s scheme robs people of the satisfaction that comes with paying off a debt. “Burning the mortgage” was once a valued symbol of accomplishment, a milestone in the life of a family, something of which to be proud.
If college becomes an entitlement, where’s the pride? For that matter, where’s the morally edifying sense of gratitude you might feel toward Mom and Dad for their sacrifices on behalf of your education, or to the donor of some scholarship for which you had to compete?
Third, in a very real sense, Biden’s “reimbursement” is a form of theft.
If enacted, this program wouldn’t just make all those loans go away. In actuality, it would shift responsibility for paying them off from the people who committed to these obligations — and received an education — to those who paid for their own college, those who never went to college at all, or (given the enormity of the plan and its indefinite ongoing extension) to generations yet unborn.
Now, you could argue that the cost of any government assistance is spread across the entire tax-paying population, and that’s true. But a far greater percentage of people are eligible to participate in other benefit programs.
When it comes to higher education, 80 percent of Americans don’t even have any student debt (60 percent have no bachelor’s degree), leaving only 20 percent eligible for Biden’s reimbursement. And of those, most will be in higher-earning categories than the population at large.
So Biden’s plan would represent a huge redistribution of assets from the less affluent to the more affluent — like Robin Hood stealing in reverse.
The truth is you’re not entitled to much of anything in this life.
You do have God-given rights: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as the Constitution puts it. But along with those rights come responsibilities, among which is the moral obligation to pay off your debts, and not to expect somebody else to pick up the bill for you.
That’s called integrity. Biden’s scheme undermines it, along with undermining the integrity of our political system.
That’s detrimental to your individual soul, and to the soul of the nation.
A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Rev. Michael P. Orsi currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals. His TV show episodes can be viewed online at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyFbaLqUwPi08aHtlIR9R0g
Biden's College Loan Bailout is Sinful