Matt Peckham, Opinion Editor
The PROSPER Act is a poorly named piece of legislation if not intentionally deceptive. “U.S. News & World Report” explains that, if passed, the PROSPER Act will end federal loan forgiveness for public employees who have worked for the government for ten years while making 122 timely payments on their loans. Eliminating this option will hurt the middle and lower class, will reduce the caliber of public employees and will hurt the education system for the sake of saving the affluent a minimal number of tax dollars.
The bill will financially sting public workers from low-income backgrounds. Ending debt forgiveness means that workers without the familial support to pay off their college debts will have to face a more burdensome economic future than they currently do. Well-educated workers from low income backgrounds will face disproportionate stress from this act.
Economic pressure will cause many public workers to move to the private sector. Without federal loan forgiveness, the bright public defense attorneys, the city prosecutors and the public housing accountants who have risen from poverty may have to work for large private firms to supplement lost debt relief with higher incomes. However, these firms are not based to achieve profit rather than serve the public. So, the PROSPER Act stops those who have beaten the odds of poverty and who may have once survived partially because of social programs from bringing their talents to public service.
This effect will be seen in public education. Well-educated individuals drawn to education by public service incentives may have to work in their fields’ private sectors rather than teaching. Again, the potential educators of affluent backgrounds are less likely to be impacted than those who have overcome financial obstacles. Additionally, those who do continue working in education may choose to work at stable, well-funded charter schools or public schools in rich neighborhoods rather than taking the financial risk, which loan forgiveness eased, of working in a high-need district. The PROSPER Act degrades the quality of life of youth based on their area and of educators based on their backgrounds.
Some may say that they do not believe in government expenditures. However, proponents of fiscal responsibility must yield that in a federal government system in which a key role of legislators’ jobs is determining a budget, money will be spent. Supporting appropriations is a game of responsibility rather than elimination. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that loan forgiveness will cost $24 billion or $2.4 billion per year over the next ten years. This may seem costly, but according to the House Budget Committee, the military was funded $719 billion, or 299.58 times, as much as the federal loan forgiveness program. Loan forgiveness takes up only 2 percent of the $125 billion in education expenditures. This is a minimal price for such a beneficial program.
Federal loan forgiveness is not a handout. The recipients must make ten years’ worth of loan payments while paying the community with their public service work for ten years. The PROSPER Act in its current form will transfer the time public workers currently have to work for their communities into money in the bank accounts of the wealthiest. Federal loan forgiveness benefits the children fighting poverty and benefits the adults who grew up fighting and who choose to make a life of fighting poverty.
This article first appeared in the Friday, January 26, 2018, Edition of The Echo.