To the editor:

Right at the top of Bob Foley’s recent column on the student loan debt crisis (“Canceling student debt,” Opinion, April 9) a number jumped out at me: $1.5 trillion.

I was startled by this number not because it is a number that is inhumane and incomprehensible, but because it is outdated.

Today the student loan debt held by Americans, young and old, is $1.8 trillion. Foley’s figure is probably a couple years old. A few hundred million doesn’t seem like much (who’s counting?) but it does put in perspective how compound interest is one of the most destructive human innovations outside of the nuclear bomb and single use plastics.

As Foley correctly points out, a lot of people are about to default on student loans at a rate much higher than during the subprime loan crisis.

If you have some free time you should browse all of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings on PACER and count how many filiers have student loan debt. Joke’s on them of course because student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.

It follows you until death and then in a bizarre outcome that can only be the product of the American legal system, it’s passed on to your spouse or child.

That degree in 19th century German art history truly never dies. The law tells debtors that they will never be released. Who doesn’t need to be released, from something?

I’m not an economist so I feel out of place to write to Foley about how giving $500 a month to 45 million Americans will probably do a lot of good, i.e. new businesses, new houses, and new babies. I am a lawyer but it seems boring to write about how a contract between someone who can’t rent a car for a debt that can’t be discharged is only legal because a group of lawyers who graduated before the invention of the Sony Walkman decided it to be.

But, I am a human and always trying to figure out what’s right from wrong and so I can write that if Foley believes that all debts should always be paid, that the chains of lenders are somehow reinforced by a moral principle, he should consult a 19th-century painting by Jean Beraurd (sorry he’s French) depicting the “Parable of the Two Debtors” and ask himself: When is forgiveness ever immoral?

Kevin Smith


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