The newly announced stimulus effort to help students has been denounced as an election year ploy that, as discussed in the below article, would result in less than $10 a month in savings for the average student. The question is whether such a use of executive power is constitutional given the conflict with prior legislation.
The student loan program is part of what President Obama calls the “We Can’t Wait” stimulus effort. As the chart below shows, tuition costs are soaring while expendable income is flat or falling for students. The result is that education is becoming out of reach for many students — a danger that has long-term consequences for the country in developing the base of a well-educated and trained workforce.
The new initiative would limit the amount of student loan payments to 10% of a graduate’s income rather than the current 15% — a drop of five percent per month. Here is the analysis of the Atlantic:
For the average borrower, the impact would be small. In 2011, Bachelor’s degree recipients graduating with debt had an average balance of $27,204, according to an analysis done by finaid.org, based on Department of Education data. That average has ballooned from just $17,646 over the past decade.
Using these values as the high and low bounds of average student debt over the last ten years, the monthly savings for the average student loan borrower would be between $4.50 and $7.75 per month. Clearly, this isn’t going to save the economy. While borrowers with bigger balances would save more, this is the average. And even someone with $100,000 in loans would only cut their monthly payments by $28.50.
The only looming issue is not the impact on students but the impact on the Constitution.
The initiative would alter an implementation date under previously enacted legislation. That would appear a rather glaring violation of the separation of powers. Yet, we once again face the question of standing. We are increasingly seeing cases of clear constitutional violation which are denied judicial review and relief under narrow interpretations of standing. This is the case with our challenge to President Obama’s claim that he can take the country to war without a declaration of Congress. We have also seen an array of challenges to policies or programs ranging from unlawful surveillance to torture to assassination lists denied review. I have long been a critic of this trend which leave order areas of the Constitution largely aspiration and without enforcement — a position that runs counter to the views of the Framers and leaves a dangerous gap in our constitutional system.
The claim of the President to be able to unilaterally alter legislation is something that liberals denounced during the Bush Administration. Yet, this change has produced little objection from the same quarters. It should. The threat posed by increasing student debt is real and needs to be addressed. However, it is not enough to say that I had to circumvent the legislative process to get what I want done. “We Can’t Yet” makes for a dangerous approach to constitutional interpretation.
Source: The Atlantic