11/29/2011 03:42 pm ET

Student Loan Forgiveness Op-Ed Sneaked Onto WaPo Website

An email tipster points me to this article on the Washington Post's website from Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, who argues that "[w]e need to start taking student loan debt seriously." Very true! As she points out, outstanding student debt could exceed $1 trillion this year, a grim situation in a job market that has, for a long while, failed to keep up with the number of job seekers entering the workforce, and that currently features five job seekers for every job opening.

But the most intriguing part of Thistlethwaite's piece is that she forcefully argues for the forgiveness of student loan debt. I call this "intriguing" because only two days ago, the paper's paymasters managed to wring a tiny bit of faint praise for the very for-profit college debt scams -- which drive the Washington Post Company's most profitable division -- from a long-time critic of the same, education correspondent Jay Mathews. (As I noted yesterday, Mathews seems to have penned his piece with something of a bayonet at his back.)

So how did this happen? Probably because Thistlethwaite's piece was placed in the paper's "On Faith" blog. And indeed, that seems a pretty appropriate place for it, seeing as her advocacy is rooted in the Christian ethos of debt forgiveness, commonly referred to as "jubilee," which Forbes' E.D. Kain and Salon's Alex Pareene have touched on before:

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." (Matthew 6:12) Forgiving debt is a moral issue. Forgiving some of the worst of this student debt is crucial literally to save this American generation.

President Obama has recently taken steps to ease student loan debt burdens. But the problem is too big. Some of this student debt needs actual legislation to deal with the whole system of the debt as Robert Applebaum calls for on his Web site,

Applebaum contends that executive orders can only do so much. It will take legislation that covers predatory practices as well as other changes to the way student loans are structured such as how interest is compounded. Applebaum also argues persuasively that forgiving student loan debt will stimulate the economy.

The kind of moral equality that Jesus asks us to pray for in the Lord's Prayer can be seen in Applebaum's argument. Jesus calls on us to pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Forgive and be forgiven. Americans are tied together in this student debt debacle, and debt forgiveness will help the forgivers as well as those forgiven.

Thistlethwaite's faith-based appeal is only one of the valuable things she writes about in the article, by the way. She also manages to tie the student loan debt crisis with some of the stories being told by members of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. She also provides a critique of the OWS plan to stage a massive strategic default on student loan debt, which may carry consequences that the demonstrators fail to appreciate.

But, okay, if forgiving student loan debt is what Jesus would do, how can we go about doing it? Well, one thing that the Washington Post could do is end their involvement in the subprime student loan grift game in which they currently participate, but I feel there's a good chance that Kaplan CEO Andrew S. Rosen wouldn't like that one bit. So, another way of forgiving student loan debt could come in the form of the financial industry, who in August still owed U.S. taxpayers $1.5 trillion for the bailouts anyway, could make an investment in the next generation of productive Americans and just pay off the whole nut themselves. Maybe everyone could call it even.

Of course, there's no real precedent for that. But if you're looking for precedent, maybe the Federal Reserve could just make a bunch of secret loans to America's students?

This is just an idea I had. At any rate, kudos to Thistlethwaite, for sneaking this piece past the paymasters.

Forgive us our student loan debt [On Faith @ Washington Post]

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