As president, Barack Obama showed us that helping people is not a bad thing. In fact, many times, it’s worth the political risks in situations where people face dire consequences. We understand that our free-market principles are devoted to the ideas of competition, freedom of choice, and limited government. Still, there will always be circumstances and times of crisis when government intervention is necessary and becomes the best option. We also accept that in our nation, we have fundamental differences between left-wing and right-wing ideologies centered around the rights of individuals on one side versus the power of expanded government on the other.
Regarding political beliefs, it is not always an open-and-shut case because reality and truth will give us a different story that cannot be ignored. At appropriate times, our federal government must be willing to expand and contract when protecting the overall welfare of people, businesses, and consumers. Flexibility is not always accepted by rigid mindsets, even when their best interests are at stake. Amid the financial crisis of 2009, there were serious doubts that General Motors and Chrysler would survive. It represented a time when The Big Three auto manufacturers recorded some of the worst corporate performances in American history. Support for federal intervention was far from unanimous. Some questioned whether the carmakers deserved the $80 billion needed to bail them out. Critics asked: Shouldn’t companies stand or fail on their own in a free market? Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supported letting the companies go bankrupt, as did Obama, but not without aid from the U.S. Treasury.
This allowed for a “controlled bankruptcy” with less uncertainty in the future. At the time, the auto industry impacted approximately 7.25 million jobs directly or indirectly. While Ford Motor Co. did not receive any part of the federal bailout, Ford CEO Alan Mullaly stated, “If GM and Chrysler would’ve gone into free-fall, that could’ve taken the entire supply base into free-fall also and taken the U.S. from recession into a depression.” The U.S. investment in the automotive industry was not the best option because it bailed out a critical part of corporate America, but it was the best option because it helped to save people and families left vulnerable by corporate America’s poor management. Without working people, there would be no Ford Motor Co., General Motors, or Chrysler. Despite our divided left-wing and right-wing politics, individuals and families from both parties benefitted from the politically unpopular decision made by the Obama administration. The decision was partly driven by the basic fact that people need jobs for food, transportation, and mortgages. They also need healthcare despite the annoying hypocrisy from the right.
Ever since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 by President Obama, Republicans have fought hard to have the law repealed. But Republican voters have realized that Obamacare is not that bad after all. Truth and reality tell us that many people across political parties have found that the provisions of the law, which protects people with pre-existing medical conditions from being denied coverage or having to pay more for coverage, are worth keeping. At what point did we stop helping people because of political ideology and principles?
The crisis surrounding student loans is complex. President Biden just announced a program of student loan forgiveness that will impact approximately 43 million people in the U.S. We have seen how the student loan market has exploded in the last 15 years, increasing from $600 billion in 2006 to 1.2 trillion in 2016 to 1.52 trillion as of July 2019, according to reports. In reality, people who paid off student loans decades ago didn’t have to face the type of high-risk loans by abusive lenders that today’s students and borrowers now face.
The predatory lending practices, out-of-control interest rates, and the credit fallout caused by federally backed loans simply highlight the need for states to use their legal authority to regulate several aspects of federal student loan servicing. Republican lawmaker’s criticism of Biden’s announcement was swift and often hypocritical, as highlighted by the White House’s Twitter account. When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia responded by saying, “for our government just to say, ok, your debt is completely forgiven was completely unfair,” she failed to remember that her $183,504 debt was forgiven after taking out Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The same is true with Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who had $482,321 in PPP loans forgiven. Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania had $987,237 in PPP loans forgiven. While many more GOP lawmakers fall in this category, the pattern is crystal clear. Government intervention in times of need will always be met with opposition. The same is true with the intervention being met with hypocrisy. While President Biden’s program is debatable, some individuals rightfully deserve the help, given their circumstances.
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com.