Alternate headline: Six in ten Americans sense a pattern to Joe Biden’s incompetence.

During the campaign, Biden played footsie with progressives on student-loan debt but hasn’t delivered anything more than a couple of extensions left over from the pandemic. Now, with a midterm disaster looming, the Washington Post reports that Biden may pull the trigger on a limited “forgiveness” action — one that will still cost taxpayers a pretty penny for Biden’s vote-buying:

With the Inflation Reduction Act now signed into law, White House officials have in recent days revived discussions over student debt cancellation. They face an Aug. 31 deadline, which is when loan payments are set to resume after a pandemic-driven pause. Internal White House discussions have centered on temporarily extending that pause and simultaneously canceling $10,000 per borrower for those below an income threshold, but the president has not yet communicated a decision, according to two people familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. Another person familiar with the talks said $10,000 is among the options being considered.

Even that attempt at pandering to one segment of voters might create problems with others, even within the Democratic tent:

The issue has divided Democratic lawmakers and policy experts influential with the administration, putting Biden in a spot in which he is guaranteed to antagonize some supporters. Advocates say the president should fulfill a campaign promise to alleviate the large debt burdens of millions of young Americans, and critics say that could exacerbate inflation while mostly benefiting high-income college graduates who do not need assistance.

Indeed. Plus, the fundamental injustice of the move will create a problem for voters who don’t have those loans at all, or who already paid off their own. The recipients of these loans got the value out of it — a college education. Shouldn’t they pay for that college education, especially given the nature of the current economy, rather than transfer those costs to American households currently navigating from name brands to generics at Walmart?

In the words of that famous philosopher Admiral Akbar, it’s a trap … one that Biden is setting for himself:

Administration officials must choose between canceling substantial debt — potentially giving Republicans a new talking point ahead of the midterm elections — and infuriating young voters and racial justice organizations whose support they also need at the polls.

Officials have studied for months whether canceling student loans could alienate voters who had already paid theirs off, and polling results have been mixed, said a third person familiar with the matter, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. White House officials previously discussed limiting debt forgiveness to Americans who earned less than $150,000 in the previous year, or $300,000 for married couples filing jointly. One person familiar with the matter said those thresholds had not changed, although implementing those caps in practice could prove complicated.

Speaking of perceptions, the CNBC poll shows even more danger for Biden on this path. Right now, voters are keenly attuned to inflation and its devastating effect on their buying power. They are also sensitive to massive government spending, since Biden’s American Rescue Plan triggered this inflationary wave in the first place. How enthusiastic will they be to see another massive government outlay designed to benefit a narrow slice of Americans under these conditions?

Answer: not at all.

Already battling higher prices, 59% of Americans are concerned that student loan forgiveness will make inflation worse, according to a new CNBC survey, conducted online by Momentive among a national sample of 5,142 adults from Aug. 4 to 15.

CNBC gives short shrift to the results of the poll, preferring to use it as a hook to discuss the merits of Biden’s forgiveness options. Fair enough, but the results themselves are still pretty telling. First off, only 38% are net not concerned about an inflationary impact from student-loan debt forgiveness, which is not a great number this close to an election. Thirty percent of respondents are “very concerned” about an inflationary impact from this program, while only 15% are “not concerned at all.”

Furthermore, a plurality of 39% want those forgiven to pay taxes on the amount of debt that gets erased — a reasonable ask, considering that this amounts to income. If Biden’s not willing to tax it, then even a share of the 38% might start getting a little more concerned. But if he does make it taxable on an income basis, then Biden will likely lose the voters he was hoping to buy with the debt forgiveness in the first place.

Unfortunately for Biden, he’s already begged the question and set the trap for himself with all of this public back-and-forth over debt forgiveness. The end result may be a token effort that satisfies no one and angers many, which is … yet another pattern in the Biden presidency.

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