This summer, Biden announced a one-time student loan forgiveness plan for single people making less than $125,000 annually ($250,000 for married couples). This plan would forgive $20,000 worth of student loans for borrowers who had qualified for a pell grant and just $10,000 for borrowers who hadn’t. While the loan forgiveness program only applies to loans issued before Jun 30th of, 2022, it is a groundbreaking step toward mitigating the student loan debt crisis young people face today. The plan would reportedly benefit 43 million borrowers and result in 20 million borrowers zeroing out their student loan debt altogether.
Last week, on Tuesday, CNN, Washington Post, and other mainstream media outlets reported that a man from Indiana named Frank Garrison filed a lawsuit suing the Federal government for abusing executive power by forcing him to pay taxes on the forgiven loan amount. Garrison is currently enrolled in another student loan forgiveness program called Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness (PSSLF), which allows people working in the public interest to have their loans forgiven after making 120 payments. Indiana, the state he claims to be from, does not tax loans forgiven under the PSSLF program. However, it is one of the few states that will tax the loans forgiven under Biden’s new plan.
This tax, imposed by the state of Indiana, is what gives Frank Garrison the legal standing (proof that the U.S government is harming you immediately and concretely) necessary to file a civil lawsuit against the Federal government. As a result of Biden’s plan, Garrison argues the government is forcing him to pay “a state income tax liability of more than $1,000 for 2022” even though “a $20,000 reduction in his total indebtedness will not change either his monthly payment obligation or the total amount of the loans he must repay.”
What CNN, The Washington Post, and many other news outlets failed to mention is that it is Frank Garrison’s employer, “a conservative public interest law firm” funded by right-wing billionaires, who is actually representing Garrison in court. Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), the “public interest law firm” in question, has a history of filing lawsuits that further the interests of its high-profile donors. Interests that are almost always detrimental to the American people.
Between the years 2019 and 2020, Charles Koch, the right-wing billionaire and CEO of Koch industries, used multiple entities to donate $2,331,550 to Pacific Legal Foundation. Less than a year later, during the coronavirus pandemic, after the billionaire began investing millions into the beaten down real estate market, the Pacific Legal Foundation filed multiple lawsuits attempting to prevent the federal moratorium on evictions.
This time around, billionaires’ suspicious interference with millions of Americans’ access to student loan forgiveness is illuminated in this lawsuit’s absurdities. To begin with, Frank Garrison, the man who is apparently being immediately and concretely harmed by Indiana’s tax on forgiven loans, lived in Washington, DC, up until very recently. In fact, he moved out of the state where he would pay no tax on the forgiven loans (Washington DC) to Indiana, where he would pay the tax on the exact day that Pacific Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit: Tuesday. Even stranger is the assertion that Biden’s plan forces Garrison to pay or do anything at all. No part of the policy requires any person anywhere to file for student debt loan forgiveness. This completely negates Garrison’s entire standing because it means that if a person decided they would rather maintain 20,000 dollars of student loan debt than pay 1000 dollars in state taxes, they could.
At this point in history, no citizen of the United States should be shocked with billionaires leveraging their power to harm everyday Americans, we should however, be more aware of it.