One of these things still not like the others

From Sarah Jaffe’s new website:

And Elizabeth Warren knows a few things about class war too—she knows that it’s bailouts and bankruptcy law, foreclosures and student loans.

If student loans are class war, who is losing?

The highest-earning 10 percent of households have the highest mean student debt, followed by the next highest-earning 30 percent of households, followed then by the next highest-earning 10 percent of households, and then the lowest-earning 40 percent.

If I had to pick a loser, it looks like the rich. Or more seriously, this is not a class issue, not really. I guess insofar as college students and young college graduates are an important coalition member of the left, we have to find some way to integrate them in. It looks like the strategy is to just pretend they are poor. That’s certainly odd in the face of the data (I, II), but possibly a good strategy.

The left strategic approach on student debt is kind of schizophrenic though. There is this notion that student debt is primarily weighing down the poor. Then there are complaints — from Kay Steiger for instance — that student debt forgiveness programs are windfalls for the rich. This is unavoidable of course: the rich have the most student debt.

You would think that realizing that student debt forgiveness programs disproportionately benefit the rich would tip you off to the reality that student debt is disproportionately a rich person’s thing, but I don’t see that happening. Instead we get fascinatingly contradictory narratives: on the one end student debt is screwing the poor, but on the other end eliminating it is a huge score for the rich. It goes without saying that those can’t both be true.