Are student loans forgiven, 92% of which are held by federal government? While I do not believe that this policy is fair or reasonable, I understand that people with good intentions may disagree. However, there is one fact that cannot be denied: the Constitution doesn’t guarantee college tuition free of debt. Or, to put it another manner: continuing to collect student loans payments violates no civil liberties.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which purports to be a constitutional rights advocacy group, is collecting signatures to a petition asking the Biden administration “cancel student loans up to $50,000 per borrower before the end 2021”. The ACLU’s veerable mission has been so far departed from this initiative, it is now almost impossible to distinguish the organization from other progressive advocacy organizations. That’s a shame, since a consistent defense of civil liberties is the ACLU’s raison d’être and the singular reason why its work deserves wide support.
ACLU arguesBecause student debt “is a racial injustice issue”, it “suffers the most heavily on Black communities and Black women, especially.” According to this logic, any problem that affects one racial group disproportionately is also considered a “racial justice” issue. Therefore, the ACLU considers it a civil rights issue.
For example, white people are more likely than Latinos or blacks to take their own lives (although Native Americans have the highest suicide rate). Non-Hispanic whites also experience a greater rate of opioid-related death than Latinos and African Americans.
The ACLU would likely argue that opioid-related suicides and deaths from overdose aren’t racial justice problems because they don’t reflect oppression or discrimination. It states that “Centuries based on structural injustice and racism have created significant barriers to access education for Black communities.” “For instance, Black families have far less generational wealth to draw on to pay for college than white families—and as a result, are more likely to take on student loans and struggle with repayment, which is exacerbated by job discrimination and pay disparities.” ACLU says that the disparate effect of student loans is a direct result systemic racism.
The ACLU’s position on student loans is explained by a combination of private and state action. It assumes “pay disparities” are due to “job discrimination,” but posits the state-supported racism lingering as the cause of most educational and economic differences between white and black people. This is a highly contentious issue on which Americans from different ideologies or political opinions strongly disagree. Although an organization which defends civil liberty cannot avoid controversy it can open this can of beans, and potentially alienates potential allies.
It is clear that the ACLU has a historic mission if “racial justice” means equality of treatment under law. If racial injustice is any outcome that is supposedly caused by “systemic racism”, it can ensnare the ACLU in all manner of public policy disputes that have nothing to do civil liberties. This includes attempts to reduce racial inequality through welfare programs and education spending.
This is a slippery slope that the organization has already begun to descend. Three facts are highlighted on the “racial justice” page.
1. Black students have three times the chance of being expelled or suspended from school than are white students.
2. “The median wealth in white households is twenty times greater than black households. It’s 18 times higher for Latino households.”
3. “Seven of ten Blacks believe they’re treated unfairly by police officers.”
Each of these is different. Although both public school discipline practices and policing raise legitimate concerns about civil liberties, this is not the case for wealth disparity which the ACLU feels the government should fix in the name of racism.
The ACLU argues that broadband access for everyone is a matter of racial justice because people without it are often Black, Latinx or Indigenous and rural. Accordingly, the ACLU supports the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which “invests $94 billion in high-speed broadband infrastructure to underserved areas and makes the internet affordable.”
ACLU refers to the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act as “a great Civil Rights Law” since it “barre[s] certain types of discrimination,” begins to address the effects of longstanding discrimination and “enables the freedoms that other civil rights laws are meant to protect.” According to the ACLU, “it’s impossible for a nation to participate fully in its economic, social and civic life without stable healthcare coverage.”
That position conflates negative rights, such as the right to express your opinions without being punished by the government or the right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, with positive rights—in this case, the purported right to government-subsidized health care. This conflation allows for the possibility of requesting all kinds of taxpayer-funded subsidy as necessary to exercise civil liberties. For full participation in “the economic and social life and civic activities of our country,” stable health care must be a condition. This reasoning allows the ACLU to expand its mission to cover any domestic policy topic.
It isn’t just divisive distracting, but the ACLU promotes a broad progressive agenda. This is a call for expanded government power, which undermines individual liberty. The ACLU argued, counterintuitively, that the Affordable Care Act mandate that all Americans have government-approved healthcare coverage protected individual liberty.
Or consider gun control. Even worse, the ACLU does not have any interest in protecting the constitutional right for armed self-defense. Even worse is the fact that the ACLU supports New York’s quasi ban on firearms being used for self defense. It argues that “restrictions on guns within public spaces” are needed to protect democratic participation.
The ACLU could support more gun control generally on the basis that guns restrictions are addressing a problem thatdisproportionately impacts African Americans. In order to promote racial equality, gun control advocates policies that both violate civil liberties, but also cause disproportionate harm to racial minorities. New York’s stringent restrictions on bear arms, NYPD’s “stop, question, frisk” program, Washington D.C.’s felon in possession crackdown last year are examples of this perverse view.
Although the ACLU is not a supporter of the Second Amendment it does have a proud history of supporting the First Amendment even when this meant that they could help people who hold skewed views. But that commitment is now open to question (and has been for some time) because it conflicts with the preferences of people who think the ACLU should prioritize progressive causes rather than civil liberties.
The ACLU followed the lead of Kyle Rittenhouse, who successfully argued that Rittenhouse acted in self defense when he fatally shot two people during a demonstration in Kenosha (Wisconsin) in August 2020. After Rittenhouse was acquitted by the jury, the ACLU claimed that Rittenhouse “wasn’t held accountable for his actions” as well as irrelevantly. decried“The effect that violence to defend white supremacy can have on Black and Brown community.” An organization that was supposed to defend the rights of criminal defendants abandoned that cause and bowed to political correctness, implying the law didn’t matter. This is what we call due process. We are talking about trial by jury and the presumption that you will be found innocent.
The ACLU is doing a great job in defending civil liberties. However, its acceptance of progressive and broad goals seems to be undermining what made the ACLU unique. This makes it less worthy of support by those who may not agree with them.