Former Obama economist slams student debt relief: It's not ‘free money,’ will ‘hurt’ almost everyone

Experts warn that canceling student debt could undermine the Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act

A former Obama administration economist on Friday slammed the idea of student debt relief, saying that it is not "free money" and warning it will "hurt" almost everyone.

Jason Furman, former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), issued his warning as President Biden weighs whether to extend the pause on repayments. The president is also considering taking executive action to cancel up to $10,000 in debt for many Americans.  

"Student loan relief is not free. It would be paid for," Furman wrote on Twitter. 

"Part of it would be paid for by the 87% of Americans who do not benefit but lose out from inflation. Part of it would be paid for by future spending cuts [and] tax increases— with uncertainty about who will bear those costs."


President Joe Biden

President Biden is weighing whether to again extend the pause on student loan repayments. Some Democrats want him to go even further and unilaterally cancel tens of thousands of dollars in debt per borrower. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"When President Bush originally cut taxes [Brookings Institute’s Bill Gale] & [Lazard CEO Peter Orszag] developed analysis about the distribution of tax cuts when the financing was uncertain," he continued. "Greg Leiserson and I explained the logic in the context of the Trump tax cuts."

Furman wrote there are two "ways to think about" student debt relief: "real resources" and "budget constraint."

"We’re at capacity now. Student loan relief would lead some people to spend more," Furman said of real resources. "We can’t make more so others would consume less. The way that happens is inflation."

"If you add hundreds of billions to the deficit eventually taxes will rise or spending will be cut," the Harvard professor said of budget constraints. "Or some tax cut or spending increases that could have happened won’t. Either way a cost."

Furman said that a "full evaluation of student loan relief" would take this information into the mix and warned the idea "benefits recent college grads and hurts most everyone else, both rich and poor."

"But don’t assume it is ‘free’ money — it is not," Furman wrote.


"P.S. You can try to play various games with baselines to get around the above. But under current law debt service payments are scheduled to restart," the former Obama economist added. "So if loans are forgiven the only new policy is that relief."

FOX Business’ Kelsey Ramirez contributed reporting.