ACLU pressure to ‘cancel’ student debt shows how far it has strayed from civil liberties defense
Is the forgiveness of student debt, 92% of which is held by the federal government, a good idea? While I don’t think this policy is fair or sound, I do agree that reasonable people of good faith disagree. But one thing is indisputable: the Constitution does not guarantee the right to a debt-free college education. To put it another way, continuing to collect student loan payments does not violate anyone’s civil liberties.
So why is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which ostensibly exists to defend constitutional rights, is collecting signatures for a petition urging the Biden administration to “cancel up to $ 50,000 in student debt per borrower by end of 2021 ”? This move is yet another sign that the venerable organization has strayed so far from its historic mission that it is becoming indistinguishable from the myriad of progressive advocacy groups. This is a shame, because a coherent defense of civil liberties is the raison d’être of the ACLU and the singular reason why its work deserves wide support.
ACLU argues that “student debt is a matter of racial justice” because it is “an overwhelming burden that weighs the heaviest on black communities, and in particular on black women.” By this logic, any issue that disproportionately affects a particular racial group is also a racial justice issue and therefore, by the ACLU’s calculation, a civil liberties issue.
Whites, for example, are much more likely to commit suicide than blacks, Latinos, or Asian Americans (although Native Americans are the group with the highest suicide rate). Non-Hispanic whites also have a higher rate of opioid-related deaths than Latinos or African Americans.
The ACLU would presumably argue that suicide and opioid-related deaths are not racial justice issues because they do not reflect a history of oppression and discrimination. “Centuries of structural inequities and racism have created significant barriers to access to education for black communities,” he says. “For example, black families have much less generational wealth to draw on to pay for their college education than white families and, as a result, are more likely to take out student loans and struggle for repayment, which is exacerbated by discrimination in employment and wage disparities. According to the ACLU, the disparate impact of student debt is “a direct result of systemic racism.”
This explanation of the ACLU’s position on student loans confuses state action with private action, assumes that “wage disparities” result from “discrimination in employment” and postulates that the lingering effects State-sponsored racism explains most, if not all, of educational and economic problems. disparities between blacks and whites. These are all very controversial issues on which Americans of different ideologies and political preferences strongly disagree. While an organization that consistently defends civil liberties cannot avoid controversy, opening this box of worms undermines this central purpose, unnecessarily alienating potential allies.
If “racial justice” means equal treatment before the law, that is clearly part of the historic mission of the ACLU. But if racial justice encompasses any outcome that would result from “systemic racism,” it pulls the ACLU into all kinds of public policy controversies that have nothing to do with civil liberties, including attempts to reduce racial disparities. through social assistance programs, education spending, jobs, training, affirmative action, social housing, tax credits, and state-subsidized health care.
The organization is already hurtling down this slippery slope. His “racial justice” page highlights three facts “you need to know”:
1. “Black students are suspended and expelled from school three times more often than white students.”
2. “The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Latino households.”
3. “Seven in ten blacks said they were treated less equitably than whites in their dealings with the police. “
One of these things is not like the others. While the disciplinary practices of police and public schools raise legitimate civil liberties concerns, the wealth disparity that the ACLU believes the government should address in the name of racial justice does not. .
To give you an idea of how far the ACLU has moved this cause away from the defense of constitutional rights, the organization maintains that “broadband access for all” is a matter of racial justice because “people without access broadband are disproportionately black, Latin, indigenous, rural or low-income. The organization therefore supports the Accessible and Affordable Internet Act, which “would invest $ 94 billion to build high-speed infrastructure in underserved communities and ensure that the resulting Internet service is affordable.”
The ACLU describes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which it urged the Supreme Court to uphold, as “a great civil rights law” because it “prohibits certain forms of discrimination,” “begins address the effects of long-standing discrimination ”and“ allows freedoms that other civil rights laws seek to protect. The ACLU maintains that “it is not possible to participate fully in the economic, social and civic life of our nation without stable health coverage.”
This position confuses negative rights, such as the right to express 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 so-called right to government subsidized health care. This confusion opens the door to demanding all kinds of taxpayer-funded subsidies as essential to the exercise of civil liberties. While “stable health care” is a prerequisite for fully participating in “the economic, social and civic life of our nation”, so are stable housing, stable employment and a stable supply of food, clothing. and transport. Such reasoning expands the ACLU’s mission to include just about any domestic political issue.
The ACLU’s promotion of a broad progressive agenda is not just a divisive distraction. It is an invitation to expanded governmental power that undermines individual freedom. In defending the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that every American obtain government-approved medical coverage, for example, the ACLU counterintuitively argued that the mandate protects “personal freedom.”
Or consider gun control. It is bad enough that the ACLU has no interest in defending the constitutional right to armed self-defense, which it claims does not exist. It is worse that the organization supports New York’s virtual ban on carrying firearms for self-defense, arguing that “restrictions on firearms in public spaces are appropriate to make public spaces safe for the public. democratic participation, including First Amendment activities such as assembly, association, and speech. “
It would be even worse if the ACLU decided to support gun control more broadly, based on the theory that gun restrictions solve a problem that disproportionately harms African Americans, as supported by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The idea that gun control promotes racial justice perversely invites policies and practices that not only violate civil liberties but also disproportionately harm racial minorities, as illustrated by New’s severe restrictions. York to the right to bear arms, the NYPD’s “stop, question and search”. program and crackdown on criminals in possession of last year in Washington, DC
While the ACLU was never passionate about the Second Amendment, it has a long and admirable history of defending the First Amendment, even when it involved helping people with odious opinions. But that commitment is now questionable (and has been for some time) as it conflicts with the preferences of those who believe the ACLU should prioritize progressive causes over civil liberties.
This is what the ACLU did after Kyle Rittenhouse successfully argued that he acted in self-defense when he shot three people, including two fatally, during an August 2020 demonstration in Kenosha. , Wisconsin. When a jury acquitted Rittenhouse of all charges last month, the ACLU complained that he “was not held responsible for his actions” and irrelevant decried “The impact that violence in defense of white supremacy has on black and brown communities.” So an organization supposedly dedicated to defending the rights of criminals dropped the cause, bowing to political correctness by suggesting that the law and evidence didn’t matter. So much for due process, trial by jury, the presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The ACLU continues to do a good job defending civil liberties. But its adherence to far-reaching progressive goals clearly undermines the principles that have made it distinctive and worthy of support by people who don’t necessarily agree with this agenda.