Newsweek exploited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ past struggle with student loan debt to make his skepticism of President Joe Biden’s humongous student loan debt forgiveness plan seem hypocritical.
As Biden’s colossal $400 billion student loan debt forgiveness plan hit the Supreme Court on Feb. 28, Newsweek released a same-day report headlined “Clarence Thomas Complained About His Own Student Loan Debt.”
The report pointed out Justice Clarence Thomas’s struggle to pay off his own debt that he acquired while at Yale law school, implying that his opposition to the student loan forgiveness program is hypocritical.
Quoting from his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, Newsweek highlighted that a friend of Thomas suggested declaring bankruptcy in order to alleviate the “crushing weight” of student debt.
But Thomas refused to go that route. As a matter of fact, he decided to pay back every penny through Yale’s income-based debt payment plan despite his meager post-graduate financial status and humble upbringing:
"In the end all Yale had to offer me was the tuition postponement option, a program in which the cost of student loans was spread across a class of students who repaid it as a group according to their means, with the greatest burden falling on those with the largest incomes. I didn't know what else to do, so I signed on the dotted line, and spent the next two decades paying off the money I'd borrowed during my last two years at Yale," Thomas wrote in his memoir.
According to AP News, Thomas was in his mid-40s and in his third year on the Supreme Court when he completed his student loan payments. But when he addressed law students in a 2012 speech at the University of Florida Law School, he called the money he spent on Yale a “wise investment.”
“Don’t buy into the notion that you are excluded from opportunities in life because of where you are,” He added. “Don’t let the notion of tiers stop you from access.”
But Justice Thomas’s opposition to Biden’s student loan forgiveness program had nothing to do with his past experience and everything to do with the U.S. Constitution which allows Congress – not the secretary of education – to authorize funds “drawn from the treasury.”
"[A]s a cancellation of $400 billion in debt, in effect this is a grant of $400 billion and it runs headlong into Congress' appropriations authority," Thomas said according to a Feb. 28 CNN report. He later added that “[t]he argument is that you are in effect doing that without appropriations from Congress."
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