Return of the “Student Loan Forgiveness” Vote-Buying Scheme

On February 21, the Biden administration announced a new $1.2 billion round of student loan forgiveness, with president Joe Biden personally notifying the 153,000 beneficiaries by email.

“I hope this relief gives you a little more breathing room,” Biden wrote. “I’ve heard from countless people who have told me that relieving the burden of their student loan debt will allow them to support themselves and their families, buy their first home, start a small business, and move forward with life plans they’ve put on hold.”

Coming atop more than 3.9 million previous recipients, that 153,000 may not seem like a lot, but let’s consider two other numbers.

In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump  beat Hillary Clinton with 304 electoral votes to her 227 — but by a total of less than 80,000 individual votes in three very close states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin).

In 2020, Biden coasted into office by beating Trump 306-232 in the electoral college. As in 2016, though, three key states (Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin) delivered that victory by a razor-thin popular vote margin of less than 45,000.

Biden’s hoping for “breathing room,” all right — but more for himself and his party than for those student borrowers.

Borrowers aren’t unimportant, of course. But Biden isn’t really looking at 153,000 borrowers. He’s looking at 153,000 VOTERS.

Plus a previous 3.9 million.

Plus all of those voters’ parents, spouses, children, and other loved ones who probably like the reduced monthly hit on their household incomes.

Like previous rounds, this latest write-off is a $1.2 billion campaign expenditure, one that doesn’t have to come out of the Biden campaign’s $56 million in cash reserves, or be raised with  donation drives.

Those of us who don’t have student loan balances hanging over our heads might not like it that much, but we probably won’t remember, remember on the 5th of November quite as bitterly as the beneficiaries will fondly.

And before we get temporarily outraged, it’s probably worth considering how OUR votes are bought.

They’re bought with “stimulus” checks.

They’re bought with farm subsidies.

They’re bought with government paychecks (including at second hand through contractors in industries ranging from “defense” to “infrastructure” and beyond).

They’re bought with newly created, or increased, “benefit” payouts of all kinds.

We’re all of us getting bribed, all the time — with our own money and with money from other Americans.

We’re supposed to remember the bribes we get, forget the bribes others got, and vote accordingly.

And we probably will.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Russia: Why Navalny, and What’s Next?

Vladimir Putin and Alexei Navalny. Graphic by krassotkin. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Vladimir Putin and Alexei Navalny. Graphic by krassotkin. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

On February 16, the Russian Federation’s Federal Penitentiary Service announced the death in custody of a prisoner at its FKU IK3 “corrective colony.” The prisoner — one Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny — “fell ill after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness,” according to an official statement, and could not be resuscitated by medical staff.

US president Joe Biden’s blunt statement fairly summarizes western regimes’ political responses to Navalny’s death: “Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible.”

Navalny spent the final years of his life in and out of prison.

According to the Russian regime, he was incarcerated for crimes ranging from embezzlement to fraud to money laundering.

According to his supporters in Russia and elsewhere, he was a political prisoner whose anti-corruption work and campaigns for public office represented a threat to Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Maybe he was one or the other, or both, or neither. But I’ve always found his status as a darling of western Putin opponents puzzling.

Navalny’s rise to prominence in Russian politics came from his support for a Russian nationalism to the right of Putin’s, starting with his advocacy of the 2006 “Russian march,” an annual far-right gathering banned that year in Moscow, and his opposition to freedom of immigration to Russia.

He supported Russia’s intervention against Georgia on behalf of, and supported Russian recognition of, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in 2008.

As late as 2012, at the height of his public influence, he preached that “Russian foreign policy should be maximally directed at integration with Ukraine and Belarus.”

His stated views moderated later on, but seemingly more as a function of courting western support and styling himself “the anti-Putin” than as a genuine change of belief. There’s no particular reason to believe that, had he replaced Putin as president at some earlier point, we’d have seen much difference in Russian foreign policy going forward.

Which of course, tells us nothing about whether he was 100% genuine political prisoner, or 100% criminal con man who cast his prosecution as political persecution in an effort to avoid punishment, or some mix of those things.

But it does raise the question of why the US regime chose him as the face of a nascent Russian opposition to support in its foreign political meddling. Were there no other opposition figures with more personal credibility and with, or willing to adopt, sufficiently “pro-western” views? Was it just about who could be most loudly “anti-Putin?” Inquiring minds want to know.

I don’t welcome Navalny’s death. I don’t welcome anyone’s.

But I do hope that a genuine, organic, anarchist or near-anarchist political opposition, rather than yet another west-backed ringer, can fill the vacuum his death leaves.

We could use such an opposition in America, too.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Suggestion for Presidential Candidates: Turn Cognitive Impairment Lemons Into Campaign Event Lemonade

Mattson M. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Mattson M. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

“What’s crazy,” Jon Stewart noted in his February 12 return to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, “is thinking that we’re the ones as voters who must silence concerns and criticisms. It is the candidate’s job to assuage concerns, not the voter’s job not to mention them.”

The concerns in question revolve around the two major parties’ likely 2024 presidential nominees’ public and obvious displays of seemingly severe cognitive impairments.

The parties, the candidates’ public relations flacks, and their media co-partisans dismiss those concerns and refer to off-camera medical opinions and exams as “proof” that there’s no there there, screaming “ageism!” and “fake news!” respectively in hope of making the matter go away.

Not gonna happen. When presidents and presidential candidates can’t seem to hang on to important thoughts or remember key names and dates well enough to deliver their messages in complete and coherent sentences, voters WILL notice.

The candidates have two choices: Address it, or accept that not addressing it will cost them votes.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump — and any other presidential candidate who wants to establish his or her mental fitness as a matter of public record — can set it all to rest quickly, cheaply, and easily, if the public perception is unjustified.

Each of them should agree to undergo the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Live. Streamed to and/or archived for America and the world via any and all Internet platforms that support live/recorded video.

The MoCA tests short-term memory, visuospatial ability, executive function, attention, concentration, working memory, language, abstract reasoning, and orientation to time and place … and it does so in about 10 minutes. A bit of a stretch for TikTok, but well within most platforms’ video length guidelines.

It’s a 30-point test. Score 26 or more and you’re golden, even if you’re in your golden years. Less than that, maybe you’ve got some issues that bear on your ability to do things like evaluating legislation for signature or veto, launching nuclear strikes, etc.

What say you, candidates? When the news cycle hands you cognitive impairment lemons, why not make campaign event lemonade?

Collect donation pledges per point, or conditional on making the 26-point cutoff, or for a perfect score of 30.

Line up potential endorsers to talk you up after — if — you ace the thing.

Schedule a “Full Ginsburg” round of the Sunday morning news shows to show off your clock-drawing chops and ability to remember the hosts’ names.

Maybe you can even get Stephen Colbert to bring you on The Late Show (if that’s not past your bedtime) and give you a list of five naughty nouns to remember.

Or you can deny, minimize, and evade the whole thing. Maybe you won’t even remember how that worked out for you.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.