Student Loans

Biden's Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Is Unconstitutional, Says Federal Judge

Plus: Users surge on decentralized social media platform Mastodon, the fall of city drugstores, and more...


A federal judge has ruled unconstitutional President Joe Biden's plan to forgive student loan debt. In a decision issued yesterday, U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman ruled in favor of plaintiffs Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor.

Brown has student loans but is entirely ineligible for Biden's forgiveness program because her loans are privately held. Taylor has loans but is ineligible for the full $20,000 in debt relief. The Job Creators Network Foundation sued on their behalf, arguing that Biden's bailout plan violated the Administrative Procedure Act (which requires a period of public comment) and that the Department of Education lacks the authority to implement the program.

Pittman found that the program did not violate administrative procedure. Instead, he found that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 ("HEROES Act")—which Biden used to justify his move—does not actually "provide the executive branch clear congressional authorization to create a $400 billion student loan forgiveness program." Bident's student debt relief plan "is thus an unconstitutional exercise of Congress's legislative power and must be vacated."

"In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone," Pittman wrote in his decision. "Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government."

In a statement yesterday, Job Creators Network Foundation President Elaine Parker said Biden's bailout "would have done nothing to address the root cause of unaffordable tuition: greedy and bloated colleges that raise tuition far more than inflation year after year while sitting on $700 billion in endowments. We hope that the court's decision today will lay the groundwork for real solutions to the student loan crisis."

Of course, this battle isn't over yet. The Department of Justice has filed an appeal, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday.

More than 26 million people have already applied for student loan forgiveness, she said, and the Biden administration will keep their information "so it can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court."

The Job Creators Network Foundation suit is one of several cases challenging the program. These include a lawsuit from six Republican-led states and one from the Cato Institute. "Cato's suit joins at least six others, with plaintiffs making various claims of harm," noted Neal McCluskey, director of Cato's Center for Educational Freedom, in a blog post. "The ultimate aim of all the suits, though, is the same: To stop a move that is not only patently unconstitutional, but will inflict many painful costs on society."

"The constitutional issue is straightforward: The Constitution gives the power of the purse to Congress, but in declaring that it would forgive up to $20,000 in loans for households making below $250,000 a year, the Biden administration essentially created about $400 billion in new spending," McCluskey wrote late last month.


The decentralized social platform Mastodon is seeing an influx of new users. As Twitter's troubles continue, people are giving Mastodon a try. "Mastodon reached a million users earlier this week, up from under 400,000 before Musk closed the Twitter deal on Oct. 27," reports NPR. The Mastodon interface is similar to Twitter's, but rather than one centralized system, Mastodon is a federation of independently run servers, some more general and some centered around a region, profession, or interest. Each server—also known as an "instance"—comes with its own content moderation and privacy policies. Users pick a particular instance to join, but they can still follow and interact with people from other instances.

(A few Reason folks are on Mastodon now. You can find me at, Editor-at-Large Nick Gillespie at, digital marketing specialist Adam B. Sullivan at, and web technology director Justin Maurer is


Why are drugstores like Walgreens and CVS closing so many urban stores? Some tough-on-crime types are blaming shoplifting. But this is far from the whole story, suggests Henry Grabar at Slate. Drugstores in city centers are indeed closing:

Nationally, chain pharmacies declined by 6 percent between 2017 and 2021. Then came post-pandemic closures this year, and CVS' announcement that it would shutter 900 stores over the next three years, reducing "store density in certain locations" in order to respond to "changes in population, consumer buying patterns, and future health needs."

It's the end of an era: Decried by historic preservationists and independent merchants, the big chain drugstore took urban neighborhoods by storm as big-city populations rebounded in the 1990s and 2000s. They weren't just drugstores; they sold everything, seemingly everywhere, at all hours. For people without cars, they were a godsend. They were as convenient as a corner store, and what they lacked in friendly felines they made up for in huge selections and low prices. One such store was the colossal Walgreens that opened in Center City Philadelphia in 2013, offering Starbucks coffee and cut fruit over 26,000 brightly lit square feet. It was pitched as a "flagship for the pharmacy chain's pivot into American urban centers," wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer, and won over skeptics. The store closed in February.

But "contrary to the claims of law-and-order conservatives, big-city chain pharmacies are not closing because of shoplifting," writes Grabar. Shoplifting may be one factor, but much bigger trends are driving shutdowns. These include overzealous expansion in urban centers over the past few decades, pandemic-era changes in where people live and work, and people's growing reliance on online shopping for all sorts of products.


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