Save our truckers, not affluent students seeking a free ride

The sign at a Flying J Truck Stop advertises gas prices
Associated Press/Rogelio V. Solis
Although gasoline prices have dropped recently, the price of diesel fuel is still high, as the sign at this Flying J Truck Stop advertises in Pearl, Miss., on April 20, 2022.

Take a look around you, whether you are at home, in the office, at a mall, or waiting for a sandwich at your local supermarket. Chances are, everything you see was delivered by truck. Every single thing.   

Just over two years ago, when the coronavirus pandemic struck, America’s truck drivers were rightfully hailed as “heroes” delivering essential supplies as we tried to cope with the escalating emergency. Today, however, not so much.

Worse than being forgotten for the heroes they were — and are — is that many truckers now are struggling themselves simply to stay in business and pay their bills. 

Last Sunday, according to AAA, the average price for a gallon of diesel fuel in the United States hit an all-time high. It’s a reality that is crushing the personal and corporate finances of independent truckers and trucking companies.

Fuel prices are twice what they were a year ago and some long-distance truckers pay more than $1,600 to fill their tanks. Like the rest of us, they are getting battered by an inflation rate that recently hit a four-decade high. It has gotten so bad that a number of truckers are thinking of quitting the business before they are forced to file for personal bankruptcy.

Back in the glory days of NASA, they had a favorite saying: “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.” But even then, the space program had a personal or financial impact on only a few Americans.

Truckers — and the essentials they deliver 24/7/365 — have a daily impact on every American.  So, to expand on that NASA truism: “No truckers, no stuff, cascading problems.”

Whether you support the Biden administration or not, the fact is that rising fuel prices combined with staggering inflation are morphing into personal emergencies for millions of Americans. At what point do these personal emergencies equal a national emergency? 

When national emergencies do strike, presidents must prioritize problems to be solved to benefit the majority of Americans. Maybe the Biden administration missed that memo.  

In the face of this ongoing ordeal that negatively impacts working-class America, we have the Biden administration trying to figure out how to orchestrate what some refer to as “the biggest giveaway in American history.” President Biden wants to cancel more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.

In more commonsense, pragmatic and honorable times, when you borrowed money, you were obligated by law — and your conscience — to pay it back. Like most American college and university students, I was not fortunate enough to have parents who paid for my education. What I could not pay for with money I saved while working as a busboy and waiter, I took out loans to cover the rest — loans that I dutifully and rightfully paid back. 

Now, would the Biden administration paint me and the tens of millions of other Americans who ethically paid off their loans as “suckers”? 

As cited by economist Stephen Moore and others, the most recent Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances reported that only 22 percent of families had student loan debt — and that “student debt has consistently been disproportionately held by higher-income families.”

Higher-income families. I suspect that if we took a survey of America’s truckers, few, if any, would come from higher-income families. Most probably come from working-class or poor backgrounds. Though it’s possible to earn $80,000 or more as a truck driver, the median salary in 2020 for America’s truckers was $47,130.

As our truckers — who bring us food, medicine, household goods and more — risk being financially pulverized by punishing fuel prices and inflation, an obvious question comes to mind:  Where is the Biden administration’s rescue plan for them? How in the world are affluent students, who are obligated to pay their debts, prioritized over America’s truckers?

Some speculate that Biden is trying to “buy the votes” of those young debtors and potential freeloaders. We do live in cynical, polarized times but we must hope that this is not the case.

That said, many perceive the Biden administration as floundering and, if past administrations are an indicator, when a president sees his approval rating below the water line, crass politics happen.

CBS News recently reported that Biden told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus regarding student debt: “I’m looking to do something on that, and I think you’re going to like what I do.” Was that a “wink and a nod” indicating an enticement policy?

We will soon find out. But in the meantime, as the president contemplates the biggest giveaway in American history — which would be inflationary, would benefit a small number of mostly affluent students, would create a tax burden for everyone else, and would drive up the cost of college as administrators looked to cash in on the government payoff — he should take a minute to look around the Oval Office.

I’m guessing that every single thing there was delivered at some point by America’s truckers,  the forgotten heroes we lauded just two years ago.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. His latest book is “The 56: Liberty Lessons From Those Who Risked All to Sign the Declaration of Independence.”

Tags Biden Biden adminitration giveaway student debt cancelation Truck drivers

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