Even before Covid arrived, total household debt in the United States had reached a record-breaking $14 trillion, the result of decades of stagnating wages and slashed social services. The pandemic only reinforces the reality that mass indebtedness is a structural problem, the result of a system that forces people to borrow in order to make ends meet, rather than of poor individual choices. Millennials, in other words, are not drowning in student loans because of a collective penchant for avocado toast.

The only sensible solution is a policy of generous cash payments coupled with wide-scale debt relief. Research shows that people spent 30 percent of their 2020 stimulus checks to service debt, which means the government’s cash transfers were, in the end, a rather roundabout way of bailing out creditors—an absurd and wasteful outcome, given the profitability of the financial sector and the damage it has done to society as a whole. Student loans, medical debt, mortgage payments, rent, and municipal debt (that held by city and local governments) should all be reduced or eliminated outright. There are strong ethical and economic arguments for doing so.

Read more at The Nation.