Retroactively changing the rules is a mistake, for power corridors and student loans


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I told you.

Last year, I made three predictions regarding the CMP corridor. The first was that the referendum would pass with a bang. Check.

The second was that the Maine judiciary would consider the state land lease to CMP to be nullified. Check so far at the first level, now awaiting the final decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.

Third, I guessed that the Supreme Court of Maine would reject the referendum on “ex post facto” grounds – the law generally does not allow the government to make new rules after the fact. Again, check mainly according to a decision published this week.

There’s a lot to be said for the ongoing saga surrounding Maine’s utility providers. But that’s for another day.

The “ex post facto” attempt to change Maine law to derail Quebec’s hydroelectric corridor is similar to President Joe Biden’s recent student loan declaration.

Many on the left are incredibly thrilled that Biden announced he would effectively write off $10,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers. For many others, it offends their sense of justice.

The left – and the official White House social media accounts – have gone into attack mode. They focused on forgivable loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program and attacked recipients to try to confuse them.

But the PPP lending process was forgivable from the start if some wickets were hit. There are legitimate lessons to be learned from the program in hindsight, including credible reviews. For example, did large law firms really need a forgivable loan to keep their employees working? Probably not.

Did family restaurants need help when they were ordered to temporarily close? Yeah, they probably did.

Yet whatever problems existed with the PPP system, they were designed into it from the start. Everyone knew it would be forgivable loans. That was the very point.

Biden’s student loan forgiveness scheme is different. No one took out a student loan thinking $10,000 would be magically forgiven. That was not the case.

So people who don’t get forgiveness are, understandably, a little upset.

Imagine Johnny. His heart was set on attending Bowdoin College, but he fell into a predicament where he was not eligible for much financial aid, but had no support to help pay the tuition bill. schooling. So instead, Johnny went to the University of Maine at Machias because it was a more tax-wise choice. He graduated without needing to take out loans.

Timmy was Johnny’s best friend. They were in the same boat. But Timmy decided to take the plunge and become a Bowdoin polar bear. He borrowed a lot of money to do it.

With Biden’s action, Timmy gets – in essence – a $10,000 kiss. Johnny no. If Johnny had known the rules would change after the fact, he might have chosen a different path.

These are the dangers of changing the rules after people have already made up their minds. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 44, explaining why ex post facto law and policy-making was loath to the new American nation:

“The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating politics that have ruled the public councils. They have watched with regret and indignation that sudden legislative changes and interference in cases affecting human rights become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and traps for the more industrious and less informed about the community.

And whether you think the CMP corridor or Biden’s student loan policies are good or bad, you should always worry when the government changes the rules after people have made up their minds.


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