Opinion: Biden's student loan plan is a bandaid on a bullet wound

"It's time for Biden to revoke the student loan debt of every American.

Everyone knows that our student loan system is broken. In the United States, undergraduate students graduate with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt, and debtors are currently paying around $400 per month on their loans, on average.

And yet, despite promising sweeping action on this issue during his campaign, Biden's campaign promises on student loan debt have so far failed to translate to action.

In the latest proposal from the Biden administration, borrowers can expect a maximum $20,000 in student loan forgiveness (only for those who received Pell Grants to attend college). Borrowers with household incomes below $125,000 will also be eligible for $10,000 in forgiveness.

The White House claims that this proposal should target "middle-class families" and that "loans will be forgiven so that borrowers who have been making payments for decades can get relief."

But make no mistake: This is a pathetic band-aid on a gaping bullet wound.

Even with $10,000 or $20,000 of relief, many borrowers would still be trapped below the surface, drowning in an unsustainable financial system that perpetuates wealth inequality and sustains a predatory system that should have been dismantled long ago.

And let's not forget that this proposal still doesn't address the millions of borrowers who have already defaulted on their loans and whose credit scores have suffered as a result.

Defaulting on student loans is a traumatic experience that has led many borrowers to declare bankruptcy, a decision that affects their creditworthiness for years and impedes their ability to buy a home, start a business, or even get a job.

And what about the estimated 45% of borrowers who, according to surveys, would never be able to afford to pay back their student loans in their lifetimes, even with a $20,000 forgiveness?

If you need to give it a label, you might call it the "Biden Bullying Button": a policy designed to look compassionate while doing nothing to actually help the people who need it most.

It's time for Biden to go further and revoke the student loan debt of every American once and for all. As a candidate, Biden promised to do this. As a leader, he has the power to make it happen.

Student debt cancellation is popular among Americans, with recent polls showing that roughly three-in-five Americans support Biden taking executive action to cancel $50,000 of student loan debt per person.

And for good reason: wiping away student loan debt would do far more for American households than any of the proposed tax hikes on the wealthy that Biden has advocated for (and may not even happen).

Just imagine what Americans could do with $400 to $500 more each month in income, freed up from crippling student loan payments. They could buy a home, start a business, invest in clean energy, or contribute to their retirement savings.

Student loan debt cancellation is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do to stimulate the economy and help working families get ahead.

Plus, canceling student loan debt would disproportionately benefit Black and brown borrowers, helping to address the legacy of racial inequality in this country.

There are, of course, those who will argue that canceling student loan debt is unfair to those who have already paid off their loans. But here's the thing: it's just not true.

As with any universal program, everyone pays a little so everyone can benefit a lot. That's the beauty of universal social programs. We're all in this together, and we should all be able to benefit from social support when we need it, whether that's now or in the future.

And let's not forget that student loan debt is not just a personal issue – it's a national economic issue.

The student loan system is unsustainable and disproportionately harms those who are least able to pay back their loans, largely because of a lack of well-paying jobs and because of the rising cost of college tuition (which has risen 1,425% since 1978, by the way).

We need to recognize that our student loan system is just one manifestation of a larger problem: That we live in a nation where the value of goods and services rises much faster than wages. This reality is a direct result of skyrocketing income inequality, itself a product of decades of policy decisions that have prioritized the top 1% over the needs of working families.

When we cancel student loan debt, we can begin to rectify these wrongs and set the economy on a more just and sustainable path. It's time for Biden to cancel student loan debt. It's the right thing to do, it's what he promised, and it's what the people of this nation need."

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