By: Vivek Kakar, SDCC Economic Justice Fellow
In 2020, then-presidential nominee Joe Biden promised that, if elected, he would immediately cancel $10,000 in federal student debt for every American as part of his pandemic response. And, he promised to cancel much more on top of that. This was monumental. It was one of the first times a presidential candidate had promised broad-based cancellation. Sixteen months later, everyday Americans are asking why their debt has become a political football.
2020 also saw a spike in youth voter turnout. A poll by the Student Borrower Protection Center found that 71 percent of young people between 18 and 34 support wide-scale student loan cancellation. And, it's not just young voters. A CNN survey recently found that 60 percent of all Americans support some form of student debt redress.
So, it’s no surprise that student debt cancellation has become a winning political issue. This shift opened the door for promises to be made that could increase turnout numbers and peak interest in a group that could tip the scales on the ballot. It is arguably one of the reasons that the Democrats secured majorities in the 2020 election and debt relief became part of the package the Dems used to make their case to the public.
Here’s the thing: The average borrower doesn’t care about any of this. Since the start of the pandemic, borrowers have been stretched thin to the point where they had to choose between loan payments or food on the table. A survey by the Student Debt Crisis Center highlighted stories from borrowers affected by the debt repayment that hangs in the balance coupled with the rise in inflation we face now. Borrowers need relief, not empty promises and political infighting. Forty million Americans can be freed with the flick of a pen.
Talking heads want us to believe that student debt cancellation is a divisive issue only supported by the progressive left. But new polling shows two-thirds of Americans support debt cancellation, including a majority of those who never had debt and never went to college. It’s both a winning issue and the right thing to do. It’s time those elected to defend the best interest of everyday Americans step up to the plate. Or rather, grip their pens.