STUDENT DEBT - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Saturday that Congress could reverse the 2017 GOP tax cuts, which overwhelmingly benefited the rich and large corporations, to finance the cancellation of all remaining student loan debt after President Joe Biden announced his more limited plan to wipe out $10,000 for most borrowers.
"We can keep pushing," the New York Democrat wrote in an email to supporters. "Remember that the Biden administration didn't want to do this at all. It was YOUR pushing, YOUR pressure, YOUR organizing that got them to this point. They have forgiven far, far more debt for business owners in the form of [Paycheck Protection Program loans] who didn't need to meet ANY sort of income requirements or means testing for almost $1 TRILLION in forgiveness."
"Mind you," she added, "forgiving ALL student debt in the U.S. is about $1.7 trillion—you could undo the 2017 tax cuts for the 1% and forgive all student loans plus have money left over to contribute to universal childcare, tuition-free college, homelessness, etc."
Biden's push to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers with under $125,000 in annual income—and his proposed forgiveness of $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients—could help more than 40 million people across the U.S. Around a third of all federal student loan borrowers owe $10,000 or less.
But millions of others will remain stuck under crushing student debt balances despite the president's plan, and limited debt cancellation will do nothing to reform the college financing system that caused the crisis.
"It is now up to us, and to you, to decide if we are going to stop here, or if we are going to keep pushing," Ocasio-Cortez wrote Saturday. "I am very grateful for this watershed moment of a first step—it is encouraging, thrilling, and has already changed SO many people's lives. But I am also thinking about how this still leaves a question mark for those in the highest amounts of debt, who need the most amount of help."
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2017, is projected to cost around $1.9 trillion over a decade. Total U.S. student loan debt is currently around $1.75 trillion.
Despite the deep unpopularity of the TCJA, which permanently slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, congressional Democrats have yet to fulfill their promise to undo the law, leaving the highly regressive changes mostly intact.
"Never forget: 83% of the Trump tax breaks are going to the top 1%," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted Saturday.
Meanwhile, the senator wrote, "87% of Biden's student loan benefits are going to individuals making $75,000 or less and 0% are going to the top 1%."
"Yes. It's about time we stood up for working-class families," he added.
(Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this story was featured.)