Student loan debt is a crisis in America. As I write this, 45 million Americans suffer with $1.6 billion in collective student loan debt, an amount second only to mortgage debt. It harms not only the debtors themselves but the economy as a whole by preventing the most innovative members of our society from starting businesses or buying homes. We need a solution. We need the Bernie Sanders solution.
Sanders introduced a bill in June that would cancel all student loan debt in the US, with the federal government buying up privately held debt to repay it. The bill also aims to provide tuition-free public college and significantly lowered interest rates on new student loans. This comes, of course, with a hefty price tag: $2.2 trillion, which is covered by a miniscule tax on stock transactions (the highest is 0.5%).
You may have just remarked that this is socialism, but the Sanders plan is no more socialist than the public K-12 education system, including Rio, is. All it does is extend the concept of free public education, which is the reason our school exists, to the college level, allowing all Americans to obtain a degree which is a prerequisite for countless career paths without chaining themselves down with massive debt, allowing everyone to contribute their gifts to the advancement of society.
The burden placed on the financial sector is not unjust. The billionaires and corporations whose stock transactions will provide most of the revenue have long thrived on exploiting disadvantaged people and relying on government bailouts when they plan wrong. In the 2008 stock market crash, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were lavished on the banks responsible for the meltdown. Now the people call on Wall Street to repay its debt.
Furthermore, those same billionaires are now flush with the fruits of the past decade of economic recovery, whose benefits have gone disproportionately to the wealthiest Americans, leaving many among us in conditions that have improved little, among them the recent college graduates straining under the weight of colossal debt.
America is faced with an urgent question. The answer comes down to what priorities we have as Americans and as a society. Progressive politicians have given us a choice: do we care more about indebted college students or the riches of the fat cats of Wall Street? Is a safety net for ordinary people socialism while one for banks is sound fiscal planning? The fate of the American dream lies in that choice.