In a November training conference held for the Federal Student Aid division of the Department of Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos reported that American student loan debt had finally hit the level of a “crisis.” According to Madame Secretary:
“Our higher-ed system is the envy of the world, but if we as a country do not make important policy changes in the way we distribute, administer and manage federal student loans, the program on which so many students rely will be in serious jeopardy.”
It’s about time that DeVos, one of the few original Trump cabinet appointees to still be in office, said something about this topic, though her statements are pretty lackluster. Sure, she’s fought for school choice, charter schools, vouchers, and other TOTALLY NOT RACIST programs that are beloved by the GOPE, but she’s largely failed to even mention the student loan crisis for nearly two years.
Instead, she’s repeatedly done everything possible to maintain the status quo, erode borrower protections and forgiveness programs, and generally sell out struggling millennial debt-slaves in order to further line the pockets of corrupt student loan servicers. One of her worst recent decisions involves hiring the former dean of disgraced for-profit DeVry University to head a fraud investigation of the same for-profit system of which he was so long a beneficiary.
For DeVos to finally admit that there’s a noticeable glitch in The Matrix is a baby-step in the right direction. However, the fact that it took her so long to address an obvious fact only underlines the Trump Administration’s larger disconnect from the serious financial problems that beset young voters. Problems that Trump’s Democratic opponents long ago picked up on and are increasingly promising radical solutions to.
Forbes reported last month that more than 44 million Americans have some form of student debt, totaling $1.5 trillion. For a student graduating college in 2016, the average loan burden was around $37,000. For 2017 graduates, it’s closer to $40,000. Increasingly, even among young white men who are more likely to lean to the Right on cultural concerns, student loan debt isn’t just one voting issue among many, it’s THE voting issue.
Bernie Sanders promised nationwide student loan forgiveness in his Democratic primary campaign, and was overwhelmingly popular among college-educated whites in their 20s and 30s, the cohort that comprises the single largest segment of student loan borrowers. Even Wall Street’s preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, was forced to swing to the economic populist side during her campaign against Trump as a result of the Bernie Bro contingent. She eventually promised a three-month moratorium on all loan payments and a vastly expanded forgiveness plan.
Why doesn’t Trump tactically cut the legs out from under upcoming Democratic nominees by adopting the student loan forgiveness platform for his own? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the most visible young Democratic politician pushing this policy, will be old enough to run for president in 2024. If and when she makes student loan forgiveness a central pillar of her campaign platform, there’s no question that she’ll win among young voters. She might even convert a key percentage of young white men who still feel that they have no future, even after eight years (four is increasingly looking more likely) of Trump.
Trump and Trump-like Republicans offer racialist dog-whistles at rallies and nationalist slogans on Twitter, but are unwilling to ever explicitly act in the interests of white Americans, especially the college-educated white men who have been most shafted by the economic policies that Republicans are unwilling to confront. Despite Ocasio-Cortez’s SJW rhetoric on Twitter, her student loan forgiveness policies would actually do more to help young white men than anything Trump has done so far in his entire presidential career. That’s something that Trump and all Republicans should be worrying about, and figuring out how to address.