Mar 05, 2022
After a White House official confirmed this week that President Joe Biden is considering further extending a pandemic-related pause on student loan payments, lawmakers and activists renewed calls for debt cancellation.
"We have reached a student debt crisis of epic proportions."
While payments are due to resume on May 1, White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain suggested on a popular podcast that the president may extend the pause and is still sorting out whether he will take further action on the student debt crisis.
"This is a GOOD idea!" the group Bold Progressives tweeted with a video of Klain on "Pod Save America."
\u201cWe are excited to hear WH Chief of Staff Ronald Klain say that @POTUS is considering a further EXTENSION on student loan payments and that student loan forgiveness is very much still on the table!\n \nThis is a GOOD idea!\n\n#CancelStudentDebt\n@WHCOS @DebtCrisisOrg @StrikeDebt\u201d— BoldProgressives.org (@BoldProgressives.org) 1646514001
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a key advocate of student debt cancellation in Congress, agreed, also tweeting Klain's comments.
In response to HuffPost's reporting on Klain's remarks, Congresswoman Marie Newman (D-Ill.) said Saturday that "pausing student loan payments during Covid has allowed Americans to get by."
"We need immediate student debt relief, and deferring payments again is a great step, but we need to do more," she added.
Noting that "education is a pathway to greater opportunity and economic security, yet many Americans simply can't afford it or become crushed by student loans," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) told Biden on Saturday that "we must cancel student debt."
Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) also pressured the president to take action on the issue Saturday:
\u201cAmericans currently hold enough student debt to buy the @ChicagoBulls valued at $3,650,000,000 517 times over. \n\nWe have reached a student debt crisis of epic proportions, and it\u2019s time for @POTUS to help a generation of Americans by taking decisive action to #CancelStudentDebt.\u201d— Congressman Chuy Garc\u00eda (@Congressman Chuy Garc\u00eda) 1646497214
Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have been leading the fight in Congress with Schumer, participated in a Friday roundtable about how student loan debt impacts Black communities, particularly business owners, entrepreneurs, and other professionals.
Advocates of debt cancellation often argue that it is necessary to help address the racial wealth gap in the United States.
\u201cWhat a day! Our President Nicole Obi & our amazing policy team held a roundtable w/ @RepPressley, @Senwarren, & @Ruthzee to discuss the student loan debt for Black biz owners, entrepreneurs, & professionals a like. We need to #CancelStudentDebt to close the racial wealth gap.\u201d— Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (@Black Economic Council of Massachusetts) 1646447423
Also on Friday, the Debt Collective announced a nationally coordinated refusal to make payments if Biden refuses to step in before they resume in May.
"If President Biden resumes illegitimate student debt payments in May, we will facilitate as many student debtors as possible to safely pay $0 a month to the Department of Education," declared Debt Collective co-founder Astra Taylor.
"Whether it's filing a borrower defense or enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan, we are politicizing our refusal to pay as part of our escalation on President Biden," Taylor said. "He has the authority to cancel all federal student debt with the flick of a pen. He can end this manufactured crisis today."
\u201cNEW: If Biden turns student debt payments back on, we're going on a student debt strike. \n\nJoin here: https://t.co/jdxgQcd8Ch\n\n"The Debt Collective is Launching a Student-debt Strike If Payments Resume on May 1."\nhttps://t.co/dE6OQe3cV3\u201d— The Debt Collective \ud83d\udfe5 (@The Debt Collective \ud83d\udfe5) 1646407380
Debt Collective spokesperson Braxton Brewington emphasized that "we want to be clear--a student debt strike is not intentionally defaulting on your loans, but politicizing and collectivizing your refusal to pay by using the tools the Department of Education already provides to student borrowers."
"The Debt Collective's Student Debt Strike is an important campaign to help build the mass movement we need to resist and abolish student debt."
"The federal government doesn't need our student debt payments to function, and the last two years have proved that," Brewington added, "but they do need our cooperation--and they certainly won't have that."
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) expressed support for the planned strike, noting that "the road to student debt cancellation is long and hard, and a key aspect is building solidarity amongst students and graduates with debt."
"The Debt Collective's Student Debt Strike is an important campaign to help build the mass movement we need to resist and abolish student debt, and there are so many ways to support it without putting yourself in financial jeopardy," she said. "I stand with Student Debt Strikers and encourage everyone--whether you have debt or not--to join us."
As Common Dreamsreported last month, polling shows student debt cancellation is popular with the American public, even among people who don't have higher education loans to repay.
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