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Demonstrators push President Joe Biden to cancel all outstanding student debt

Student loan debt holders take part in a demonstration outside of the White House staff entrance on July 27, 2022. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

'Cancel It All,' Say Progressives as Biden Favors $10,000 in Means-Tested Student Debt Relief

"Student debt is a nearly $2,000,000,000,000 crisis," said Rep. Cori Bush. "POTUS must cancel student debt. All of it."

Jake Johnson

Fresh reporting out Monday night indicates that President Joe Biden is "leaning toward" canceling $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers with annual incomes below $125,000, a means-tested plan that would fall well short of progressive lawmakers' call for the administration to wipe at least $50,000 off the books for all borrowers.

According to CNN, Biden's long-awaited announcement of student debt cancellation "could come as early as Wednesday," a week before the student loan repayment and interest freeze that's been in effect since 2020 is set to end.

"For millions of people, $10,000 doesn't cover the interest. It won't lower their monthly payments."

"Administration officials have also recently discussed the possibility of additional forgiveness for specific subsets of the population," CNN reported Monday without offering details.

Progressives were quick to make clear their dissatisfaction with the latest update on the president's plan, which—while fulfilling a campaign promise—would leave millions saddled with massive student debt balances. The average federal student loan debt balance is $37,667, according to the Education Data Initiative.

"Student debt is a nearly $2,000,000,000,000 crisis," tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "POTUS must cancel student debt. All of it."

Proponents of full-scale debt cancellation argue that the president has the legal authority to order the Education Department to eliminate all outstanding student loan debt, a move they say would come with economic and political benefits while steering clear of the bureaucratic mess that inevitably accompanies means-tested programs.

Last year, Biden instructed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to compile a memo on presidential authority to cancel student debt without congressional authorization, but the document has yet to be released.

The White House has reportedly been "deeply divided over the political and economic effects of loan forgiveness," with officials such as Susan Rice, the head of Biden's Domestic Policy Council, arguing against broad-based student debt cancellation during internal discussions.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, meanwhile, "has argued that it would galvanize a base of young voters increasingly frustrated with the president," The New York Times reported in June.

Warren Gunnels, the staff director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), contended on social media Monday that "Republicans will attack forgiving $10,000 in means-tested student debt as ferociously as if Biden canceled all student debt."

The former choice, though, would demoralize "tens of millions of Americans who will still be drowning" in debt, Gunnels added.

"Think big or go home," he wrote. "Cancel all of it."

Prominent advocacy organizations have also warned Biden against canceling just $10,000 in student debt, with the head of the NAACP recently comparing such limited relief to "pouring a bucket of ice water on a forest fire."

In an analysis released Monday, Matt Bruenig of the People's Policy Project noted that $10,000 in student debt forgiveness would "wipe out the student loan balances of around 31% of student debtors while halving or more the student debt balances of another 21% of student debtors."

To many progressive advocates and borrowers, that's nowhere near enough.

"For millions of people, $10,000 doesn't cover the interest," tweeted Astra Taylor, co-founder of the Debt Collective, the nation's first debtors' union. "It won't lower their monthly payments."

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