Flanked by several progressive Democrats from the U.S. House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled plans on Monday to zero out well over $1 trillion in college student loan debt held by Americans, part of a broader call by some lawmakers to make tuition much more affordable for students at public colleges and universities.
"If you can bail out Wall Street, you can bail out the middle class of this country," Sanders said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.
"We have a generation of people who are drowning in debt," said Sanders, as he urged older Americans to realize that times have dramatically changed since they were able to use Pell Grants or a part time job to help pay their college tuition.
"It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
We are saying that all public colleges and universities should be tuition-free and debt-free for ALL Americans.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 24, 2019
All Americans are entitled to Social Security.
All Americans are entitled to health care.
All Americans are entitled to education as a right.
"This proposal completely eliminates student debt in this country and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation, the millennial generation,to a lifetime of debt for the "crime" of doing the right thing... going out and getting a higher education" #CancelStudentDebt pic.twitter.com/a1U6mrD5wf— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) June 24, 2019
.@AOC on bill to eliminate all student debt: "It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt." https://t.co/l2DVQXrQic pic.twitter.com/fhxvtNtvhg— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) June 24, 2019
There were different pieces of legislation released today on the issue - one from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is titled the "Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019" - and focuses just on the issue of erasing student debt.
Omar's bill would also prevent the loan forgiveness from being considered taxable income for an individual, and does not allow any refunds of payments already made.
"Corporations and the wealthiest Americans have repeatedly gotten tax breaks and bailouts," said Omar. "It’s time for a bailout for the 45 million Americans who are shackled with student debt."
The immediate reaction among Republicans and conservatives was skeptical - to say the least.
"Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway," tweeted Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH).
Oh, Bernie. The high cost of tuition is the problem that generates the debt. Allowing gov’t to forgive the debt will make the problem even worse. Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway. https://t.co/f8nmq14jUD— Anthony Gonzalez (@anthonygonzalez) June 24, 2019
Hey Bernie-you piker! If you're forgiving student loans, why not home loans? Car loans? Small biz loans? Credit card loans? Old ppl like us won't pay, young dumb kids you're pandering to will pay & they don't even realize it. https://t.co/R0aQV5Kctb— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) June 24, 2019
The plan from Sanders and others would apply to all with student loan debt - no matter their current income levels.
"The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of the bill would be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation," Sanders said in a release about the legislation.
The plan would institute a transaction tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, as well as a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a .0005 percent fee on derivatives.