In the wake of the White House’s announcement that the Biden administration is canceling up to $20,000 of student debt for borrowers, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) reminded followers over the weekend that Congress could fund a plan to cancel all student debt by simply undoing the unpopular and costly tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that Republicans passed in 2017.
In an Instagram post on Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez encouraged followers to keep fighting for further student debt relief, pointing out that politicians often give huge subsidies to the 1 percent and corporate tax dodgers with little hesitation.
“We can keep pushing. Remember that the Biden administration didn’t want to do this *at all.* It was YOUR pushing, YOUR pressure, YOUR organizing that got them to this point,” she wrote. “They have forgiven far, far more debt for business owners in the form of PPP who didn’t need to meet ANY sort of income requirements or means testing for almost $1 TRILLION in forgiveness.”
She added that the price tag for the 2017 Donald Trump-backed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was higher than the amount of student debt owed by all borrowers in the U.S., according to the Federal Reserve.
“Mind you, forgiving ALL student debt in the US is about $1.7 trillion — you could undo the 2017 tax cuts for the 1 percent and forgive all student loans plus have money left over to contribute to universal childcare, tuition free college, homelessness, etc.,” the lawmaker said.
Indeed, the statutory cost of the Trump tax cuts was a towering $1.9 trillion, though that figure ballooned to well over $2 trillion after the cuts were passed. The massive tax reform bill slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent while also giving colossal tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy, allowing them to avoid paying tens of billions of dollars in taxes.
Progressive lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have tried to restore the pre-Trump corporate tax rate — which is already quite low compared to historic U.S. corporate tax policies — but have faced resistance from conservative Democrats like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), who have close ties to corporate and right-wing lobbyists.
Debt activists and progressives have also advocated for the cancellation of all student debt. Such a move would not only be a major investment in the middle and lower classes, they say — it would also be a step toward shrinking the racial wealth gap, and would give justice to borrowers who advocates argue were given predatory loans by the federal government.
Ocasio-Cortez further explained that the benefits of President Joe Biden’s student debt cancellation plan don’t extend just to borrowers, but to society at large.
“Maybe student loan forgiveness doesn’t impact you. That doesn’t make it bad,” she said, pointing out that many people pay for programs like first time homeowner benefits and Medicare without directly benefiting from them. “We can do good things and reject the scarcity mindset that says doing something good for someone else comes at the cost of something for ourselves.”
She went on to say that if American society isn’t prepared to support student debt cancellation, it’s unlikely that it will be able to face other systemic problems like the climate crisis.
“In light of the ecological, economic, and social challenges we face, our society’s ability to triumph and prevail actually depends on our capacity for SELFLESSNESS over SELFISHNESS,” she wrote. “Because when crisis finds us (and it always does), it requires us to rely on others, and that will be difficult to nonexistent if you spent your life fighting against our capacity to help one another in many other different ways even if we don’t immediately benefit in the short run.”
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