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GOP: Student Loan Forgiveness Hurts Ability to Lure Poor People Into Military

Progressives criticized Republicans for openly advocating for the continuation of the poverty draft.

An undergraduate student writes down contact information for a U.S. Marine recruiter during a recruiting presentation on campus at Rutgers University on December 1, 2005, in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Republicans are facing criticism for complaining that President Joe Biden’s student debt cancellation program will hurt the Pentagon’s ability to recruit poor people into the military.

Last week, a group of 19 Republican representatives sent a letter saying that Biden’s recent plan to cancel up to $10,000 for borrowers or $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients making under $75,000 a year is “removing any leverage the Department of Defense” to recruit people wishing to access higher education but who can’t afford it.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Nebraska) tweeted a link to a news report on the letter, saying that he is “very concerned that the deeply flawed and unfair policy of blanket student loan forgiveness will also weaken our most powerful recruiting tool at the precise moment we are experiencing a crisis in military recruiting.”

Bacon faced ridicule for his tweet by progressives like former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, who are saying that GOP lawmakers are openly admitting that they have an interest in keeping higher education expensive as a tool for military recruitment.

“Read between the lines: these folks want poor people to be put in a corner so they will go fight endless wars that benefit the rich just to receive an education,” Turner wrote.

Republicans have faced criticism for similar statements. Last month, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana) similarly complained that student debt forgiveness “undermines one of our military’s greatest recruitment tools.”

Critics of the Pentagon have long condemned what is known as the “poverty draft.” The military’s offers of financial incentives like student loan repayment, free college, and other cash incentives are a draw for young people experiencing debt or poverty.

And, knowing this, the military often actively travels to schools in poor and nonwhite neighborhoods in order to recruit; then, once they join, Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income people are disproportionately placed in the most dangerous situations compared to other enlistees.

This predatory practice is unethical for many reasons, critics of the practice argue. People in active military service are at high risk of mental health issues like suicide, and critics say that poor people shouldn’t have to put their bodies and lives on the line just in order to afford higher education.

With that in mind, critics said on social media that it is alarming that Republicans would not only acknowledge this fact but also openly advocate for it, saying that Republicans were saying “the quiet part out loud.”

Activist group the Debt Collective wrote that if canceling student debt actually does decrease military recruitment, that would, in fact, be a good thing.

“One of the best parts about canceling student debt is thinking of all the people who no longer feel compelled to enlist in the military to pay off their loans,” the group wrote on Twitter. “It is not a stretch to say that canceling student debt — and making college free — would hamper U.S. imperial/colonial efforts.”

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