One way to keep anyone interested in politics is free money.
Granted, such a thing doesn’t really exist, but — and this is particularly true when it comes to liberals — if you promise people you’ll transfer enough of someone else’s hard-earned wealth to them, their ears will remain perked-up.
This was especially evident in the 2020 election cycle when millennial and Gen Z voters weren’t particularly thrilled with Joseph Robinette Biden as the Democratic Party nominee. It wasn’t just that he came across as a cadaver-in-waiting who made strange references to record players and didn’t know where he was on not infrequent occasions, he also didn’t seem to be the kind of left-wing candidate that would fit the moment.
Polling showed both groups had a negative opinion of Biden as late as September, which didn’t bode well for voter excitement — even if younger voters preferred Biden to President Donald Trump.
And yet, according to an analysis by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, millennial and Gen Z voters pushed Joe Biden over the top in key swing states and had a high voter engagement rate. Why, you might ask?
I’m not saying that it was necessarily a September proposal floated by Democratic leadership that stated the president and secretary of education could cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt via executive order, but let’s face it — younger voters were pretty certain that with Biden in the White House, student loan forgiveness was going to be a top priority.
Well, at least when it comes to that executive order proposal, it seems younger voters may soon be feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse.
According to The Washington Post, Biden was speaking with a select group of columnists last week when he said he’d be unlikely to pursue any kind of executive order that involved forgiving student loans, inasmuch as he’s going to be very careful not to test the limits of rule by fiat.
“Biden also said that, as a president who wants to avoid inflaming a closely divided Congress, he plans to tread lightly when it comes to using his executive power — a declaration that no doubt will cause some heartburn on the left, where such caution is considered naive,” The Post’s Karen Tumulty wrote.
“Upon his inauguration, Biden says he plans to issue executive orders to undo some of what Trump has done. He will instruct the United States to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate agreement, to protect immigrant ‘dreamers’ whose parents brought them to the United States as children, and to reinstate environmental regulations that Trump did away with.
Then the part you’re not going to like, millennials: “That’s different than my saying, and I’m going to get in trouble for saying this . . . for example, it’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” Biden told the reporters. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”
While the idea has been floated for a while, it was put forth as an official proposal by Democratic leadership in September, when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and (of course) Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts published a piece on the website of liberal think tank Data for Progress, in which they argued the executive power to forgive that kind of student loan debt definitely wasn’t questionable and Democrats definitely would be pushing for Biden to do it, if he were elected.
“Congress, through the Higher Education Act, has already given the President and his Secretary of Education the ability to modify, compromise, waive, or release student loans. This authority provides a safety valve for federal student loan programs, letting the Secretary use her discretion to wipe away loans even when they do not meet the eligibility criteria for more specific cancellation programs like disability discharge,” Schumer and Warren wrote.
“America needs that safety valve now more than ever. With this action, we could immediately put hundreds and thousands of dollars back in the pockets of millions of Americans during the coronavirus recession.
“In fact, Donald Trump and [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos reportedly used this tool to implement some modest student loan relief. But Trump’s relief memo didn’t go nearly far enough and won’t make balances go down at all. The President has existing authority to cancel student loan debt on his own and make sure the loan cancellation doesn’t result in any additional tax liability for borrowers. He just chose not to use it.”
The “modest” student loan relief the Trump administration has provided — mostly deferments — is a whole lot different from $50,000 in student loan forgiveness. It’s a bit like saying that, if you’ve licensed someone to drive a car, what’s preventing them from getting in the cockpit and flying that Southwest Airlines 737 from DFW to Newark? They’ve got an interview to catch, after all, and the fact the pilot is sick shouldn’t be holding their career prospects up.
Biden had promised to forgive at least $10,000 in student loan debt during the campaign. This was highly contingent on him having control of the Senate, however, which is now contingent on a) Democratic victories in two Senate runoffs in Georgia splitting the Senate at 50-50, leaving control of the chamber in the hands of whichever party holds the vice presidency, b) keeping all of those 50 Democrats and Democrat-caucusing independents in line and c) getting Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, the Senate rules provision that enables a determined minority party to block legislation by requiring two-thirds majorities on procedural votes.
As for a), well, who the heck knows? The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democrat running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler, seems to leap into controversies that, under normal circumstances would (and probably should) stop candidacies in their tracks. Meanwhile, unimpressive documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff, a failed congressional candidate who would otherwise be a political nonentity, remains within striking distance of GOP Sen. David Perdue.
As for b) and c), however, there’s West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. Not only is Manchin a more moderate legislator from a blue-collar state that where Trump won almost 70 percent of the vote, according to The Associated Press, he’s also come out against killing the filibuster.
“I can assure you I will not vote to end the filibuster, because that would break the Senate. We’ve harmed the Senate enough with the nuclear option on the judges,” Manchin told The New York Times in November. “The minority should have input — that’s the whole purpose for the Senate. If you basically do away with the filibuster altogether for legislation, you won’t have the Senate. You’re a glorified House. And I will not do that.”
Even if the Democrats could get a Republican vote for student debt cancelation, there isn’t a single GOP member daft enough to vote to end the filibuster. In short, without Manchin, student loan cancelation as a legislative item is dead.
As it should be. Over two-thirds of Americans don’t have a college degree. Why should they take on an obscene amount of national debt to pay for Americans who took on an obscene amount of student debt?
This always was an expensive sop to the liberal contingent among the millennial and Gen Z crowd. It was free money to them, after all. However, if Congress won’t do it and Uncle Joe won’t make it happen with the magic wand of the executive order, they’re still stuck with those student loan payments — and a candidate they don’t like now, who’ll end up spending an obscene amount of money they won’t like paying for later.
Let’s see how interested those millennial and Gen Z voters are in 2022.
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