$10,000 Isn't Enough-- It's An Insult
I graduated from college in 1969 and Biden graduated a few years earlier. $10,000 in 1969 was a lot of money. In fact $10,000 in 1969 is equivalent in purchasing power to $78,776.29 today, an average inflation rate of 3.97% per year between 1969 and today, for a cumulative price increase of 687.76%. When Biden talks about reducing student debt by $10,000 (in 2022 money), it just confirms in the minds of young people that he's really old and really out of touch with their lives, not unlike George H.W. Bush's widely-reported inability-- whether it actually happened or not-- to understand a grocery bar code scanner in 1992.
Jonathan Lemire began a Politico piece today by noting that "The fever didn’t break. And for the Biden White House, efforts at bipartisanship have finally taken a backseat. To the frustration of many Democrats and some of his closest advisers, President Joe Biden has steadfastly spent more than a year in office insisting on trying to work across the aisle with Republicans... Now, more than a year later, Biden no longer believes that most Republicans will eventually drop their fealty to Donald Trump and show a willingness to engage. He himself admitted he was wrong. 'I never expected the ultra-MAGA Republicans who seem to control the Republican Party now to have been able to control the Republican Party,' the president said last week. 'I never anticipated that happening.' To many Democrats, the admission was long overdue."
Former Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson, told a candidate for Marco Rubio's Senate seat told me this morning that "For Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders, 'bipartisanship' is just a con game that they run on Democrats and the voters. Was there a single moment of bipartisanship during the Trump Regime? No. Has there been a single moment of bipartisanship in DeSantistan? No." Outagamie County Executive, former Majority Leader of teh Wisconsin state Assembly and progressive challenger to reactionary Senator Ron Johnson, Tom Nelson put a similar thought this way: "Thank you Captain Obvious. Of all people, President Biden should have know the Republicans were never ever ever going to work with him-- and not just because they were complicit in a terrorist attack on the US Capitol-- but because they refused to work with President Obama when Biden served as vice president twelve years ago. The only way we will get anything done on the hill is accomplish a working majority in the US Senate. Wisconsin is our top opportunity to flip a seat and get the upper house to function again." (Nelson is the only candidate in a Wisconsin field of four who can deliver Democrats-- and progressives-- a victory, for the party, movement and the people of Wisconsin and America. Please consider contributing to Grayson's and Nelson's campaigns here.)
What Lemire, Grayson and Nelson expressed serve as a good intro to the guest essay in the NY Times this morning by head of Harvard's annual Youth Poll, John Della Volpe, How Democrats Can Hang on to Congress in 2022. First the bad news: most new college graduates "are convinced that both political parties cater to elites over people like them and that our politics cannot meet the challenges of the times." he pointed out, ominously that "Without both record-breaking turnout and the 20-point margins that teenage and 20-somethings put up for Biden in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Trump would be a two-term president."
And now the good news: "there’s a reason to believe that Democrats can... maintain control of Congress in November’s elections. A trifecta of events and likely developments create a narrow window for Biden and Democrats to regain their footing and shock the world.
The growing presence of Trump’s voice back on the national stage; the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on abortion and the likely fall of Roe v. Wade; and the opportunity for Biden to make good on a campaign commitment to address the student debt crisis have formed ideal conditions for Democratic renewal. While older voters will prioritize each party’s pledges to reduce inflation this fall, younger voters will additionally weigh the broad set of values and vision for the future held by Democrats and Republicans.
Young Americans are more likely to vote when they see a tangible difference between the parties and feel the consequences of election outcomes. As Generation Z and young millennials were tuning into politics more closely, millions watched Trump roll back climate policy, undermine the Affordable Care Act, deliver tax breaks for the wealthy and pave the way for white nationalist theorists to enter the public square-- all moves that were antithetical to the values of reducing inequality and standing up for those without a voice. These are values that we’ve found in young Americans across most points on the ideological spectrum. As Trump’s regressive MAGA message gains newfound traction through Republican primaries and in Elon Musk’s vision for Twitter, the fear of Trumpism on the march can be weaponized by Democrats to motivate young voters, as it was in the last midterms.
...Three-quarters of adults under 35 disagree with the likely court ruling and believe Roe v. Wade should stand. Nearly half describe their reaction as “angry” in a recent CNN poll, and abortion policy was rated the most important midterm issue among this cohort by 10 points in a recent Monmouth University Poll.
Criminalizing abortion with a new precedent that could jeopardize other constitutional rights is a clarifying political issue that-- if harnessed effectively by Democratic candidates-- will inspire a new class of values-first voters centered on protecting the rights of women and the vulnerable. I heard these views first hand, and raw, in Gen Z focus groups I conducted in Houston, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio last week-- especially among young women of color. These are issues of both morality and practicality for this generation. The urgency reflected in the conversations I am having with young voters today is reminiscent of what I heard after the Parkland shooting in 2018 and George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Both events helped fuel record-setting youth participation at the polls.
I'm going to bet that Della Volpe, who worked as a pollster for Biden's campaign, discussed eliminating student debt with the White House and that he knows Biden is going to do something catastrophic for Democrats-- forgive just $10,000 in student debt, a pittance that will infuriate millions-- but is attempting to put lipstick on that pig in his guest post but saying that when Biden "delivers the commencement address at his alma mater in Delaware, he can do something that will boost the financial standard of two generations while also giving another reason for young people to vote. Already relieving nearly $20 billion of federal student loans and pausing repayment until August, Biden can honor his commitment to Gen Z and millennials and immediately cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for every American. Accordingly, this executive action will help millions of Gen Z and millennials commit to their careers, family, and communities like their parents and grandparents did at a similar life stage. Beyond the essential economic bottom line, this action will begin to materially rebuild the fractured relationship between the leader of the Democrats and a voting bloc that was integral to his party’s most recent successes." $10,000 will not do the trick. Elimination of all student debut will, a step too bold for the conservative Biden. $50,000 is the natural compromise, but Biden is too conservative for that too.
No amount of cheerleading in the NY Times from John Della Volpe is going to change that fact that $10,000 will not do the trick and will just confirm that Biden is-- at best-- a lesser evil and not the right man for the moment. Della Volpe wrote that "By understanding the drivers of Gen Z’s and young millennials’ hopelessness, and the circumstances that have shaped their worldview, Democrats will empower young voters and continue to reshape the electorate."
To that Washington progressive congressional candidate Jason Call has his own thoughts: "You know who anticipated not being able to work with the Republicans? Literally everyone who has paid the slightest attention to politics since 2009 when Mitch McConnell said his highest priority was to ensure Obama was a one term president. (The same Obama who said that codifying Roe was not a priority.) Now that the Biden administration has woken up (does this mean they are 'woke'?), it’s time to take care of the priorities of the future and ensure justice, which as an overarching concept is the real priority of younger generations. This will mean voters are looking to a new generation of political advocates who actually understand the injustices that all but the privileged percentiles have to endure in this country daily. The leaked Supreme Court opinion is an opportunity, and if the Democrats blow it, it could easily spell doom for 2024 as progressives step up and tell Biden and the corporate wing of the party 'we are done with you.' Right now, in addition to addressing abortion rights once and for all, Biden needs to cancel ALL student debt. For people who are struggling and trapped in income based repayment plans with complex rules and conditions that are manipulated by unscrupulous lenders, $10,000 of means tested relief still leaves tens of millions of us sinking in debt with no real hope of clearing it (thanks to the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act than most Democrats opposed but that Joe Biden and my opponent, corporate incumbent Rick Larsen supported.) And he should not just eliminate federally owned debt. Millions of people who consolidated loans prior to 2010 did so through private banks, and no debt relief plans have addressed this yet."
Marie Newman (D-IL) is one of the members of the Progressive Caucus pushing Biden to go bolder and offer more realistic help to struggling young Americans. This morning she told me that "We will have nearly double the benefit for our overall economy if debt is relieved at the $30k or above level. It would have immediate and long term positive economic impact and begin to address equity issues."
UPDATE ON BIDEN:
Another Member of Congress just called with her perspective on Biden's handling of the student debt crisis. You'll see why she requested anonymity when toured what she said: "It’s just his cognitive dissonance. On one hand, he wants to give students a helping hand. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to 'punish' people who didn’t borrow (or more realistically didn’t have to borrow) to pay for their education. He doesn’t have the moral foundation or the intellectual capacity, or even the trusted advice, to resolve those two conflicting impulses. That’s how you end up with no decision at all, for years, and then a decision that makes no one happy." I pointed out to her that she voted for him in 2020, while I never even considered doing that.