Moments after the Republican Supreme Court handed down their ruling against Biden’ modest student loan debt relief plan, Data for Progress released new polling showing that 61% of likely voters support Biden’s plan. Data for Progress: “The polling clearly shows that today's Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Biden’s student debt relief plan is out of step with the will of voters— only 36% of voters oppose the plan, while Republicans over 45 are the only group with net disapproval.
Bernie let his supporters know that he considers the 6-3 decision deeply flawed legally but it is way out of touch with where the American people are. Student debt forgiveness has the support of the majority of people in this country, and for good reason.” His point though, is that the justices are a bunch of partisan hacks and ideologues working for the billionaires who bribe them— making the Court far from an impartial judicial institution whose decisions are above politics. He was quick to recall how, 13 years ago, “in the disastrous Citizens United decision, this Supreme Court ruled that billionaires can legally buy elections. And now, the Supreme Court has made it clear that they will continue doing everything possible to protect the big money interests against the needs of struggling working families. This right wing ideology is consistent with their recent decisions denying women the right to control their own bodies, ending affirmative action, attacking LGBT rights and limiting the government's ability to address climate change. In my view, if right wing Supreme Court justices want to make public policy they should quit the Supreme Court and run for political office. Frankly, I do not think their extremist views will gain much traction with the average American voter.”
Their decision on student debt is not only a disaster for millions of working class families, but it will do great harm to the future of our economy and our country’s economic competitiveness.
The United States used to lead the world in the percentage of people who graduated college, which is one of the reasons that we have the strongest economy in the world.
Today, tragically, that is no longer the case.
Today, we are penalizing our children and saddling them with decades of debt just for doing just what we tell them they need to do in order to be successful: get a college education.
Today, as a result of this decision, there are millions of Americans who may put off starting a family, saving for retirement, buying the home of their dreams, or a car they've long-needed.
Today, as a result of this decision, there are millions of Americans who may put off their dream of entrepreneurship and starting small businesses. This, in turn, will slow economic growth. And less growth means fewer jobs and less tax revenue to pay for services Americans want and deserve. In 1998, a Congressional report concluded that for every dollar the federal government spent on the GI bill, the return on investment was $6.90 in additional tax revenues.
Today, as a result of this decision, a message has been sent to bright young people who have the desire and the ability to get a higher education but cannot do so because their families lack the money. That message is: either forget about your dream to get higher education or accept the reality that you will be paying off debt for the rest of your lives.
How many great doctors, scientists, and teachers are we losing as a result of this decision?
How many young people who need training in order to become skilled mechanics, carpenters, welders, and electricians will not get the post-high school training they need?
This ruling is not just a tragedy for the people carrying student loans and their families, but it is also a great loss for our nation.
Unless you are a member of the oligarchy in this country.
Because the children of oligarchs don’t go to community colleges, or struggle to figure out how to afford public universities in their states while taking on overwhelming loads of student debt.
And after graduation, the children of oligarchs don’t send out résumés or put off chasing their dreams because of their outrageous loads of student debt.
In my view, it is profoundly unfair that other students, simply because they had the good fortune to be born into wealthy families, can graduate college without a cent of debt. If we are a country that truly believes in equal opportunity, shouldn’t we level the playing field for all young Americans? I certainly think so.
So where do we go from here?
Today, I am urging the Biden Administration to implement a Plan B immediately to cancel student debt for tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to pay the rent, put food on the table, and pay for the basic necessities of life.
Despite this legally unsound Supreme Court decision, the President has the clear authority under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to cancel student debt. He must use this authority immediately.
If Republicans could provide trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the top one percent and profitable corporations, if they could cancel hundreds of billions in loans for wealthy business owners during the pandemic when Trump was President and if they could vote to spend $886 billion on the Pentagon, please don’t tell me that we cannot afford to cancel student debt for working families.
The American people understand that we cannot continue to crush our young generation with a mountain of debt for doing the right thing— getting a college education.
Too bad the president is Joe Biden— who will favor… waiting for these justices to retire or die, hoping that more progressive justices will be appointed to replace them, maybe a 50-50 chance, at best.
Reporting for the Washington Post yesterday, Robert Barnes and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel wrote that the conservative ideologues claimed “Biden does not have authority for his roughly $400 billion program to forgive student loan debt, the latest blow from a Supreme Court that has been dismissive of this administration’s bold claims of power… It means that 20 million borrowers who were eligible to have their loan balances completely erased will soon have to start making payments. Biden contended his administration had the authority to forgive student loan debt under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003. The law allows the education secretary to waive or modify loan provisions in response to a national emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic. The conservative majority disagreed.
U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, who defended the program at oral arguments, said Cardona’s actions are not only justified by the law, but they are also exactly what Congress had in mind when it passed the Heroes Act in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In a dissent from the majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan said the court was making national policy in place of Congress and the executive branch.
“Congress authorized the forgiveness plan (among many other actions); the Secretary put it in place; and the President would have been accountable for its success or failure,” Kagan wrote, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson. "But this Court today decides that some 40 million Americans will not receive the benefits the plan provides, because (so says the Court) that assistance is too ‘significant.’ ”
…Kagan said that her conservative colleagues strained to find a way to vote against Biden’s plan.
“In adjudicating Missouri’s claim, the majority reaches out to decide a matter it has no business deciding,” she wrote. “It blows through a constitutional guardrail intended to keep courts acting like courts.”
Roberts seemed sensitive to the criticism.
“It has become a disturbing feature of some recent opinions to criticize the decisions with which they disagree as going beyond the proper role of the judiciary,” he wrote. “We do not mistake this plainly heartfelt disagreement for disparagement. It is important that the public not be misled either. Any such misperception would be harmful to this institution and our country.”
Roberts said the court was simply calling out the administration for taking advantage of vague language in the Heroes Act to move forward with a plan Congress likely would not authorize.
“From a few narrowly delineated situations specified by Congress, the Secretary has expanded forgiveness to nearly every borrower in the country,” Roberts wrote. “The Secretary’s plan has 'modified’ the cited provisions only in the same sense that ‘the French Revolution ‘modified’ the status of the French nobility— it has abolished them and supplanted them with a new regime entirely.”
The quote related to the French Revolution comes from a previous Supreme Court opinion in a different case.
Indeed, Biden and other Democratic officials themselves once questioned whether the law provided such leeway.
And Biden’s debt relief program has been a divisive issue on Capitol Hill. On June 7, Biden vetoed a Republican-led resolution to strike down the program and restart loan payments for tens of millions of borrowers. The measure passed the Senate with the backing of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), illustrating the likely difficulty of getting any future debt relief plan through Congress.
…From the time Biden was elected, activists and some congressional Democrats have waged a relentless campaign to get him to fulfill his promise to cancel at least part of the $1.6 trillion in federal student debt.
Biden initially directed the Education and Justice Departments to produce memos on his administrative power to forgive loans but expressed skepticism. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) were adamant that Biden could use the same authority to cancel debt that President Donald Trump’s administration used to temporarily waive student loan payments during the pandemic, a pause that has been extended multiple times and remains in effect.
The legal battles have left millions of student loan borrowers in limbo. More than half of eligible people had applied for the forgiveness program before it was halted by the courts, with the Education Department approving some 16 million applications.
Riverside County Congressman Mark Takano, a senior member on the House Education and Workforce Committee, released a statement saying that “Coupled together, both the affirmative action decision and the student loan forgiveness decision spell out a grim intent to stifle the academic and economic opportunities of communities who have faced historic discrimination since the founding of this nation. Roughly 43 million Americans stood to benefit from President Biden’s debt forgiveness and now will return to facing financial uncertainty. This relief was intended to be implemented once, was narrowly targeted, and would have changed the lives of millions. These borrowers are not just statistics— debt relief of this magnitude would have changed the courses of lives for the better. Regrettably, the rulings from this Supreme Court this week are substantial setbacks for students, their families and the education community as a whole… Every student in America should be able to access quality, affordable education, and we must fight for the countless borrowers yearning for relief.”
Elizabeth Warren reminded her supporters that “The same Supreme Court that overturned Roe now refuses to follow the plain language of the law on student loan cancellation. This fight is not over. The President has more tools to cancel student debt— and he must use them. More than 40 million hard working Americans are waiting for the help that President Biden promised them, and they expect this administration to throw everything they’ve got into the fight until they make good on this commitment.”
Several of the Blue America-endorsed candidates also spoke up at the ruling yesterday, Lucas Kunce, the progressive candidate running in Missouri to replace reactionary SenatorJosh Hawley told me that “This is what happens when groups like the Federalist Society and the Teneo Network dominate the U.S. Senate and our courts. Out-of-control corporate judges protecting rich elites while they try to divide the rest of us on race, religion, and even on what happens in our bedrooms."
Aaron Regunberg’s Rhode Island special election is this year, not next year. “I disagree with the court's decision,” he said, loud and clear, “though it’s no surprise that a collection of Justices who skirt ethics laws taking luxury vacations paid for by billionaires, and have shown a disdain for the middle and working class, would side with Wall Street predatory lenders over the law and the people. The administration and Congress should deploy all available tools to ensure that low and middle income families are not trapped in downward mobility… This fight is not over. You deserve better than this Court, and better than the broken student loan system that created this problem in the first place.”
And the Blue America-endorsed progressive in Houston, Pervez Agwan, is on the same page: “In the land of opportunity, the Supreme Court consistently punishes students who dare to want better. Saddling Americans with insurmountable educational debt is acceptable under the conservative court’s jurisdiction. Instead of protecting us, the Republican appointments have ruled for the death of policy meant to empower American students. It’s glaringly obvious what the message is from the majority of our Justices, and the Republicans who appointed them— in their America, only the elite deserve liberty and justice.”
Obviously it isn’t just federal officeholders and candidates worried about this. Jessica Anderson is a Blue America-endorsed candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. Last night she told me that “The Supreme Court has been on a bender of destroying our rights; from dismantling equity in higher Ed with the removal of affirmative action, to allowing businesses to openly discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. Now they decided to deny countless citizens, who were a product of predatory student loans, from getting a small break with their educational debt. This forgiveness would have strengthen our economy, putting millions of dollars back in the pockets of Americans, as well as lift a financial burden off many shoulders. We are watching a hyper partisan high court continue to harm the lower and middle class and widen the wealth gap. Meanwhile, the same bought and paid for Republicans politicians are praising the decisions, are the ones who took millions in PPP loans from COVID relief. It’s a tale as old as time, the rich get richer by taking actually handouts, and they do it while claiming the poor are ‘lazy’ and don’t deserve a helping hand. We need change, in our Supreme Court, in our Congress and in the state of Virginia. We need to fight back with our vote, so we have real leaders who will make real change!”