Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said at a press conference on Tuesday on Capitol Hill that one reason for a law to cancel billions of dollars of student loan debt is to address the black/white wealth gap due to the federal government’s “decades” of racial discrimination.
“As everyone in this room knows there is a black-white wealth gap in this country that has been persistent and growing,” Warren said at a press conference she held with House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) to announce the Student Loan Debt Relief Act.
Warren and Clyburn said their bill, if signed into law, would forgive up to $50,000 of loan debt to each of the estimated 45 million Americans who have student loan debt and also would reduce the interest rate for remaining loan balances.
Warren said a college education is sold as something one needs “to get a ticket into America’s Middle Class” but that it comes at a steep cost if one has to borrow money, and race also plays a role.
“This hits people of color the hardest,” Warren said, flanked by two students of color who shared their personal stories about staggering student loan debt. Another student in the audience said she has $250,000 in student loan debt and has still not completed her education at Howard University in Washington, DC.
The press conference also featured a chart that showed how much student loan debt has increased in recent decades and now stands at about $1.5 trillion.
But racial inequality was the dominant theme of the press conference, including statistics Warren cited wherein blacks are more likely to owe more in student loans 12 years after graduating than they did right after completing college.
As I pointed out earlier we have a real problem in this country with the black/white wealth gap. And that black/white wealth gap is the product in no small part of decades of official discrimination by our government — red-lining, for example, kept African American families from buying homes and the consequences of that — generation after generation after generation — was that while white families built up some wealth black families were simply denied that opportunity.
Redlining refers to federal policy in the 1930s where home loans were tied to color-coded maps that assessed the loan risk in certain neighborhoods, and red neighborhoods were mostly made up of blacks, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants from Asia and southern Europe.
When asked how the legislation would be paid for, Warren said there are “lots of ways” to pay for it, and both she and Clyburn advanced one of those ideas as reversing the tax cuts Congress recently put in place that they said benefit “multi-millionaires.”
“We can decide that all those breaks and all of that money ought to stay with the thinnest slice at the top or when you make it really big, you pitch in a little so that everybody else has a chance to build a life,” Warren said.
Warren said she attended a “commuter college” that was $50 a semester, but that kind of opportunity no longer exists in America.
“We’re on the fight to turn that back around and to say that America should be a country of opportunity — not just for those born into privilege but for everyone,” Warren said.
Warren, who is running for the Democrat 2020 presidential nomination, also made a pitch for her proposed wealth tax that would be levied on people who make $50 million or more that she said would not only get rid of student loan debt but make education from pre-school through college tuition-free.
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