Hillary Clinton devastated Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic Primary election. As Bernie candidly admitted, the Sanders team was "decimated." The only good news, he said, was this: Bernie beat Hillary among voters age 29 and younger.
Hillary talks herself hoarse telling voters how much she has done for them and much more she will do if she is elected President. But young people don't buy it. Essentially, they see her as an elderly political hack who sucks up to the banks.
But Hillary can still make headway with young voters if she would only promise some tangible and substantive reforms to the student-loan program. After all, there are 43 million Americans with outstanding student-loan debt; and most of them are young.
What could she promise? How about this:
1) "If elected president, I will instruct the IRS to draft regulations specifying that forgiven student-loan debt is not taxable."
Under current law, about 4 million people are in income-based repayment plans, and most of them are seeing their total debt grow larger with each passing month due to accruing interest. When they complete their long-term repayment plans (after 20 or 25 years), their loan balances will be forgiven, but the forgiven amount will considered taxable income by the IRS. This is a real problem for people in income-based repayment plans. Why not just fix that problem with an IRS regulation?
2) "If elected president, my Department of Education will enact regulations that will cut off federal funding to any for-profit college that forces students to sign a promise not to sue the college for fraud or misrepresentation. And I will instruct the Department of Justice to cooperate with State Attorney Generals who are investigating and suing for-profit colleges that exploit students."
This promise demonstrates nothing more than common decency and would be well received by young people.
3) "When I am your president, the government will stop garnishing Social Security checks of elderly student-loan defaulters. And my administration will not oppose bankruptcy relief for elderly student-loan defaulters who are living below the poverty level."
There is nothing radical about this proposition. In fact, last month, in Precht v. U.S. Department of Education
, DOE agreed to bankruptcy discharge of an elderly person's student-loan debt and stopped garnishing his Social Security check.
4) "My administration will renegotiate all contracts with student-loan debt collectors like Educational Credit Management Corporation. All these entities will be required to disclose the salaries of their executives and employees. They will also be required to disclose their profits. And I will eliminate the penalties and fees that the collection agencies have been charging distressed student-loan borrowers."
The beauty of these promises is this. All the reforms I listed could be implemented by President Hillary Clinton on the day she takes office. None of them require congressional approval. And even if they did require statutory changes, what federal legislator would say no to these modest reforms if President Hillary asked for them?
If Hillary made these promises, she would demonstrate that she understands the magnitude of the student-loan crisis and that she plans to take energetic action to grant some relief. But my prediction is this: Hillary won't promise any substantive reforms of the student loan program because Goldman Sachs and the banks would disapprove. And that--in a nutshell--is why young people are not voting for Hillary.
Natalie Kitroeff. Loan Monitor is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt. New York Times
, January 1. 2014. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/us/loan-monitor-is-accused-of-ruthless-tactics-on-student-debt.html?_r=0
Stephen Burd. Signing Away Rights. Inside Higher Ed
, December 17, 2013. Available at https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/12/17/essay-questions-mandatory-arbitration-clauses-students-profit-higher-education
Ashley A. Smith. U.S. Urged to Deny Aid to For-Profits That Force Arbitration. Inside Higher Ed
, February 24, 2016. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/02/24/us-urged-deny-aid-profits-force-arbitration?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=183bc9e3a3-DNU20160224&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-183bc9e3a3-198565653