The nation now owes close to $1.4 Trillion in student loan debt, up nearly $1 Trillion from 2008 when the current president took office. Judging from the rhetoric coming from both Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi: 'Of course' Dems can be against abortion Kasich: 'I think political parties are on their way out' Sanders: Democratic Party's model is 'failing' MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump faults DNC in Russian email hacks Week ahead: US raises pressure on WikiLeaks Poll: 85 percent of Clinton supporters would vote for her again MORE, one would think that both candidates have this problem square in their sights. However, they do not.
Anyone who knows anything about this issue knows that student loans have been uniquely stripped of nearly every standard consumer protection there is. Bankruptcy rights, to statutes of limitations, and other core protections that exist for every other type of loan no longer exist for student loans. This has created a hyper-inflationary higher education market, and a predatory lending system the likes of which has never before been seen in this country.
Bernie Sanders was quick to loudly and clearly call for Puerto Rico to be allowed to work out their debt in bankruptcy proceedings, but for the entirety of his primary campaign, he failed to even acknowledge the astonishing removal of bankruptcy and other consumer protections from student loans. This surely cost him enough votes to lose the primaries.
Jeb Bush, to his credit, included the return of standard bankruptcy protections to student loans in his platform. While Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump’s first 100 days anything but presidential Going green — why environmental protection is both a business and legislative concern DNC chair Perez criticized for frequent swearing MORE has not said anything to this point about how he would fix the student loan program, he at least recognizes the fact that the government has no business making the obscene profits that it does off of this program. Trump could and should turn the bankruptcy issue from a negative into a positive by using the student loan example to demonstrate why bankruptcy is so important, and why the founding fathers put it near the top of the list when they gave Congress its powers.
There are 44 million people in the nation with student loans, and most of them vote. While almost none of them want to go through a bankruptcy on account of their student loans (and very few ultimately would), all of them feel the predatory weight of this lending system on their backs in the absence of bankruptcy rights, and the other consumer protections that have been eliminated from the program.
These voters are hearing nothing meaningful from either of the candidates who will be in Philadelphia next month. Trump can and should make them pay for throwing this voting block under the liberal limosine. These are enough voters to turn a loss into a landslide, and vice versa.
Alan Collinge is Founder of StudentLoanJustice.Org and author of The Student Loan Scam (Beacon Press).