Student loans and why Clinton lost the election

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Over the past ten years, nearly $1 Trillion has been added to the nation’s student loan tab. Today, there are 44 million people saddled under this debt, and a majority of these people are unable to make payments on the debt.

During this time period, student debt has eclipsed credit card debt, auto loans, and every other type of non-housing consumer debt.

The lending system has exploded in a predatory mushroom cloud in the absence of standard consumer protections that exist for every other type of loan, like bankruptcy and statutes of limitations.

Hillary Clinton used to know this. Ten years ago, she introduced the Student Borrower Bill of Rights Act (S.511) in the Senate.

This bill paved the way for the return of standard bankruptcy protections, put repayment caps on loans, and offered several other significant and substantial benefits to borrowers.

It is interesting to note, also, that 10 years ago (around the time the republicans lost both the House and the Senate), a leaked strategy memo from Sallie Mae, the student loan behemoth, listed keeping bankruptcy protections gone from student loans as the company’s highest legislative priority.

Similarly, the Department of Education has been fighting tooth-and-nail behind the scenes to keep bankruptcy protections gone from student loans, particularly since they took the lending system over under Obama in 2010.

For this election, however, Clinton never even uttered the term “bankruptcy” and “student loans” in the same sentence. In reviewing internal briefing documents sent to John Podesta for approval within the Clinton campaign (thanks Wikileaks), it becomes obvious that the campaign had zero intentions of returning bankruptcy to federal student loans, and that they planned to perpetuate the absence of bankruptcy for the vast majority of private student loans as well.

This is a position aligned closer with the banks than even Jeb Bush’s, who at least called for the return of bankruptcy to private loans.

If the citizenry were being abused by this predatory lending system ten years ago sufficient to warrant Clinton’s bill, they are being absolutely decimated now. If this problem cried out for bankruptcy protections then, it screams for it now.
So how did this happen? The answer becomes clear when looking at John Podesta, and the Center for American Progress, who Clinton relied upon for her higher education policy.

The lobbying firm Podesta started (and that is brother Tony now runs) counts Sallie Mae as a client. Similarly, the Center for American Progress hired two “good-ole-boys” from the Department of Education and the Treasury who tryvery hard to make it sound like they are for the return of bankruptcy protections to student loans, but whose position is, in fact, almost identical to that uncovered in the Podesta briefing papers.

People with student loans may be uninformed, but they aren’t stupid. They could smell the vacuousness of Clinton’s student loan agenda. Her “debt free” college plan was designed for a small fraction of future college students (who don’t vote), and her refinancing plan was so inconsequential as to be insulting.

To say that 5 million people who would have voted for her — and even fought for her — stayed home or went the other way as a result of Clinton’s feckless student loan agenda is almost certainly a large understatement. I suspect the true number is far higher than that.

I can only hope that ambitious democrats everywhere (are you listening Elizabeth Warren?) will learn a serious lesson from this fiasco, and beat Donald Trump to the punch in draining the swamp.

Alan Collinge is author of The Student Loan Scam (Beacon Press), and Founder of StudentLoanJustice.Org

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton
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