This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on June 30, 2023. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.
Proponents of student debt cancellation reacted angrily Friday to what the leading activist group Debt Collective called President Joe Biden’s “horseshit” response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s invalidation of his proposal to forgive $400 billion worth of educational loan debt for tens of millions of borrowers.
In a Friday afternoon White House address, Biden vowed he was “not going to stop fighting to deliver borrowers what they need, particularly those at the bottom end of the economic scale,” and that his administration would create a “ramp repayment program” to help struggling debtors make their monthly loan payments when they resume in the autumn.
“I believe that the court’s decision to strike down our student debt relief plan is wrong,” Biden said. “But I will stop at nothing to find other ways to deliver relief to hard-working middle-class families.”
That, the president said, includes invoking the Higher Education Act (HEA) in order to empower the Department of Education to deliver loan relief.
Biden urged patience, saying action is “gonna take more time” and tweeting that “we’re moving as fast as we can.”
“Not fast enough,” Debt Collective co-founder Astra Taylor shot back.
“The problem is speed,” Taylor wrote on Twitter. “This plan buys time for more baseless, bad faith, billionaire-backed lawsuits to get lined up with rogue judges eager to block anything that helps working people. Under HEA you can cancel debt immediately. That’s what fighting looks like.”
“Time is of the essence,” Taylor stressed.
Debt Collective called Biden’s so-called Plan B “worse than this morning’s Supreme Court ruling.”
“He is stabbing student debtors in the back. This is a deeply cynical approach they know will fail,” the group said. “It is designed to make sure future administrations cannot cancel debt under the HEA.”
“Today Biden joined the six conservatives on SCOTUS to make sure no student debt is coming,” Debt Collective added.
Even before Biden’s Friday speech, activists warned what inaction or inadequate action by Biden could mean.
“Democrats desperately need young people to turn out in 2024 and future elections,” the youth-led progressive groups Debt Collective, Sunrise Movement, Gen Z for Change, Path to Progress, March for Our Lives, and United We Dream Action said in a joint statement published just before Biden’s speech.
“Young people believed President Biden would deliver student debt abolition—not a costly return to repayment without a penny of the promised relief. Meanwhile, our skies are choked orange with wildfire smoke, and the average monthly student debt payment is north of $400 a month,” the groups continued. “And from approving the Willow Project and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, to their cruel asylum policies, President Biden cannot afford another disappointment with young people—a vital voting bloc for Democrats.”