Section: Opinion

Kenyon students must not buy into student debt forgiveness

Kenyon students are smart. Very smart. Almost “too smart for our own good” smart. Along the same lines, Kenyon students are progressive. Very progressive. Borderline “utopian idealist” progressive. This, of course, is not a criticism. We, as Kenyon students, are all intelligent human beings who share our school’s unabashed desire to help ourselves, others and our environment. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is something potentially harmful, however, with blindly believing unfeasible promises from our progressive politicians, such as Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s proposed plans to fully eliminate student debt if either of them were to be elected.

Kenyon College’s current cost of attendance totals $71,150 for one year of school. 29 percent of all students have taken out federal loans in order to afford tuition. Unfortunately, this means that at least 29 percent of us, including yours truly, will be in debt after we graduate.

Luckily for us, Sanders and Warren have promised the near-total elimination of any and all outstanding student debt, past or present. How do they plan to expunge $1.5 trillion in combined national student loan debt? With Wall Street speculation and “ultra wealth” taxes. That sounds perfect—in fact, it sounds more than perfect: It’s ideal. Unfortunately, their plans are far too idealistic, and thus unfeasible in nature, but Kenyon students don’t seem to care.

Despite being a steadfast liberal, I’m also a realist. That’s not to say the majority of liberals aren’t realists. However, talking to and overhearing some fellow Kenyon peers suggests differently. At the inaugural Kenyon Democrats club meeting, there were a handful of first years who, when introducing themselves, made known their overwhelming support for Bernie and Warren, yielding snaps, positive yips and a cry of “free college!”

Meanwhile, at the Sept. 13 Democratic Presidential Debate viewing party, Warren’s then-undeveloped wealth tax was met with sporadic cheers, nods of agreement and a euphoric “that’s my girl!” On the other hand, Biden’s yet-to-be-named optional government healthcare proposal, which would be funded with a similar reinstated ultra-wealth tax and investment fees yielded scoffs, snickers and a “you’re too old, Biden!” It is Biden’s plan, however, that is the closest in amount and procedure to previously successful taxation plans of Clinton and Obama, and is the plan that I support and would deem most feasible.

I’ll say it again. We’re Kenyon students. We’re smart and progressive. However, we’re occasionally blinded by our own overabundance of these traits. In just over a month, I have observed an absurd tendency for Kenyon liberals to haphazardly align themselves with the most overwhelmingly progressive politicians, as opposed to those whose policies are most beneficial to students and their values. Biden and Warren have nearly identical tax plans, but the former, as a more moderate candidate, was heckled into oblivion, and the latter, more progressive candidate praised like an angel heard on high.

On the logistical side, it is naive to assume that either Warren’s or Sanders’ student debt forgiveness plan would get through Congress promptly, if at all. Obama’s 2012 wealth tax of 1.45% took a year and a half to get through both chambers of Congress, and was met with heavy resistance from lobbyists.

Now double that tax, apply it to a broader range of incomes, and propose it during the height of a resurgence of ultra-conservative, alt-right rhetoric brought by our sitting orange in the Oval Office. It’s a recipe for a flop.

The problem is, the Democratic candidates’ plans sound fantastic, and to some impressionable, feverous Kenyon voters, they appear to be perfect. They are simply not.

You can vote for whoever you want. Vote for Sanders, vote for Warren—heck, even vote for Yang. Do not, however, vote for them exclusively because of their student debt-forgiveness plan, no matter how tempting it sounds as a cash-strapped liberal arts kid. Now, don’t get me wrong: I want my debt to be forgiven. I want to be able to walk upon Middle Path and not be weighed down by the hundreds of dollars each week on campus is costing me, now and in the future. However, in our current political climate, it’s just not realistic for that to happen any time soon, if at all.

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