Elizabeth Warren gets it. That’s really the thesis of her campaign. She understands that the whole point of politics is about creating good policy, and she knows the ins and outs of how to create effective policy that makes it through our arcane and quirky political system better than anyone in this race. Every single week, she releases a well thought out policy addressing one of the most crucial issues of our time. This week’s plan addresses the student loan crisis in America. Per Senator Warren:
The first step in addressing this crisis is to deal head-on with the outstanding debt that is weighing down millions of families and should never have been required in the first place. That’s why I’m calling for something truly transformational—the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.
My plan for broad student debt cancellation will:
— Cancel debt for more than 95% of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt;
— Wipe out student loan debt entirely for more than 75% of the Americans with that debt;
— Substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps; and
— Provide an enormous middle-class stimulus that will boost economic growth, increase home purchases, and fuel a new wave of small business formation.
The policies stemming from that third bullet point are what really take this proposal to another level. While proposing free college is something of an easy thing to do given its popularity and relative affordability (the $1.5 trillion Trump tax cut would pay for roughly 20 years of Bernie’s free college plan), addressing the inherent inequalities in our educational system is much trickier. Like all of Warren’s plans, she is boldly taking on entrenched interests and challenging power in order to help those being crushed by the system.
Warren is proposing a minimum, $50 billion fund to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions, while empowering her Secretary of Education to increase that figure to ensure per-student spending at HBCUs and MSIs is comparable to other colleges in the area. She is also planning to make federal funding available to colleges that demonstrate “substantial improvement in enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color,” and is taking on for-profit colleges in a way no other candidate ever has. Per Warren again:
After an appropriate transition period, ban for-profit colleges from receiving any federal dollars (including military benefits and federal student loans), so they can no longer use taxpayer dollars to enrich themselves while targeting lower-income students, servicemembers, and students of color and leaving them saddled with debt.
Warren’s proposals are simultaneously incredibly granular and incredibly audacious. I’m having a hard time thinking of a precedent for this approach from a presidential candidate.— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) April 22, 2019
People have very deeply internalized the narrative that student debt only matters to upper middle class white kids who got prestige private college degrees in basket-weaving they couldn't pay for, but this isn't actually true. https://t.co/zFeq1SG4NCpic.twitter.com/EP7rfE8NFx— Osita Nwanevu (@OsitaNwanevu) April 22, 2019
If you are one of the Bernie voters who would vote for Trump over Warren (that 26% figure being tossed around is based off an incredibly small sample size, so call me skeptical it’s that many, but those results demonstrate the number of leftists willing to cut their nose off to spite their face is more than zero), what the hell is wrong with you? The entire appeal of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is his hyper-focus on policy, and even though Warren ideologically differs from Bernie in that she is an anti-monopoly capitalist and he is a New Deal Social Democrat, they are still the only two candidates in the field proposing aggressive, detailed policy specifically designed to take on the entrenched interests looting and pillaging this country for their own personal gain.
Bernie or Warren is going to be an important debate on the left, because they do have different visions for the economy, but they both begin with the same premise: nothing less than all-out war with America’s oligarchy will be sufficient to cure us of our ills. While nearly everyone running to the right of these two are mostly proposing milquetoast tax credits and other half-assed original plans that are by definition, not transformative, Bernie and Warren are setting the agenda for the entire Democratic Party. It is unfathomable to me how any self-described leftist could support Trump over Warren, and it’s important for us leftists to call these folks out so as to not allow the MSNBC propaganda complex to define the majority of us by a handful of intransigent children who clearly don’t understand policy or politics.
Bernie shifted the Overton Window in 2016, and pushed the center of his platform—the Green New Deal and Medicare for All—to the center of the Democratic Party’s 2020 platform. Elizabeth Warren is doing something similar now, but with a granular policy-style that separates her from Bernie’s professorial ideological theses. It’s an interesting contrast that makes all of liberal America better, in that two of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination are proposing the most aggressive and aspirational policies of most of our lifetimes. It’s a new day in the Democratic Party, as Elizabeth Warren is ascending to the top of the party on a pure policy platform, which is rare in a party that has favored personality over policy the last 40 years. Warren has proven that she is one of the seminal leaders in America right now, and in a just world, she would leave 2020 with a major leadership position in the Democratic Party—whether that is in the White House or the Senate. There is no reason why at minimum, Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t have Chuck Schumer’s job, let alone Donald Trump’s.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.