I’m on a debt strike. Biden administration must cancel student debt | Umme Hoque

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I am on strike.

It is not a typical strike. I am not on a picket line, holding a sign while refusing my job, showing a sense of strength united with my colleagues for change at work and in our lives. No, another kind of strike. A debt strike. I always unite with others to hold onto something that empowers someone else. But this time it’s my money.

I am one of over 100 people on debt strike under the Biden Jubilee 100, refusing to pay our student loans until Joe Biden and the Democrats cancel everything. We symbolically represent Biden’s first 100 days, the window in which we demand that he take this important step. The urgency is real, and the administration can and must react now.

I owe over $ 70,000 in student loan debt. All my life I longed to make the American dream come true. My parents emigrated from one of the poorest countries in the world, Bangladesh, to the United States in the hope that I would. I was told, and I believed, that I could really get away with it. I took out tens of thousands of dollars in loans, believing it was the only way to make this American dream come true.

In reality, I was fueling a broken system that actively penalizes people like me. So I refuse to pay. In total, I and the 99 other strikers, who come from all over the country, have millions of dollars in debt.

Many of us on strike – and many of you reading this, I’m sure – have similar stories and struggles. We got into debt because we wanted to know more, get a good job, do better for ourselves and our families, make our parents proud, do an important or good or valuable job, be successful in a country that told us that the best way to do it was to go to school and get a degree. Because we weren’t rich, we had no choice but to borrow. This debt hangs over us like a cloud, preventing us from buying homes, having a family, investing in ourselves or our communities, doing meaningful jobs that don’t pay enough, or moving forward. work or in life.

Today, over 45 million people have student debt of $ 1.7 billion. Blacks and browns owe the overwhelming majority, including many who failed to graduate. Even before the pandemic, a million people in default on their loans every year. After the Covid, it is even more difficult for people to pay their monthly payments.

“The urgency is real and the Biden administration can and must respond now.” Photograph: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The cost of trying to be successful in this country, especially if you come from a community of color or a working class family like me, is often life student loan debt. This cost has exploded over the past 40 years. It wasn’t that long ago that people could go to university without being in debt. Higher education was basically free or at low tuition. But now student debt is a tax on poor people who dare to pursue social mobility. This is why the amount of student debt has increased by 100% in the last 10 years. This is not a problem that has existed throughout the history of our higher education system; it is a new problem created by bad policies.

Closely linked to systemic racism is the increase in student loans in this country. The student debt crisis has its roots in the Reagan administration, which notoriously despised all programs that helped working people, especially blacks and browns. Administration Cut federal spending on education, which meant less financial aid. These cuts have continued nationally and locally since then. In the 1970s, states paid more than50% of college spending, but by the early 2010s that number had fallen to less than a third. Budget cuts are forcing students to take out loans, turning higher education into a debt trap that punishes people who just want to learn more and improve their chances in life.

As a result of popular pressure, Biden and other Democrats are now backing debt cancellation as part of a Covid relief plan, but figures announced, like $ 10,000 or $ 50,000, do not are simply not enough. same get rid of $ 50,000 in debt would leave out nearly 25% of student debt holders. To meet this urgent need – a global pandemic, millions of people unemployed or at risk of deportation, growing food insecurity and the continued threats of white supremacists and violence – dramatic and bold policy is needed. This policy is a total cancellation.

The data is clear: total cancellation of student debt would put billions of dollars back into our country. It would support local communities and jobs, growing our economy. It would help families flourish. And, it would be a step towards racial justice, although there is still a long way to go.

But it’s not just a question of numbers. The moral imperative is also clear. Canceling student debt would reduce stress and provide relief to so many people in America in all walks of life and in all walks of life. Our government has already written off debts for billionaires and corporations – so how about ordinary people trying to make ends meet?

Many people talk about debt as something you take on and the borrower is solely responsible for. But, just like how low wages can usually only be raised through a militant strike, I know that the problem of growing debt is not something that can be solved by individuals alone – we need to ‘collective action to push for deeper change. It is the responsibility of those who have perpetuated this problem through decades of political failure, and who have benefited financially from the struggles of 45 million Americans, to do something and resolve the crisis for future generations.

Student debt is not an individual problem. It is a political problem rooted in reactionary Republican ideology and systemic racism. A political problem demands a political solution. This is why I take a stand with 99 others and ask the Democrats to join us in immediately canceling all student debt.

Decades ago, Congress granted the President authority write off all student loan debts with the flick of a pen. Yes, canceling student debt will not solve our broken education system, and it is not the only stimulus or the only support our communities need. But that’s part of it. For the millions of us with student loan debt, it would be life changing. It is a step towards justice. And that’s a step Democrats need to take now.

Until then, I will be on strike.

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