Lever Time - “Let Them Eat Student Debt” (feat. Astra Taylor & Marshall Steinbaum)
10:47PM Aug 30, 2022
Briahna Joy Gray
Hey there and welcome to another episode of lever time, the flagship podcast from the lever, the publication that most recently brought you news of the largest known dark money donation in the 240 year history of the United States of America. I'm your host, David Sirota on today's show, we're going to be talking about the rise of dark Brandon, that's the nickname given to Joe Biden, as he seems to be enjoying looking like he's actually doing something. And we're gonna get into what exactly he's done. On student debt, we're gonna go deep on the student debt relief plan. And the pushback to it. I'll be sitting down later on in the show, with Astra Taylor, the co founder of the debt collective, and also economist Marshall Steinbaum. For an in depth conversation about what the plan actually does, also, for our paying subscribers. The bonus segment this week is my recent discussion with Brianna, Joy Gray, on the bad faith podcast, we went deep on the inflation Reduction Act, reminder, if you want to access lever time premium for those bonus segments, head on over to lever news.com To become a supporting subscriber that gives you access to all of our premium content, as well as our live events. And you'll be directly supporting the investigative journalism that we do here at the lever. As always, I'm joined by producer Frank. Hey, Frank,
how's it going? David? Pretty
good. Actually, I'm actually feeling mildly hopeful about things for the first time in a very long time. I want to be clear, I'm not getting caught up too much in the dark Brandon hype, but I feel like the student debt relief thing, I feel like it's kind of a big deal. It's kind of a big deal.
It's, it's not nothing. It's definitely not nothing. And yeah, just want to want to preface this episode that we, you know, we can dislike Joe Biden, in a very general sense, but still be like, hey, you know, even a broken clock will cancel student debt twice a day, you know what I mean? Like, we got it, we gotta give him credit where credit is due? Well, he
was he was pushed, kicking and screaming into into doing anything. And the fact that he even though he was kicking and screaming that he did something, I think that's, that's something real, and we're gonna get into a discussion of what was real about it, what's a little bit more disappointing about it. But before we get into that discussion, just very quickly, at the top of the show, just a note to listeners, we're going to be changing the format of lever time, just a little bit. Producer, Frankel. Let everyone know what we're gonna be doing.
Yeah. So basically, we here at the lever, every single day, we do an editorial meaning right at the top of the day with the entire staff, it's a chance for us all to talk about what's happening in the news catch up with each other riff a little bit. So that's what we're going to do for overtime. Because that's a fun, that's it's a fun hang every morning. So we wanted to give people sort of an eye into how we discuss the news. So every week, the first half of every time is going to be David myself and a couple of the level reporters talking through the most important news of the week and providing our analysis. And then the second half will be a guest interview. So that's how it's gonna go from now on.
And so to start that off, we're gonna have a discussion with two of our reporters about the student debt relief situation, but also really about the dark Brandon idea here. The idea that Joe Biden is now on the rise, just to contextualize the discussion up top here about student debt. If you were living under a rock, we're living in a cave and you didn't hear the news this week. Joe Biden aka dark Brandon, that is the name now given to him by his biggest liberal fans. He last week announced that he'll be canceling some student debt $10,000 for all borrowers $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. The program is means tested. That's an important point. Individual borrowers must be making less than $125,000 a year or $250,000 per couple to qualify for the debt relief, we're going to get into a discussion about why that's an important boundary there and what kind of complications it will mean for people who try to access this debt relief. And I should mention the existing payment pause on student loans. Biden also announced that that's been extended to the end of this year. The Education Department estimates that nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to those earning less than $75,000 a year keep that stat in mind. Overall, about 43 million borrowers will benefit and 20 million will have their deaths completely canceled. So you can like Joe Biden, you can hate Joe Biden, but that is the real world impact of this program. I'm meant to discuss what it all means and what it means for the midterm elections, what it means for the Democrats what it means for American politics. What the rise of dark Brandon is. We're going to be joined right now, at the first half of today's show. By the levers, Andrew Perez, and Matthew Cunningham come. Okay, joining us for the first half of today's show is the levers Andrew Perez and Matthew Cunningham cook. What's up guys? Hey, David. Hey, David. Hey, Frank. You guys don't sound like stone sound all that jazzed about dark Brandon hasn't dark Brandon like injected vigor and energy into how you're feeling. If folks don't know what I'm talking about about dark Brandon. I guess we should explain. For those who don't know what dark Brandon is. In fact, I'm gonna let Andrew explain what dark Brandon is because I'm I'm like an old fogy here and it may be Andrew and Frank can explain dark Brandon.
I can explain the dark Brandon thing very briefly. So we all know, let's go Brandon. That is the chant of the right. It became a meme. It was the way for conservatives to say fuck Joe Biden in polite society. So now, now that the Biden administration seems to be doing some stuff decently the left has taken aback Brandon and now online on Twitter, mostly. There's this meme of Joe Biden with laser eyes. And that has been dubbed dark Brandon. And liberals love dark Brandon, they are they're excited for his rise. He's the hero that we didn't know we needed. But it has arrived at this time of peril. So that's that's dark brand.
And I just just so I know. Is it a reference to the show the boys? Is it?
I think the eyes? Yeah. Yeah, the laser eyes does come from the boys, even though it's not from a character who's a good person at all. So it is it is a little bit iffy. But here we are. Well, to
be clear, I actually don't think Joe Biden is in my view is I don't think he's all that great a person either. So maybe it actually fits. Just I know too much about Joe Biden's career. But I want to be clear. I'm not caught up in the dark Brandon thing. But I think there is something to the idea that this is a different kind of Joe Biden, between the climate provisions of the inflation Reduction Act. And look, we've gone over the bad provisions of the inflation Reduction Act, but between the climate provisions of the inflation Reduction Act and now this week's decision to finally fulfill minimally so but to fulfill a piece of his campaign promise to reduce some student debt. I feel like the White House and dark Brandon have kind of figured out that maybe if we do things if we look like we're doing things that will actually help our prospects in the midterm elections and by the way, dark Brandon's polling numbers now up, what is it four 5% and dark Brandon. It's not just that they're actually look like they're doing things it's that he himself seems to be enjoying kind of dark brand running on some Republicans. I caught this clip when I producer Frank get a get a queued up here. This clip of him basically brushing off Marjorie Taylor Greene. And I wanted to set this clip up and we can respond to it. But it's one of the ways the White House has pushed back on criticism of the student debt stuff is to cite the members of Congress criticizing the Republicans and pointing out how much money those members of Congress got from the much more regressive paycheck Protection Program and they've used this on Twitter on social media to kind of dunk on these Republicans and dark Brandon got in on the act. In a press briefing with reporters talking about Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the big lunatics in Congress. Here's what he said. I found
it fascinating that some of the folks who were talking about big spenders are the same people that got $158,000 in TCP money. Anyway,
what's her name? That woman who believes in whatever what's her name?
I mean, what a beautiful brush off, and I feel like I'm not sure he even meant to dunk on her there, but I I really appreciate it. One thing that's come up let's break this down a little bit. There's been this debate about you know, the PPP versus student debt. The PvP of course, is the $800 billion program that delivered 72% of its benefits to the richest 20% of Americans only one in $4 of that program getting to actual workers in the form of wages and benefits. Meanwhile, student debt relief, by contrast, a 300 billion dollar program delivering the majority of its benefits to the bottom 60% of income earners. Matthew, I would ask you, do you think it's a fair criticism? Or a fair comparison to point out that, hey, the people who are criticizing on the basis of fairness, they're making a fairness argument. The Republicans saying student debt relief is unfair. Some of these folks have raked in PPP benefits themselves. Is that Is that a fair criticism? Yeah, I
think it makes sense rhetorically, for the Biden administration to be making this comparison for sure. And it's a good point that PPP program could have been structured like it was in the rest of the industrialized world where the government basically just took on millions of workers on the on the payroll with eminent was very streamlined. We were formally still employed by your employer, but the government was paying your direct paycheck. And instead, we developed this much more convoluted system that was engineered to allow business owners to basically engage in massive amounts of wage theft. And I feel very confident that that's basically how Republican members of Congress used it because the only thing stopping a business owner from engaging in wage theft from the PPP program, given the way that it was set up was some type of moral or ethical commitment to that. And we know that Republican members of Congress don't have any of those moral or ethical commitments. So I think it makes sense.
And to be clear, it's not just the PPP, right. I mean, we pointed out on social media that that some of these Republicans criticizing this raked in farm subsidies, huge farm subsidies, right, these sorts of large farm empires, some of them are so called gentleman farms, where they're not really farms, but they're raking in subsidies. And I want to be clear, I don't think the PPP program was a perfect program. I think it was more regressive in a sense than it did it a different kind of program could have been, I don't think it was perfect. But I also think it was a decent, immediate response to what was going on? I am not. And I think, frankly, I think some liberals have criticized it almost too much by pointing out some of the excesses of it. And I think that that kind of missed the point of what it was for, but I think this criticism is entirely fair. And I think the point is, it's not that the PPP was so bad. I don't think that's what Biden and dark Brandon is trying to say. I think what they're trying to say is listen, if you're saying the student debt relief is unfair, and you also touted the PPP program, which was more regressive. There is a fundamental hypocrisy there. And then, of course, the question isn't I'm gonna throw it to the group here. I mean, if there is that hypocrisy there, why do you think there's that hypocrisy there? I mean, I don't why I think there's that hypocrisy, I think it has to do with we society's sort of trained us to get mad at programs when the beneficiaries are a certain kind of person and accept government spending, when the beneficiaries are a different kind of person. Does that. Is that a fair? You think that's a fair analysis?
Yeah. I mean, I think our country has trained people to resent anyone who gets any kind of help from the government. Unless it's them, then you know, then then they have like a special need for it, but everyone else is just, you know, mooching off the system. But unless
it's business owners, right, it's like business owners, bankers, people at the top sports team owners, them getting subsidies is completely fine. In our culture. It's not controversial. It is not scandalized regular student debtors getting money. That apparently is a huge scandal. It I really do think it says a lot about what we have been conditioned to accept and not accept. So so what I've been surprised about is the dark Brandon, a guy who was at the center of creating the student debt crisis, that this guy finally decided to actually cancel some student debt. Where do you think that came from?
I mean, I think they had to be looking at their poll numbers this summer and be like, well, you know, just another another six months of inactivity is just not going to really work. And you know, they have established this like, kind of August deadline for months now. But I mean, I really think they must have realized that like, it's you know, it's actually okay to do things to get criticized by Republicans like get give them so that they're shown, you know, helping people along the way rather than getting criticized for like, you know, just made up fantasy garbage. That's not even happening like defund the police or whatever this. This is this is a better tactical place to be in, like getting criticized for helping student debtors, something that broadly helps society is is definitely where you want to be right now in campaign season.
Your point about them ignoring Republican criticism. I mean, that is actually a really important point that the Democrats for so long have have structured how they behave in public, in a way is to try to minimize criticism or fear criticism from Republicans. I actually think that's what the dark Brandon, situation is actually all about underneath even the student debt issue, which is, finally there is a Democratic president who at least momentarily is flipping off the Republicans. I mean, look at what dark Brandon said he invoked the F word against Republicans, producer Frank, let's play that clip.
What did you mean by? You know what I mean?
So he called the Republicans semi fascist. Of course, the corporate media tried to turn that into a scandal. I mean, if you can't call the Republicans, semi fascists right now, rather than I mean, that's actually pretty nice. Like they are fascists. The idea that it's like some sort of controversy to call them semi fascists. And I like how the media tried to turn it into a scandal. And he was like, yeah, like, he like flipped them off. Like, I'm into that. Am I like, I know, I'm gonna get accused from some folks listening to this being like a Biden shill, but am I wrong? I'm like, kind of into him flipping off the Republicans and kind of flipping off the media.
Yeah. Well, it's it is an absolutely insane situation, right. Like, think about how much corporate media coverage is being devoted to, you know, both like the the Republicans war on women's reproductive health rights, and also just like the war on voting rights, like, right, like, there's so much media coverage about, about how Republicans have been going state by state, attempting to make it much harder to vote. So like, the fact that the media can't like put a label on that kind of activity is just ridiculous in it, you know, it's absolutely smart politics to call it out
such a good point. So the media is reporting all these stories, voting rights being limited, going state by state, and then Biden's like, yeah, they're semi fascist. And the same media is like, How dare you How could you call them send me? Like, look at what you're reporting? Look at what's in your in your news all the time?
Yeah. I mean, the other thing that I just think about here is how this just shows just how awful a President Obama was, is that, you know, I mean, they're, you know, Joe Biden's Senate record indescribably more heinous than Obama has. And Biden campaigned in his first two presidential campaigns as an open corporate test. And in a way, far to the right that of Obama's 2008 campaign. And now you have him. I mean, you have him starting with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which really set the tone, which was the media will aggressively punish any democratic president or any president period who tries to reduce tensions tries to limit the scope of America's extensive military involvement abroad. And then translating to economics where, you know, as soon as inflation started emerging, which was inevitable, given how brittle supply chains were, and this was exposed, starting from the beginning of COVID. They have aggressively turned against any type of mitigation of the mass human misery that we see in society every day. So Joe Biden, understanding that cow toweling to the media, whether it's, you know, I mean, Obama used to kowtow to Fox News.
You're totally right. I mean, I mean, just on the economics, the difference between the TARP bailout and the American rescue plan, and student debt relief is I mean, that is right. TARP was let's give a bunch of money to like 13 bankers and hope it trickles down the journey that we've traveled from tarp to the American rescue plan, and now student debt relief is enormous. And what's incredible is that Obama had a bigger election mandate to do the kinds of things that Joe Biden is now doing. Now, I want to be clear, I'm not a cheering section for Joe Biden, Joe Biden had to be pushed kicking and screaming into this position. So my question for the group I mean, I'm just this is a rhetorical question. shouldn't but it's like, has Joe Biden changed? Or has the politics changed? Is Joe Biden effectively in practice is dark Brandon dunking on Obama kind of ideologically? Or is dark Brandon, just a classic sort of thumb in the wind politician who realizes that the entire topography of top of politics have changed.
Got to be got to be the second, that the politics has changed? I, I don't think any of these people have changed at all. I think they are the exact people that we knew they were going to be and they they've hired the exact kind of corporate Klingons that we knew they would. So I wouldn't say that this administration has has changed at all, I think I think they must, you know, part of it might be the Dobbs decision, like really activating voters like they, they might have realized, like, oh, they don't have to just roll over this this election cycle like they can hold the Senate, you know, if they, if they fight
reality, and public pressure, is now forcing even parts of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party to somewhat deliver, maybe it's not all that should be delivered, or even was promised to be delivered. But I do think that's where the dark Brandon energy is coming from. I do think that is dark, Brandon's fundamental revelation. And here's the thing, I think cheering it on. I'm one of these people who thinks, who thinks you praise politicians when they do decent things, and you criticize them when they do shitty things, which is why most of the time we're criticizing politicians, because most of the time they're doing shitty things. But when they're moving in the right direction, fine. And listen, if it takes tweeting pictures of dark Brandon a couple times to get him to cancel student debt for millions of people like fine, he can have his his comic book mean, like, I'm, I'm fine with that, right? I mean, I was a person who Matthew and I wrote the kind of the landmark report, five, six years ago in International Business Times, about dark Brandon leading the fight to create the student debt crisis. Now, Andrew has rightly identified a media trend that I want to just dig into for a few minutes here, which I'm going to call, let them eat student debt. That seems to be the mantra of corporate media right now in response to dark Brandon's cancellation of some student debt. And what's interesting is, is that it seems to be a lot of the pundits who are angry about canceling a bit of student debt and really isn't a lot. It's means tested in the like, that the anger is explicitly from people who are extremely, extremely wealthy. And I just want to review some of these very quickly. Let's start with Jason Furman. Jason Furman is the former Obama White House official, who was actually on lever time a few weeks ago, he tweeted out, quote, pouring roughly half a trillion dollars on gasoline of gasoline on this inflationary fire. That is already burning is reckless. What do we know about Jason Furman? Just just we're gonna get to the merits of his argument later on in the show. But what do we know about Jason Furman and where he's making this argument from?
Yeah, I mean, his father is a very wealthy real estate investor. There's a building at NYU, named after his dad. And this is somebody who lives in a $6 million house, I believe, is what Andrew has found. So he's there. And we exchanged emails about this, you know, and it's funny, he seemed kind of receptive. This was a few weeks ago. Yeah. Now we're just talking about kind of his yawning class difference from kind of anybody you could conceivably describe as ordinary in, in the US, and he seemed receptive. And but I think it's just very momentary fleeting, because at the end of the day, you know, you're sleeping and your silk pajamas,
and your $6 million, and you're sad.
And it's like the problems of ordinary people. Don't enter your mind. And one thing that I've really I mean, the thing that has been so fucking and raging about this, frankly, is this 13% canard, it's like only 13% of Americans have student debt. Well, like if you want a decent retirement, you need to buy a house by the time you're 35 so that you can retire at 65 and it takes four years to get through college or longer for most people, I believe the average is like six years. So really, you need to look at the group of people where it's like 24 to 35 who have student debt. And in that group, it's way higher, like 50% of that group or more have student loan debt. So Furman has been one of the people among others peddling that canard as well. You can also mention, yeah, the 10s of 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of seniors who have student loan debt as well who deserve a decent retirement now. So if you look at those two specific demographics, I mean, well, if you look at the the target demographic for student loan debt, it's a much wider group of the population. It's a huge group of working class. Americans,
right. I mean, I said earlier this week that one of the most elitist things going going around on social media was the baked in presumption that blue collar workers a lot of blue collar folks don't have it any education debt, right, this idea that this student debt relief only helps the rich and makes the blue collar worker pay for the wealthy's Student Debt Relief debate in presumption is that the blue collar worker doesn't have any education debt when that's just that's just not true on its face. I want to go through a couple of other these pundits. I'm gonna go through two and then I'm going to give Andrew the we're going to I'm gonna give him the the best example of this. There was Josh Barrow on Twitter. I think he was he was at Bloomberg. He said student loan forgiveness is arbitrarily directed inflationary stimulus, Andrew found that Josh's family's Cambridge home is worth three and a half million dollars. They have a sprawling compound apparently in Maine, that is worth apparently three or $4 million as well. Matt Yglesias friend of the show. I'm joking, not really a friend of the show, a villain of the show, he wrote that his newsletter argues that the millennial student debt explosion reflected bad macro economic policy, not anything fundamentally wrong with with the American higher education system. Of course, Matt Iglesias is ridiculously wealthy made his fortune writing pretty bad. Takes like that. I mean, that's how he's sort of made his fortune. And then let's get to the ultimate one. Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post. She had this big piece. And she got into it with with the White House actually, she got into this big exchange. She works that she's Jeff Bezos, his favorite columnist or at least one of his he's promoted her. He's retweeted her stuff. She wrote her headline, Biden's student debt plan is a democratic version of trickle down economics. Andrew, what do we know about Catherine Rampell? where she comes from, and also what she's written in the past?
Yeah, well, so she's making a real kind of like, I don't know, business is that the word out of writing this, like take over and over again, about how, like giving money to people who need money is in progressive and like framing it as like a giveaway to the wealthy. Like she did that with the stimulus checks from the COVID Relief bills as well saying that it's not progressive to, to, you know, broadly distribute cash to the American population.
Truly let them eat cake kind of stuff. It's truly like it would hurt you to let you have bread. Let's just let them eat cake. That's that's what it really is.
Yeah, yeah. Well, and so So Katherine comes from really extreme wealth. Like her dad was on the NPR Foundation Board for like many many years. And he's been this like, longtime accountant to the ultra wealthy in Palm Beach, Florida. Like, his clients are so wealthy that a bunch of them got like, caught up in the the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. But, you know, if you just take a cursory look at the family house in Palm Beach, it's worth like nearly $10 million. It's like in the ritziest part of Palm Beach. And, and, of course, you know, the other backstory here and we can get into this is that she is a she is a Princeton legacy. And she actually wrote really proudly about this. During her time in college. She wrote this, this piece, defending legacy admissions.
I mean, just to be clear, the headline of this piece, okay, I want everyone to remember this. The columnist at Jeff Bezos, his newspaper who is ripping on student debt relief, pretending it's not good for non rich people. Is the person who has written a Chicago Tribune column, whose headline it was standing up for legacy admissions and it begins. Here's the lead of it. Okay, I admitted I I'm one of those I, the Princeton enrolled child of two insufferably Tiger obsessed Princeton alumni am a legacy and the entire column is a defense of very expensive Ivy League schools allow are preferencing legacy admissions to other to the heirs to the scions of those rich alums. I mean, this is where we are in the discourse. What else was in there, Andrew, that in that column,
it says, recent criticism has been driven primarily by the negative connotations of the word elitist in quote, and, quote, rich, which are both frequently and irresponsibly ascribed to the entire legacy demographic in which, you know, maybe, look, maybe not every legacy case is fantastically wealthy in this case, we know it is true, we know that it has been accurately ascribed in this case.
I mean, here's the thing, the reason we bring all this up is that it is always important to look at the economic station of those who were deriving programs that benefit non rich people, because you will typically find the through line that we have just outlined here, that the through line is is that class solidarity is a powerful force, particularly among the affluent, particularly among even more specifically, the affluent in corporate media. So when you see a criticism of student debt relief, in the media right now, ask yourself the question from where are these people from? Where are these critics coming from? When they derived this, this program?
Yeah, most elite economists and most elite pundits came from elite institutions, which means that they most likely came from elite households, so they have no connection to or empathy for the working class.
That's absolutely the case. And I come back to how amazing it's not a full victory. But how amazing a step this is that the cancellation of student debt, because I'm old enough to remember, back in 2005, working in Washington, I almost got fired. When I was working in Washington, I was working at the Center for American Progress. They Joe Biden passed his bankruptcy bill, which crushed debtors that was its design, he was helping crush debtors on behalf of his credit card industry donors as the senator from Delaware. And when I was working in Washington, I was working at the Center for American Progress. And we put out a report and I got in big trouble for doing this, listing out how much money lawmakers had gotten from the credit card industry, Democratic lawmakers who were supporting that bill, and they dragged my boss up to Capitol Hill and all these congress people yelled at him, and I almost got fired for that. And the reason I tell this story, is just to provide how a some context for how far this discourse has come. That was in 2005, Joe Biden, the leader of the bankruptcy bill in Congress, now effectively pressured and forced into canceling some of the debt that he helped create. It's not enough. It's not a full victory. But that's a big deal.
Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. I did also wanted to return to the prior point, which is these media folks who come from wealthy backgrounds, I think one of the under reported aspects of this is, you know, my mom's like a child psychologist. And she went to Smith for her Master's, which is a big clinical program. And what they teach you there is that some of the most dysfunctional kind of families and childhoods are in the extremely wealthy. And so when I see kind of extremely wealthy people, you know, basically taking the cookie jar, I'm inclined to look at this with a little bit of a child psychological kind of approach, which is like this is obscene, antisocial behavior, that, you know, any teacher would try and address in their classroom any child psychologist would try to address with their clients that's now being acted out on all of us as Americans. So it's obscene ritualized abuse of our psyches by these people who grew up in obscene ly dysfunctional households.
I do think one other thing to talk about here is you know, we're saying that like, it's, you know, this is A big victory from Joe Biden. It is evidence that they're not willing to just give into this, you know, obscene elite pundit class, but I don't think that's entirely right. In that, you know, this, the student debt relief could have been much broader, right, like we could have, like, it could have been a lot more money than just $10,000, that could have, you know, Elizabeth Warren push $50,000, they could have just cancelled all of this federal student debt. So so, you know, while the Biden administration is sort of making a stand against this elite class, I'm sure that this discourse has helped police the boundaries of of what they were willing to actually offered to debtors and I, and obviously, it's going to have a detrimental impact on, you know, specifically the non Rich, I mean, it is worth considering here, like people who are who can afford to go to college without student loans do that, like parents are not encouraging their kids to take out, you know, giant student loans with with ridiculous predatory interest rates, if they don't have to. So you know, this, this whole discourse, like this whole discourse is so rotten at its core, and it definitely has had an impact on people's lives. And in that it probably has kept them from having, you know, substantially more relief of their debts than we're seeing right now.
That's a totally fair point. And and you're right, I mean, I as I've said, it isn't this is not a perfect thing, this is not even a fulfillment of Joe Biden's own campaign promises. And you're certainly right, that the rigging of the discourse, which I have, frankly been obsessed with, since I wrote my very first book, which was called hostile takeover. And the premise of that book was, you don't have to bribe legislators, you don't have to bribe politicians, if you surround them and ensconce them inside of a debate that makes sure that the policy choices they're choosing whichever one or the other, serves the wealthy. So I think you're right, the rigging of the of the discourse around student debt, ultimately made sure that what Joe Biden, what dark Brandon put forward was not as broad as it could have been, as it should have been, and as much as he himself was forced and pressured to promise in the 2020 campaign. And I think that's a very good segue to our next segment, going deeper on what exactly the student debt relief plan will actually do. And the movement that helped create the pressure to make it happen before we get to that segment, Andrew, Matthew, thanks for being here. Thanks, David. Okay, we're gonna take a quick break, but we'll be right back with my interview with Astra Taylor and Marshall Steinbaum. Welcome back to lever time to continue our conversation about Joe Biden's student debt relief plan. I'll now be speaking with Astra Taylor, who is an author, filmmaker, and the co founder of the debt collective, we're also going to be joined by Marshall Steinbaum, an associate professor of economics at the University of Utah, who has done a ton of deep dive research into student debt, its effects on the country, and also on what the implications of a debt relief plan will be for lower income folks and communities of color. Hey, ASTRA Hey, Marshall. Hello. Great to be here. Thanks for joining us really appreciate it. Um, student debt relief, not something that lots of people thought would even be possible, much less talked about, much less a piece of it actually happening. If you gotten a time machine 10 years ago, that was just not really a thing. That was considered a realistic idea. And so I want to start with with Astra, who has been involved in the organizing for the pressure that ultimately resulted in this student debt relief decision. Just to contextualize this discussion. Astro, why don't you just give us an overview of how the modern version of this student debt relief movement really started and how far it's come just to let people understand how big a journey it's been? Yeah,
thanks for that. I mean, I think even if you went back into time machine five years ago, the vast majority of people wouldn't think this was possible. I mean, it really sort of became a mainstream issue around the 2020 Democratic primary, that's when it you know, sort of was legitimized on that national stage. But, you know, 10 years ago, I was one of the many people who joined the Occupy Wall Street movement, and out of the gate. What was clear to us was that that was a crisis for so many of the people who were at the encampments, and it makes a lot of sense when you think that that was the aftermath of the 2008 mortgage crisis, which was all about debt. And it wasn't just that millions of people at their homes foreclosed on, I mean, jobs evaporated, so people were struggling to pay their bills. What happens under conditions like that? Well, you do what you're told to do. And I know Marshall is gonna pick this up and you go back to school, you think the economy is bad, I'm gonna go get credentialed. So I might have a chance of having a livable life. So people were out of work. And what happens in that moment? Well, then you borrow, right to make ends meet. But really, it was a forum. I mean, occupy was as much of a school as it was a protest, and was a forum where we started to talk to each other about our economic realities. And we started to study the financial system. So we started to study, we started to build solidarity. And out of that, eventually, you know, came the idea of a debtors union, what if debtors actually banded together in a formation complementary to the labor movement, complementary to other forms of organizing and said, Look, we recognize our debts as assets, let's start building power collectively to demand what the cancellation of unjust debts and the provision of the things we need so that we're not forced into debt. So we have medical debt, because there's not universal health care, we have student loans, because there's not for your higher higher education. That sounds great, it's easy to say what should happen, the real challenge was building the power and finding those levers to use a word you probably like those levers along the way. So we launched Deathstrike of amongst students who had attended a massive for profit college chain called Corinthian Colleges, colleges serve hundreds of 1000s of students a couple that with really creative legal strategy saying, hey, actually Department of Education, we actually know you have the power to race these debts, and started to win a trickle of relief under Obama, and show that that actually, debt cancellation is possible. But it really was by the organizing work is, you know, building relationships and figuring out just step by step, what that next thing you can achieve is what that next thing you can win is because we started by, by erasing millions of dollars of debt with an M through our rolling Jubilee thing, which we bought and erased that's on the secondary market, then we started winning a few billion dollars under Obama a trickle of relief. And then once Biden was in office, you know, starting to win on a much bigger scale. So that's why I see this is so significant as an as a stepping stone, because I've done the work to know that you don't get it all at once, you know, and this has knocked a hole in what was a wall, you know, because now you got all these people thinking, I'm entitled to get my debt canceled. And that is a huge shift in consciousness.
So with that context in mind, I think the other context that's so important here is to really for a moment to understand how much of a problem Joe Biden was on this issue, up until this point, I mean, I've said before, that Joe Biden effectively led the campaign to create the student debt situation over 3040 years in the Senate. Marshall, I'll ask you, I mean, is that a fair characterization? What do we know about Joe Biden's relationship to the student debt issue up until now? Yeah,
I think it's a fair characterization. There were many decades there where the federal policy was effectively to expand student lending as a means of increasing federal revenue, because what they thought was basically that causing students to take on debt would make money for the federal government, because it would be lending money to these credit risks, and they would more than pay back what had been lent out. And that fact was used to cut taxes for the rich and many other things. That is to say, there were all these spending bills and tax bills where the so called Pay for was let's expand federal student lending, because that shows up as revenue positive according to the Congressional Budget Office scoring mechanisms. And that's exactly how we got to where we are. So as you mentioned, Biden was a leader, the so called bankruptcy reform, a few 1005. That was basically a credit card industry bill that was designed to shift marketing power and bankruptcy proceedings in favor of lenders and make it more difficult to get out from under debts. And it was all kind of premised on this false ideology of debtors being sinful and being irresponsible and needing to sort of pay for their own mistakes by not having a court bail them out in that case. So it's notable how much the ideology has shifted in the last couple of years, such that we got last week's announcement about canceling student loans.
So we're gonna get into that in one minute here. But I want to just echo something that both of you have alluded to, because I think it's gotten lost a little bit in the in the discourse about student debt. We as a society have, like sort of the American Dream idea has been premised on the idea go get an education to better yourself. And we as a country are saying that and then saying, in order to do that, you have to go into crushing debt, I bring this up, because a lot of the discourse about student debt has been well, you know, you took out a debt, it's your responsibility to pay it back. And if you screw that up, that's your problem that's on you. But at the same time, our culture is saying, in order for you to better yourself to better effectively the country, the macro economy, to be a productive member of society, putting that in quotes, you have to get an education. So I feel like there are two messages that don't exactly make sense, either. It's on you to take a risk. And if you if you if the economy goes south, if you can't get a better paying job, then Too bad for you. And yet the American Dream, the American sort of patriotic, you know, flag waving America idea is go get an education to better yourself. I mean, these two things are, are kind of in Congress together. And I think that's been lost in the conversation. So I want to turn to the conversation, the discourse about this. First, let's talk about whether this is a how I guess how good of how big a victory, this is. To my mind, this is a partial fulfillment of what Joe Biden was pushed, is that essentially pressured to support in the Democratic primary, so Astra, I'll ask you, how big a victory is this? What are the best parts of it? What are the most disappointing parts of it? At least so far?
Yeah, I mean, it's it's mixed. I mean, this is why I said that it was it was a stepping stone. I mean, the debt collective, the union for debtors that I organized with has always been really clear that we want full debt cancellation, and that that is the reasonable demand. I mean, the reasonable demand is to cancel all that return to the model of free public college, you know, not demand that everybody get a credential, a higher education credential to be able to earn a living wage. I mean, the solutions are obvious, right? So we're trying to build the political pressure to get there. I mean, I think we have to measure this victory against who we were bargaining with, and that was Joe Biden, who has spent his career serving the interests of creditors. This man is not a friend of debtors. And so to see his Twitter last night, boosting the stories of debtors being released from the shackles of debt as though he were leading a debt debtors assembly that the debt collective often house was surreal, you know, so and you're absolutely right, he only did this because he was boxed in on the campaign trail by a movement that had shown not only as debt cancellation, desirable by people want it, but that it's actually legally possible. And so Bernie coming out for full cancellation, Elizabeth Warren demand, you know, sort of validating our theory of executive action were key, and he did not want to do this, believe me, Joe Biden did not even want to do what he did. He thought this was yet another promise that he could let fall by the wayside and a movement kept his feet to the fire. I mean, I think they were making up their mind to the last minute, that's why so down to get into the the real failures, there's no application yet for people to apply for this relief. The fact they're even saying there is going to be an application, Marshall and I co authored a memo laying out with data, which supposedly Neo liberals love, why this is a totally failed approach. Right? So this should have been, you know, even if they weren't going to do full cancellation, because again, we're dealing with the corporate Democratic Party, it should have been automatically administered. And the fact that they're making people jump through this hoop in order to sort of send out the vibes, like, oh, yeah, we're filtering out these imaginary Richard debtors who have negative net wealth, who are, you know, are not rich, they've taken out student loans. So that's proof they're not rich, they're actually in practice going to filter out millions of people who are actually vulnerable. And so that is catastrophic. And civil society groups like the debt collective are going to be picking up the pieces helping debtors where volunteers is completely unjust. You know, we should be billing the government for the help that they're going to need so that people get this relief. You know, so it's mixed. I obviously feel very conflicted. I have one sibling, her household is going to get $40,000 canceled. That's big, you know. And then I have another sibling who is a lawyer who works with elderly indigent clients making 50 grand a year and he has a quarter million dollars of law school debt and this is like nothing for him. It's a joke. So you know, this, this is why this is why emphasizing the organizing is so important, because it's like, you know, these these are crumbs but they were handed down because people fought for them, and we just need to keep going. And right now, millions of people think they're entitled The deck Translation for the United States of America, that is huge man, that is entitlement entitlement is what we want to cultivate, you're entitled to a decent life, you are not a debtor, you are a creditor, you are owed a decent life. And this can help build us towards that goal.
Yeah. And ultimately, the ultimate folks who feel entitled and this is where the shift really the paradigmatic shift really is, is that the people at the top have felt entitled for as long as I've been alive. The recipients of the TARP bailout the 13, bankers, NFL pro sports teams, owners who get bailed out for their stadiums all the time. I mean, the wealthy the Trump tax cuts, the mortgage interest tax deduction in the past through tax cuts. I mean, I could go on and on the PPP recipients, right. I mean, that's a program where 72% of the benefits went to the top 20% of income earners. This is considered not a scandal, this that is considered not controversial entitlement for those at the top and I agree with you, the entitlement, there should be some entitlement for everyone else. And I think that's, that's a really important point. And I just want to echo your point about about means testing effectively, or burying people in the paperwork, the application. I've said this before, I'll say it again. All of those hoops that people are forced to jump through when it comes to government spending are designed to prevent people from accessing benefits, that they have a right to access for no other reason. That's what it's there to deliberately bury you in paperwork. That is what that is. And I think on the politics of it, it's actually terrible politics. I had suggested a little while ago, Joe Biden just sent out a letter to like 50 million households, one line and the letter, dear household, your student debt was x now it's why thanks to my decision, on this date, sign President Joe Biden,
I was gonna say the debt collective has done that for 10s of 1000s of people through a rolling Jubilee, we buy debts, and we send them those letters. And we were like sending copies of our letters to you know, tweeting at the mainstream politics, it feels good, do it.
On the Republicans scream, and they whine and they cry and Joe Biden be like, Look, I just made 50 million people happy, right. 15. Like, that's good politics. Now. Marshall, I want to turn to you, because we have heard a lot of pushback from a lot of coincidentally, very wealthy pundits saying that this student debt relief plan isn't fair. They've met and what's interesting about it is, as far as I can tell, the people making this argument are, as I said, very wealthy, but they're pretending to care about working class people. And there's example after example, after example of television pundits, media pundits, affluent folks saying, This is bad for this is forcing working class people to pay off the debts of kind of rich, lazy, bitch kids who don't really want to work hard. What does the data say about who benefits from this? And about the fairness question that these affluent folks are raising?
Yeah, so I've been studying now for years, the fact that student debt is actually held by a broad swath of working people in this country, and in particular, young working people. So as to what you were referring to earlier, we had been telling people to go to college as a means to secure a middle class status. And they took that advice, basically, in the open handedness of the federal student loan program on the front end, at the behest of universities and employers has accomplished its end in that respect to have more and more people going to college and taking on more and more loans in order to qualify themselves for that, with the so called skills necessary for today's jobs. And that is at the absolute root of the student loan crisis. And in particular, really, and particularly why Student Debt holdings are so widespread. So it just isn't true that it's wealthy people who have student debt among young people, it's wealthy people who don't have student debt. That's the crucial sort of reversal that's happened in the last couple of decades that, you know, such that the pundits saying, Oh, this is a good way to the rich are just, you know, not in touch with reality. One thing that was reported in the memo that Esther talked about earlier, is the fact that there's a huge variation in terms of who has what amount of student debt, even conditional on income or other socio economic status. And what that means is, you know, a lot of pundits will say, well, the higher your student loan amount, the higher your income, and that's true on average, but there's a huge variation such that there's much more variation within income group. So there are poor people have a small amount of student debt. There's poor people who have a high amount of student debt There's rich people who have a small amount of student debt, and there's rich people have a high amount of student debt. And if your mindset is, its rich, we will have a high amount of student debt only and not poor people, then you're just going to come up with a policy like we have now, which is an inadequate cancellation for borrowers who really aren't going to be able to repay, even with 10 or $20,000 deducted from their balance, they're still basically going to be in the same position. And that speaks to the sort of false understanding even as the student debt crisis has developed, the idea among higher education, finance experts has largely been, well, this is because of the temporary conditions of the Great Recession, or that it takes longer to find your job than we thought it did. But you'll still find a good job. So the solution to that is income driven repayment where you get a few years of lowering your payments to match your income. And then after that, you'll be able to sort of resume payments and eventually pay down your debt in full and that is definitely not happening. So you know, if people I joined income driven repayment because their income is too low to retire their debts. Now, that is just you know, kind of a absorbing state. As we say, in economics, I was like, you'll be there forever until your until you run up against the end of the income driven repayment period, and all of your outstanding debt is canceled. So the income driven repayment is basically just a much more bureaucratically onerous form of student debt cancellation. that's designed to mask the fact that that's what's going on that all of these debts the government is issuing are never going to be repaid, Notwithstanding these CBO budget forecasts that say, Oh, this is actually going to make the government money. So you have budgetary space to cut taxes for the rich.
Okay, ASTRA I want to turn back to you and play devil's advocate for a second. So I'm going to be the asshole affluent conservative. And I'm going to make a bunch of arguments and I want you to respond to them. Dark brand and Joe Brandon's horrible policy is unfair to the people who didn't get their debt relief. People who just for instance, let's say somebody two years ago just paid off their student debt. They worked hard. Joe Brandon's policy is unfair to that person. And where does it end? If we're canceling student debt $10,000 $20,000. Now, where does it end? Are we going to cancel medical debt? Are we going to cancel housing debt? Where does it end? Does it end in complete? You know, the demise of civilization? That's what you want? You want? Just everybody gets a free lunch? Everybody wants free stuff. Oh, my God, I sound like such an asshole. Wow. But what's your response to
that this person probably doesn't have better better angels to appeal to. But I would try to sit I would say to them, Look, just because you suffer doesn't mean future people should suffer. If I die of cancer, it is not unfair to me that a cure for cancer is invented before I'm able to take advantage of it. And in fact, I would point out the fact that I paid off my student loans. And you know, I'm in this fight, because the truth is, I actually will benefit I will benefit from a society where my friends and neighbors and community are not buried in unpayable debt and where people like my brother can afford to go into public interest law where people can afford to be dentists in rural communities where you can afford to be, you know, a general practitioner instead of an anesthesiologist or whatever the fuck so, you know, actually, you will benefit and, you know, it's good for other people not to suffer. As far as the slippery slope. I mean, hell yeah, bring it on, we are coming for MediCal. It's like completely immoral that people, you know, have to face this incredible financial stress on top of getting sick and, and the fact is, you know, public direct public investment is so much more efficient. So I was debating a libertarian the other day. And, you know, my point was, you know, now you're screaming about the cost of college. Well, if you publicly fund universities, you can say, keep the cost down. And also, you know, stop exploiting adjuncts and cafeteria workers, you know, you can put conditions on public money, which they never do, but it's possible theoretically.
So Marshall, what about as an economist What about the fear of inflation I'm gonna go back into the asshole conservative mode for a second you know, you can make all your arguments all you liberals can make your arguments about how this helps people who are in debt and that's that's all great the the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But this is going to just destroy the country because it's going to wildly exacerbate the inflation problem that we're already facing. What's your response to that?
Well, that idea is pretty ridiculous. Even the people who are mongering about inflation, their own predictions shown a very minor effect on inflation and that It's assuming that we're going to end the student loan repayment pause which the policy is to end the repayment pause at the same time, more or less as the debt is canceled. So if anything I predicted that will be deflationary. My I'm researching the effect of the student loan repayment pause now and it shows, you know, households both paying down other debts and spending more as a result of their increased liquidity due to the not having to make their student loan payments, which I think is a good thing and has been behind the rather successful economic policies undertaken to mitigate the pandemic. You know, they're if they're ending that which I don't think is necessarily a good idea that's going to be deflationary. Even beyond the debt cancellation, where I think there's a better I guess, argument that you could put under the category of inflation that was really a fundamentally different phenomenon is higher education costs, which is what Esther was just saying that the federal government is shoveling out 100 And something billion dollars of new student lending every year to help people pay tuition. And that's the policy that was announced the other day doesn't affect that at all. And in particular, the income driven repayment plan that's much more generous, you know, that's kind of the the plan should be understood as an outright cancellation for low balance borrowers, the 10 $10,000.20 1000 for Pell Grant recipients, the income driven repayment plan that's much more generous than the pre existing ones. That's a de facto cancellation for high balance borrowers just they don't want to have to say that that's what they're doing. But everyone knows that those debts aren't going to be collected anyway. And so they have this new plan that could have the effect of causing universities to increase tuition more. Now, I really object to that people were saying, Oh, thanks to your student debt cancellation policy. Now universities are going to start raising tuition. That's what they've been doing for 30 years. That was our policy was withdrawn. Public support for higher education shifted funding models and institutions from state funding for at the institutional level to individuals paying tuition, backed up by federal student loans, higher education institutions love that kind of thing, that individualized financing, because it means that there's no accountability and no strings attached, that they can pretend that Oh, students choosing what university to go to, will exert the sort of discipline that a regulatory regime would, would exert when in fact, it doesn't. So they like the fact that there's no cap on tuition, and there's no cap on graduate student lending, which is a huge cause of high balance student, student debtors that are unable to repay, you know, that is part of the status quo. That if any part of the recently announced policy makes that worse, it's the more generous income driven repayment plan, because that really does tell professional schools, for example, that charge high tuition and tell their students, there's IDR to pay for it. So you shouldn't balk at this high sticker price. Because you'll never actually have to repay it, you know, that now that incentive is even more is even more present. But my my hope, and, you know, I think there's some validation to this whole seeing the outrage reaction to the student debt cancellation is there might actually be political will to regulate the higher education sector and me and attach them strings to these huge outlays because it is basically funded by the federal government like that's, that is their funding model. And they have had it both both ways for too long. That is they get all this federal money, but they don't actually have to operate in the public interest at all. To carry this this unrepeatable debt and feel that it's their own fault for entering into it.
And of course, they are the major lobbyists against free public college.
Yes, of course, of course, if you take Donald Trump's tax bill, and look at it's one piece of it, that put a tax on endowments, and then you take Biden's beginning, hopefully beginning student debt cancellation, it almost is like two prongs of two little pieces of reform, aiming at a larger solution. Now, of course, Joe Biden doesn't unilaterally have the power to fix the system without Congress. Right? I mean, that's, this is an imperfect policy in the in one sense, because he only has the universal unilateral power to stop the debt collection. He doesn't have the unilateral power to put in an entire, you know, reform of the higher education system. So I want to end this conversation and just throw out a kind of simple but leading question here. When I look at the opposition to this, when I look at the pushback from Republican politicians, pundits, sort of old school neoliberal economists, what I see and you can both tell me that I'm wrong. I'm crazy. I'm a conspiracy theorist, but what I see is something deeper than just I'm wrongheaded analysis, what I see is a, a kind of top tier of our society, wanting to protect its status, wanting to not allow the prestige, of have a college education, to be financially available to millions and millions of people, I think there is something deeper here, something based on class at work here that the idea of millions of people being able to get a college degree. And to get it without going into serious financial hardship is detestable to the people at the top of society. And I also think that at the kind of corporate level, what free higher education can do is take the handcuffs off of people what without debt, you have much more power to try to go do different kinds of jobs than you may if you have 10s, or hundreds of 1000s of dollars of debt. I mean, you think about the the lawsuit, they come out of school, they've got a huge amount of debt, the corporate law firms offering them a huge payout, but they want to go do public interest law, and guess what the debt pushes them into a decision. So I'm gonna throw to either of you, both of you. Am I being a conspiracy theorist and thinking that there is kind of underneath here an unstated kind of class hostility, to free higher education and to student debt relief?
Well, I strongly concur with your analysis. I mean, that idea of both class and I want to add a race hostility was super motivating to the move in the first place away from free public college and the California master plan in the 1960s, to the Higher Education Act of 1972, which is really where we saw the student loan program kind of ballooned up and start to balloon up to what it has become that in between the Higher Education Act of 65, which was the first federal act and its renewal in 72. You have the Rivlin report, which was this sort of neoliberal economist saying how to reform the higher education system, and she proposed student loans basically as a means of disciplining campus activists. What I feel is, you know, so The Rubin Report is very telling about the motivations behind that movement. The other sort of key that I like to look at as this book academia and anarchy by James Buchanan, who was a very right wing, economics professor, covered tellingly by Nancy McLain in her book democracy in chains. At the time, in the late 60s, he wrote this book about academia as a professor at UCLA basically, in in spluttering outrage at the idea that people who he didn't think belonged on campus at UCLA were there and they were screwing things up. If you look at the John Olin Foundation, which was a major right wing philanthropy, one of the main motivations for that was this guy Olin, who was an engineering executive or something like that had gone to Cornell, and was a major, you know, alumnus and booster of it, he was outraged when campus activists occupied the administration building in like 1968, or something like that, and founded the Olin foundation to prevent that from happening again. So all of that is sort of, you know, you can just see this like white, middle aged, reactionary, upper class person who probably didn't ever like the New Deal. But in seeing the civil rights movement and the waves of activism that an agenda thought like, now, liberalism has finally gone too far, here's our chance to roll it back. And making higher education into this privatized thing was very overtly considered a disciplinary mechanism. But by means of achieving that, I mean, we haven't says that outright in academia and anarchy, that if students are encumbered by debt, they'll pay more attention to their studies, they'll be more career oriented, and they won't be as irresponsible and the faculty will also not be able to get away with their liberal shenanigans or whatever he thought.
I mean, that's like that. And by the way, it echoes kind of the economy at large, right, private equity. That's what they argue about companies, private equity, if we can put companies into huge amounts of debt that will impose discipline on small businesses and companies that we buy up. I mean, this is a whole ideology. And just to echo what you said about the history of this, I mean, the intercepts piece by the great John Schwarz Reagan advisor warned that free college would create a dangerous, quote, educated proletariat. So we'll end with you, Astra. How much of the opposition do you think is kind of not about the economics of this in the sense of, you know, well, you know, it's inflationary or it's going to increase the deficit or the like that there is something much deeper, much, much more unstated and much uglier in the opposition to this
100% I mean, to the inflation point, the renowned socialists at Goldman Sachs said it's not and be inflationary. Right. So, I mean, so often conversations that are ostensibly about economics are actually about power. And, you know, and and what is going to count as moral right? So why is it moral for Donald Trump to be the king of debt and have the string of bankruptcies and yet it's so shameful for a student debt or to default. And, you know, when you really see this, I mean, Marshall just gave this great history. But you you see the residue of that history in the attitudes of economists like Larry Summers, and Jason Furman who were actually their advisor to Obama on those bank bailouts in 2008 2009. You know, advocating for the abandonment of homeowners who are underwater right now acting like the biggest scandal on Earth is to give $10,000 of debt relief to struggling Americans, and you realize this is not about money. This is about their psychic investments in the status quo. This is about the fact that education has been sold as a ladder to upward mobility, right, which then allows these people to think they're at the top of a meritocracy when in fact, it is served to this sorting mechanism tracking disproportionately working class people of color into either you know, the school to prison pipeline or into unpayable debt, that gate keeps the professions right, because who can afford to be an a professional in America, when you have to take on half a million dollars of debt to be a doctor or a quarter of a million dollars of debt to be a lawyer, which is the case for many of debt collectives members. So you know, down with meritocracy is part of what we're we're about at the debt collective, and creating a society where education isn't just free, as in cost, but free isn't really liberating, you know, so people can actually explore their interests and live decent lives. And again, you shouldn't have to have a bachelor's degree or a master's degree or a PhD, to be able to put food on the table and have security and old age. So I think we're challenging something very deep. You know, and an economic model and an ideology and a sense of self. That is really precious to these folks. And that's why they're so pissed off. And hopefully, it will just continue to make the mad in the years ahead.
I hope so i will i i promised to help continue helping you both make them mad. And I should mention Astra, where can folks find your work? Where can they find the work of the deck collective
that collective.org. And so we are we have made a lot of progress on this issue through economic disobedience through debt strikes, coupled with other creative strategies. And there was a growing campaign committing to non payment, when the payment pause is now being turned on, which is December 31. So we can't let the Biden administration ruin our holidays, people are going to refuse to pay to try to make this pause permanent because we've seen the government can function without our student loan dollars. And I just want to say that the biggest contingent of that debt strike, the fastest growing contingent is actually debtors over the age of 50. Because they're kind of the invisible. They're an invisible demographic in this conversation. So we have announced a 50 over 50 debt strike a few maybe a week ago that has grown into the hundreds people already threatening to withhold over $35 million of debt. So you know, it the fight is not over. And, and part of what we're trying to do is get rid of that shame people who are in debt feel and say, No, we can't pay, we won't pay, we shouldn't have to pay, you know, and so I invite people to find us there strike debt on Twitter, and that collective.org.
And Marshall, I know we can find your work on your Twitter feed, which is at econ underscore Marshall, or at Marshall steinbaum.org. I want to just say, I actually this applies to both of you that I feel like I have become educated on this issue. Beyond just reporting on how Joe Biden created the student debt progress problem. I've become educated on that by following both of you. And so I just want to thank both of you for all of your work. And I want to encourage everybody listening to go follow Astra and Marshall, go check out the debt collective and get educated on this issue. Thanks to both of you.
Thanks for having us.
Yeah, thank you, David. This has been great.
That's it for today's show. As a reminder, our paid subscribers who get labor time premium get to hear our bonus segment, my recent appearance on the bad faith podcast in which Brianna and I broke down the strengths and the weaknesses of the inflation Reduction Act.
Maybe it is true that mansion, you know, you gotta get mansions built in compromises had to be made. And it's the politicians job to make the case for why they made those kinds of compromises. But what doesn't factor into that calculus is how much you have to compromise with Manchin if he actually takes the requisite amount of heat for throwing his own constituents under the bus constituents in West Virginia that don't actually want to live in one of the most polluted states in the entire country. And please be sure
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