Bernie Sanders Says U.S. Can Cancel All Student Debt if It Can Give the Top 1% $1 Trillion in Tax Breaks

Senator Bernie Sanders is making another case for student loan forgiveness, arguing that if the United States can give tax breaks to the rich it can also cancel all outstanding educational debt.

"If we can provide over $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1% and large corporations and $740 billion for the bloated Pentagon, please don't tell me that we cannot afford to cancel all student debt and make public colleges and trade schools tuition-free and debt-free for all," the Vermont independent tweeted on Tuesday.

The post was a response to a tweet from the nonprofit advocacy group Student Debt Crisis, which alerted its followers that the debt crisis has reached over $1.7 trillion.

Sanders has called for eliminating the country's entire outstanding student loan debt, including both federal and private loans. The proposal, along with making public colleges and universities tuition-free, was a central part of his White House bids in 2016 and 2020.

After dropping out of this year's Democratic primary, in an effort to unify the party around Joe Biden, Sanders joined allies of the former vice president to produce a policy wish list to recommend to the nominee. The list called for making public four-year colleges tuition-free for students from families earning less than $125,000 annually and canceling up to $10,000 in student debt because of the coronavirus crisis.

Under Biden's plan, as listed on his website, individuals making $25,000 or less per year will not owe any payments on their undergraduate federal student loans and also won't accrue any interest on those loans. Everyone else would pay 5 percent of their discretionary income toward their loans. After 20 years, the remainder of the loans for people who have "responsibly made payments through the program" will be 100 percent forgiven.

Biden has also proposed creating a program that offers $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for every year of national or community service.

The president-elect told reporters on Monday that debt cancellation is one element of the economic recovery plan he is working on amid the pandemic.

"It's holding people up," Biden said about student debt. "They're in real trouble. They're having to make choices between paying their student loans and paying their rent, those kinds of decisions. It should be done immediately."

But he didn't elaborate on whether he'd support canceling all outstanding student loan debt or if he would eliminate such debt through executive action—a move that has been endorsed by several Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Warren, whose name has been floated for treasury secretary, said last week that eliminating student loan debt would be the "single most effective action" the Biden-Harris administration could take to provide an economic stimulus.

"Biden-Harris ran on the most progressive economic and racial justice platform of any general election nominee ever. Now isn't the time to hand over the keys to corporate lobbyists," Warren wrote on Twitter.

bernie sanders george washington university 2020
Senator Bernie Sanders delivers an address on threats to American democracy at George Washington University on September 24. On Tuesday, Sanders tweeted that if the United States can give tax breaks to the rich it can also cancel all student loan debt. Win McNamee/Getty