Biden touts controversial student debt forgiveness plan in union speech

President Joe Biden on Friday leaned into his plan to erase student debt for millions of people, elevating a policy the Democrats hope will animate voters ahead of the November elections.

Biden, who fulfilled the controversial campaign promise last month, does not always address the issue straight-on.

At a Democratic National Committee event this week, Biden argued for the benefits of funding higher education — but did not raise the issue of debt relief directly.


Instead, he talked about the need to invest in education and said corporate America should welcome his administration’s push for a “better-educated public.”

“How many of you would say 12 years is enough in the second quarter of the 21st century to compete?” Biden recalled asking business leaders.

But in remarks at the National Education Association’s headquarters on Friday, Biden leaned into politics.

“It’s a game changer,” Biden said to applause. First lady Jill Biden, a teacher and NEA member, was also in attendance at the event.

The president’s student debt relief plan includes measures beyond the headline cancellation of $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers and $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants. For instance, a new income-driven repayment plan would transform higher education costs for many applicants.

The plan could have significant impacts on taxpayers, as well as borrowers.

The bill was criticized as “badly done” by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon during a House panel Wednesday.

“I wish they had targeted the people who actually needed help,” said Dimon, a longtime donor to Democratic political candidates. “They still haven’t fixed the underwriting, and they haven’t fixed the cost of college.”

Education has emerged as a top issue among voters, including in Michigan, where it was the No. 1 searched topic on Google as of Sept. 11, according to internet searches recorded and analyzed by Google Trends.

The issue has been a centerpiece of the governor’s race, dividing Democrats and Republicans over charter school funding proposals.

In Texas, it was also the No. 1 searched topic as of Sept. 19, often alongside the name of student loan lenders or simply “student loan forgiveness.”

Biden’s appeal to Democratic allies on Friday included a promise to veto Republican legislation on abortion. He also countered the notion that “Democrats are the big spenders,” arguing that the party’s mammoth climate and healthcare bill would reduce the federal deficit.

Biden predicted it would shrink by $300 billion over the coming decade “because Medicare will reduce, can pay less for the drugs they have to buy for the seniors.”


Senate Democrats said it would reduce the deficit by more than $300 billion. However, a Penn-Wharton Budget Model study estimates the number at $264 billion over 10 years.

The legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act, is not expected to reduce inflation.


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