Wayne Messam was a skinny 6-foot-4, glue-handed receiver at Florida State University when the Seminoles were a national college football powerhouse, part of the 1993 FSU team that won the national championship. Messam is still 6-4, but these days he’s older and heavier, and mayor of Miramar, Florida. As of the end of last month, he’s among the dozens of people seeking the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 race.
Messam has a message that tens of millions of Americans want to hear — do something about the $1.5-trillion, and growing, student loan debt. That debt encompasses more than 44 million borrowers, and it has become a major drag on the U.S. economy when added to a similar amount in U.S. credit card debt owed by about 240 million Americans.
Mayor Messam’s solution is simple — just cancel the student loan debt.
Messam’s plan would involve cancelling loans, either U.S. Treasury-backed or private, that have been taken out for higher education, giving borrowers a clean slate.
The federal government owns about 95 percent of America’s student loan debt, which Messam believes makes a complete debt cancellation for most of the loans “relatively straightforward.”
If you are among the throngs struggling to pay off student loans, don’t put on your party hats just yet. For one thing, although the bearer of good ideas, Messam has little chance of being president.
But his proposal is worth considering, and similar beliefs have been expressed by more viable Democratic candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Their point is well-taken, that it seems patently unfair that students and their parents should carry all the weight of student loans, when the outcome is putting more educated and trained college grads into the American workforce, thus benefiting the nation’s economy.
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Warren has been on the case of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau for perceived negligence with regard to oversight of lending practices, handing out student loans like candy on Halloween, even knowing the burden that puts on students and their families.
Even banking giant J.P. Morgan/Chase honcho Jamie Limon has been critical of student loan practices, calling that industry “irrational,” and echoing Mayor Messam’s warning about student loan debt being an anchor on the U.S. economy, negatively impacting credit ratings, which govern all sorts of consumer activities, including home mortgages.
Messam said repealing the 2017 Republican tax reform package would pay off the student loan debt balance, but acknowledges that undoing what Congress and the Trump administration have done is a daunting task, at best.
There could be wide public support for repealing the tax reform deal, especially after news late last week that the law resulted in more than 60 major U.S. corporations paying no income taxes for the 2018 tax year, despite piling up nearly $80 billion in profits. That is not sitting well with average American taxpayers who are receiving smaller refunds from their 2018 returns.
Wiping out that $1.5 trillion in student loan debt would, in fact, be a shot in the arm for the U.S. economy, the economic stimulus President Trump had predicted from the 2017 tax-reform deal, but one that has, so far, failed to happen.
Executing Messam’s proposal, however, would be, in the words of one economist, “a big pill to swallow.” The student loan industry doesn’t like such talk, and warns of dire consequences.
Here’s our first official 2020 presidential prediction — Wayne Messam won’t be elected, but he’s offering the kinds of ideas our leaders need to talk about.