Even though we are a year away from the 2020 election, it seems as though Donald Trump’s re-election chances are fading with each news cycle. Democrats continue to gain support for impeachment, and Republicans remain critical of Trump’s leadership in Syria. If Trump is going to win another election, he will have to take some bold action to reduce liberal enthusiasm for the 2020 election and grab some swing voters. Student loans present such an opportunity.
Donald Trump should cancel all existing federal student loans and phase the federal government out of higher education lending. He can blame President Obama for creating a student loan mess, and crown himself as the person who solved the problem. This move would steal momentum away from candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, provide an immediate boost to the economy, and win over many swing voters struggling with student debt.
Forgiving federal student debt may not appear to be a conservative solution, but the move would be vintage Trump. Under President Obama, federal student loan lending was expanded, and debt swelled to record highs. Trump can blame one of his favorite targets for the problem and implement a solution that would be a huge boost to his re-election efforts.
Attacking Obama for his Failure to Address Cost of College and Student Debt
It is no secret that President Trump loves attacking his predecessor.
When it comes to higher education and student debt, there is room to criticize Barack Obama. At the top of the list is the fact that during his eight years in office, the cost of college continued to grow. Student debt likewise ballooned during this time.
The changes made to federal student debt during the Obama Administration certainly improved things for borrowers, but they also created far more federal student debt. Trump can point out that it was under Obama’s watch that federal student crossed the one trillion dollar mark.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been making this argument for over a year now. The bullet points are that the massive student debt is Obama’s fault and that much of the debt will never be paid back.
Trump can blame Obama for the problem, take credit for solving it by forgiving the existing student loans, and respond to any Republican criticism by arguing that much of the debt was never going to be paid back.
Providing a Major Boost to the Economy
The immediate fallout of student debt cancellation will be a significant increase in consumer spending.
Many Americans have delayed buying a house because of student debt. Others live on incredibly tight budgets trying to eliminate their loans.
According to one report, student debt prevented 80% of borrowers from saving for retirement, 56% from buying a home, 42% from buying a car, and 50% from contributing to charity. Some economists argue that canceling federal student loans would provide a trillion-dollar boost to the economy.
During his time in the White House, Trump has consistently taken credit for the strength of the economy, and his 2020 campaign is sure to make the economy a focus. Immediately forgiving the existing federal student loans would strengthen the economy considerably and bolster his case to voters.
Beating Warren and Sanders to the Punch
Elizabeth Warren generated major headlines with her proposal to cancel student loan debt. Bernie Sanders quickly followed with a debt cancellation proposal of his own.
Such proposals are very appealing to the 45 million Americans who have student debt.
If Trump eliminated federal student loans before the election, it would take a big issue away from two of the leading Democratic contenders. He could also take credit for taking action while others just talked.
Trump Wouldn’t be the First Republican to Call for Loan Forgiveness
A senior student loan official from the Trump administration recently stepped down from his post and called for mass student loan forgiveness.
The former official, Wayne Johnson, argues that it is his conservative principals that lead him to the conclusion that federal student debt must be canceled. He argues that the Department of Education has failed as a lender and should exit the student loan business entirely.
Outside of Johnson, forgiving student debt has not been a popular idea with most Republican leaders. However, Trump has shown a willingness to buck party convention, and few Republicans speak up when he changes the position of the party.
Getting Student Debt Cancellation through Congress would be Easier for Trump
Many Democrats have called for forgiving federal student loans. If Trump made student loan forgiveness a priority, they would have a hard time disagreeing.
On the Republican side of the aisle, Trump can use his popularity with party voters to get other Republicans in line with a policy they might otherwise not like.
By creating bi-partisan support, Trump could make student debt forgiveness a reality where a President Sanders or a President Warren might struggle.
Trump could use student loans as a tool to boost the economy, show his ability to lead both parties, and make a huge difference in the lives of millions of voters. It would be a bold move, but it could be a difference-maker in a close election.