Former Clinton administration adviser Paul Begala opposed a plan from President Joe Biden to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt for most borrowers.
During a Sunday segment of CNN’s “State of the Union,” Begala — who now works as a CNN pundit and a professor at Georgetown University — called the student debt cancellation “bad policy, as well as bad politics.”
“For that amount of money, you could fund free pre-K for every three- and four-year-old for 10 years,” Begala explained. “You would do a lot more good for poor people, communities of color, and the underprivileged by doing pre-K. You could forgive all medical debt, which, unlike student debt, is not freely entered into.”
The student loan cancellation plan applies to individuals earning less than $125,000 annually. Biden also decided to extend the pause on federal student loan repayment to January 2023 and will permit borrowers with undergraduate loans to cap payments at 5% of monthly income.
Despite his left-wing inclinations, Begala rejected the policy and noted that candidates in tight races — including Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan (D-OH), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) — are distancing themselves from the move.
“So what is my party doing with this? They’re disadvantaging — I think they’re not helping the people that we’re here to help, which is [sic] poor people and underprivileged communities,” Begala continued. “And they’re not helping their politicians who are running.”
Eliminating $10,000 of student loans per borrower will cost $298 billion in 2022 and a total of $329 billion by 2031 if the policy is renewed each year, according to an analysis from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Less than 32% of the funding would benefit Americans in the two lowest income quintiles, while 42% would benefit those earning more than $82,400 per year.
CNN political commentator and former Obama official Ashley Allison, however, disagreed with Begala, claiming that Biden’s campaign promise to eliminate student debt “actually got the highest amount of voters ever to turn out.” She also described that she personally benefits from the policy.
“I’m riddled with student loan debt,” she remarked. “And I think people should be really careful about making fun of folks who have student loan debt. There are teachers, there are nurses, there are firefighters, there are [sic] law enforcement, there are people who are public servants … they’re not getting a minimum wage raise, because we know the Republicans don’t want to do that.”
Biden maintains a dismal 44% approval rating, according to Gallup, which noted that a mere 40% of independents approve of the president. As vulnerable Democrats attempt to shake Biden’s poor economic record, a survey from CNBC revealed that 59% of Americans are now concerned that student debt cancellation “will make inflation worse.” However, eliminating student debt is especially popular among younger voters — while 30% of respondents said no cancellations should occur, only 19% of adults between 18 and 34 years old maintain such a position.
Meanwhile, the most recent edition of the Harvard Youth Poll shows that Biden’s approval rating among young voters is a meager 41% — constituting an 18% decline since the spring of 2021. Likewise, the poll showed that young Republicans are more likely to vote than their Democrat counterparts in the upcoming midterm elections.