I don’t always agree with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I often find her to be inauthentic or misguided. Sometimes she’s downright annoying. But AOC and I are fully aligned respecting the student loan crisis.
AOC States Her Position on Student Debt and Those Who Already Paid Theirs Off
When asked over Instagram how canceling student debt benefits borrowers who already paid off their student loans, AOC answered: “Maybe student loan forgiveness doesn’t impact you. That doesn’t make it bad. I am sure there are certainly other things that student loan borrowers’ taxes pay for that you benefit from. We can do good things and reject the scarcity mindset that says doing something good for someone else comes at the cost of something for ourselves.”
That’s exactly right. This – this being our country – is a collective endeavor after all. “People with apartments pay for first-time homeowner benefits,” AOC continued, “young people contribute to Medicare for our seniors. People who take public transit pay for car infrastructure.”
Ted Cruz and his Trumpist Views Counters AOC
AOC’s loan forgiveness defense is matched against an onslaught of GOP criticism. Ted Cruz, for example, decreasingly serious as he strives for Trump-style shock value, is on the offensive. Cruz’s recent comments criticizing student loans even make reference to AOC, the one-time bartender.
“If you are that slacker barista who wasted seven years in college studying completely useless things, now has loans and can’t get a job – Joe Biden just gave you 20 grand. Like, holy cow! 20 grand. You know, maybe you weren’t gonna vote in November. And suddenly you just got 20 grand,” Cruz said. “If you can get off the bong for a minute and head down to the voting station, or just send in your mail-in ballot that the Democrats have helpfully sent you – it could drive up turnout, particularly among young people.”
Cruz’s statement is an attempt at the ‘tell-it-like-it-is-real-talk’ that Trump popularized. But Cruz, who holds degrees from Princeton and Harvard, is missing the point. First of all, working as a barista, or in the service industry, is usually a grind, guaranteed to weed out true slackers. And as the COVID pandemic demonstrated, the service industry is vital to our economy – and to our expectations of what our daily lives look like.
Cruz’s comments, deriding service workers, offers insight into how Cruz, and his GOP peers, actually view the working class – the constituents the GOP professes to care most for. Cruz’s comments aren’t out of character. They fit. You gotta remember, this is the guy who, while at Harvard Law School, wouldn’t allow anyone in his study group who didn’t attend either Harvard, Yale, or Princeton for undergrad.
Second of all, Cruz neglects to point out that his hypothetical ‘slacker barista’ may not be able to get a (different, higher-paying) job for reasons beyond his or her control. Like, the economy. Like, the job market. Times have changed. While Cruz, who studied public policy during the 80s and 90s, sneers at people for studying “useless things,” he might be surprised to find the job market for a contemporary public policy major rather constricted.
Lastly, Cruz whines about the slacker barista being motivated to vote on account of having student loans forgiven. Bingo, Ted. Constituents vote for their interests. Politicians who help constituents’ interests often experience political benefits. Some politicians even craft policy with their constituents’ interests in mind, knowing there will be a political benefit. That the notion perplexes Cruz and invites his scorn, again offers insights into the mindset of a modern politician.
I digress. AOC, despite her frequent silliness, understands what Cruz does not. Student loan forgiveness is the right thing to do. Actually, AOC is pushing for more loan forgiveness, bless her heart. Whereas many Democrats are content with Biden’s $10k gift, AOC properly appreciates that $10k per borrower doesn’t really accomplish that much.
“It is up to us, and to you, to decide if we are going to stop here, or if we are going to keep pushing,” AOC said. “I am very grateful for this watershed moment for a first step – it is so encouraging, thrilling, and has already changed SO many people’s lives. But I am also thinking about how this still leaves a question mark for those in the highest amounts of debt, who need the most amount of help. So let’s celebrate and keep going.”
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.