President Obama signs executive order to help Americans pay off student loan debt
On Monday President Obama signed an executive order to provide relief to students overburdened by student loan debt. The president said the purpose of the executive order were threefold.
“Number one, I’m directing our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to give more Americans who are already making their loan payments a chance to cap those payments at 10 percent of their income. We call it “Pay As You Earn,” President Obama said. “… The second action is to renegotiate contracts with private companies like Sallie Mae that service our student loans. … Number three -- we’re doing more to help every borrower know all the options that are out there, so that they can pick the one that’s right for them.”
President Obama said while his executive order will help, Congress is needed to make more progress. He said he does not understand why Americans are not more outraged than they are. It is then that the president got visibly upset and annoyed. He said the following.
I don’t know, by the way, why folks aren’t more outraged about this. I’m going to take a pause out of my prepared text. You would think that if somebody like me has done really well in part because the country has invested in them, that they wouldn’t mind at least paying the same rate as a teacher or a nurse. There’s not a good economic argument for it, that they should pay a lower rate. It’s just clout, that’s all. So it’s bad enough that that’s already happening. It would be scandalous if we allowed those kinds of tax loopholes for the very, very fortunate to survive while students are having trouble just getting started in their lives.
So you’ve got a pretty straightforward bill here. And this week, Congress will vote on that bill. And I want Americans to pay attention to see where their lawmakers’ priorities lie here: lower tax bills for millionaires, or lower student loan bills for the middle class.
This should be a no-brainer. You’ve got a group of far-right Republicans in Congress who push this trickle-down economic plan, telling hard-working students and families, “You’re on your own.” Two years ago, Republicans in Congress nearly let student loan interest rates double for 7 million young people. Last year, they tried to strip protections from lower-income students. This year, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to slash Pell grants and make it harder for thousands of families to afford college. If you’re a big oil company, they’ll go to bat for you. If you’re a student, good luck.
Some of these Republicans in Congress seem to believe that it’s just because -- that just because some of the young people behind me need some help, that they’re not trying hard enough. They don’t get it. Maybe they need to talk to Andy. These students worked hard to get where they are today.
I’ve been in politics long enough to hear plenty of people, from both parties, pay lip service to the next generation, and then they abandon them when it counts. And we, the voters, let it happen. This is something that should be really straightforward, just like the minimum wage should be straightforward, just like equal pay for equal work should be straightforward. And one of the things I want all the voters out there to consider, particularly parents who are struggling trying to figure out how am I going to pay my kid’s college education, take a look and see who is that’s fighting for you and your kids, and who is it that’s not. Because if there are no consequences, then this kind of irresponsible behavior continues on the part of members of Congress.
So I ran for this office to help more young people go to college, graduate, and pay off their debt. And we’ve made some really good progress despite the best efforts of some in Congress to block that progress. Think about how much more we could do if they were not standing in the way.
This week, they have a chance to help millions of young people. I hope they do. You should let them know you are watching and paying attention to what they do. If they do not look out for you, and then throw up a whole bunch of arguments that are meant to obfuscate -- meaning confuse, rather than to clarify and illuminate -- (laughter) -- then you should call them to account. And in the meantime, I’m going to take these actions today on behalf of all these young people here, and every striving young American who shares my belief that this is a place where you can still make it if you try.
If this is not a call to arms, arms being the vote, then what is? Political involvement should be a requirement for citizenship. The vote is a major part of political involvement.