Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
I was watching the State of the Union Address (SOTU) with the intention of recapping a few highlights from President Biden’s speech. But early in the primetime broadcast, I got fixated on one thing that Joe Biden said and something he didn’t mention that kind of pissed me off. He said nothing about student loan debt.
Biden’s first SOTU address began with the war between Ukraine and Russia. He immediately condemned Putin, while applauding Ukraine’s resistance efforts and President Zolensky’s bravery. He reiterated the United States’ solidarity with the battle’s underdog. As a show of that solidarity, Joe said, “We’ve given more than one billion dollars in direct assistance to Ukraine.”
He said it so casually and almost boisterously, as if one billion dollars was pocket change.
Right there is when my face got tighter than Mitch McConnell’s. I didn’t hear anything else for at least a minute.
I screamed at my TV, “What about our student loan forgiveness, Joe!?”
Now, I know that the United States is going to do what we do in standing with our NATO allies against NATO enemies–-especially if those enemies are bullying other countries. But to learn that we have a billion dollars on hand to give to another country while American citizens–particularly those of us with steep college debt–are struggling financially was flabbergasting.
But, I chilled out and kept listening, thinking he’d get to student loan debt and forgiveness.
Biden silent on student loan debt at SOTU
He went on about the burdens of record-high inflation, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and extending the Child Tax Credit. He boasted how he made good on his promise to nominate a Black woman – Kentanju Brown Jackson – for the Supreme Court. As an added bonus, he’s positioning another sister–Lisa Cook– for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
A glimmer of hope came when he mentioned increasing support for HBCUs and community colleges. But that hope came and left quickly.
In the one hour and two minutes Moneybagg Joe spoke, but he said nothing about student loan debt or forgiveness.
At this point, I’m offended. I feel like Joe owes me money and he’s that person on social media showing off their spending while dodging my debt collection calls.
When I was growing up, my mother used to talk about the struggles of what I would call the invisible class.
America’s socioeconomic hierarchy is the upper, upper-middle, middle, working and lower classes. The invisible class I’m speaking of exists somewhere between the working and middle classes. Depending on family size, you make too much money to qualify for government assistance but not quite enough to live comfortably. One financial setback can have you living paycheck to paycheck.
That’s where she was and that’s where I am. The big difference is, I owe over six figures in student loan debt that, if I ever plan to pay back, would surely put me in financial hardship.
Crippling debt should be forgiven
All of my adult career has been in public service where salaries are low and turnover is high. After graduating from graduate school, I was told that my monthly student loan payments would be $700. That was how much I paid in rent each month and my salary was a little under $40k annually working as the manager of a youth after school program.
Public service loan forgiveness has been damn near impossible to access and navigate. And there are horror stories of people making payments for PSLF to have some small technicality disqualify them during the process. Ultimately, I made a decision not to ever pay mine back. Call it reparations.
But when Joseph Robinette Biden was campaigning for the position of commander in chief and standing tall on the student loan forgiveness soapbox, we were here for it.
Over a year later, those of us in the invisible class are still here for it but with less hope after being sold empty promises. We need student loan relief–make that part of your American Rescue Plan too, Mr. Biden.