Yesterday, I watched snippets of Joe Biden’s speech at a DNC fundraiser in Maryland. I want to see more of that guy. He was feisty and sharp, delivering jabs and promoting his record. Going into the midterms, Democrats need fighting Joe Biden. His performance conflicted sharply with GOP portrayals of Biden as senile and frail. He looked ready for a fight to me. They need to put him on the road. 

Biden’s approval ratings are the highest they’ve been in a year. While he’s still underwater, he’s approaching the point where this approval shouldn’t be a big deal in the midterm. Gallop had him at 44%, up from 39%. The change comes on the heals of two months of victories that include passing the Inflation Reduction Act and killing the head of Al Qaeda. And gas prices are continuing to fall. I look forward to the folks at John Locke lauding Biden for bringing them down since they blamed him when they went up. 

Republicans are also suffering from the fallout over the Dobbs decision. One GOP lawmaker in South Carolina realized the harm the fetal heart beat bill is doing to women and publicly rebuked his own vote. Women will clearly suffer and some will likely die because of the extremism of the GOP theocrats. Abortion will probably become a wedge issue that favors Democrats for the foreseeable future and could make a difference in the balance of power in Washington this November.

Now, for the student loan forgiveness program. First, I don’t have a problem with easing the burden of people with student debt. We’ve bailed out banks, car makers, big corporations, small business, you name it, so I don’t mind helping people who were trying to get ahead in life, too. 

That said, I don’t think we did right. The loan forgiveness program should have been part of a larger program to fix our higher education system. Without addressing the causes of the student debt crisis, we’re just waiting for the next loan forgiveness program. 

As one writer notes, “Young Americans of modest means can no longer afford to attend their state university by getting a part-time job and taking out a small loan. For millions of students, borrowing thousands of dollars has become the key to paying for an undergraduate degree.” We need to make college more affordable. Since the days of Reagan, investments in public higher education have been shrinking. That needs to change.

Additionally, 17% of loans go to for-profit colleges where graduation rates are abysmal. A lot of these institutions, like Trump University, are little more than scams, taking advantage of both people and the system. They are milking the student loan program and leaving working class Americans who intended to better their lives on the hook. It’s disgraceful. 

We need to shift resources into public education, both in the university and community college systems. Community colleges should be free to anyone who wants to get the skills necessary to work in their local economy. That’s both an investment in people and a subtle subsidy to private companies by saving them the cost of training new employees. A well-trained workforce is a vital part of economic development.

We also need to invest heavily in public universities and colleges. I think Republicans in the North Carolina legislature got it half right when they allowed three universities across the state to charge only $500 in tuition. The next step is to invest in recruiting top-tier faculty to those schools. We need a substantial part of our population to have strong critical thinking skills to lead us into the future. Universities provide that knowledge and those skills. 

As for the political fallout, I’m a bit concerned about blowback but I also think it’s probably overstated. The GOP is gearing up to use it as a wedge issue, banking that it will anger non-college educated folks. However, a lot of those non-college educated people over fifty have watched their children struggle under debt and are likely glad to see them get a bit of relief. Still, it’s another tool to fire up the base for the party of resentment. 

I’m more skeptical that it will drive turnout among young people. Most of them won’t have their debts canceled before election day and I don’t think people vote to say, “Thanks!” It will do more to keep the Democratic base in line than to increase turnout. That said, it will keep turnout from being depressed since it shows Biden and the Democrats are delivering for them. 

Overall, the news for Democrats keeps getting better and they appear to be going on the offensive. Biden looked fiery on the stump yesterday and is heading to Ohio next. The GOP got their wish and overturned Roe v. Wade and now they have to live with it. The student loan forgiveness program is a bit risky politically, but I’m betting it doesn’t mute Democratic momentum much. Had the GOP not passed a tax bill that was a huge windfall for the rich, they might have more success in blasting it. As Republicans come out against the program, the Biden administration is hitting back, pointing out how much GOP Members of Congress got from the PPP loan forgiveness program under COVID. Keep it up.

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