In a third-party debate night hosted by Russia Today on Tuesday night Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein absurdly called for a bailout of all federal student loans and free tuition for college students.
Stein claimed students shackled by debt are unable to participate fully in the economy, using the term “indentured servants” to describe the dire straits in which many college graduates loaded down with student debt have found themselves.
“Every generation, the economy needs to be rebooted by fresh imaginations and by the fresh genius of a new generation,” Stein said. “That doesn’t happen when a generation is locked into being indentured servants. That’s what our students are now. We need to bail them out and create free public higher education.”
Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson said he agreed with Stein, though he stopped short of calling for “free” higher education.
“We cannot afford not to provide a great education and equality of opportunity for all of our young people in this country,” Anderson said. “We need to insist on prosperity, not austerity.”
Anderson’s statements seemed to echo Vice President Joe Biden’s comments in a speech made in July of 2009: “You’re telling me we have to spend more money to keep us from going bankrupt? The answer is yeah, that’s what I’m telling ya.”
Those enslaved by debt hold the key to their release, according to Stein. Stein also urged disaffected student voters to surge to the polls on November 6 and vote for free higher education.
“There’s a famous saying from Alice Walker: The biggest way people give up their power is by not knowing we have it to start with. In fact, there are 90 million voters who are not coming out to vote in this election,” she said. “I want to focus especially on those 36 million students, and young people, and recent graduates who are effectively indentured servants because of the high unemployment rate, and the draconian, unforgiving loans that have been customized especially for students lacking any consumer protections.
“If those students decided to stand up, and come out to the polls, and come out and vote for free public higher education, for ending students debt, for bailing out the students and breaking up the banks instead of the other way around, which is what they are doing, we could turn politics in this country on its head on November 6.”
The bailout funds would not appear out of nowhere — as Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson alluded to, the Federal Reserve would have to print the money, further reducing the value of our currency, or the government would have to borrow it, increasing our debt, or it could raise taxes dramatically.
Johnson countered Stein and Anderson, explaining that bailouts don’t appear out of thin air. Nothing in life is “free.”
“Free comes with a cost,” Johnson countered. “Free is simply spending more money than what you take in. Free is simply accumulating more to the 16 trillion dollars in debt that we currently already have. Free has gotten us to the point where we will experience a monetary collapse in this country due to the fact that we continue to borrow and print more money than we take in.”
If voters did heed Stein’s words and voted themselves a “get out of debt free” card, the government would find itself footing the bill for over $914 billion in student loan debt, adding to its $16 trillion in current debt.
Many Americans would agree that our higher education system needs reforming and neither President Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney have put forth realistic plans to make college more affordable for young people. While Stein’s call to spread the burden of college debt amongst all taxpayers is a foolish proposition, her candidacy — and the other third party candidates’– illustrates a deep discontent with politics as usual in America and the not so pretty underside of populist frustration with the faltering economy. Unfortunately, the problem of creating equal opportunities for young Americans to attend college without creating yet another unsustainable entitlement system likely won’t be solved with this year’s election.