Florida mayor Wayne Messam, who launched an exploratory committee for a very long shot presidential campaign this week, plans to use his campaign to push a proposal to cancel the more than $1.5 trillion in student debt accrued by Americans.
“The mayor firmly believes you cannot just move to debt-free college when student loan debt is stifling the American dream today,” a close aide to the mayor told BuzzFeed News. “We’re declaring it as an issue that threatens the economic security of this country. We don’t have to walk into another Great Recession.”
Nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates have expressed support for some form of debt-free or tuition-free college, but none have gone as far as Messam in calling for canceling the debt owed by 44 million Americans.
Messam, 44, won reelection this week as the mostly ceremonial mayor of Miramar, a South Florida city of 140,000.
His presidential team didn’t immediately provide details on what the policy implementation would look like, but they’re confident voters would get behind a policy along the lines of Messam’s broader implications.
In 2018, former representative Jared Polis introduced the Students Over Special Interests Act, which would have canceled the entire student debt balance and would have paid for it by reversing the 2017 Republican tax cuts and using the money to pay the balance of student loans. The legislation was sponsored by 19 House Democrats.
In a national survey conducted by YouGov Blue and commissioned by Data for Progress — a progressive think tank — 41% of Americans said that they supported the policy when asked “Would you support or oppose reversing the tax cuts recently passed by Congressional Republicans and signed by President Trump, and using any proceeds to cancel outstanding student debt?”
In the 2018 midterms, progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kerri Evelyn Harris ran on the idea of canceling student loan debt, and activists have worked to push the Overton window on the idea to change what politicians deem fiscally possible.
An aide to Messam’s campaign said he plans to focus heavily on the issue as he explores his presidential bid.
“We must resolve the 1.5 trillion in student loan debt and give Americans a chance at the American Dream,” the aide said, explaining Messam’s thinking on the issue. “Americans struggling to make ends meet should be the priority.”