People are not truly free when they are unable to buy a home, start a family or pursue the career they want because they owe tens of thousands of dollars for the crime of getting an education.
This is why, as part of my proposal for a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights, I have this week introduced legislation to free generations of Americans by canceling the $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.
Today, the average college senior graduates with about $30,000 in student debt, and one out of six seniors will graduate with over $50,000 in debt. The situation is even worse for African-American and Latino families. Many students drop out of college because of the cost after accumulating significant debt and don't even have a degree to show for their efforts.
Under the legislation that I introduced with Reps. Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we will cancel the $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt; 73% of this initiative's benefits will go to Americans with incomes of less than $127,000 a year.
Our plan would add an estimated $1 trillion to our economy over the next decade, create up to 1.5 million jobs a year, and significantly close the racial and gender wealth gaps. And it would be all paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation, similar to what exists in dozens of other countries.
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Some may say this is unaffordable. But let's not forget: A decade ago, our government provided trillions of dollars of virtually zero interest loans and capital infusions to Wall Street, after the banks' recklessness and illegal behavior drove us into the worst recession in modern history.
Wall Street can now afford to provide a mere fraction of that to free millions of our people from educational debt - and guarantee all Americans a right to the education they need to compete in today's global economy. In other words, the middle class bailed out Wall Street 10 years ago. Now it's Wall Street's turn to pay back the middle class and help us create an economy that works for all Americans, not just those on top.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bernie Sanders: Free Americans by canceling $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt