President Biden’s relatively restrained decision on student debt forgiveness is evoking predictable howls from rightwing and austerity promoting critics. So far, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s condemnation of Biden’s executive action as “student debt socialism” is my favorite. It’s pretty much just what you’d expect from a top leader in a party committed to minority rule.
But Mitch and his fellow red-baiters better watch out: A majority of young Americans (and, I suspect and certainly hope, a majority of social workers as well) do not see socialism as such a bad thing. On the other hand, they do see a system that generates hideous levels of inequality, that will not provide a decent social safety net for its people, and seems hellbent on ecological suicide, as more than a little troubling.
If Biden and the rest of the Democratic party leadership is smart (hardly a given, by any means), they’ll turn the torrent of criticism into a FDR moment. Facing strong rightwing attacks on New Deal policies, and opposition to his candidacy for a second term, President Roosevelt told an enthusiastic 1936 Madison Square Garden audience that his detractors were familiar enemies – “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, [and] war profiteering.” In one of the best one-liners in the history of American political oratory, FDR proclaimed: “They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.”
If the likes of Mitch McConnell, Betsy DeVos, and inflation hawk Lawrence Summers hate what you’re doing, it almost certainly means you’re on the right track.