Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) shared her two-part plan to combat the student debt crisis Monday night at a CNN town hall event. Warren called for a two-cent wealth tax that would "knock back" 95% of student loan debt.
DENA MILLER, STUDENT, ST. ANSELM COLLEGE: Hi, Senator.
I like so many other students had to take out loans to pay for my education that I will be paying for years. What is your plan to deal with student debt and the rising cost of education?
WARREN: OK, thanks for the question, Dena.
You know, this is the America we live in now. Basically to get a shot at a middle class life, you've got to have some post high school technical training, two-year college, four-year college, maybe graduate school, depending on who you are and what you're ending up doing.
The position of the federal government has been, good luck to you, you're on your own. The one thing they've done is they’ve lent tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, billions of dollars to our students. And it is now crushing them. So, my proposal is to say, this my proposal is to say, this isn't right.
What we have to do as a country is roll back that debt. And so, I have two parts to the proposal. Part one is that we say that we're going to roll back student loan debt for about 95 percent of students who have debt. That's part one.
And part two is to make sure that we never get in this mess again on student loan debt and that is to make college universally available with free tuition and fees, and to put more money into Pell grants so that students of color, so that our poorest students have real access to college and that we put real money into our historically black colleges and universities.
This is about opportunity for everyone.
WARREN: And can we talk about how to pay for it?
COOPER: I was just about to ask for it.
WARREN: Just for a minute, you want to ask?
COOPER: Well, that is the criticism obviously from Republicans who say how you’re going to pay for it, and even from centrist Democrats who say doesn't this feed the narrative that Democrats want to give everything away for free.
WARREN: So, let's remember where this all started. I started several months ago about a wealth tax, an ultra millionaire’s tax. It's 2 cents on every dollar of the great fortunes above $50 million. So, your 50 millionth and first dollar, you’ve got to pay 2 cents and 2 cents on all of the dollars after that.
And here's the stunning part. If we ask the great fortunes in this country, understand, this isn't about trying to be nasty or say you've done anything wrong, what it's about is saying, look, you had a great idea. You got out there. You worked hard or you inherited well, whichever one it was.
WARREN: But now that you've got that great fortune, spend just a minute to remember how you got it. You built that great business or your ancestors did using workers that all of us helped pay to educate. You got your goods to market using roads and bridges that all of us helped pay to build. You are protected in your factories with firefighters and police officers that all of us helped to pay.
And we say, good for you, that you have now gotten this great fortune, but 2 cents. You've got to pay something back so everybody else gets a chance.
And here's how the money works out. If we put that 2 cent wealth tax in place on the 75,000 largest fortunes in this country, 2 cents, we can do universal child care for every baby zero to 5, universal pre-K, universal college and knock back the student loan debt burden for 95 percent of our students and still have nearly a trillion dollars left over.