By Adam Kimelman
Two of the most prominent issues facing the United States are rising student debt and the viability Social Security.
Total student debt has risen to $1.4 trillion, with each student owing $37,172 on average, which continues to swamp recent graduates today. Simultaneously, with the baby-boomer generation beginning to retire, Social Security is becoming more expensive, and is projected to have $32 trillion in unfunded liabilities over the next 75 years.
With an innovative, out-of-the-box idea, Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA), who is still paying off student loan debt himself, has a solution to help fix these two problems: The Student Security Act.
The Student Security Act would allow those with student debt the choice to receive $550 in student loan debt relief for every one month that they delay receiving Social Security payments. A student could get the maximum amount of debt relief of $40,150, and they would need to delay benefits for six years and one month in order to receive that amount. A recent poll of millennials shows that many would go to extraordinary lengths in order to pay off their student debt, with half saying they would give up their right to vote, 27 percent saying they would move back in with their parents for five years, and 13.2 percent saying they would give up texting and mobiling messaging for a year.
With many students willing to go to drastic measures in order to get rid of their student debt, would it not make sense to give them the option to defer their Social Security benefits in order to pay off their student loans?
The student loan crisis simply cannot go unanswered. With so many students carrying such an incredible amount of debt after graduation, the very citizens who could be making extraordinary improvements to society are instead struggling to make monthly payments on their student debt. These students should be taking risks as entrepreneurs starting businesses, investing in our economy, buying homes, and traveling across our nation and the world in order to experience different cultures instead of being crushed by student loan debt. America’s smartest and most promising students are being forced to limit their potential because of student loan debt.
At the same time, there is a need to reform Social Security if there is any hope of our generation actually receiving Social Security payments. According to the Social Security Administration’s analysis of the bill, the savings incurred by the Social Security Act would cover 11 percent of the current shortfall needed to make Social Security solvent. This one bill will not be the silver bullet that solves all of Social Security’s problems, but it would be a substantial step in bridging the funding shortfall.
As Congress sets its legislative priorities for this year, Republicans have an opportunity to address issues that burden many millennials. College students are currently distancing themselves from the Republican Party, and in 2017 voted overwhelmingly for the Democrat and Governor-Elect Ralph Northam in the race for Virginia’s Governor. As a college student, I know for a fact that many of them feel as if the Republican Party does not care about them or their problems. By making the Social Security Act a legislative priority, Republicans have the opportunity to show college students that they are devising innovative ways to improve their situations.
In short: Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican Party would be wise to make passing the Student Security Act a priority for this year.
Correction: An earlier version called the bill the “Social Security Act.” We regret the error.