Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a billionaire heiress and charter school advocate with no public education experience, has not-so-quietly been waging war against students on behalf of the for-profit education industry. Under her leadership, the Department of Education has attempted to undermine debt forgiveness for public service workers, forced scammed students to pay back loans for worthless degrees, and, in a move that got her on the wrong side of a federal judge, garnished wages and seized tax returns of more than 1,800 former students.
Now, DeVos's pro-usury agenda faces opposition from an unexpected source: A. Wayne Johnson, one of her own appointees. In 2017, DeVos named him chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, meaning that he oversaw Americans' entire $1.5 trillion in student debt load, and after seven months, he became chief strategy and transformation officer. Before joining the administration, he worked in banking and started a private student loan firm in 2013, so on paper he seems unlikely to break with DeVos. His experience with the Department of Education changed that.
Johnson is now resigning, according to the Wall Street Journal, and calling for mass student debt forgiveness. "We run through the process of putting this debt burden on somebody…but it rides on their credit files—it rides on their back—for decades," he told the Journal, adding, "The time has come for us to end and stop the insanity."
To achieve this, Johnson proposes cancelling up to $50,000 for anyone with federal student-loan debt with a one percent tax on corporate earnings, which would total an estimated $925 billion and would fully wipe out the balances 37 million of the 44.7 million borrowers in the country. He also told the Journal that he's now considering a long-shot bid to replace Republican senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who plans to retire this year.
Johnson says that his firsthand experience looking at student debt trends convinced him that the current system is unsustainable and economically disastrous, and based on repayment trends he claims its unlikely that most of the $1.5 trillion will ever be repaid. The Trump administration has even taken the unusual step of hiring the consulting firm McKinsey to help assess whether or not to sell off some of the debt that the government owns. According to government data, 11 percent of borrowers default within three years of taking out a student loan, and unlike every single other form of debt, borrowers can't discharge student loan debt through bankruptcy.
Fighting the student debt crisis is a major issue among Democratic presidential candidates. Elizabeth Warren proposed a plan to cancel $50,000 in debt for every person making less than $100,000 a year, and Bernie Sanders also released a policy to wipe out all student debt with a tax on Wall Street. Even Ivanka Trump weighed in, suggesting that we just make student loans harder to get.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 41 percent of Americans support "immediately canceling and forgiving all current student-loan debt," though there was a sharp divide between likely Republican and Democratic voters. But one person adamantly opposed to debt forgiveness is DeVos herself. Talking to Fox News's Brett Baier last week, she dismissed Sanders's and Warren's plans as unrealistic.
"Their proposals are crazy," she told Baier. "Who do they think is actually going to pay for these? It's going to be two of the three Americans that aren't going to college paying for the one out of three that do." That's standard misdirection conservatives use when talking about taxes though. In reality, Warren, Sanders, and even DeVos's now-former appointee are calling to forgive student debt using taxes on corporations and extremely high-income earners. In other words, the people paying for it would likely be in DeVos's tax bracket. Not that it should be too burdensome: Since billionaires are now paying a lower income tax than lower wage workers for the first time in history.
On March 15, when a white supremacist livestreamed his mass shootings of a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, a country with one of the world's lowest gun homicide rates was stunned to silence. But only momentarily. The deaths of 51 New Zealanders, mostly Muslim immigrants, would not be met with a tepid countermeasure but a swift, clear response. Sean Flynn reports from Christchurch about the day of the massacre—and the days that followed.
Originally Appeared on GQ