By Scotty T Reid – Robert Smith is a venture capitalist worth over an estimated 6 billion dollars and along with Trump’s tax cuts for people like him, Smith can well afford to make a tax-deductible gift to pay off the student debt of the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College. The debt of the students is around 34 million dollars and now Mr. Smith is going to make another generous offer to pay off the student debt of the parents of 2019 Morehouse grads.
This certainly sounds like a feel-good story, a billionaire offering to pay off the educational debt of a class of students and their parents, and it is certainly a feel-good story for those on the recieving end of the gift. Smith who is a Black man first announced the gift to the students of HBCU Morehouse and said that “our community” to take care of each other. However, that isn’t exactly true and it is well documented that Black Americans are nearly bankrupt as a group because of the ongoing legacy of slavery and systemic institutional racism. The racial wealth gap between Black Americans and White Americans is huge and there aren’t enough Black Billionaires in the world to bail us out from under massive amounts of debt or to help us close the wealth gap so Mr. Smith is being a bit disingenuous in his assertion. For some reason, there has been a small minority of Black people who believe a myth that Black America has always had everything it needs to succeed and if that were true, there would not be a majority of Black Americans supporting reparations nor in need of student debt.
However, that isn’t the main problem concerning Mr. Smith’s extended offer to the parents of the Morehouse College class of 2019, the problem is that the parents are still trying to pay off their student loan debt. That’s two generations of a family being impacted by the student debt crisis who graduated without any employment guarantees and if they are lucky enough to find something in their field of study, a sizeable portion of their income will be tied up for decades and that’s the main problem.
The timing of the gift also seems a bit curious when you have two front running candidates running for President (Sanders and Warren) who are pushing a plan to tax Wall Street speculation in order to fund tuition-free public colleges and universities for families making less than 125,000 a year and canceling all student debt and not just the debt of a few hundred lucky students and their parents.
The tax on Wall Street speculation would impact venture capitalist firms like that of Robert Smiths. Students who would choose to still attend private universities would benefit from reduced interest rates and the federal government would be prohibited from profiting off student loans. Pell grants for prisoners who want to get an education behind bars would be restored after prisoners were cut off from getting the education grants by Joe Biden’s crime bill.
The College For All Act would also benefit historically black colleges and universities that are non-profit institutions.
It would establish a dedicated grant program to eliminate or significantly reduce tuition and fees for low-income students at nonprofit historically black colleges and universities and private nonprofit minority serving institutions.
Mr. Smith’s gesture is nice and well received by those who will benefit but it is not a solution that is needed when US students are at a disadvantage globally when Germany, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden already provide a tuition-free public college education to their citizens.
Where Smith stands on the College For All Act isn’t apparent. His political donations are spread out over the years to Republicans and the corporate wing of the Democratic party, He has given money to both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It would be worthwhile to get Mr. Smith on record about legislation that would help up to 80% of families in the United States who would not have to have billionaires coming to the rescue because the billionaire would already be paying for it with a modest tax on the type of wall street speculation that nearly crashed the global economy leading to a massive US taxpayer-funded bailout of the capital criminals of wall street.
Bernie Sanders: “A very kind gentleman, a billionaire, forgave the debts of students at Morehouse. What he did was very generous, but the truth is that private charity alone is not going to solve a problem in which some 40 million Americans are struggling with right now.” pic.twitter.com/4Ehq3sjiJ2
— The Hill (@thehill) May 20, 2019