Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are those of the writer.
With the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries looming, it occurs to me — with my massive student debt — that aside from the impossible hope that we could be okay as a planet and as a human species, I could possibly be out of debt if Bernie wins. Much to my shame as a Muslim, and along with 45 million other Americans, I am deeply troubled by my massive student loan debt. Of course, riba as a problem is unavoidable in the U.S. in 2020. The dollar bill itself is riba due to the fact that paper money is, by definition, riba. To put it simply, paper money has no value and it is against Islamic law to trade something valueless for something of value, so buying a cup of coffee and tipping a dollar is a serious sin according to traditional Islamic understandings of financial transactions.
So What’s This Election About?
The upcoming election will, in many ways, be a referendum on two things: the economy and the environment. In terms of the economy, many think Trump is in a good position because we notoriously condescend to each other about our collective understanding of everything. In the U.S., we see our national debt as a problem and Trump has significantly increased that debt. In my opinion, here’s a simple way to understand the U.S.’ debt: If I take out a 20,000 dollar loan, woohoo, I’ve got money to buy nice dinners and shoes, but whoa it’s a problem when the credit card gets maxed out and the bill sets in. That’s the economic situation we have with Trump. The government, not surprisingly, raised the debt limit under Trump until after the 2020 election. The assumption here is that we, as citizens of the U.S., will be fooled into a false sense of prosperity so the Republicans can claim success, and no one panics. When reality sets in, it could get heinously ugly.
Forbes reports, “Despite that, the deficit has continued to expand under Trump, primarily due to a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill and spending packages that have not been balanced by spending cuts.”
Trump cut $1.5 trillion from the Federal income by cutting taxes on corporations. Pew Research reports: “The federal government’s total debt stands at $22.023 trillion as of the end of June, according to the Treasury Department’s monthly reckoning. Of this amount, nearly $22 trillion is subject to the statutory debt ceiling, leaving just $25 million in unused debt capacity.”
So what Trump has done is make the wealthy, wealthier. What does this mean for the average U.S. citizen? While we are awash in debt, working like crazy, Trump abandoned us and helped the billionaires. Call me a bourgeois pig if you will, but I’m not against helping billionaires. The problem is the logic that forgiving our student loan debt is irresponsible because we don’t believe in “giveaways” and “handouts.”
Show Me the Money
In case you weren’t aware, Bernie announced in 2019 that he intended to forgive all student loan debt. His plan would cost 1.6 trillion dollars. This is almost exactly the same as the amount that Trump cut in corporate taxes. Additionally, according to a report by the Levy Institute, “Recent research has found forgiving student loan debt would raise Gross Domestic Product, add more than one million jobs and increase small business formation and homeownership rates.”
It is additionally heinous that Trump has effectively ended public service loan forgiveness which allowed an out for many people who believed that a career in public service would be sufficient to get out of debt. Not so any longer due to Trump’s administration. I had three years of service erased out of the system due to the form that I had filed being outdated. How was the form being outdated relevant to anyone but someone who wanted to keep us in debt? And how can the forms possibly expire when the program takes 10 years?
Where Do Our Priorities Lie?
We as a country need to reasonably assess what our priorities are, and how we are going to get there. Is student debt forgivable, and can we wipe it out and significantly help a lot of people? We need a vision for where we want to go, and we need to back those goals up with a plan for action. It has occurred to me that Obama won on a platform of hope and change. Where is that dream that we had when we elected Obama? What if there is hope for us as a country?
Bernie’s plans represent impossible hope, an impossible future. But we are Muslims; we are a people of impossible hope. When Ibrahim (AS) was thrown in the fire, it was impossible for him to survive, but he escaped unharmed. It was impossible for a virgin to have a baby, but Mariam gave birth to Isa (AS). Musa (AS) told God that Pharaoh would never listen to him because he was a murderer with a speech impediment, but God said that was the plan. The Quran tells us that we as believers are so often shaken to the point of wondering when Allah’s help will come. But Allah’s help does come, and Allah will rescue us, even in impossible circumstances.
I have been saying for some time that the “Occupy” movement is a critical conceptual moment for us as people. We, the majority, believe that there is a way to make a better world. The energy of “Occupy,” the energy of all the movements we’ve had, the whole awakening of consciousness we are experiencing is building up to manifest a better world. Bernie represents this hope, this possibility, and this revolution.
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