Sanders Steps Up: Wall Street Taxes to Fund Free Community College

Progressive leaders Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal are taking steps to overhaul the higher education landscape in America. In a thrilling move this Wednesday, Sanders, the Chair of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), along with Representative Jayapal, are reintroducing their proposal to make public higher education free for most Americans. They plan to fund this ambitious venture by — you guessed it — taxing Wall Street.

Their plan, the College for All Act of 2023, aligns with Sanders’s long-standing goal of free public college for all. It promises tuition-free community college and public vocational schools for all students. Furthermore, it offers free public college and university education for students from single-parent households earning less than $125,000 or couples earning under $250,000. That’s a game-changer for a significant chunk of families in the U.S.

The bill aims to level the playing field by increasing federal funding for universities serving non-white communities, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It also plans to double the Pell Grant for students at public or nonprofit private colleges from $7,395 to an impressive $14,790.

Our lawmakers are suggesting this bill would be the most significant expansion of access to higher education since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Higher Education Act back in 1965. Not only will it widen the doors to college access, but it also promises to chip away at the student debt crisis crippling our young population.

Sanders, known for his conviction in advocating for the working class, stated, “Today, this country tells young people to get the best education they can, and then saddles them for decades with crushing student loan debt… That does not make any sense whatsoever. The time is long overdue to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free for working families.”

The Debt Collective, a debt activist group, voiced its support, calling this the only viable solution to the student debt crisis. They urge members of Congress to address the root cause and eliminate tuition and debt.

But how are we going to pay for this? Sanders and Representative Barbara Lee have covered that, proposing several new taxes on Wall Street. Their Tax on Wall Street Speculation bill suggests a 0.5% tax on stock trades, a 0.1% tax on bonds, and a minuscule 0.005% tax on trades on derivatives and other assets.

In terms of impact, this tax will primarily affect the wealthiest, most frequent traders, while barely touching the average working-class investor. It’s projected to raise a whopping $220 billion in the first year and over $2.4 trillion over a decade. The proposal has garnered the support of numerous progressive organizations and a broad spectrum of economists.

In Sanders’s words, “Let us never forget: Back in 2008, middle-class taxpayers bailed out Wall Street speculators whose greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, life savings, and ability to send their kids to college… Now giant financial institutions are back to making record-breaking profits. At the same time, millions of Americans struggle to pay rent and feed their families; it is Wall Street’s turn to rebuild the middle class by paying a modest financial transactions tax.”

This move is a classic Sanders gambit, shifting the burden from the struggling middle class to the wealthy few who can afford it. It’s about time Wall Street pays its due for the prosperity of the American people.