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Ilhan Omar Wants to Transfer Wealth -- But to Whom?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is proposing that the federal government transfer a massive amount of wealth to a class of Americans she perceives to be exploited and descending into desperation.


On Tuesday, she tweeted a video that featured her discussing the issue at a press conference she held last year with socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

"I stand before you on behalf of 45 million Americans," Omar says in the video.

Who are they?

"Forty-five million people who feel they can't purchase their first home," she says. "Forty-five million people who feel like they can't start a family."

"Forty-five million," she says, "who are wondering if they can retire because of the loans they took out for themselves or on behalf of their children.

"They are the debt generation," she says.

Specifically, Omar explains, these are people who took out student loans to attend college or send their children to college.

"What my bill does is simple as it is revolutionary as Senator Sanders says," said Omar, referring to her Student Debt Cancellation Act. "It cancels all of $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. No exceptions, no questions asked, full cancellation."

In her Tuesday tweet, Omar said: "If we can afford trillions in tax cuts to corporations, we can cancel student debt."

What are the facts about student loans?

According to the latest numbers published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Student Loan Data System, there were 42.6 million people who owed money on federal student loans as of the second quarter of this fiscal year. They owed a total of $1.5427 trillion.


Thirteen years ago, in 2007, 28.3 million people owed $516 billion.

Since then, the number of people owing money on federal student loans has increased by 14.3 million (or 51%), and the amount owed has increased by $1.0267 trillion (or 199%).

In a Utopian world, no one would need to borrow money to pay for college.

And were our politicians smarter, the federal government would never have created a system that incentivized colleges to charge students more as a means of receiving federal dollars through student loans.

But are students who graduate from college -- even if they need to take out federal student loans to do it -- still getting their money's worth? Yes.

The Census Bureau's Table P-24 lists the median incomes of full-time, year-round workers broken out by their educational attainment. It documents an obvious pattern: More-educated people tend to earn more money.

In 2018, male high school dropouts who worked full time year-round had a median income of $35,602; females, $25,138.

Male high school graduates who never attended college had a median income of $45,579; females, $32,616.

Men with associate degrees had a median income of $56,719; women, $41,485.

Men with bachelor's degrees had a median income of $75,152; women, $56,680.

Men with master's degrees had a median income of $99,616; women, $66,744.


Men with doctorates had a median income of $115,794; women, $95,173.

Men with professional degrees had a median income of $135,438; women, $99,783.

So, the median income of $75,152 that a male with a bachelor's degree earned in 2018 was $29,573 more than the median income of $45,579 earned by a male with only a high school degree.

The $56,680 median income of a female with a bachelor's degree was $24,064 more than the $32,616 median income of a female with only a high school degree.

In February 2019, the Congressional Research Service published an analysis of the students who earned bachelor's degrees in the 2015-16 academic year and who held debt under the student loan programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

"By AY2015-2016," said CRS, "63% (1.3 million) of students earning a bachelor's degree had Title IV loans and owed an average of $28,900."

So, in 2018, a male college graduate earning the median income for his group out-earned a male high school graduate earning the median income by more ($29,573) than the average student loan debt ($28,900) accumulated by the average loan-taking student who had earned a bachelor's degree in 2015-16.

For a female college graduate, the income advantage over a high school graduate ($24,064) equaled 83% of the average student loan debt ($28,900) accumulated by a loan-taking student who earned a bachelor's degree.


These college graduates joined what Omar insists on calling the "debt generation."

But if they took federal student loans and owed the average of $28,900 for their bachelor's degrees, that would be a little less than they would need to borrow to buy a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna minivan.

And based on the median incomes published by the Census Bureau, it is roughly the same as the added income they can eventually make in a year or so over the amount made by their high school classmates who never went to college -- but who work full time to support themselves and pay taxes to a government in which Ilhan Omar now serves.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of

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