You almost have to hand it over to Marco Rubio. It takes a very special kind of politically insane brain to properly identify two unique American atrocities – obscene student loan debt and domestic mass terrorist shootings – and think, “Hm, but what if I somehow combine them?”
This week Rubio reintroduced its Student Loan Deferral Act for Terrorism Survivors, a law that would give the Department of Education the power to defer student loan payments for a year – a full year! – Anyone who “has been identified as a victim of a terrorist attack by the head of the federal agency investigating the attack”.
“We should do everything in our power to help survivors of a terrorist attack get their lives back on track,” said Rubio in a statement announcing the reintroduction of the measure he originally proposed in 2016? On the surface, it all sounds … good, I guess. Or at least not actively bad. But here is the example Rubio gives elsewhere in his statement:
While survivors may be entitled to relief after a terrorist attack such as the 2016 tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the extreme nature of their circumstance is not automatically recognized.
There are a number of unassailable facts about this event that make Rubio’s invocation particularly ironic. The Pulse nightclub shooting marks the second deadliest mass shooting in United States history, all of whose guns have been legally purchased, despite an earlier FBI investigation into the person responsible. And while Rubio has supported lukewarm “red flag” gun laws that would restrict gun ownership for those believed to be a potential danger, he was also excited to take more money from the NRA than any other politician in Florida, and made gun ownership a tent pole issue during its 2016 presidential campaign. And perhaps more importantly, Rubio was a staunch opponent of the kind of gun laws that helped prevent the 2014 mass murder in Isla Vista, California, for example , as it turned out, as a terrorist attack by. was designated the International Center for Counter Terrorism in The Hague.
Rubio’s Student Forbearance Act, while not bad in itself, is essentially a patch on a ball – especially when you consider the size and scale of the country’s student debt crisis. In fact, Rubio was only able to pay off his student loan debt with the proceeds from his 2015 book American Dreams.
With that in mind, a year-long student loan delay is nice. It sure won’t hurt. But for survivors of terrorism – and particularly the terrorism most endemic to the United States: gun violence – Rubio’s plan is both depressingly limited and frustratingly backward. By combining two relatively independent issues, Rubio ultimately only deals with a symptom and not a cause of the trauma faced by those who have experienced violence.
That’s fine, I think, if a little cynical. But let’s not confuse this with an actual solution.