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Sen. Grassley says student loan debt helps people ‘appreciate’ their education ‘a little more’

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Sen. Chuck Grassley at the Night of the Rising Stars in Des Moines. April 2, 2011. — Gage Skidmore

Sen. Chuck Grassley thinks people won’t fully appreciate their college educations if the federal government eliminates student loan debt, Radio Iowa reported on Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of debt that’s freely taken because people choose to do it, people choose to go to college,” Grassley said, while criticizing Sen. Bernie Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt. “I think we all understand that you probably appreciate a little more your education if you’ve got some skin in the game.”

Sanders unveiled a proposal on Monday that would eliminate all student loan debt — including loans taken out to attend graduate school and private universities — and would make public colleges and universities tuition-free.

According to Grassley, a major problem with the student loan debt system is that students are being irresponsible when taking out loans to finance their education.

“The federal government is encouraging people to get in debt by a law that says you have to tell kids the maximum amount they can borrow, so presumably, they do,” Iowa’s senior senator said.

Grassley feels eliminating that information would help solve the problem.

“My ‘Know Before You Owe’ bill would do away with that requirement,” he explained.

Under Grassley’s bill, which he introduced in July 2017 with co-sponsors Sen. Joni Ernst and then-senator Al Franken, a student would have to request a specific amount for a federal student loan, after being encouraged to borrow as a little as possible.

Grassley has expressed his concerns about people being frivolous with their finances before. In 2017, he said repealing the estate tax was a way of rewarding people who invest money instead of “spending every darn penny they have” on “booze or women or movies.”

The estate tax is a 40 percent tax assessed on personal assets and individual bequeaths to others upon one’s death. When Grassley made his comment in 2017, there were standard exemptions of $5.5 million for individuals and $11.1 million for married couples before the tax applied. Those exemptions have been increased, and are now $11.4 million for individuals and $22.8 million for married couples.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” Grassley said in 2017. “The question is one of basic fairness, and working to create a tax code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving and investment.”

Grassley is a millionaire, but not wealthy enough to personally be affected by the estate tax. Using information from congressional financial disclosures, Roll Call estimated Grassley’s net worth at $1.9 million in 2018. According to Roll Call, Grassley ranked 142nd when it came to the wealth of the 535 members of Congress.

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