NBC Hopes Biden Student Loan Bailout Will Attract Disaffected Youth

April 9th, 2024 12:45 AM

Under normal circumstances, a new student loan bailout program would garner significant evening newscast airtime. But with Eclipsemania ongoing, only NBC Nightly News made time to talk about Biden’s new schemes, and only then as a device with which to segue to the real story: that the youths are extremely dissatisfied with President Joe Biden.

Watch the report in its entirety, as aired on NBC Nightly News on Monday, April 8th, 2024 (click “expand” to view transcript):

LESTER HOLT: And for his part, President Biden was courting young voters whose support for the president is slipping, according to polls. The White House announcing a plan to wipe out student debt for millions more Americans. Gabe Gutierrez is in Wisconsin with more. 

SETH MCCLURE: It felt almost impossible. 

GABE GUTIERREZ: Former public school teacher Seth McCclure had been paying off his student loans for more than 20 years, until $15,000 were forgiven in November. And he's praising the president. 

MCCLURE: Surprise, gratitude. I honestly didn't think it was actually going to happen, and it did. 

GUTIERREZ: He's one of the now 30 million Americans the White House says will have at least some of their federal student debt eliminated. 

JOE BIDEN: Today too many Americans, especially young people, are saddled with unsustainable debts in exchange for a college degree. 

GUTIERREZ: Today's announcement in battleground Wisconsin the largest one yet since the Supreme Court struck down the president's earlier attempt to forgive student loans. The White House is now using a different legal justification. But Republicans say taxpayers who did not go to college or already paid back their loans should not have to bail out the 13% of Americans with federal student debt. 

PROTESTERS: Genocide Joe has got to go! 

GUTIERREZ: The president making the move as he faces mounting outrage from some younger voters over the Israel-Hamas war. 

STUDENT: If Biden is supporting genocide, there is no lesser evil than that. So we won't vote for him. 

GUTIERREZ: In the 2020 NBC News exit poll, candidate Biden led former President Trump by 24 percentage points among voters under 30. But an NBC survey in January had president Biden up by just eight percentage points among that group. Another poll last month showed Mr. Trump ahead by 18 points among voters under 30. 

Are you excited to vote for President Biden? 

HAILEY RUDE: I would personally say no. 

GUTIERREZ: Hailey Rude and Maya Cohn are both sophomores at the University of Wisconsin Madison. 

MAYA COHN: I'm excited to vote for someone that's not Trump. But I wouldn't say that it is -- I'm excited for Biden.

GUTIERREZ: Even if the president ends up winning back some younger voters before November, a small change from 2020 could swing the election. Lester.

HOLT: All right, Gabe Gutierrez. Thank you.

The sequence is simple to follow, because anchor Lester Holt gives it away with the frame of Gabe Gutierrez’ video package. The student loan bailout is framed as a courtship of young voters.

Cut to Gutierrez and the very grateful former teacher who had $15,000 of his debt paid off by the American taxpayer. Surprised and grateful. 

Gutierrez then gets into the student loan bailout, but not very deeply. He says that The White House is using a different legal basis than the one that got shot down by the Supreme Court, but with no explanation as to what that is. Gutierrez cites unnamed Republicans as being opposed to the bailout, but doesn’t say which ones. 

As a matter of comparison, PBS did find the time to get into these things:

LISA DESJARDINS: Now let's talk about the future of this in the courts.
As soon as this rule comes out, do you think there could be an injunction against it filed immediately? Do you think that this is clear — clearly on strong legal grounds? What's going to happen?

DANIELLE DOUGLAS-GABRIEL: I mean, certainly, it's on stronger legal grounds, from what experts are telling me, than the previous rule, because it's backed by a different authority.
The Higher Education Act, which governs pretty much all of higher ed in terms of financial aid and all of those things, is the anchor for this, whereas the other rule was based on a 9/11 kind of emergency power rule that the Supreme Court didn't really think met the smell test.
So, in this instance, I think it will be a little harder to see an immediate injunction because this went through a negotiated rulemaking process. The rule is going to come online next July, regardless of who's in office. There will likely be challenges. And it's certainly — if the Trump administration were to win, they could choose not to enforce the rule. They could also choose to try to rescind the rule.

The student loan bailout is likely another authoritarian distribution scheme, but seemingly paired with a law that might make it more difficult to contest in court. But there wasn’t enough time for NBC to talk about this. There was disaffected youth to talk about instead. The youth that Biden intends to court but is currently protesting the Biden administration’s Gaza policy.

The report closes with polling showing major youth vote shrinkage, and with the two disaffected sophomores who are not thrilled about voting for Biden in the general election. 

Like so many stories running these days, the focus is not on the thing itself but on that thing’s effect on the electoral prospects of Joe Biden. Whether on Gaza or on student loan bailouts of dubious constitutionality, the focus is the same: Protect the Precious.