A top student-loan official in the Trump administration resigned Tuesday to run for the Senate in Georgia and called for canceling most of the nation's outstanding student debt, slamming the student-loan system as "fundamentally broken."
A. Wayne Johnson, 67, was appointed in 2017 by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, The Wall Street Journal reports. He oversaw the department's $1.5 trillion student-loan portfolio.
Seven months later, DeVos named Johnson chief strategy and transformation officer, overseeing a restructuring of how the Education Department interacts with loan borrowers and the companies that service the debt, the Journal reports.
"We run through the process of putting this debt burden on somebody . . . but it rides on their credit files," Johnson told the newspaper. "It rides on their back, for decades.
"The time has come for us to end and stop the insanity."
Johnson is planning to seek the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., at the end of the year.
Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to name an interim senator until a special election next year for the remaining two years of Isakson's term.
Johnson told the Journal he was running as a Republican.
Other GOP members seeking the appointment include Tom Price, who served as President Donald Trump's health and human services secretary; Rep. Doug Collins; and former Reps. Paul Broun, and Jack Kingston.
Johnson's student-loan program would require congressional action, but he said most of the outstanding debt would most likely never be repaid.
He also wants the federal government to get out of the student lending business.
Johnson's plan would forgive up to $50,000 in federal student-loan debt per person, or about $925 billion. Nearly 37 million borrowers would have their balances fully canceled under the effort, he said.
In addition, Johnson is calling for a tax credit of up to $50,000 for people who already repaid debt, which he told the Journal was critical to attracting wider support for canceling student debt.
Johnson acknowledged that his plan goes further than those proposed by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
"I do respect Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for bringing the nature of the discussion forward," Johnson told Politico.
They "haven't thought through secondary and tertiary implications," however, he said.
Johnson slammed the Sanders and Warren plans as an "intended government takeover of post-high school education."
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