By Jason Hopkins
Stacey Abrams is vowing to improve Georgia’s economic standing, but she believes her struggles with massive personal debt do not reflect poorly on her fiscal responsibility.
Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Abrams ended her three-day “Jobs for Georgia” tour Saturday with a stop in the town of Macon. During a town hall, she offered a few examples of her ambitious economic agenda.
She told local voters she hopes to create a $10 million investment fund to boost small businesses and another $40 million fund to spur job growth. Abrams also proposed converting abandoned warehouses in the area into advanced hubs for solar panel installations.
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Abrams claims such investment is necessary to improve job growth in Georgia. However, her critics argue she supports expensive, big-government solutions. More notably, Abrams has taken flak for her massive accumulation of personal debt. The former state representative has acknowledged that she owes more than $200,000 in student loans, credit card debt, and IRS back taxes.
“I did not understand that those magical slivers of plastic that I was getting in college, a $100 purchase was going to cost me like $3,000 over the next seven years, and that if I didn’t pay the bill every month, it was going on some report that was going to follow me even after I had a great job,” Abrams stated in an interview with Yahoo! Finance.
Abrams owes back taxes amounting to $40,201 for 2015 and $13,851 for 2016. She owes $96,512 in student loan debt and another $77,522 in credit card debt spread over nine different accounts. In total, she is about $228,000 in the red. This number is actually higher if you count her $178,500 in real estate debt and her $4,434 car loan.
Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, has blamed a misunderstanding in her younger years of how credit card debt works and a temptation as a business owner to spend revenue instead of withholding it for tax collection. She has also cited family obligations as a major reason for debt, having helped pay for her father’s cancer treatment.
Abrams has argued that her financial difficulties make her uniquely qualified to lead Georgia, pointing out that many Americans also struggle with debt. However, her case does appear to be well above the norm. Her $96, 512 in student loan debt is almost three times the national average. More notably, her $77,522 in credit card debt is five times the national household average.
Abrams — who would become the first black female governor in the country if elected — also appeared to cite prejudice for her financial woes. Defending her weak financial standing in an op-ed for Fortune, the gubernatorial candidate blamed wealth disparities between white, Latin, and black households as partially the result of housing, labor and education discrimination. Despite landing a $95,000 salary position soon after graduating from Yale Law School, Abrams also lamented the fictitious gender pay gap in her column.
With Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp emerging as the winner of the GOP gubernatorial runoff, Republicans have coalesced and begun to focus on the general election. Critics have already begun framing Abrams as the most liberal candidate in Georgia ever to seek the governor’s mansion.
“We have one mission tonight and that is to defeat Stacey Abrams and keep Georgia red,” Kemp said at a GOP unity rally on Thursday night, not long after clinching the nomination over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. “She’s backed by billionaires and socialists that want to make Georgia into California.”
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