WASHINGTON – When Democrat Joe Biden ran for vice president in 2008, he delivered a speech in which he repeated a saying he attributed to his father: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value ”.
At the time, he turned himself in as a critic of the policy of Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate running against Biden’s fellow banker Barack Obama. Last week, however, when Biden unveiled the first budget request from his own presidency, some of his supporters in the more liberal corners of the Democratic Party may have wondered about Biden’s values.
While the $ 6 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2022 proposes significant spending on many of the party’s priorities, including education, family support, clean energy and much moreover, there are allocated zero dollars for various things that Biden did during his presidency. , including the forgiveness of student loans, a public option for health insurance, and the reform of the unemployment insurance system.
FILE – Representative Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA), speaks during a hearing of the House Judicial Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law at Capitol Hill, Washington on July 29, 2020.
Democratic criticism has been silenced
Democrats’ reaction to the party’s left flank in Biden’s budget was silenced, but members clearly noted the absence of key proposals.
Congress women Barbara Lee and Pramila Jayapal, two prominent progressives among House Democrats, posted an essay on Newsweek the day after the budget was published that promptly called for some of the missing articles in Biden’s proposal.
“Along with expanded social security and unemployment insurance programs, we are calling for a national, universal single-payer health care program that puts people ahead of benefits,” they wrote.
FILE: This October 24, 2019, students with archive photography stroll past Fraser Hall, on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan.
Student loan debt
On the campaign trail, Biden received a call from activists to institute debt forgiveness for people struggling under the burden of student debts. But he has never been willing to go as far as some of the party that have demanded the general cancellation of student loans.
Still, he has apologized for up to $ 10,000 in loans for people earning less than $ 125,000 a year.
In an interview with The New York Times published on May 20, Biden said he did not support such a comprehensive program, saying students who choose to go to expensive private universities should not be publicly funded.
“The idea that you go to Penn and pay a total of $ 70,000 a year and get the public to pay? I don’t agree, ”he told columnist David Brooks.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democratic presidential candidate, D-Mass., Speaks during a nightly primary election rally on March 3, 2020, in Eastern Detroit.
The Biden administration’s decision not to include the release of student debt in the budget was the second major disappointment for activists seeking debt relief. The administration had originally indicated that it wanted to include $ 10,000 in student debt relief in its COVID-19 relief package, but there was no provision in the final bill.
Activists have been silenced in their criticism, because many do not want Biden to go through Congress, preferring to simply sign an executive order that eliminates student debt. It is a position that some in the party, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, strongly accept.
“Student loan cancellation could occur today,” Warren told the Insider publication last week. “The president just has to sign a piece of paper that cancels this debt. No congressional act or amendment to the budget is needed.”
This image shows the main page of the HealthCare.gov website on February 15, 2021.
Public health insurance option
Biden also campaigned with the promise of expanding access to health care by adding a “public option” to health insurance policies sold on stock exchanges created by the Accordable Care Act signed into law by Obama. Biden repeatedly described the move as “based” on the ACA’s existing foundation and rejected calls to create a nationwide, government-funded Medicare for All-funded health insurance program. others from the Democratic Party.
Last week’s budget request reaffirmed its commitment to “provide Americans with additional, lower-cost coverage options by: creating a public option that would be available through the ACA markets; and giving people 60 years of age or older have the option to enroll in the Medicare program with the same premiums and benefits as current beneficiaries, but with separate funding from the Medicare trust fund. ”
But the administration did not set aside any additional funding for this program.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” according to the budget document. “Families need the financial security and peace of mind that offers affordable and quality health coverage. In collaboration with the Congress, the president’s health agenda would achieve this promise ”.
A hiring poster appears outside the restaurant in Prospect Heights, Illinois, on March 21, 2021.
Unemployment insurance reform
By campaigning during a pandemic that cost millions of Americans their jobs, Biden also pledged to create a more sensitive unemployment insurance program, which would be less variable from state to state. it would automatically expand during economic recessions to prevent relief from partisan fighting in Washington, and it would be more resistant to fraud.
However, as with debt relief and the public option, the administration has not set aside funds for this either. Instead, the administration argued that the pandemic relief efforts already surpassed have meant “setting the stage for major changes to modernize the program.”
This and other budget omissions frustrated more than the Democratic left. Budget hawks concerned about the deficit found it worrying to add items to Biden’s agenda without identifying spending to pay them.
“The budget doesn’t include all parts of the agenda,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior political director of the committee for a responsible federal budget. Leaving out the equation the cost of other administrative priorities presents a distorted version of what the administration plans to spend, he said.
“We know that there is interest in health care, that there is interest in changes in student debt. So that means a lot of money and a lot of loans.”
While pleased that Biden is offering measures to pay off some of its biggest proposals, Goldwein noted that there is no “remuneration” associated with these additional agenda items, such as unemployment insurance, the public option for health and student loan forgiveness.