How Biden’s $ 6 trillion budget circumvents campaign pledges | Voice of America


WASHINGTON – When Democrat Joe Biden ran for vice-president in 2008, he gave a speech in which he repeated a phrase he attributed to his father: “Don’t tell me what you like. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you like.

At the time, it was a critique of the policies of Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate running against Biden’s partner, Barack Obama. Last week, however, when Biden unveiled his own presidency’s first budget request, some of his supporters in more liberal corners of the Democratic Party may have questioned Biden’s values.

While the $ 6 trillion budget request for FY2022 proposes significant spending on many party priorities, including education, support for families, clean energy and more, no dollar is missing. is allocated for a number of things Biden campaigned on during his presidential campaign. , including the cancellation of the student loan, a public option for health insurance and reform of the unemployment insurance system.

FILE – Representative Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA) speaks during a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law in Capitol Hill, Washington on July 29, 2020.

Muted democratic criticism

The reaction from Democrats on the party’s left flank to the Biden budget has been mixed, but members clearly noted the lack of key proposals.

Congressmen Barbara Lee and Pramila Jayapal, two prominent progressives among House Democrats, published an essay in Newsweek the day after the budget was released that pointedly called for some of the missing elements of the Biden proposal.

“Along with expanded social protection and unemployment insurance programs, we call for a national, universal, single-payer health care program that puts people before profits,” they wrote.

FILE – On October 24, 2019, archival photo students walk past Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan.

Student loan debt

During the election campaign, Biden responded to a call from activists to institute debt cancellation for those struggling with the burden of student debt. But he was never willing to go as far as some party members who demanded the blanket cancellation of student loans.

Still, he asked for a forgiveness of 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 does not support such a broad program, saying that students who choose to go to expensive private universities should not be subsidized by the public.

“The idea that you go to Penn and pay a total of $ 70,000 a year, and the public should pay for it?” I don’t agree, ”he told columnist David Brooks.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Speaks at a primary election night rally, March 3, 2020, at the Eastern Market in Detroit.

Second disappointment

The Biden administration’s decision not to include student debt relief in the budget was the second big disappointment for activists seeking debt relief. The administration initially signaled that it wanted to include $ 10,000 in student debt relief in its COVID-19 relief program, but no such provision was made in the final bill.

Campaigners have been muted in their criticism, as many do not want Biden to go through Congress at all, preferring that he simply sign an executive order eliminating student debt. It is a position that some members of the party, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, take loudly.

“The student loan cancellation could take place today,” Warren told the Insider publication last week. “The president just needs to sign a paper canceling this debt. It takes no act of Congress or any amendment to the budget.”

This image shows the main page of the website on February 15, 2021.

Public option for health insurance

Biden also campaigned on the pledge to expand access to health care by adding a “public option” to health insurance policies sold on stock exchanges created by Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Biden has repeatedly described such a move as “building on” the existing foundation of the ACA and dismissed calls for the creation of a nationwide government-funded health insurance program – ” Medicare for All ”- advocated by other members of the Democratic Party.

Last week’s budget request reaffirmed its commitment to “provide Americans with additional coverage options at lower cost by: creating a public option that would be available in ACA markets; and give people 60 and over 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 has not reserved any additional funding for such a program.

“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” according to the budget document. “Families need the financial security and peace of mind that come with affordable, quality health coverage. Together with Congress, the president’s health care program would fulfill that promise. “

A hiring sign shows outside the restaurant in Prospect Heights, Illinois on March 21, 2021.

Unemployment insurance reform

Campaigning during a pandemic that has cost millions of Americans their jobs, Biden also pledged to create a more responsive UI program that would be less variable from state to state, would grow automatically. during economic downturns to prevent relief from being blocked by partisan fighting in Washington, and would be more resistant to fraud.

However, as with debt relief and the public option, the administration has not earmarked funds for this either. Instead, the administration argued that the pandemic relief efforts already underway were “paving the way for sweeping changes to modernize the program.”

This and other omissions from the budget have frustrated more than the Democratic left. Budget hawks concerned about the deficit found it troubling to add items to Biden’s agenda without identified expenses to pay for them.

Other expenses

“The budget does not include all parts of the agenda,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Leaving the cost of other administration priorities out of the equation presents a distorted version of what the administration plans to spend, he said.

“We know there is an interest in health care, there is an interest in changes in student debt. So that’s a lot of money and a lot of borrowing. “

Although he said he was delighted that Biden was proposing measures to pay off some of his bigger proposals, Goldwein stressed that there is no “pay-for” associated with these additional agenda items. , such as unemployment insurance, the public option for health care, and student loan forgiveness.

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