The majority of American political power lies in two political parties. Of the two, the Democratic Party best aligns with my interests and those of my community. But I will not vote for Joe Biden simply to have a president with a “(D)” next to his name. Democratic candidates should advocate for progressive policies that correspond with their constituents’ needs. In my eyes, Biden has not fully done so.
I understand there might be vacancies on the Supreme Court in the next presidential term, and having a Democratic president is crucial to make sure the already conservative court doesn’t move farther to the right. I understand the need to compromise my ideal policies to secure certain political values. But at what point does compromising move my bar for progressivism too low? At what point does sacrificing the livelihood of marginalized communities become indefensible?
Student loan debt disproportionately affects women and black and brown students. According to the American Association of University Women, “Women hold about 2/3 of U.S. student loan debt, amounting to $929 billion.” American Progress reports that, reflecting those numbers and the burden they indicate, 32 and 20 percent of black and Hispanic borrowers default, respectively, compared to 13 percent of their white peers.
On April 9, Biden updated his plan for student loan forgiveness. The plan forgives only federal student loans from borrowers who attended public colleges or universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or Minority-Serving Institutions. The borrowers must earn $125,000 or less to be eligible. The plan is too narrow and leaves out far too many people.
In contrast, Bernie Sanders advocated for the cancellation of all student loan debt. Regardless of income level or loan type — from the federal government or from a private lender — everyone would be eligible. An all-encompassing platform is a progressive platform.
Tangled costs complicate finding a suitable health insurance plan: Premiums are monthly payments that ensure one has health insurance when it’s needed, copays are the fixed amount paid when you visit a doctor and deductibles are an annual fixed amount paid out of pocket toward eligible medical care before insurance kicks in. All other industrialized countries provide health care to their citizens, eliminating the need for these costs.
Biden intends to build on the Affordable Care Act to provide a Medicare-like public option. It would cover copays for primary care, but not for monthly medication, emergency room visits, mental health treatment or certain other medical services. Biden would cap premium costs for middle-class families at 8.5 percent of their income, remove the income eligibility cap for tax credits and limit prescription drug prices. The plan would provide insurance to low-income families in states that refused to expand Medicaid.
But Biden’s health care solution is a Band-Aid. It would still leave millions of Americans uninsured. And with COVID-19, tens of millions more Americans are vulnerable to catastrophic illness. The Biden plan touches but does not tackle key issues related to coverage and cost. And it sounds just as complex as our current system. It leaves the flaws of employer-based private insurance intact. Inequities in care quality will persist as long as private insurers offer different in-network providers, premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
During his campaign, Sanders advocated for a single-payer system he calls Medicare for All. All Americans would be enrolled at birth or when they move to the U.S. Copays, deductibles and premiums would not exist. The only exception would be an up to $200 annual prescription drug copay for individuals with incomes 200 percent or more above the poverty line. Private coverage would not exist unless it covered an excluded medical expense (such as cosmetic surgery). Vision and dental care, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, primary and preventative services, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment and reproductive care would all be included.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the inequities rooted in our health insurance system. It consistently fails individuals with unexpected illnesses, insufficient employer-provided insurance and preexisting conditions. Universal health care would modernize our faulty system to match the health insurance systems of every other industrialized nation.
Compared to other candidates, Sanders included the most left-leaning political stances in his campaign. Still, CNN exit polls show that Sanders won among independent voters in 18 of the 23 primaries. Independent voters are not deterred by left-leaning ideologies. As young voters, we should demand that our Democratic leaders stand up for policies that would be fairer and more effective, and are long overdue.
There are six months until the general election. Rather than accepting Biden’s current policies, we should push his campaign to include more progressive initiatives. The recent sexual assault allegations from Tara Reade add onto preexisting hesitations many voters express about Biden. The former vice president and the Democratic Party need to exert energy and effort to earn our support by adopting policies that are inclusive for all.
KENNEDY BENNETT is a sophomore in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .