Biden, when is ‘immediately?’ 

By Joel Machado

On Jan. 4, then President-elect Joe Biden told the nation at a campaign event in Atlanta that if Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won their elections in the Georgia runoff, $2,000 stimulus checks would “go out the door immediately.” It has been a week since Biden’s inauguration and the swearing-in of the Georgian senators, but cash relief for American families has yet to arrive.

The number of people currently experiencing unprecedented financial struggle cannot be emphasized enough: 15 million Americans have lost their health insurance, 34 million are at risk of eviction and 54 million are facing food insecurity. You may have seen these statistics already, but at an institution like Middlebury College where 76% of students come from families in the top 20% income bracket, there is a strong chance our student body needs a reminder.

I’ll give credit where it’s due: from day one, Biden has kept his promise to undo former President Donald Trump’s executive orders — a guarantee that earned him a sizable chunk of voters. Biden has followed through, from re-entering the Paris Agreement and revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit to ending the Muslim travel ban and halting border wall construction. It’s worth noting, however, that he had little excuse not to undo them swiftly since it only requires executive orders of his own. 

Passing the relief bill through Congress is a more difficult process that requires consensus and collaboration, but Biden and his “dealmaker” branding are further complicating matters to the detriment of the working class. By attempting to pass relief with 60 votes in the Senate, instead of quickly sending relief through budget reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes, Biden is virtue signaling “bipartisanship.” Meanwhile, the deadline for next month’s rent is drawing closer. 

Sarah Fagan

As of Monday, Biden is open to negotiating the proposed $1,400 Covid-19 stimulus checks, prioritizing compromise at the expense of people in need. His willingness to renege means that the amount could be further reduced or fewer people may qualify for cash payments in the final bill. The proposal has already been contentious because many Americans believed that Democrats were advocating for $2,000 in addition to the initial $600 — not $1,400.

The proposed $1.9 trillion relief package, more formally known as the American Rescue Plan, has some great inclusions, such as the first federal minimum wage increase since 2009 which would move the wage floor from $7.25 to $15 an hour. There are also billions of dollars allocated toward food and rental assistance, the national vaccination program, and resources that will eventually allow schools to reopen — all of which align with the promises that Biden made during his campaign.

These are commendable policies that will be immensely helpful and should be pushed through as quickly as possible, especially considering that the means to do so are in place. Nevertheless, the sense of urgency to distribute aid amongst lawmakers has weakened palpably since Election Day.

Perhaps the most disappointing area that Biden has walked back on is his guarantee to improve our current healthcare system. He initially promised a public option that would allow Americans to buy into Medicare. Despite that promise, this key platform piece has not made the cut in the healthcare section of his proposed American Rescue Plan, which opts instead for pouring subsidies into private health insurance. Under normal circumstances, this lack of follow-through would be unsurprising — considering the fact that he has received millions in donations from large health insurance companies like Anthem and Centene — but it is especially disheartening during a global health crisis.

Relief has been held up because the Biden administration is apparently at a crossroads, struggling between cooperating with Republicans and getting relief out quickly. Anyone who has been paying attention to the Republican party over the last decade is not confused by this negotiating hold-up in the slightest; they have obstructed Democrats at every opportunity and clearly do not want to work with Democrats whenever they do not have to.

If Democrats are going to help people at this critical moment where it is so desperately needed, it needs to be done with backbone and it needs to be done now.

 

Joel Machado is a member of the class of 2022.