Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural speech after being sworn-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool via Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural speech after being sworn-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool via Getty Images)

Democrats 'Must Be Trying to Lose': Progressives Fume After Report Says Biden Budget Excludes Key Promises

"If the aim is to avoid a midterm massacre, why would you do this?" asked one political critic.

Kenny Stancil

Progressives are fuming in response to reports that President Joe Biden's forthcoming official budget proposal will not include a public option, drug pricing reform, student debt cancellation, or an estate tax increase.

"Think how easy it is to make the case for voting Democrat to a young person who has 10k less debt because of you. And how much harder it is to make that case to a young person who expected that and was lied to."
—Nathan Robinson, Current Affairs

Fulfilling these campaign pledges is necessary to improve the lives of working people in the United States, left-leaning critics say, while reneging on them imperils the future electoral success of the Democratic Party by depressing turnout among spurned constituencies and increasing the probability of Republican victories in the 2022 congressional midterms and beyond.

As a candidate, Biden said he would: enact a public option to create a government-run alternative to private insurance plans; reduce the sky-high and life-threatening prices of prescription drugs; cancel up to $10,000 of student loan debt per federal borrower; and raise the estate tax, which affects only the wealthiest 0.2% of U.S. households.

When Biden unveils his official budget proposal on Friday, however, none of those initiatives—which were already considered inadequate by progressives demanding Medicare for All, at least $50,000 of student debt relief, and substantially higher taxes on the super-rich—will be included, according to the Washington Post, which spoke with four unnamed individuals briefed on the matter.

Observers slammed the Biden administration for its about-face, warning that the White House's refusal to follow through on its promises will be the reason why "Democrats get routed in the midterms in 2022."

"Our budget reflects our priorities," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in response to the Post's reporting. "Fixing the broken healthcare system has to be a priority. Ending the student debt crisis has to be a priority, too. We need to keep our promises and deliver."

The Biden administration, for its part, defended its decision to backtrack on campaign pledges. The White House's argument is that the budget should "focus on advancing" the public investments proposed in Biden's $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, both of which seek to upgrade the nation's physical and social infrastructure and raise revenue through modest tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations.

 "The budget won't propose other new initiatives but will put together the full picture of how these proposals would advance economic growth and shared prosperity while also putting our country on a sound fiscal course," said Rob Friedlander, spokesperson for the White House budget office.

According to the Post, "the White House jettisoned months of planning from agency staff" because they feared "their initial plan could fuel criticisms that the administration is pushing new spending programs too aggressively."

Instead of using his budget proposal to push for a public option or endorse progressives' calls to expand and improve Medicare by lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 55; including dental, vision, and hearing aid benefits; and allowing the federal program to negotiate directly with Big Pharma to slash drug prices, Biden will ask Congress to implement policies to reduce the costs of prescription medications and increase health coverage.

Given the popularity of strengthening Medicare, including reforms that result in lower drug prices, some progressive advocates urged the White House to "get in front of" the issue.

Perhaps the strongest denunciations of Biden's retreat from campaign promises focused on his abandonment of a pledge to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt per person.

As Current Affairs, a magazine of progressive political commentary, noted on Twitter: "50k of student debt cancellation was the inadequate compromise; 10k of cancellation was Biden's pathetic, outrageous alternative proposal. Now they're offering $0 of cancellation, meaning that on student debt [Biden] might as well be [former President Donald] Trump."

Jacobin's Branko Marcetic, author of Yesterday's Man: The Case Against Joe Biden, asked: "If the aim is to avoid a midterm massacre, why would you do this?"

"The aim should be to get all the constituencies that brought you to power to stay energized, but young people aren't going to turn out at the 2020 numbers without a raging pandemic and Trump on ballot," he said.

In response to Marcetic's question and prediction, Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson said that the Biden administration's decision defies reason and undermines his party's upcoming electoral prospects.

Elsewhere, Marcetic expressed awe that Biden has been able to succeed "in pursuing his 'nothing will fundamentally change' vow while getting a nonstop stream of rapturous comparisons" to former presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson, who oversaw the implementation of far-reaching New Deal and Great Society programs, respectively.

Recent polling shows that voters want the federal government to quickly pass ambitious policies that improve life for working people. According to a survey conducted last week by Data for Progress and Invest in America, 58% of likely voters support passing the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan together using the budget reconciliation process, compared with 34% who are opposed.

Emphasizing that congressional Democrats are not beholden to Biden's budget proposal, Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, told the Post, "It is the president's budget request, but the House actually drafts the budget."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Senate Dems Help Torpedo Resolution That Would Have Blocked $650 Million Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

"My simple question is, why in the world would the United States reward a regime that has caused such pain in Yemen with more weapons," Sanders asked after the vote. "The answer is we should not."

Brett Wilkins ·

Amnesty Scorecard Finds Twitter Failing to Protect Women From Online Abuse

"As our world has become increasingly dependent on digital spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's critical that Twitter meet this moment with demonstrated commitment to improving the online experiences of all users, regardless of their identity."

Jessica Corbett ·

Filibuster Reform for Debt Ceiling Fight But Not Voting Rights or Reproductive Freedom?

"If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."

Jessica Corbett ·

As Senate Holds Guantánamo Hearing, Biden Urged to 'Finally End This Chapter of Injustice'

"Guantánamo is a centerpiece of the forever wars. It is a shameful symbol of racial injustice, torture, and violations of the Constitution and international law."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Unbreakable Solidarity': Kellogg's Workers Reject Contract That Would Leave New Employees Out of Benefits

"We're not willing to sell our souls for our future employees that are going to work side by side with us but not get the same pay or benefits."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo