The outlook for Democrats in Washington and in statehouses across the country in 2022 and in the next presidential election in 2024 range between dismal and disastrous.
The party, infested by neo-liberals who want more military spending, more wars, less regulation, “market solutions” to problems like health care and a decent, secure retirement for all workers, not to mention aggressive action to combat the climate crisis, has been seen by the American public for what it is: Republican lite.
With Republicans ramping up efforts in the 30 states where they hold both the legislatures and the governorship’s to make voting much harder this year, blocking access for the Democrats’ most stalwart supporters—Blacks and elders—and with Democrats likely to lose a few of the 18 state governments where they currently have full control, it looks like an historic wipe out the party both at the state and federal level in the next two elections is almost guaranteed.
There are a couple of things that the party and its elected officials could do avoid his debacle, but so far, it doesn’t look like they want to do them.
The first would be to cancel all outstanding student debt owed to the US Treasury. That debt for paying for decades of overpriced college tuition has ballooned to $1.75 trillion in 2022, worth the average student graduating college this year with a bachelor’s degree owing almost $30,000. Many of the nation’s 44 billion indebted students and former students owe much more than that and many others end up not graduating and still owing almost that much. Meanwhile, students who went on to earn higher degrees to gain the skills that the country needs carry even higher debt burdens, often as much as $100,000. All that debt is crippling the fortunes and options of an entire generation.
President Biden, who campaigned on a promise to cancel student debt, has backed off it and done nothing about the problem in over a year in office, claiming suddenly that he ‘doesn’t have the authority as president” to cancel student debt by executive order. There are, however, many legal scholars who disagree with his excuse for copping out.
The only way to really know is to do it, and have it tested in the court system.
So here’s a way to energize and win a huge block of votes: Sign an Executive Order cancelling all student undergraduate debt, and let whoever objects file a lawsuit. Maybe the president would lose in court, but meanwhile he’d be a hero to tens of millions of Americans drowning in student debt and unable to get a start in life buying a home, starting a family or continuing to grad school or just buying a car. And all those people would then have a huge stake in seeing Democrats elected this fall to overcome any negative court ruling by enacting a law in Congress cancelling the debt., something which Congress assuredly has the Constitutional authority to do.
Biden should also cancel plans to spend $1.5 trillion on “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next decade and and another $1.5 trillion on the biggest boondoggle in Pentagon history: The F-35 fighter/bomber. That is to say, there’s $3 trillion,, or about $300 billion a year, in immediate savings to the federal budget that could go directly to improving education, fighting climate change, and funding other needed things. Maybe some American voters would consider cutting the nuclear modernization program or the F-35 program at a time of increased tension with Russia over the Ukraine war to be a bad idea, but neither program has any impact on either that crisis, or the long-term military strength of the U.S., and Biden could easily make that case, as neither the new bombs nor the new F-35s won’t be available for use in a war in years, and by then the Ukraine crisis will have ended.
Both programs are just gifts the US arms industry, like the latest addition to Biden’s latest record military budget proposal of almost $1 trillion, where much of the increase has been for other industry “wish list” multi-year weapons programs.
Finally, Biden should also have the government stop promoting the corrupt subsidization of the health insurance industry through the privatization of Medicare via the Medicare Advantage (sic) program and instead improve the funding of Medicare so that it is the socialized medicine system that it began as, while at the same time expanding it to cover everyone—at least for starters—down to the age of 50.
Such an expansion would actually be a money saver. Most of the cost of Medicaid goes for the health care of people in their late 70s to 90s already, paying for the expensive treatments our oldest citizens end up requiring, as well as for hugely expensive end-of-life treatments. Statistically, the cost of Medicare for the relatively healthy people in the 65-75 age bracket is much less, and dropping the age limit to include people who are 50-65, most of whom are quite healthy, would not add much to the program’s cost, but would vastly reduce the costs of private insurance that such middle-aged people currently have to bear, either themselves or through their employers.
Again such a dramatic increase in access to one of the most popular government programs would hugely bolster Biden’s and the Democratic Party’s support among voters immediately.
And the point is, it doesn’t matter whether Republicans or corporate industry lobbying attempts to block such moves. It’s taking on those interests that will demonstrate that the Democratic Party is on the side of the average citizen and not the corporatocracy.
No amount of Madison Avenue marketing, maudlin sympathy displayed during visits to tornado or flood victims, or empty appeals to patriotism by Biden or the rest of the party’s elected officials is going to prevent a right-wing takeover of Washington and state governments over the next several years. The only thing that will prevent such a catastrophe will be for the Democratic Party to take bold steps on economic issues that will significantly improve the lives ordinary voters.
Cancelling student debt, significantly cutting the military budget, and expanding Medicare are three ways to accomplish that.
I don’t expect much from the current Democratic Party, which gave up any social democratic tendencies it might have had in the ’30s and ’40s with the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his replacement by Harry Truman. But until a real workers’ party comes along, it’s the only thing standing in the way of a full-on Christo-fascist government, and it can’t even do that if it won’t take these kinds of stands.