Presidential candidate Joe Biden promised action on issues that had broad public support. But once in office he refused to do what the people wanted. His promises were merely a strategy to get votes from the gullible.
I wasn’t a big fan of 80s synth music, but a few bands and songs stick out as tolerable, if not memorable, and at this point in time downright appropriate. One such song is “Promises, Promises,” by the band Naked Eyes, which I can’t get out of my head these days.
The lyrics to the chorus go:
You made me promises, promises
Knowing I'd believe
You knew you'd never keep
You made me promises, promises
You knew you'd never keep
Why do I believe?
Every time I watch or read news updates on another promise that Joe Biden has reneged on, I hear this song in my head, jaunty synthesizer music and all. Because I seriously cannot figure out why people believed this guy and all his promises.
Remember the promise he made to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for everyone? Has it happened? Nope. What he has done instead was to extend the loan payment suspension first until January 2022, with payments originally set to resume in February 2022. Then after a nationwide outcry from those burdened with student loans that were coming due in the new year with no relief in sight from a pandemic that continues to ravage the nation, the federal student loan forbearance program was extended again to May 2022.
It is worth noting that Biden has already focused on programs that already exist to dispatch student loan debt for permanently disabled borrowers, students from for-profit colleges and/or whose schools have been forced to close, and borrowers' with 10 years of public service. These programs’ rules to apply and qualify were so complex that many who should have met the criteria and already had their debt dispatched simply couldn’t figure out or complete the process to do that. The Biden administration did simplify all these existing programs and, as a result, the Education Department says it has discharged or is in the process of discharging roughly $12.7 billion in student debt, affecting more than 638,000 borrowers. And that’s nice. But the reality is that 46 million Americans have $1.6 trillion in federal student loans. And, most importantly, the promise to cancel $10,000 of everyone’s student loan debt isn’t being kept.
Foran example of how easy it is for the US government to forgive loans, we turn to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP was established and overseen by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help businesses stay afloat and not have to fire people during the pandemic (which many did anyway, and now claim nobody wants to work). The SBA disbursed almost $800 billion in PPP loans from April 2020 to May 2021. And as of Nov. 7, about $610 billion of those loans have been forgiven, by the SBA. A government agency. Easy peasy, right? Just not for you and me and our student loans, though.
Remember Biden’s promise to increase the child tax credit to $8,000 to ease the financial burden of raising a family on lower income Americans? Well, the $8,000 child tax credit didn't happen. Instead the American Rescue Plan that was enacted in March 2021 increased the existing child tax credit to $3,000 from $2,000 with a $600 bonus for kids under the age of 6 for the 2021 tax year. It also established monthly payments, which began in July and go through December in deposits of $300 for children under the age of 6 and $250 for those aged 6 to 17.
But guess what happened to those payments - which experts calculated decreased child poverty significantly - and the other measures like child care subsidies and free preschool for 3-4 year olds in the stalled Build Back Better Act that were supposed to make up for not increasing the child tax credit to $8,000? Gone with the failure to pass the Build Back Better Act, that’s what’s happened. And for those who received the monthly payments, they will soon realize that it was an advance that will be deducted from this year’s tax returns.
Biden’s promise to “update” the Voting Rights Act? Yeah…there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of urgency from the administration to do anything about that. Until of course, the Democratic Party admitted that the Build Back Better act wasn’t likely to be passed in 2021 because Biden couldn’t come to an agreement that would appease President Joe Manchin. So the administration pivoted to the next thing on the agenda of promises - voting rights - but already out of the gate Vice President Kyrsten Sinema has let it be known that she does not support ending the filibuster to get voting rights legislation passed. The filibuster allows senators to endlessly debate a bill for the sole purpose of keeping it from coming to the floor for a vote. It has been used to block legislation many times, including civil rights legislation such as anti-lynching bills proposed in 1922 and 1935; the Civil Rights Act of 1957; and legislation that would have prohibited poll taxes and discrimination in employment, housing, and voting. Without a supermajority of 60 out of 100 votes in the Senate, any Senator opposed to any legislation can stage a never-ending debate to keep a bill from ever being introduced for a vote, effectively killing it in the Senate.
And even as the family of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched in Arizona on the birthday of Dr. King to politely ask the senator from Arizona to choose the decades-old fight to ensure voting rights over her allegiance to a procedural rule that came from a request and the resulting unintended consequences, Sinema has not budged. Neither will Manchin in not supporting an end to the filibuster.
Much is being said about how much a 50-50 senate sucks for the Democrats, and they can’t get anything passed because of rules and ties and blah, blah, blah. But remember that Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaking vote as the president of the Senate, and the Democrats can ignore the parliamentarian any time they want to, just like the Republicans have, to pass any of this legislation. But first they’d have to get Manchin and Sinema in line and remind them who the president actually is.
But the Democrats won’t even defend Biden asking whether, on voting rights legislation (as insufficient as it is), members of congress wanted “to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace,” “John Lewis or Bull Connor,” or Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis.”” Although these comparisons are historically dubious and not as clear-cut as Biden tried to present them, when will Democrats grow a spine and put Manchin and Sinema in their places - who are not the President - and push through voting rights legislation? They won’t, because they need campaign slogans for 2022 midterms: “Elect more democrats so Biden can do what the Republicans kept him from doing with all those promises he made but couldn't keep!”
Only thing is, it hasn’t been Republicans that kept Biden from passing his legislative agenda. It has been members of his own party, and the so-called Democratic leadership hasn’t shown much of that in keeping their own members in line. Except, of course, when those members are Progressives and need to be undercut by Moderate Democrats so the Conservative Dems can screw the whole party, and the entire Democratic base.
And even as this pandemic rages on, with a new variant spreading unabated throughout the country, Biden’s promises to respond to the spread of the coronavirus differently and better than the Trump administration have also fallen apart. Biden campaigned on taking control of the pandemic, declaring in an awkward July 4th event at the White House last year that "245 years ago, we declared our independence from a distant king. Today, we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus." This declaration has aged disastrously as the Omicron variant continues to cause mass infections, illnesses, and disruptions.
An entire first year of a Biden administration brought no widespread distribution of N95 masks, no national push for testing, just a relentless and singular focus on vaccines - and alternately blaming the unvaccinated for the spread of the virus, which have resulted in more disease, death, and disruption. So Biden’s recent announcement that his administration will order 500 million at-home COVID tests is an effort that is too little and too late for the already uncontrolled spread of the Omicron variant, and to save his track record of campaign promises that he used to get him elected.
Biden made promises, promises, knowing voters would believe. Promises, promises, he knew he’d never keep. All of those promises. Why did you believe?
Jacqueline Luqman is co-host of By Any Means Necessary on Radio Sputnik. She is also a contributor to The Real News Network, Editor-In-Chief of the social media program Luqman Nation, and a contributor to Black Power Media. She has more than 20 years of activism in Washington, DC focusing on participating in and supporting community-level issues as well as regional and national issues that impact working-class, poor, and oppressed people in the US and abroad. She is a member of the Black Alliance for Peace, Pan-African Community Action, is a supporter of several other grassroots radical Black-focused and led organizations, and is an active member of the Board of Social Action in Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, a progressive church in Washington, DC.