Mentor and Protégé: Obama and Biden on the Economy
BY ANUSHA SENAPATI '24
On January 20, Joe Biden officially became the United States’s 46th president. With a new president, it is important to ask, “What does this mean for us?” To answer this question, we must recognize COVID-19’s effect on Biden’s economic approach and how it differs from Obama’s. The ongoing pandemic has created another incentive for the Biden administration to adapt their socioeconomic strategy to the current environment, a motivating factor absent in Obama's time. Interestingly, because of his economic approach, controversy surrounding Joe Biden has grown.
Biden promises to embrace a more expansive government-based health insurance option, an issue that Obama had only scratched the surface of. Single-payer healthcare is tremendously important, as it helps lower overall healthcare costs. This system also forces hospitals and healthcare workers to provide equal treatments to patients regardless of their household income. Though the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act reduced the financial burden of health insurance on many low-income families, it wavered on the question of eliminating the private insurance market. This reluctance prevented the Affordable Care Act from reaching every American as intended. However, circumstances changed during the pandemic with its toll on Americans. Hundreds are hospitalized every day, hospitals are full, and the demand for specialized doctors is increasing. With this in mind, Biden plans to commit to a change that will provide more families with the healthcare they deserve. Believing that the pandemic has broken the country much more than the Great Recession in 2008 did, President Biden advocates for government-based healthcare.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Obama’s lack of attention towards this issue was attributed to the general public not stressing the importance of an accommodating government-based healthcare. In that case, we should ask ourselves whether Biden’s support for this issue is merely a facade. Washington Post writer Ezra Klein claims that “[t]hey need to give this effort their support, or they need to kill it by publicly stating their opposition. But they can't simply wait for someone else to make the decision for them, which has been their strategy until now.” Klein explains how Obama’s waiting would have been useless and how that strategy doesn’t allow room for change. The “someone” who can decide, as Klein mentions, can apply to Biden today as well, who has shown a clear desire to spearhead this issue.
In addition to reforming the healthcare system, Biden plans to prioritize the economic standing of everyday Americans over prioritizing the federal budget deficit. The President is currently using government spending to improve the economy during the pandemic, benefiting countless American lives. Once again, this is different from Obama’s approach. Obama was president years before the pandemic occurred, and obviously could not predict that many jobs would be lost; while Biden has a strong incentive to enact change, Obama did not. Some citizens believe this is the reason why Obama was not inclined to focus on Americans’ economic standings.
Biden’s approach to the Democratic Party is different from former President Obama’s as well: Biden embraces a government-based health insurance option and gives importance to the unemployment Americans are dealing with due to the pandemic. However, President Joe Biden is driven by a motive that Obama did not have: the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the President’s approach has changed, there is hope that it will continue to create better socioeconomic maintenance for the country.