There’s a well-known saying that governing is much harder than campaigning. While this may be true, Democrats have successfully gained control of both houses of Congress and the White House, and now is the time to make good on some practical campaign promises.
The last time I wrote, I differed with my dad, Mark Begich, on Ballot Measure 2. My parent’s political, generational and business backgrounds have effects on their perspectives that far differ from my own. This time, however, we’re writing this together, with the help of my mom, Deborah. Through extensive discussion, we’ve come together to emphasize four specific legislative proposals that Democrats have a real chance at enacting. These proposals would be incredibly beneficial for millions of Americans suffering through these unprecedented times.
First and foremost, Congress must proceed with distributing $2,000 stimulus checks to every adult American as soon as possible. People are seriously struggling beyond comprehension, and these checks will help alleviate immediate economic hardships. However, it is worth noting that the checks are merely a stopgap measure; much has to be done to fix economic inequalities in the country.
The next thing Congress needs to do is make good on its promise to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Doing so will help improve the lives of countless Americans making minimum wage, lifting millions out of poverty and putting more money in consumers’ hands, further stimulating the economy.
These first two priorities will work in tandem to realistically improve the standards of living for millions of Americans, and it will set the country in the right direction to begin asking the bigger questions around economic inequality and working-class (the people we so eloquently name “essential workers”) dignity.
Beyond these immediate measures, Congress needs to take a real hard look at the future and act accordingly. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, there are serious logistical and financial gaps within our national health care framework. As of 2019, 29.9 million people are still uninsured. Given the fact that many health plans are tied to employment, the pandemic has inflated the number of uninsured people to even higher levels. This pandemic has shown that private and employer-sponsored insurance simply isn’t enough. The Biden administration and the Democratic Congress must create a public option — similar to Medicare — available to any American willing to participate. Imagine how many fewer contagious disease deaths we could have in a regular year if people aren’t afraid of going to the doctor and incurring massive bills as a result. Ensuring that every individual has access to affordable health care is a public concern.
As more Americans get vaccinated and we slowly get back to a fully operational economy, it will be imperative that we get people to work as soon as possible. Our nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of restoration. Passing a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure bill will provide millions of jobs to Americans, giving our economy the boost it needs to kick back into full gear.
These proposals are not complicated; they can be done. To Democrats busy prioritizing social issues, there will be time for that. To Republicans who will undoubtedly cry deficit, wipe the fake amnesia out of the rhetoric (i.e., don’t forget about the trillion-dollar deficit created by giving tax breaks to those who least need them). There will be time to manage the deficit — this is not that time. American taxpayers needed direct aid yesterday.
Lastly, to our elected officials in Washington, D.C., recognize that now is the time to multitask. As a college freshman, I’ve witnessed firsthand during this crisis the perseverance of teachers, administrators, parents and fellow students; if all of us can do it, you can too. Now is the time to renew our faith and hope for the future. Do the right thing — don’t run out the clock on desperately needed economic relief.
It is in the country’s best interest to do as much good for as many people as possible; these policies will begin to accomplish just that. Providing direct economic relief to American households through economic stimulus, raising wages, lowering healthcare costs, and creating well-paying jobs will pay dividends decades into the future.
Mark Begich and Deborah Bonito are business and political leaders in the Anchorage area. Their son, Jacob Begich, is a freshman at Georgetown University.
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