Building Back Better: A Progressive Letter to Biden

This is a progressive prelude/transcript to more action plans on debt, health care and civil rights. Listen here.


"How can we build back better if we're not prioritizing the environment, student debt, the housing crisis, vaccinations, health care which every developed nation in the world has with a democratic government?

(Read this 2020 Health System Tracker article: How Does Health Spending in the U.S. Compare to Other Countries? We spend twice as much per person.)


Currently, student debt has exceeded $1.3 trillion...and over 700,000 people have suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. At least 23 million Americans were already underinsured so they were further vulnerable to catching the virus (KFF). And they were not able to keep up with any medical damages or payments that would have to be made if they needed it.

Think about the heightened expenses due to the pandemic: for many people, having to order more supplies and the shortage of supplies in the beginning of COVID-19, being isolated, losing employment, waiting for the government to sort out the economic details of the pandemic–and the failure to fill in the gaps that were already existing before the Trump administration, and that are being further exacerbated during the Biden one. (This is a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

The housing crisis, which the Census Bureau estimates 26.4% of Americans have endured or entered already by missing a rent or mortgage payment with no confidence that they'll be able to pay next month's rent (Shelterforce), no guarantee that within 28 days they will not be evicted and face—like 30 to 40 million Americans—the possibility of being unhoused, homeless for years on end.

Democrats have promised to extend eviction protections but the Supreme Court has just ended the moratorium (Case No. 21A23). We can commend President Biden for attempting to tackle these issues in these broad swathes of legislation: both the American Rescue Plan and the Build Back Better Act. But what are we missing in the generalized approach?


Well, we're missing those key factors that I just discussed. We are not covering student debt. We're not talking about the impact that that is having on a demographic of Americans that is not just young. There's many people who are still suffering from student debt for decades. That has an impact on their credit scores (CFPB), their mortgage (see Student Loan Debt By Race as well). It's already October. By the end of the year, eviction, 30 to 40 million, would be possible for a nationwide percentage of low-income renters.

And that's going to impact Black and Latino households the most (Brookings). Imagine all of this without COVID-19! We are facing an unprecedented, an unseen amount of death and deterioriative health because of this virus. What would eviction do to that? Now there's Representatives like Cori Bush who are incredible, and Elizabeth Warren who are standing up and saying 'There needs to be protections for renters and we cannot ignore this issue anymore!' Review the Keeping Renters Safe Act, and an endorsement here.

These are measurable impacts on our lives because we live in a debtor society, but also because the disparities between rich and poor are growing (Pew Research). It is not possible to sustain oneself in the same way that it was 40, 50 years ago because wages have stagnated, right?

Source: World Future Fund, U.S. Debt As a Share of Gross National Product

And savings are no longer available in the way that they were before. This means again that when a pandemic like COVID hits, people are unprepared! They're not ready. That is where so much of the loss came from for the last almost two years, and I don't think that the administration is really addressing the pressure, the daily struggles that people are enduring just to make ends meet; just to be able to do things like vote which [elections] are coming up soon for the state of Virginia, to participate in society and do it in a semi-sane way.


How are we going to sway progressives and Democrats in Congress to do the right thing? Is there going to be a way to build back better and holistically? Because I think holistically there is so much more to be focused upon.

We could be dedicating more time to uplifting and amplifying Indigenous climate advocacy, and preserving water systems so that people can be healthier and live more vital lives. And allowing them to have access to more green spaces that are created and retrofitted by the government (and legislation!)

Executive orders so that every single student that is suffering student debt has it expunged and no longer has to worry about the burden of that debt ever again.

These are promises that the President has already made. It's a matter of keeping them and we have to keep faith that the future is brighter than the darkness we're enduring now. It's possible to build back better! And we have to consider again what that means and what that looks like. We have to be educated.

And we have to demand like Rep. Ilhan Omar and so many more progressive voices: an end to evictions, demand housing for all, coverage for low-income renters and assurance that during the pandemic and otherwise EVERY citizen has a home."


Taking The Stigma Out of Rental Assistance Increases Applications (Affordable Housing Online, 10-12-21)

"Eviction and the Necessary Conditions for Health" (Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University, 10-9-21)

A Texas teacher can't afford health insurance or buy a home. Here's why Black leaders say the student loan crisis is a civil rights issue (CNN, 10-6-21)

Closing Coverage Gap a Crucial Step for Health Equity in Rural Communities of Color (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 10-4-21)

Millions at Risk of Eviction, Billions in Rental Assistance Undelivered (Shelterforce, 7-21-21)

Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Productivity and Costs (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The Debt Trap: How Student Loans Became a National Catastrophe (Josh Mitchell, 2021)

Eviction Lab - Eviction Tracker

Legal Services of Northern Virginia - Get Help - Student Debt Crisis Center

Rent Payment Tracker

The State of the Nation's Housing 2021

Student Loan Crisis