2020 – why Joe Biden is not the right choice to be President, compared to candidates like Bernie Sanders.

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Joe Biden is not the right guy to be president.

Don't get me wrong, as a human being, Joe Biden's a nice person to be around. He’s a real down-to-earth man. I respect all that and would happily hang out with him any day. But in terms of policy, he's not the right choice to lead the country.

Patriot Act and Technology

Biden was one of the key figures in drafting parts of the Patriot Act, through the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995 introduced prior to 9/11. This bill was controversial even at the time – a New York Times article revealed that the ACLU, for instance, was opposed to the bill. Despite what we know know were the negative consequences of the bill, Biden has even repeatedly taken credit for writing the Patriot Act itself. The bill allowed secret evidence to be used in prosecutions, expanded the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws, permitted the U.S. military to be used in civilian law enforcement, and allowed permanent detection of non-U.S. citizens without judicial review, among other "war-on-terror" policies.

On other technology issues, Biden has been disappointing. A previous war on terror bill he introduced in 1991 was so serious in eroding civil liberties that it spurred Phil Zimmerman to create the encryption program PGP, in fear that encryption as a whole was about to be outlawed by the bill. He's been opposed to net neutrality legislation and has advocated for taxing violent video games.

Bankruptcy Reform and Ties to Shady Figures

Joe Biden helped pass a "bankruptcy reform" law in 2005 that was harmful to working class families, while benefitting the same financial institutions that Donald Trump has decided to embrace in his time as President. At the time, many unions, consumer advocacy groups, and womens' organizations opposed the bill, yet Biden supported the bill for years, right through its signing. The bill was also criticized by prominent figures such as Elizabeth Warren. In terms of effects? A Fed study found that the bill increased rates of insolvency and foreclosure. It concluded that the greatest effects were felt by those with lower incomes, and that the bill took away a key form of financial relief for those in debt by making it harder to file bankruptcy. Biden also voted down a proposal to restrict corporate judge-shopping(going directly to a court of their choice instead of having to pursue the case in their local area). With these effects having been predicted by many advocacy groups, it is inexplicable that Biden championed it.

We do have some clues as to why he supported it; it was a major boon to his funders. An especially significant backer was located in his home state of Delaware: the credit-card conglomerate MBNA. MBNA has donated over $ 214,000 to Biden over the course of his career.

Aid Programs for the Poor

Joe Biden played a major role in 1990s "welfare reform", an effort to gut New Deal social programs and replace them with the fragile layer we currently have today. He voted Yes on replacing FDR's AFDC program, which granted cash to poor families, with a block-grant welfare system, meaning the federal government would give states money to administer welfare systems. This was similar to the modern-day GOP proposal to change Medicaid into a block-grant system that many Democrats oppose. This change was also paired with a more restrictive basis for receiving grants, a system currently known as TANF. Research shows that replacing aid programs with block grants results in large funding decreases over time, and indeed, the current state of welfare is poor.

In fact, the effects may be worse than that, because money given to states for welfare can be used for other purposes, thanks to nonexistent oversight measures. Only a quarter of welfare money is paid as cash assistance to the poor, with less than a quarter being spent on "help finding jobs", and the rest being diverted to far-flung things like scholarships for the wealthy and marriage counseling. The state-centric approach, along with overleniency in terms of what can be cut, resulted in disastrous outcomes. In Arizona, for example, just 6% of poor families with children recieve assistance, compared to the 42% who recieved aid before the Biden/GOP welfare reform. As with bankruptcy reform, these effects were predicted beforehand, so it is concerning that Biden pushed so hard to pass them.

Foreign Policy

Biden is known as a person with lots of foreign policy expertise; while he has experience, this time is also filled with missteps, most of which are confusing even in context. The most well known position is his vote for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which brought forth plenty of criticism in 2008 when he was chosen as VP. This vote left people disappointed even at the time: while 26 Senate Dems voted for the war, a significant portion of this vote was composed of Blue Dogs with conservative foreign policy, while the 23 Senate Dems who voted against the war were composed of liberals such as Ted Kennedy. There was lots of criticism, even at the time, for this vote.

More concerning are his lesser known positions. He supported the US government taking an official position on the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, risking bringing the country into an unnecessary war. He was one of those sounding the alarm of WMDs as justification for the Iraq war, claims that were repeated by the Bush administration and later proven to be fabricated, based on unreliable evidence. Biden helped quash a push by Russ Feingold to stop taxpayer dollars from being used to train Indonesian death squads. Biden, confusingly, voted no on an amendment to ensure that US-sold cluster bombs would not be used on civilians.

War on Drugs

Joe Biden, an avid supporter of the War on Drugs, was a key figure behind crafting the legislation that caused the increase in incarceration, and prosecution of drugs such as marijuana. One of his first moves was to support legalization of civil forfeiture, allowing "policing for profit" with officers able to confiscate anything suspected of being associated with drug money(in practice, this has meant absolutely anything). He helped author an act that created a 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Under this bill, 5 grams of crack carried the same sentence as 500 grams of powder. The bill was intended to target minorities, who used crack more due to its lower cost. In 2003, he supported an anti-ecstasy bill which backfired, causing businesses to stop offering safety measures as doing so would risk prosecution. Even today, activist organizations continue to try repealing the bill as it has caused a few deaths.

His most-well known anti-drug measure, creating the basis for strict policing of drugs like marijuana, was the Crime Bill which he supported heartily. While others who backed the law, like Bill Clinton, have apologized for its negative consequences, Biden has continued to defend himself and stand by its passage. The crime bill included funding to build many more prisons and foster an aggressive policing strategy, which was then expanded by local governments. Today, there are about twice as many people behind bars as there were before the crime bill, giving the US one of the highest incarceration rates in the developed world. Lots of these inmates are there for drug-related crimes that wouldn't be prosecuted in many other countries. It is disappointing that Biden played a role in one of the worst policies of our generation.

Based on all this, it's reasonable to say that Joe Biden's policy positions on some issues are quite lackluster, and pale in comparison to those of other prospective Democratic nominees for 2020. Despite this, I am willing to say I will vote for him if he ends up being the person facing Donald Trump. His policies are indisputably better than those of a Republican. However, we should not actively seek to put him in that position. In the Democratic primary, there will be many other candidates who have experience, better policy, and the capability to defeat Donald Trump. Instead of allowing Biden a free run to become nominee, we should support these other candidates, as they remain popular with the American public.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As it wraps up please remember that Medicare For All includes mental health care, including preventative care.

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Putting Bernie in office and his policies on the books will do wonders for the mental health of the nation. A rising tide lifts all ships, and how much clearer sailing will be when the fog lifts from our minds. Stay mindful.

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