While the Affordable Care Act was a landmark legislative achievement and granted millions of Americans with access to affordable healthcare for the first time, it was not without its problems. The addition of pre-existing conditions into an industry not equipped to cover them made medical costs unforecastable for insurance companies.; the removal of healthy young people from the individual market and of lifetime limits bore the same effect, as did the addition of a new group of insurance first timers using the emergency room as their primary care doctor. In states like South Carolina that didn’t expand Medicaid, premiums skyrocketed for many people who make just too much money to qualify for subsidies. In some cases, premiums quadrupled.
Single-payer has been floated as the answer to the problem, but as of 2016, the United States insurance industry employed 2.6 million people with 811,900 of those individuals working solely in health insurance and much of the remainder depending at least partially on the health insurance industry for income. I firmly believe that healthcare is a right, but we cannot simply trade poverty for poverty. The health insurance industry is one of the few industries that allows citizens without a college degree to climb the social ladder to the middle class. For these reasons, I believe our best bet to insure every American citizen is a transitional public option.
In December of 2017, our current Congress passed tax reform that will cost America 1.4 trillion dollars. In essence, every man, woman, and child in America is being forced to borrow over $4,300 to fund corporate tax cuts. Prior to this reform bill, the corporate tax rate was 35%, but the effective tax rate, due to loopholes, was a reported 18%. Now, the corporate tax rate has been lowered to 21%, and the loopholes have remained. Corporations received a 40% reduction and small businesses received a 20% reduction while wage earners received none.
It’s true that overtaxing strangles an economy, but it’s also true that demand determines supply. The theory behind December’s tax reform is that supply creates demand. The only segment of American society not spending is the segment that doesn’t have the money to do so; it’s the people who can’t afford to buy a car, pay a copay, buy a home, or even fill their pantry with groceries, those who are forced to survive on a wage that is barely more than half the average cost of living. These are the people who need tax relief.
Tax reform should always be budget neutral, but especially when our national debt is already astronomical and Social Security is already being drained. Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are likely down the pike in this Congress, and an already strapped economy cannot afford cuts to these programs.
Student loan debt in our country is 1.48 trillion dollars. Approximately 11% of the 44 million borrowers are in delinquency or default. This debt has rendered many college grads incapable of homeownership and generally supporting a family. Since 1978, tuition costs have increased by 1,120%, more than 4 times general inflation. Similarly, wages have not kept up with inflation, changing college from a luxury to a necessity.
Fixing our education system won’t solve the problem of wage inequality, but it can make a college degree and social mobility more attainable. I believe states should be incentivized to create greater accessibility to affordable higher education. Tennessee now provides qualifying students with free community college and New York provides qualifying students with a free four-year degree. Even two free years of community college can slice the cost of a Bachelor’s degree in half.
Additionally, qualifying high school seniors should be enrolled in the local community college for their final year of high school, reducing the college drop-out rate and raising the number of students who go on to pursue as four-year degree.
For students already in loan repayment, those who consistently make payments on time should qualify for interest rate deduction. Students who have repaid the total of their principal should also be exempt from further interest accrual, only bearing responsibility for repaying any remaining previously accrued interest. Private student loans must also be subject to greater regulation, as the average private student loan can fluctuate excessively, even up to 21% compound interest or greater. We must also expand bankruptcy eligibility to private student loans.
In respect to early life education, we are in dire need of summer school to address summer loss, parent education programs to help them help their students, after school programs to aid working and single parents, public preschool, and comprehensive sex education with parental involvement. Foreign language should be taught in elementary school, during the primary developmental years, instead of being postponed to middle school and later.
Our students deserve more than the minimally adequate education we have provided. We must fight for both current and future cohorts of American students, from pre-k through graduate school.