Forget Neera Tanden’s Tweets. What Would Her Policies Do for People Who Are Single?
None of her proposed policies ties benefits or protections to marital status.
Of all the people President-Elect Joe Biden has chosen to fill top positions in his administration, one has become a special target of criticism and bickering. Neera Tanden is Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, an agency described by the Washington Post as playing “a crucial role in setting the president’s economic agenda and approving agency policies.”
Within hours, stories about the supposedly controversial nature of the Tanden pick showed up in Politico, the Hill, USA Today, Newsweek, CNN, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post, and probably many others. She’s partisan, they say. Also mentioned in just about every story: Neera Tanden has posted mean tweets — a rather ironic criticism considering the current Tweeter-in-Chief.
Shouldn’t her policy positions matter most? The 33-paragraph article in the Washington Post did not accord any more than passing attention to her policies until the 30th paragraph.
My interest is in what her policies, if implemented, might mean for people in the U.S. who are not married. In late June of 2020, a few weeks after Biden formally won the Democratic nomination, Neera Tandem published “A new social contract for the 21st century” in Democracy magazine. She was then the president of the Center for American Progress.
The most important implication for unmarried equality is that not one of her proposed policies tied benefits or protections to marital status. That’s especially noteworthy when currently, more than 1,000 federal laws benefit and protect only people who are legally married.
Health Insurance, Paid Leave, and Paid Sick Days
The theme of just about all of Tanden’s proposals is universal coverage. All Americans, she believes, should have “health insurance coverage, paid leave, and access to paid sick days.”
The Affordable Care Act, Tanden noted, increased access to health-care insurance for people who could not get it through an employer. But some people have still been left uncovered. Her proposed solution is Medicare Extra:
“a program that would set up a public insurance option via Medicare that would provide much more affordable health care, with coverage for dental, hearing, and vision, all with no deductibles and minimal copays. The plan would achieve universal coverage, be open to anyone, and would incorporate the ACA and other individual coverage. It would also allow people who work for large employers to keep their coverage if they chose to do so. For those who are uninsured, as well as those who are currently purchasing insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces, or who are Medicaid beneficiaries or newborns, they would automatically be enrolled in an improved Medicare program, one that would continue to cover seniors as well. And this system could be put in place for a fraction of the cost of Medicare for All.”
When Tanden wrote her article, nearly 34 million civilian workers in the U.S. (24 percent) did not have access to paid sick leave. She would like to see universal paid leave: “We should ensure paid time off for all workers to care for themselves or a sick relative.” I would like to see close friends included, too, and maybe others as well.
Neera Tanden believes that “the government has a real role in ensuring decent jobs for all Americans.” Notice the wording — “all Americans,” not “American families” or “working families.” She advocates for increased numbers of many different kinds of jobs, such as teachers, health care workers who will do COVID-19 testing and tracing, workers in long-term care facilities, people who will produce personal protective equipment, and many others.
As for the many people who are losing their jobs:
“Now is the time to change our unemployment system to a reemployment system; we can do this by subsidizing employers who keep their employees attached to work as the economy has shut down.”
I do realize that Tanden would need to be confirmed, and even if she were confirmed, her preferred policies may not rise to the top, and even if they did, they would still need to be passed by Congress. That’s daunting.
My investment, though, is not necessarily in these particular policies. I care about the bigger-picture goal of getting laws passed that benefit and protect Americans who are not married, or at least do not discriminate against them.
[Want to learn more? Take a look at this collection of articles on all sorts of topics relevant to single life. Watch my TEDX talk, “What no one ever told you about people who are single.” Check out my website. Find my other stories on Medium here. Disclosure: Links to books may include affiliate links. Finally, this post was adapted from a column originally published at Unmarried Equality (UE), with the organization’s permission. The opinions expressed are my own. For links to previous UE columns, click here.]