Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, Where They Stand on the Issues

Senator Bernie Sanders Speaks. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

The formerly bloated Democratic Primary more than decimated itself in the weeks following New Hampshire and the South Carolina Primary election, going from a field of 8 contenders, down to a race of two serious contenders, the old versus the new. Following Joe Bidens’ win in the South Carolina primary, the sundowning former Vice President and Bernie Sanders left Super Tuesday with most of the delegates, while the Phantom Menace himself, Mike Bloomberg, officially ended his campaign.

Besides Biden and Sanders, the only individual remaining in the race is Tulsi Gabbard, who, given her delegate count, place in the polls, and overall track record, does not have much of a fighting chance in the states to come. Joining Bloomberg in that great campaign stage in the sky, were Pete Buttiegieg, and Amy Klobuchar, both of whom ended their campaigns to endorse Biden, putting the finishing touches on the Centrist Voltron that is the plot to stop Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren also had a last-minute dropout on March 5th after she failed to win her home state, or finish above third place in any Primary contest.

While we could breakdown Super Tuesday, talking logistics, and who won what while losing most people’s attention by the third paragraph, we’re instead going to discuss issues. Because, while the Primary has so far has been a dog-and-pony show, issues matter, and if more people voted based on a candidate’s platform rather than their name recognition, the country could be a fundamentally different place.

So, let’s look at what matters to Michiganders and Detroiters, we’ll breakdown where Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden stand on matters from healthcare to climate change, and cannabis legalization to foreign policy.


Healthcare is where you see a stark contrast between Sanders and Biden, with Bernie representing a fundamental change to America’s healthcare system, and Joe representing the past through his continued support of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. According to a poll put out by WXYZ, healthcare is one of the more critical issues for Michiganders going into 2020.

Bernie Sanders:

Sanders is the champion of Medicare for All, the movement that seeks to establish a single-payer, national health insurance program that would guarantee all people healthcare as a human right free at the point of service. Despite what you may hear from pundits, Medicare For All is far from radical, and it would center America’s for-profit medical system so that it’s more in line with what you would find in countries like Germany, China, or Canada. According to a study by Yale University, the plan would also save Americans around $450 billion in health care costs and prevent at least 68,000 unnecessary deaths each year.

His plan also comes with no networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, and no surprise bills. Unlike many programs under the for-profit system, according to Bernie’s website, Medicare For All would also cover “dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care, in-patient, and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, prescription drugs.”

When looking into Medicare For All, the most common response by pundits has usually been, “how will we pay for it?” a question seldomly asked for tax cuts and wars. Well, Sanders aims to aims to finance the plan through such measures as, Enacting the For the 99.8% Act, which returns the estate tax exemption to the 2009 level of $3.5 million, raising the Corporate Tax Rate to a relatively low 35 percent and Taxing capital gains at the same rates as income from wages.

The Bernie 2020 official website also outlines other ways in which he would pay for the legislation, and the comprehensive breakdown can be looked at in more detail here.

Joe Biden:

Joe Biden’s position on healthcare is all about continuing the status quo, building off of the Affordable Care Act, and making sure that Americans have access to affordable healthcare. Rather than putting a single-payer system in place, Biden wants to establish a public health insurance option rooted in Medicare. Biden’s plan would mostly keep private insurance companies as they are while allowing those unable to afford private insurance the option of enrolling in a public option, which would see the system unchanged from The Obama Administrations Affordable Care Act.

Outlined on his website, Biden wants to increase the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more people; his website says that under his plan, Working Americas would not have to spend more than 8.5% of their annual income on health insurance. His plan also says that he would end surprise billing, tackle market concentration across our health care system to allow for more competition between healthcare companies and he would also fight to expand access to mental health care by investing in mental health services.

Biden also wants to repeal the laws allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices, as doing so would allow for more discussion into how pharmaceutical prices can be lowered. In paying for his plan, the only mention on Biden’s campaign website is that he would work to assure funding by will rolling back the Trump rate cut similar to what he did in 2012 under Obama.

Legalizing Cannabis

The legalization of marijuana is a huge issue across the country, especially in Michigan. In looking at the matter, there is a stark divide between Biden and Sanders.

Bernie Sanders:

To put it simply, if you’re looking for the legalization of cannabis within the next couple of years, Sanders is the only candidate you’ll see attempting to do so. He has stated he would legalize it through an executive order during his presidency, and while the nature of if this is a possibility is still up in the air, it shows he is committed to the cause. For Sanders, the legalization effort goes beyond merely just legalizing the plant; it takes a progressive approach to the criminal justice reform.

On top of stating he would legalize cannabis within his first 100 days, Sanders also plans to vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions, regulate the cannabis market so that it doesn’t turn into something akin to big tobacco and he also wants to ensure that revenue from the legalization of cannabis is reinvested into the communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs. A big part of Sanders stance is more so on ending the destructive War on Drugs, and that’s why he also outlined plans to nominate an attorney general, Health and Human Services secretary, and administrator for the DEA who will aggressively fight to end the drug war, while also legalizing cannabis.

Read more about Sanders stance on cannabis here.

Joe Biden:

This will be brief because after scouring Biden’s page, there is nothing about the legalization fo cannabis that he stands for as a candidate. While Biden believed marijuana to be a gateway drug as recently as November of 2019, he has since rolled back that stance. But, that does not necessarily mean he supports legalization.

When looking through his “visons” on his website, he makes no mention of legalization, nor cannabis as a whole. So, while we can’t really say where he stands, we are unlikely to see any form of legislation come from him during his presidency. However, as noted here by Leafly, a Biden presidency could be useful for the states looking to legalize.

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy, you may not think it matters much, but American Imperialism matters to millions of people around the globe whose house was just destroyed, or whose country we overthrew. Foreign wars abroad have basically been raging perpetually since the end of the Second World War, and while no candidate is perfect, let’s talk who has the least barbaric foreign policy.

Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders has what he calls “A Responsible, Comprehensive Foreign Policy,” and according to his website, as president, he would focus on democracy, human rights, diplomacy and peace, and economic fairness. Sanders also wants Congress to reassert its Constitutional authority as a check on the ability for the President to declare and wage war. This was something he had worked on in the Senate but was later vetoed by Trump.

Another critical detail is that Sanders wants to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Agreement, and use that as an opportunity to handle the situation diplomatically rather than with threats and bombs. While his website is brief, it’s clear that Sanders does not want war, and as president, he would be committed to ending foreign wars abroad and working with nations to address a larger threat, mainly, as his website states, the issue of climate change.

On his site, one of the first points Sanders makes when talking about foreign policy is his commitment to climate change, stating, “The U.S. must lead the world in improving international cooperation in the fight against climate change, militarism, authoritarianism, and global inequality.”

Read more here.

Joe Biden:

Biden’s plan for foreign policy is what he calls, “The Power of America’s Example: The Biden Plan for Leading the Democratic World to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century.” Mainly, Biden wants to strengthen the global economy through economic cooperation with other countries so as to strengthen the American middle class. He also, and this is his main point, wants to restore America’s position in the world to one of leadership so as to address global threats.

One interesting point Biden touts is that he wants to end Forever Wars, a point he puts below his “Defend our Vital Interests” tab in which he states, “Biden will never hesitate to protect the American people, including when necessary, by using force.” Without jumping to conclusions, it’s important to remember Obama’s foreign policy, which, as outlined by the Intercept, was not all sunshine and daisies. Will Biden be different? It’s hard to tell, but for the sake of innocent lives, let’s hope he is.

Some last points include Biden’s commitment to diplomacy and to strengthening partnerships around the globe.

Read more about Biden’s vision here.

Climate Change

The great issue of our time, climate change, is on the agenda for both candidates. Similar to some other points, Bernie and Sanders differ greatly on how to go about addressing the changing climate.

Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders plan is rooted in the Green New Deal, and he aims to shift the United States toward 100 percent renewable energy while also creating 20 million new jobs in the emerging green energy sector. His plan also aims to have the United States run on 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030, and by 2050, his plan is aiming for complete decarbonization of the economy.

Sanders plan is massive, and it features points such as declaring climate change a national emergency, rejoining the Paris Agreement, investing in sustainable agriculture, and protecting communities on the frontlines of the changing climate. Another unique aspect outlined is that when transitioning toward a green economy, Sanders plan will ensure no one is left displaced or without a job. He aims to do so by guaranteeing five years of a worker’s current salary, housing assistance, job training, health care, pension support, and priority job placement for any displaced fossil fuel worker.

Despite the ambitious cost, Sanders outlines how he would pay for ther Green New Deal similar to what he does for most of his ideas. Sanders proposes to pay for the climate plan by making fossil fuel companies pay their fair share through litigation, fees, and taxes and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies, as well as scaling back military spending on maintaining global dependence on oil, to name two points.

Read Sanders complete Green New Deal proposal here.

Joe Biden:

In contrast to the Green New Deal, Biden wants what he calls a “Clean Energy Revolution” that would start with a rejoining of the Paris Climate Agreement. For starters, he wants to ensure the U.S. “achieves a 100% clean energy economy” while also reaching net-zero emissions at a date no later than 2050.

Some other points Biden mentions on his website include doubling down on the development of biofuels, conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030, investing in energy and climate research, Incentivize the deployment of clean technology throughout the U.S economy and accelerating the development and implementation of electric vehicles.

On his website, Biden says that he will pay for his plan by ending the Trump tax cuts for corporations, reducing incentives for tax havens, evasion, and outsourcing, ensuring corporations pay their fair share, closing tax loopholes and ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Read more about Biden’s climate plan here.

The Verdict

When Biden said “Nothing would fundamentally change” to a group of donors in 2019, he was correct when he said that, as his policies are not revolutionary, and they would not bring about systemic change. A return to the old would be a return to the policy that led to the conditions that created Trump in the first place. Sanders ideas, on the other hand, offer real change, something promised by Obama, but never actually enacted. If we want to change the tide of reaction brought about by Trump, you can’t start by going backward, and its important to remember that, while Biden’s main goal is beating Donald Trump, simply beating him in an election will not bring about a scene of victory similar to the Ewok celebration in Star Wars Return of the Jedi. Instead, it could lead to something far worse coming after a fed-up population votes something worse than Trump.

If you’re voting on the issues, rather than solely trying to beat Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders is the better candidate who would return the Democratic Party to its status as a party that shows it’s committed to improving the quality of life for all Americans regardless of their race, gender, gender identity, or class. Biden, on the other hand, would be more of the same, and in his words, nothing would fundamentally change.





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