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Why young Jews like me need to vote for Joe Biden

Despite our reputation for recklessness, many young people are making incredible sacrifices to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus. Yet there is one risk that no amount of hand-washing or mask-wearing can protect us against — the pandemic’s economic impact. My peers who graduated from top colleges last spring were supposed to be hotly sought-after talent. Instead, I have watched them lose job offers, return to childhood bedrooms and confront looming student loan payments.

Graduating during the COVID-19 recession may scar young people for life. A widely-cited study by Lisa B. Khan of Yale School of Management concluded that “young workers suffer persistent, negative wage effects when experiencing turmoil upon entering the labor market.” Khan suggests that recent graduates who are unemployed or forced to settle for whatever jobs they can find miss opportunities to gain skills and experiences that would make them more productive workers later in life.

Young people are at risk of more than just lower pay, however. According to Hannes Schwandt, an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, “the bad luck of leaving school during hard times can lead to higher rates of early death and permanent differences in life circumstances.”

Young people desperately need a leader capable of suppressing the virus and revitalizing the economy. Yet we also need a president who will lay the groundwork for an economy better than it was before COVID-19. Former Vice President Joe Biden will do both, mounting a decisive federal response to lead America out of the public health and economic crises while crafting a fairer, more equitable economy for my generation and generations to come.

The economic impact of COVID-19 is a critical issue for me as both a recent college graduate and as a leader of Jews 4 Joe, a grassroots organization of young American Jews working to elect Biden. Much of our focus at Jews 4 Joe lies with traditional Jewish policy priorities, such as Israel and antisemitism. Yet the coronavirus recession is just as much of a Jewish issue, because it is affecting young American Jews as much as other Americans. I personally know several friends who graduated college aspiring to work in the Jewish nonprofit sector — only for Trump’s dire economy to deny them those opportunities and force them to seek employment elsewhere. The Jewish community is at risk of a lost generation of would-be Jewish professionals.

A lethal pandemic would wreak economic havoc under any president. But by mocking masks, marginalizing experts and foisting responsibility for the pandemic from the federal government to the states, Trump has aggravated the national coronavirus outbreak. As a result, the economy that was Trump’s pride is collapsing all around us, with unemployment higher than at any point during the Great Recession and GDP contraction sharper than at any time since the Great Depression. A friend of mine who has unsuccessfully applied to over 100 jobs said, “It feels like I worked hard, got good grades, did internships, didn’t trip up, and I’m still ending up in this position because of the incompetence of one person.”

Enter Biden. The former Vice-President has a comprehensive plan to beat COVID-19, based on testing and tracing, procuring sufficient personal protective equipment, fostering science-based treatments and vaccines, reopening safely and sustainably, and protecting those most at risk. While Trump amplifies absurd quacks, Biden listens to experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. That alone tells you who has a better shot at success.

But Biden is not simply a more competent manager than Trump. The Democratic nominee recognizes that the pandemic’s disruption offers an opportunity to construct a fairer economy.

That is the essence of Biden’s Build Back Better economic recovery plan. Core components of the Biden agenda include providing small businesses with loans, boosting unemployment benefits, and ensuring no one has to pay for COVID-19 testing or treatment. Combined with Biden’s plan to beat COVID-19, these measures will fuel an economic recovery, giving young people a chance to find the jobs they need and start the careers they deserve, including as Jewish professionals.

In an embrace of my generation’s progressive priorities, Biden is also following the lead of Senator Elizabeth Warren by proposing to forgive a minimum of $10,000 in federal student loans per person. The former Vice President also promises to enact legislation to expand bankruptcy laws to allow people overwhelmed by student loans to get rid of those debts through bankruptcy.

Crucially, Biden’s Build Back Better agenda includes bold commitments to restructure the US economy in the long term by furthering racial equity and guiding the U.S. to a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050.

This election is a referendum on the future of our generation. The decision each of us makes on November 3rd on how — or whether — to vote will shape our lives long after Donald Trump and Joe Biden are out of politics. We can choose to continue today’s chaos and uncertainty. Or we can choose to pursue a path towards recovery and progress by voting for Joe Biden.

Tanner Larkin is the former Director of Young Professionals for Jews 4 Joe, a grassroots organization working to elect Joe Biden. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and a first year student at Columbia Law School, where he is a Hamilton Fellow.

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