I knew that he has fetishized deficit reduction for years, but these are extraordinary times, and Joe Biden appears unable to move behind old habits.
When Biden said, “Nothing would fundamentally change,” he meant it, and and he intends to stick to it.
This is a recipe for disaster:
If there is any consistent throughline in Joe Biden’s long career, it is his commitment to the ideology of austerity.
He has obsessively pushed for Social Security cuts for decades, and he is stocking his administration with deficit hawks — including today’s announcement that notorious Social Security cutter Bruce Reed will be White House deputy chief of staff. Biden has even threatened to veto Medicare for All legislation on the grounds that it costs too much (even though Congress says it would actually save a lot of money).
Now, in the whittling down of the stimulus legislation, we see the first concrete example of how Biden’s ideology can change policy in the here and now — and in deeply destructive ways.
However, the New York Times reminds us today that Biden was “not an idle bystander in the negotiations.” On the contrary, the paper of record tells us that the president-elect played a decisive role in making sure the legislation was cut in half. Here is the key excerpt:
With Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate far apart on how much they were willing to accept in new pandemic spending, Mr. Biden on Dec. 2 threw his support behind the $900 billion plan being pushed by the centrist group. The total was less than half of the $2 trillion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, had been insisting on.
Mr. Biden’s move was not without risks. If it had failed to affect the discussions, the president-elect risked looking powerless to move Congress before he had taken the oath of office. But members of both parties said his intervention was constructive and gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands.
That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.
But now we see what Biden austerity means in practice. It means meager $600 survival checks instead of $1,200 checks in the same package that pours money into the Pentagon, gives rich people big new tax breaks and doubles funding for Congress’s own private health care system. It means inadequate unemployment benefits in a bill that devotes $6 billion to making business executives’ meals tax deductible and $3 billion to a tax break for landlords.
If Biden is allowed to be Biden, the way that Obama was allowed to be Obama, and the activists and progressives allow themselves to be put back into the “veal pen,” in 2024, we are going to see someone far worse, and far more competent, than Donald Trump elected in 2024.