I’ve come to eat crow. Joe Biden is a progressive. I didn’t think he would be when I voted against him in last year’s Democratic primary. Many on the Left continue to think he’s a centrist at best, and an active villain at worst. The COVID stimulus bill, which was signed last week, is the most progressive economic policy to come out of the US legislature in generations. It did not include the minimum wage increase that Joe Biden campaigned on. It did not include reforms to the filibuster. His foreign and immigration policies have been abject holdovers from the post-September 11th point of view. The way he approaches these three outstanding issues will set the tone for the fight for Congress during the midterm elections in 2022.
I’ll provide a list of net positives from the Stimulus Bill at the end of this article, but trust me when I say it deserves to be praised for its contents as well as the process Democrats used to get it passed. This was not the same pathetic attempt that ruined the Affordable Care Act, whereby Democrats wasted months of time allowing lobbyists to throw wrench after wrench into proceedings. It took only a few weeks to get it passed and while the overall benefits were watered down, only the minimum wage portion was outright thrown out. The bill held firm.
The response to the bill passing has been tremendous in praising the democrats for standing together (as best they could). The criticism from the Left has been helpful too. The message is clear, Democratic voters won’t stand for austerity politics anymore. The days of fretting over the possibility of someone less deserving receiving a benefit are over. Voters do not want to see a government program be weighed down by exceedingly complicated and bureaucratic rules.
Biden said, “The risk isn’t that we do too much when it comes to a COVID-relief package…it’s that we don’t do enough.” This plan is focusing on maximizing employment and accepting whatever consequences that causes. The days of worrying about the deficit are over, at least as far as voters are concerned. That is such a fresh view from past Democratic regimes. Obama, Clinton, and Carter all limited government assistance. Whether from fear of being called a socialist or an economic policy created by a Larry Summers type advisor. Joe Biden showed voters he is different.
“How different?” is the question that lingers. The Bernie-bro coalition is no longer angry twitter users. The Leftist wing of the Democratic party has real representation in both houses of Congress and continues to grow in local government throughout the country. They are pissed the $15 minimum wage amendment was thrown out by the Senate parliamentarian. I applaud the Democrats for taking that on the chin, not spending months arguing for it, and getting the bill out as is. But Biden campaigned on the increase. His commitment to get that increase through the legislature will have repercussions in the party.
Similarly, what can be done about the filibuster? So many important factors in the future of America’s republic fall back to that rule. If the Senate can be controlled by the minority, Voting Rights, Courtrooms, and the accountability of elected officials will be as well. It is important to note that Joe Biden cannot get rid of the filibuster. That’s not his job. But he is as experienced a legislator as anyone in DC. Many historians have noted the filibuster is a remaining vestige of slavery and Jim Crow. Getting rid of it is a matter of defeating the institution of White Supremacy in government.
The final complaint lobbed at Biden during these first few weeks has been his continuation of Trump, Obama, and Bush’s immigration and foreign policies. Biden has already bombed Syria. There are reports of detention centers along the Mexican border filling up with children. I do not care if Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau like Joe Biden. I, and I believe many Leftist voters would agree, want to see an institutional change in the role America plays abroad. Obama ran in 2008 with the promise to close Guantanamo Bay. 13 years later it is still open. Biden has already thrown out the old Democrat’s economic playbook. I hope he does the same for foreign and immigartion policy.
I want to finish on a positive note. If you had told me the projected outcomes of this stimulus bill during the primary season, I would have voted for Joe Biden in a heartbeat. I didn’t think he had it in him. Did I want more in the weeks leading up to the bill’s debate? Absolutely. But that does not make this a failure. Here is a short list of those projections and the millions of people this bill will help.
- The average household in the bottom quintile of America’s economic ladder will see its annual income rise by more than 20 percent.
- A family of four with one working parent and one unemployed one will have $12,460 more in government benefits to help them make ends meet.
- The poorest single mothers in America will receive at least $3,000 more per child in government support, along with $1,400 for themselves and additional funds for nutritional assistance and rental aid.
- Child poverty in the U.S. will drop by half.
- More than 1 million unionized workers who were poised to lose their pensions will now receive 100 percent of their promised retirement benefits for at least the next 30 years.
- America’s Indigenous communities will receive $31.2 billion in aid, the largest investment the federal government has ever made in the country’s Native people.
- Black farmers will receive $5 billion in recompense for a century of discrimination and dispossession, a miniature reparation that will have huge consequences for individual African-American agriculturalists, many of whom will escape from debt and retain their land as a direct result of the legislation.
- The large majority of Americans who earn less than $75,000 as individuals or less than $150,000 as couples will receive a $1,400 stimulus check for themselves and another for each child or adult dependent in their care.
- America’s child-care centers will not go into bankruptcy en masse, thanks to a $39 billion investment in the nation’s care infrastructure.
- Virtually all states and municipalities in America will exit the pandemic in better fiscal health than pre-COVID, which is to say a great many layoffs of public employees and cutbacks in public services will be averted.
- No one in the United States will have to devote more than 8.5 percent of their income to paying for health insurance for at least the next two years, while ACA plans will become premium-free for a large number of low-income workers.
- America’s unemployed will not see their federal benefits lapse this weekend and will have an extra $300 to spend every week through the first week in September.