Joe Biden oversaw recovery in the last recession ― he can do it again
With President Trump’s own advisers suggesting that our current rate of unemployment may well be worse than that during the Great Depression, it’s clear that whoever gets sworn in as president next January will need to focus significantly on managing America’s recovery.
As a brand-new governor inaugurated in January 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession, I had too many conversations with people in my state who had to tell their families they had lost their jobs. A I saw firsthand how important the 2009 Recovery Act was to helping people get back to work.
Indeed, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported in 2010 that the Recovery Act had created millions of jobs. One of the little-known stories about the Recovery Act is the role played by then-Vice President Joe Biden to manage the execution of the funds to see that they were spent well and with as little waste as possible.
I personally participated in at least ten calls with governors of both political parties and Vice President Biden. He would talk to a few of us at a time, to make sure we got to ask questions about projects in our own states and so he could hear from us about what was happening on the ground. When he didn’t have answers on the spot, he promised he would get back to us within 24 hours — and he did.
Biden brought in professional financial experts to guide implementation and encouraged the oversight of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. And he let governors know that while he would do everything he could to support our efforts to put our constituents back to work, the board and he personally would be looking over our shoulders to make sure our funds were well spent.
That model of leadership stands in direct contrast to how President Trump has decided not to comply with the oversight and transparency safeguards built into the coronavirus relief bills. Indeed, Trump removed the inspector general slated to oversee $2 trillion of new spending, even though he had a distinguished record of independent service under Republican and Democratic presidents.
President Trump has treated independent inspectors general as personal enemies who deserve to be replaced by loyalists who won’t reveal examples of waste of public funds. He clearly places a higher priority on protecting his political position than on protecting the funds of hard-working taxpayers.
On the other hand, when President Obama appointed Vice President Biden to oversee Recovery Act spending, they both made clear that the mandate would be to insist that the funds were spent effectively — without waste.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Biden announced recently that on his first day as president, he would appoint an inspector general to investigate coronavirus stimulus loans in order to protect taxpayer funds.
As difficult as the Great Recession was for so many of our citizens, it may well pale in comparison to the current crisis. Just as the Recovery Act played an important role a decade ago in helping to stabilize our economy, so too are the current federal stimulus investments – and potentially more – critical to preventing a long-lasting depression. But those investments must be carefully monitored as they are being spent. That’s the only way to ensure that taxpayers get the return on investment they deserve.
Jack Markell served as governor of Delaware from 2009-2017. He has endorsed Joe Biden for president.