Joe Biden’s looming disaster
Pity Joe Biden. He is the dog that finally caught the bus and he is soon to be political roadkill. While he celebrates his victory in the Electoral College, powerful forces already are engaged to doom him and his presidency. His two central problems are that he has set the wrong expectations and that his policies will not work in the current domestic and international political, economic and military environment.
The only message in his “I’m-not-Trump” political campaign was that President Trump made a mess of domestic and foreign policy and that Biden would fix all of that. The deadly trap is that Trump did very well on many key measures and Biden inevitably will do much worse, creating a failed Biden presidency.
His Day One issue of COVID-19 already is a loser. Researchers developed vaccines in record time, under Trump’s direction, and are rolling them out. The complex issue of distribution now goes to Biden. Any significant number of deaths among the vulnerable communities of nursing homes, the elderly in general, minorities, and those with pre-existing conditions will fall solely on Biden’s team. Similarly, sustained economic damage resulting from lockdowns will fall on Biden and Democratic officials.
The other Day One issue is Biden’s budget. He has proposed tax increases that will affect all income groups, with a disproportionate impact on high-income earners. Compounding that increase will be the “hidden tax” of an inevitable increase in inflation from the multitrillion-dollar COVID-19 relief bills. These combined tax increases will trigger investment capital flight, much as they did under former President Obama. The inflation will drive up both interest rates and unemployment, and increase the wealth gap in spite of Biden’s tax policies.
Unfortunately, the huge COVID-19 spending and inflation preclude the Fed from the zero-interest rate policies that Janet Yellen used to float the Obama economy when she served as Fed chief. The bottom line is that there is no budget or monetary policy solution that drives real economic growth. Cuts in national defense spending are inevitable, but even weakened national security cannot solve the budget problem. America has spent the milk money.
Trump delivered spectacular growth to the economy, record private-sector jobs and record low unemployment for Blacks, Hispanics and women. Real wages rose under Trump and the wealth gap got smaller. Even though the market has roared back after the COVID-19 hit and lockdowns, it will be impossible to come near Trump’s record on any measure. Biden’s tax policies and softened trade stance will make the situation dramatically worse. There will not be enough money even for the traditional Obama/Democratic “solution” of creating public works jobs to fudge the unemployment figures.
And no, the Green New Deal will not create enough “clean energy jobs” to offset this economic mess or decline in the oil and gas sectors. The possibility of serious economic collapse is very real for Biden and his team. And it is all on Biden — it has nothing to do with Trump, who was spectacularly successful in economic policy, helping all Americans.
Biden also will be forced to disappoint the progressive, radical left of the Democratic Party. The handwriting is on the wall with his Cabinet and staff appointments, but it will be crystal clear in the budget. There is simply not money for radical/subsidized transition of America’s energy sector, huge new health care spending, or increased “social justice” programs (beyond the gigantic set of programs that already exist) or reparations.
Similarly, Biden will be forced to cut defense spending, probably shocking the wide set of defense contractors, left-leaning military/intelligence officers, and neocons who supported his campaign.
Unfortunately, our international adversaries know all of this and have run the numbers. They know that Biden’s self-defeating economic policies, combined with his — and his major Wall Street backers’ — tilt toward China and a weakened military, will lead to a constriction of American influence in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. Trump strengthened the U.S. economy and the military, constrained China, prevented North Korea from testing new nuclear weapons, slowed Iran’s nuclear program and terrorism, supported peace initiatives for Israel, restrained Russian expansion, strengthened NATO, discouraged Russia from using Venezuela as a forward nuclear base, created strategic energy independence (with record low carbon emissions) — i.e., made the world safer for America and democracies.
Biden’s return to bureaucratic diplomatic channels, destruction of energy independence, and weakened military will make the world dramatically more dangerous for America.
Our enemies will test Biden early and firmly. China will up the pressure on the South China Sea and Taiwan. Biden’s Wall Street backers will urge him to show patience with China to sustain their economic interests. Frankly, I’d guess the over/under on America’s softening support for Taiwan and reducing forces in the South China Sea to be two years. The same can be said for Russian expansion in Ukraine or the Baltics. With Biden’s charm offensive to our European Union allies, Russian incursions will be met with a weaker NATO and calls for “diplomacy,” much the same way Europeans sat back, restrained the U.S., and watched systematic genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the U.S. finally acted (“under the United Nations flag”) to stop it.
So, as Biden takes office, Trump’s documented record in domestic and foreign policy creates a clear scale for direct comparison. Unfortunately for the country, Biden appears destined to fall far short.
Grady Means is a writer (GradyMeans.com) and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @gradymeans1.
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