Biden abandons the poor, middle class, and national security
President Biden likely hoped that his first address to a joint session of Congress would come across as a leap toward a progressive vision for America. He spoke of building infrastructure, helping families and creating jobs; of rebuilding alliances to create a safe and secure world. His advisers envision a “Biden Boom,” based upon an unprecedented level of federal spending. He spoke of “fairness” in taxing the rich and America’s corporations to finance this vision.
But Joe Biden has been around a long time and has seen politicians try and fail with such policies for 50 years. In the recesses of his mind, he must have an inkling of what lies ahead. When Vice President Kamala Harris criticized Biden on race-related topics during the presidential debates, it was because Biden had worked alongside southern conservatives in the Senate to enact social justice programs that have cost America trillions of dollars and provided the educational “head start” for poor children, the child care for parents, and the health care through Medicaid that he proposes once again.
For an old-style, retail politician giving a stock progressive political speech, Biden’s address was unremarkable. John Kennedy’s “New Frontier” speech and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs contained many of the same ideas but were far more ambitious. Some worked, some didn’t; some helped to destroy the Black American family structure.
Of course, Biden has an unfortunate plagiarism accusation in his past, but it was astounding to hear him talk about bringing back American jobs and urging folks to “buy American.” One almost expected him to put on a “Make America Great Again” cap, at least up to the point where he pushed his minimum wage and unionization initiatives — both of which would keep those American jobs overseas forever.
He claimed credit for the COVID-19 vaccine and the post-pandemic employment surge, both largely attributable to former President Trump’s policies, but that is what politicians do.
But the biggest, most wrenching disconnects in his address were his pitches for infrastructure, jobs, and poor and middle-class families.
Using semantic pretzels, the Biden administration has been able to redefine “infrastructure” as just about anything. But the standard synonym for “infrastructure” in Washington has always been “pork”: ill-defined cash, distributed across the country for largely political purposes, which can create short-term, unskilled jobs (as Biden emphasized) to fudge overall employment numbers. Usually the beneficiaries are local construction companies. What is new in the Biden initiative is that it includes electric and electronic pork, essentially rewarding his tech and alternative energy supporters by building out networks and energy systems to bolster their businesses. Social media giants will become “middle-class families.”
The word “jobs,” of course, was a centerpiece of the speech, and it presents the biggest problem in Biden’s policies. American economic behavior and performance are based upon incentives, and one of the most important incentives is private investment. Building small businesses with private investment is the single biggest job-creating machine in America. Raising income taxes on the wealthy and corporations and raising the capital gains tax discourage investment. Similarly, these tax increases will hurt the stock market, 401(k) plans, and the pension funds of America’s unions — i.e., they destroy not only job creation for the poor and middle class but also their pensions.
Historically, there have been moments when raising these taxes to the levels that Biden proposes has even reduced federal revenues — it not only destroys private-sector jobs, but does not provide increased federal revenue for programs and government work-program jobs. Coming off the massive collapse in small businesses during the pandemic, Biden’s proposed tax increases may well be a crushing blow to the American private-sector jobs economy.
In addition, the massive spending he envisions will drive America’s debt to well over 100 percent of total GDP — a record level that could begin to approach American debt default. The skyrocketing inflation from this debt will not allow an Obama-era zero interest rate stimulus, so it will require sharply rising interest rates and could spell market collapse, soaring unemployment and subsequent social unrest.
These are dangerous policies. Biden’s spending plan is a wild buying spree through the progressive shopping mall and it will end very badly. The “Biden Boom” most likely will become the “Biden Bust” — just in time for the midterm elections and the 2024 presidential election.
So, what did America’s enemies see in the speech? For the most part, they saw a frail president pursuing an ill-conceived vision of America’s radical progressives. They saw economic weakness. They smell blood and are ready to test the Biden administration: Russia recently assembled forces at the Ukraine border; China humiliated the administration in recent talks and is becoming more belligerent in the South China Sea. Biden’s speech advances policies that will further weaken the economy, and his domestic political agenda will divert spending from defense, softening our power and resolve to defend Taiwan and Israel, as well as Ukraine, the Baltics and our allies in Asia.
As with many progressive presidents, he will talk tough … until he doesn’t. Similarly, Biden’s return to traditional, “strong diplomacy” will be translated into Russian, Chinese, Farsi and Korean as “bureaucratic, slow, and weak.”
The Republicans should be resolved to stop these policies or be prepared to take power back soon.
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.