News Release

Biden: An FDR or Deficit Hawk?

BRANKO MARCETIC, branko.95.m at gmail.com, @BMarchetich
Marcetic is author of the book Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden. See his recent pieces at In These Times and  Jacobin.

He said today: “Last night and since April, Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his advisors have insisted the former vice president is planning what New York magazine in May called ‘an FDR-sized presidency.’ These claims have been amplified by a hopeful liberal press.

“Over the past week, however, Biden and his team have signaled they will not be following through on this promise. Last Saturday, Democratic congressional aides told the Hill the party likely wouldn’t push forward with Biden’s public health insurance option should he win, and would instead pursue tweaks to Obamacare, a claim the Biden campaign didn’t correct. Meanwhile, the Democratic convention featured hard-right Republican John Kasich assuring conservative viewers Biden wouldn’t ‘turn sharp left and leave them behind,’ in a four-day program targeted chiefly at Republican voters.

“Even Biden’s promise in his DNC speech last night to ‘protect Social Security and Medicare’ should be viewed with caution. A President Biden could try, as he suggested in 2018 and in private in 2014, to means-test Social Security and claim he is ‘protecting’ it from insolvency, without having technically cut it.

“Wall Street has happily highlighted similar, earlier signals. One financial advisory firm called the Biden-Bernie Sanders unity task forces ‘a very successful effort by Biden and his team to control the narrative and policy direction,’ while the chairman of another celebrated that ‘his pick of Harris reinforces’ that he won’t move left. Biden is now outraising Trump among Wall Street donors, with some of them giving the campaign policy advice, with one reportedly telling his staffers to match any big federal spending with budget cuts.

“Longtime Biden advisor Ted Kaufman has now told the Wall Street Journal Americans shouldn’t expect more spending should Biden win, warning that ‘what Trump’s done to the deficit’ means ‘we’re going to be limited.’ This appears to directly contradict Biden’s claim in May that he wanted something ‘a hell of a lot bigger’ than the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus and that massive public investment was the only way out of a deficit.

“All of this signals not just a narrowing of Biden’s ambitions, but the alarming prospect of austerity during the Covid recession. Biden is uniquely susceptible to budget-cutting dogma. He quickly became a fiscal hawk after entering the Senate in 1972, introducing the Federal Spending Control Act five years later to potentially put all federal spending programs on the chopping block, and musing that Reagan’s 1980 victory was ‘more consistent with the budgetary thrust that a guy like me … has been going for.’

“From the 1980s on, Biden has called for and introduced legislation aimed at slashing federal spending, including by cutting Medicare and Social Security. He voted three times for a balanced budget constitutional amendment, and as vice president, repeatedly made deals with Mitch McConnell and other Republicans to choke off government revenue and make drastic cuts to programs.

“By no means does this make Biden worse than President Trump, who has cut taxes for the rich while seeking massive cuts to these and other vital social programs, and recently proposed to do so again if he’s re-elected. But it’s a reminder that socialists, progressives, and rank-and-file Democratic voters must organize to hold Biden’s feet to the fire right now and after his prospective win in November, and be willing to take to the streets whether it’s a Republican or Democratic president who implements austerity.”