Burton: Biden Will Change, But Not Revolutionize, American Economics


Maya Fraser

Salt lake resident shows their support for Biden-Harris presidency on Thursday, October 29th, 2020. (Photo by Maya Fraser | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Logan Burton, Opinion Writer


For many voters, Biden’s biggest appeal is who he isn’t — Donald Trump. Watching the presidential debates made this fact abundantly clear. Biden is clearly benefitting from characterizing himself as the antithesis of Donald Trump. But his platform of policies also helps to distance him from his opponents, such as a much more active COVID-19 effort, racially-conscious judicial reforms and climate change. Whether these lofty plans can be fulfilled is unknown, but one thing is easy to predict — Biden will not usher in the era of progressive economics many hope for. Despite Biden’s supple two-trillion, climate-centric recovery stimulus being comparatively progressive, at least in the short-run, many underlying economic wounds will not be healed. A Biden presidency will change American economics, but it won’t revolutionize them.

Good Ol’ Joe and the Hostile Left-Wing Takeover?

Certain critics of Biden fear an impending leftist takeover of the Democratic Party once Biden becomes president. Trump and Republicans love to cite Biden’s apparent allegiance to socialism. But is this takeover likely? No. On the contrary, Joe Biden is well-known for his centrism and pragmatism, even to the point of criticism for some. The joint Biden-Sanders task-force, an economic policy consensus between Biden and Sanders, is an example of these pragmatist tendencies. Biden managed to move slightly left with the policy’s recommendations. But the most economically ambitious of left policy proposals, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal are watered down. The task-force is a good example of negotiation and economic pragmatism — an acknowledgment of the progressive left without moving too radically. Looking closer at some of Biden’s economic plans, we can see that this trend of an incremental, unradical move towards the left is also applicable.

What Joe Won’t Do

High government expenditures are a hallmark of the leftist policies laid out by people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In order to fund large-scale public projects, a large amount of spending is requisite. Modern Monetary Theory suggests that the government could spend much more regardless of the deficit pilling up. This change is possible since governments with their own currencies are not restraint by a budget like a household is. Both Sanders and AOC are closely associated with this economic theory popular with progressives. Though Biden has met with other consultants of various backgrounds with Stephanie Kelton — arguably the most ardent proponent of MMT — it’s unlikely the practice will be widespread as he will deal with a need to with a potentially hostile legislative.

What Joe Would Do

This is not to say that Bidenomics will not result in change. His pragmatism and moderation have moved more center-left ideas into the mainstream. For example, though his spending and taxing plans are less ambitious than that of Senator Warren’s, they are more progressive than they were previously. Additionally, considering how the Trump administration has treated climate change, such as rolling back regulations and withdrawing from multilateral climate deals, almost any option seems better. Yet Biden’s two-trillion-dollar investment into green energy is not a negligible number, even though it may be not nearly as much as that of the Green New Deal. All things considered, it is a decently ambitious plan for economic stimulation. Additionally, Biden’s spending plans for social programs like social security are no joke either.

The comparisons between Biden and FDR aren’t entirely unfounded. Both were center-left, and like FDR, Biden could implement policies, though not on the extreme end of progressivism, that could create considerable change. Despite the appeal of very progressive policies to some, it should be noted that it is not always digestible for many moderate Americans. A Biden deal will not open the floodgates to a Warren, Sanders or AOC style progressivism into the party, but introduce it at a pace that Americans will find it acceptable. It may seem slow, but it is still progress.

The loss of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries earlier this year was disappointing for progressives. For them, their entrance into the mainstream seemed very close. Yet, even though Biden isn’t as progressive as darlings such as Sanders, Warren or Ocasio-Cortez, Biden’s economic policies do point towards a future more progressive than the present.


[email protected]