“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week (in which case I am incredibly envious of you), then you all know Joe Biden has officially been sworn in as the United States’ 46th President. And as Biden settles into the Oval Office, and the Democratic Party basks in the glow of their victory that has granted them control of both chambers of Congress, the Covid-19 Pandemic rages on, and economic dire straits remain in full force, just as they were during the Trump Administration.
So why then, nearly one week into Joe Biden’s first term, does the Democratic Party seem largely to be so completely unsure and meek in their approach to economic relief?
As it stands, the standalone bill for $2,000 stimulus checks still lies in purgatory, awaiting the Senate Majority Leader – in this case Chuck Schumer – to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote, where it would surely pass. Yet, even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi declines to allow the House to be in session until the first of February, Schumer has taken a passive stance now on passing the relief checks, and is more active in trying to negotiate a “power-sharing” agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who I’m certainly sure would have extended the same courtesy to Schumer had Republicans retained control of the Senate…
To make matters more utterly perplexing, Biden once encouraged voters in Georgia that voting for Jon Osoff and Raphael Warnock would lead to $2,000 stimulus checks going “out the door”, meaning, passing both the Senate and being signed into effect by Biden himself.
But now, Biden is moving the goalposts on this issue, instead incorporating relief checks that total only $1,400 in his proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill, which may not even pass until April, because Biden is also oddly interested in reaching across the aisle for Republican support as well. Support for a bill that features vast spending, mind you.
It’s like if Spider-Man decided his go-to response for every crisis that put New York City in peril was to first get input from the Green Goblin and the Sinister Six. Because surely, they all have what’s in the public’s best interest at heart Spidey…
(The real tragedy is that the backlash to such an out-of-character move from Spider-Man would likely still be greater than any sort of pushback from the left towards Biden willing to compromise to satisfy Republicans.)
What we have here is another classic example of the Democrats, especially Biden, being the dog that finally caught the car, and now having no idea what to do with it. Democrats largely seem to be so accustomed to feigning ineffectiveness behind the power of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and the looming threat of fascism, that once they are finally in the driver’s seat, they suddenly find themselves unsure of how to put into practice any sort of move or power play that actually has a chance of succeeding without Republican opposition.
Senator Bernie Sanders has recently come out to make the case for a legislative agenda utilizing budget reconciliation that will not require any sort of folding or capitulating to the right, something that would behoove Biden if he doesn’t want a repeat of the 1994 and 2010 midterms elections.
Sanders’ proposals relying on the benefit of reconciliation allows the passing of bills quickly through the Senate with a simple party majority, rather than force Biden to aim for the 60-vote majority needed for major legislation, and reach out to make the case to 10 Senate Republicans.
They include, but are not limited to, the direct payments of $2,000 relief checks, extended unemployment benefits, the raising of the minimum wage to $15, wiping out student loan debt, and providing an ample extension of paid leave and off-time to workers. Sanders himself has even sounded the alarm about the Democrats facing a potential wipeout in one of or both chambers of Congress come 2022, if this opportunity is not seized upon.
Of course, I’m sure that warning would have taken more of the online discourse by storm, were it not overshadowed by a widely circulated photo of said Senator with home-knit mittens. I only hope that Sanders’ inevitable warning in 2024 that Kamala Harris won’t win the presidency without campaigning on economic reform isn’t overshadowed by a photo of him in a Dollar Tree haphazardly running a comb through his two strands of hair…
Of course there is also the option of enacting reform through executive orders, or through the power of the President’s cabinet. We saw during the Trump Administration that such a notion often lacks sufficient headway and bite, yet that in no way means Biden’s hands are tied indefinitely.
Biden could exploit the fact that the United States has been in a public health emergency due to Covid-19 for nearly an entire year, and invoke Section 1881A of the Social Security Act to make every American eligible for Medicare at zero cost.
Biden could cancel federal student loan debts using “Compromise and Settlement” powers granted to the Department of Education by Congress through the Higher Education Act of 1965.
He has the power to pardon whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, staving off a potential First Amendment crisis to investigative journalism if those like Assange were to be otherwise prosecuted and extradited.
And he could crack down on Wall Street, first by breaking up large firms through legislation proposed by Sanders and Rep. Brad Sherman. Biden can go on then to aggressively utilize the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 to force banks to divert certain assets and operations, and use the Federal Reserve to impose sweeping regulation.
Surely, Biden can only be chomping at the bit to exploit these powers to improve upon the lives of millions.
Of course, that’s what I would say if I were an optimistic yuppie who had not been dismayed by the harsh reality of heavily-corporatized neoliberal rhetoric from Biden stating otherwise.
Because the bitter reality is that Biden has stated he is unwilling to sign off on any measures that would allow Americans an unhampered and unobstructed shot at limitless healthcare.
He’s stated that he is “unlikely” to even nibble around the edges at student loan debt relief.
Biden won’t actually look to protect the rights of whistleblowers that expose U.S. war crimes, but rather, will threaten other countries that even consider the notion of granting whistleblowers asylum.
And Biden frankly seems to think that covering his eyes and looking away is a more effective means of reigning in corporate America, as opposed to utilizing existing or new legislation.
The point here is that corporate Democrats are largely unable to capitalize on the opportunities that are staring them straight in the face, because they frankly don’t seem actually interested in them when there’s no opposition to them. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, it’s easier to virtue-signal and shout from the hilltops what you’d like to enact, if it weren’t for that sniveling villain Mitch McConnell opposing every bill in the Senate. It takes actual conviction and tenacity to power through with progressive legislation, unless of course you’re more worried about an angry phone call from the Wall Street maledoms than you are about the wrath of voters.
Think back to Barack Obama’s first term: almost a very identical setup. An economic and housing crisis faced the country, and Democrats controlled the Oval Office and both chambers of Congress. Yet, rather than enact sweeping relief for millions of Americans immediately, Obama chose to seek out bipartisan support anyway for a compromised stimulus package, and heed the “advice” of people like his economic adviser Larry Summers which led his administration to bailout not homeowners, but the large banks and firms that triggered the financial crisis in the first place.
Then the 2010 midterm elections occurred, and the Republicans picked up seven seats in the Senate, and flipped the House of Representatives by picking up 63 seats.
We hear it time and time again – elections have consequences. And so does the act of governing, or rather, lack thereof.
I guess to the Democrats, they’re less interested in speaking softly and carrying a big stick, and more interested in spewing platitudes loudly, and flailing the big stick every which-way, hoping to god it just doesn’t hit a moderate Republican voter they intend to pick up.
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