The opening paragraph of Mr. Ganesh’s latest essay is suffused with humility, of a very special kind , only realized in hindsight. This followed by his announcing that his eyes have been opened by his realization, and in this political moment his vision is unimpeded.
It is possible that something similar is going on with President Joe Biden and his $1.9tn fiscal relief bill. For anyone willing to see, America’s social democratic turn has been in the works for decades now. The one Republican to win the popular vote in a White House race since 1988, George W Bush in 2004, had widened Medicare the year before. Quietly, voters have grown to like Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Public surveys disclose a culture that is no longer one of masochistic self-reliance, if it ever was.
But then nor is today’s progressive moment quite as resounding as currently billed. The test is not whether voters like cash that is time-limited, crisis-enforced and financed by the awesome borrowing power of the US government. Of course they do. The test is whether they will accept higher taxes to make it sustainable in the long term. The Biden administration has not even begun to confront them with the choice.
All of this analysis as the in-order-too of demonstrating his current ‘political wokeness’, on the Biden Question: whether he is an actual ‘Progressive’ or not. I’ve not yet arrived in my reading to witness Ganesh’s confronting the devastation of The Pandemic. That like the 2008 Crash called for extraordinary measures: A Bail-Out for all those Crony Capitalists, while the lives of millions collapsed in foreclosures and bankruptcy courts. Obama put ‘the past behind us’ and offered the Austerity of Simpson-Bowles.
On the appointment of Gene Sperling:
Sperling, 62, is well known to Biden. He was a close adviser to Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary in the Obama administration, and then served as director of the National Economic Council at a time of tense negotiations with Republicans in Congress on budgetary issues, including the raising of the US debt limit. Sperling was also NEC director under Bill Clinton.
In between his two stints at the White House, Sperling worked as an advocate for universal education and a consultant for the West Wing television series.
Note that Erskine Bowles, Henry M. Paulson, share leadership at the Economic Strategy Group, while Mr. Sperling is a member. Should the reader take these ‘clues’ that Biden is in no sense a ‘Progressive’?
Note this howler from Mr. Ganesh: ‘Roosevelt’s universal pension scheme is the one that exists today.’ Universal Pension Scheme, another name for Social Security, the most successful and completely necessary legacy of the New Deal. It is the object of scorn for Conservatives and the ubiquitous Neo-Liberals. A quote from Dickens is appropriate: ‘Are there no Work-Houses’ is descriptive of this Mentality,this World -View, in its historical context ‘The World According to the Economist’ by Alexander Zevin.
More ‘history made to measure’ follows, until the reader reaches the final two paragraphs of his essay :
Yet weirder is the idea that Biden has closed an age of craven Democratic submission to something called “neo-liberalism”. This travesty of the recent past is worth correcting now. The healthcare model for which Biden has increased subsidies had to be created. Obama did it. The child tax credit that Biden has enhanced temporarily had to be introduced in the first place. That was the work of Bill Clinton, who also passed the last sweeping round of federal tax increases in 1993. These alleged sell-outs did a lot for Americans caught up in what Johnson’s father called, with a flourish not given to his son, the “tentacles of circumstance”.
No doubt, they have the scars on their backs to show for it. But then so will Biden if he tries to entrench what is for now a fleeting munificence. A proper welfare state must be paid for. Such is the political Everest that should daunt the Democrats, and the opening that awaits the Republicans.
Recall the Clinton of : Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999, Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Joe Biden drafted the Senate version of this bill.
What reader believes that Biden is a ‘Progressive’ rather than a Neo-Liberal? Call this notion an expression of ‘Counter-History‘, although there are more apt and pointed descriptors. The collection of Clinton and Obama loyalists, that have been appointed by Biden demonstrates his fealty to this- Biden is not an ideologue, but an opportunist and political conformist of a certain generation of American pols. Yet in an Emergency, like Bush The Younger, Biden has taken extraordinary measures.