Biden promises popular progressive policies, then quietly reneges while the corporate press turns a blind eye and falls silent.
“Biden will spend the rest of his term proposing progressive legislation while ensuring that it won’t pass.”
The first 100 days of a president’s term are historically their best chance to enact their agenda. In 1933, as he took office at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats convened a special session of Congress and ran the legislature like a New Deal printing press.
Pushed by widespread and fierce labor strikes, popular movements, and independent parties, FDR and Congress passed 76 new laws in their first 100 days — including the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Tennessee Valley Authority — programs that employed, housed, and fed tens of millions of people. Roosevelt reshaped the role of government in providing for the people.
Eighty years later, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris entered the White House in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the worst public health crisis since the Spanish Flu. They arrived backed by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, giving their party the power to pass anything. After 100 days in office, the scale and substance of their response is the antithesis of their Depression-Era predecessors.
The Democrats are repeating history in a different way though.
In 2009, Obama and Biden entered the White House in the middle of the Great Recession, which was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression at the time. Instead of using the crisis to enact structural change, they chose to preserve the economic and social status quo that had produced the crisis. Their actions pushed the country deeper into an increasingly authoritarian oligarchy.
Twelve years later, Biden returned to the White House, during the new-worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Once again, he was backed by Democratic majorities in Congress. And just like Obama, Biden has chosen to preserve the economic and social status quo. The result will be to push this country still further into authoritarian oligarchy. Biden’s first eight years produced Trump. His next four will produce something far worse.
“Roosevelt reshaped the role of government in providing for the people.”
It is a myth that the pandemic devastated America. Other rich countries faced the same virus without mass unemployment, mile-long breadlines, and a soaring death toll. Those governments gave their citizens a basic income or subsidized payroll at the companies that employed them, on top of the universal single-payer health care they already provided. Our government passed a multi-trillion dollar Wall Street bailout and left working people to fend for themselves. Both parties were in on it, and the vote was nearly unanimous. The Democrats and Republicans exploited the greatest national crisis in generations to enrich their corporate donors.
A defining pattern has emerged in Biden’s governance. He promises popular progressive policies to much media fanfare, then quietly reneges while the corporate press turns a blind eye and falls silent. The result is an avalanche of revisionist propaganda and confusion that shields a reactionary administration and party.
For instance, the media discussion around Biden’s administration has largely ignored his enormous ability to enact progressive policies through executive action, which he refuses to do. It discounts the Democrats’ ability to repeal the Senate filibuster and pass legislation with a simple majority at any time, removing the Senate reconciliation process and parliamentarians as obstacles. And scarcely mentions the White House’s refusal to use its great influence to pressure the most corporate Congressional Democrats, like Sen. Manchin, into enacting progressive policies. The administration hides behind self-imposed barriers to justify its failure to enact progressive policies, a sleight of hand that the media conceals.
Then there are Biden’s policy choices. The following is an issue-by-issue analysis of his first 100 days.
Health Care — This country needs to guarantee health care to every man, woman, and child with a national improved Medicare for All, single-payer system. The president could declare a health emergency and use Section 1881A of the Social Security Act, passed as part of the ACA, to expand Medicare to every American through executive action, bypassing Congress entirely.
Instead, Biden and Harris promised to implement a public option and lower the age of Medicare to 60, policies that fail to cover the 92 million Americans who are uninsured or underinsured and save the 68,000 who die every year from a lack of insurance. But Biden and the Democrats didn’t even live up to these moderate pledges. Instead, they expanded COBRA subsidies, funneling tens of billions of dollars to health insurance corporations that are already making record profits as they jack up premiums and increasingly deny claims during a pandemic.
Minimum Wage — Wages have stagnated for decades despite huge increases in national productivity and wealth. The real value of the minimum wage has declined since 1968, when it was more than $10 an hour. If it had kept up with productivity since 1968 it would be $24 an hour today. Full-time minimum wage workers cannot afford rent in any state in the country. They would have to work 97 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental and 79 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom rental. The last time working people got a raise in the minimum wage was in 2007, under George Bush. No one should be too poor to live in the richest country on Earth. A $15 minimum wage would raise wages for more than 40 million Americans. Working people need a $15 minimum wage indexed to inflation today.
Biden and the Democrats pledged that they would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, and it has been in the party’s platform since 2016. But when they got their chance to pass it, the White House blamed a parliamentarian that the Democrats could overrule and refused to apply political pressure to keep it in the Covid relief bill, revealing their support as purely rhetorical.
Student Loans — We need full student loan forgiveness to erase the $1.7 trillion in student debt held by more than 42 million Americans. Student debt prevents people from purchasing homes and cars and even getting married. Defaults on student debt are higher than for just about any other kind of debt. Forgiving all student debt would reduce the racial wealth gap between Black and White households from 12:1 to 5:1. No one should be burdened by decades of crushing debt to get an education in America. The federal government holds 92 percent of student loans and the president could wipe it away with executive action.
Instead, Biden promised to cancel $10,000 in student debt per person during his campaign. A moderate pledge that he won’t even use his executive authority to follow through on.
Survival Checks — Millions lost their jobs and incomes during the pandemic recession. We need a $2,000 per month basic income retroactive to the beginning of the pandemic.
Instead, Biden and Harris promised that a one-time $2,000 stimulus check would go out the door “immediately” if voters delivered the Senate to Democrats in Georgia. Once the votes were cast, Democrats retreated to $1,400 checks, delayed them to March, and means-tested them so that 17 million fewer Americans would see a boost. As Rep. Ilhan Omar pointed out, in the end, Trump sent stimulus checks to more people than the Democrats. The Democrats also reduced federal unemployment benefits from $400 per week to $300 per week per Sen. Manchin’s demand.
Housing Crisis — More than half a million people are unhoused in America. Millions more are on the edge of homelessness, unable to afford their rent or mortgage and facing eviction once the eviction moratoriums expire. Housing is a human right. It is morally right and cheaper to house the unhoused than for society to care for them on the street. The government must guarantee housing for all.
Biden and the Democratic Party oppose housing as a human right. They kicked the can down the road by extending the eviction moratoriums without addressing the fact that millions can’t pay their rent or mortgage.
The Climate Crisis — Stronger and more frequent hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires, all fueled by global heating, have cost the U. S. over $2 trillion since 1980. Biden’s goal for net-zero carbon emissions is 2050, 20 years too late according to the world’s leading scientists who issued an alarming report through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2019. The world is on track for a catastrophic temperature rise beyond 3°C this century. Hundreds of millions of people could lose their homes and become refugees. Intensifying desertification and droughts threaten the crops that feed billions of people. We need a strong Green New Deal that creates millions of good-paying jobs and repairs and modernizes our crumbling infrastructure. We must leave our children a liveable world.
Instead, Biden has rejoined the Paris Accords, a small step that does not put the U.S. on track to avert catastrophic warming. His climate advisor is former Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who was the 19th highest recipient of oil and gas money in the House, reflecting an administration dominated by lobbyists and advisors with corporate backgrounds. The Democrats can’t claim to be serious about zeroing out emissions by even mid-century when they pump billions of dollars into the most polluting oil, gas and coal projects around the world — and changed their party rules to accept money from fossil fuel corporations at the DNC. Biden can’t say he’s serious about climate when he supports fracking but not the Green New Deal, and when he hasn’t backed the National Climate Emergency bill. We have no time to waste and the public agrees. Polls show majority support for the Green New Deal and young people across the political spectrum rank climate as among their chief concerns.
Halting Deportations and Child Detention — As a nation of immigrants, we need a pathway to citizenship for the millions of hardworking undocumented immigrants in our country. We must pass the Dream Act and naturalize all undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. We must shut down inhumane border detention centers and cancel Trump’s wall. And we must end job-killing trade deals that prompt a global race to the bottom, and push desperate Latin Americans to leave their homes and migrate north.
The Biden Administration promised to end for-profit detention centers and the humanitarian crisis at the border, a legacy from the Obama years that expanded under Trump. Instead, a record 18,000 children are being held in Border Control facilities, more than Trump detained. Carrizo Springs in Texas, which came under fire under Trump for its deplorable conditions and lack of childcare licensing, has been re-opened and pandemic requirements removed. Biden promised zero deportations in his first 100 days. Instead, United We Dream reported that he has deported more than 300,000 people. This aligns with the Obama-Biden administration, which deported far more people than Trump. Biden pledged to cancel Trump’s border wall. Instead, he’s finishing it. The administration has also expelled over 1,300 Haitian migrants — including children, infants, and pregnant women — during a violent political crisis, even while DHS admits that they “may face harm” if they are forced back home.
Mass Incarceration — President Bill Clinton presided over the biggest buildup of the for-profit prison industry in U.S. history. As a senator in the 1980s and ’90s, Biden spearheaded many of the racist laws that escalated the war on drugs and put thousands of largely Black and Brown people in those prisons, many of whom still languish there on trumped-up charges. Our country needs to end the drug war, end the militarization of police, legalize marijuana, and expunge the records of nonviolent marijuana offenders. We also need to restore felons voting rights.
Biden promised to use his vast pardon powers to reduce the current petition backlog of 14,000 prisoners and to take major steps toward reforming clemency. He has done neither. Instead, he’s arming local police with more military weaponry than Trump did. He is also refusing to legalize marijuana and end the drug war.
Endless War — The war budget consumes more than half of our national discretionary spending. We must end the wars, dismantle the global network of military bases, slash the military budget, and deploy those funds to defend the American people against the lethal and merciless enemies that have invaded our shores: poverty, hunger, and ill-health.
Instead, Biden bombed Syria and has kept the U.S. from reentering the Iran Nuclear Deal. He doubled down on Trump’s regime change campaign in Venezuela. He is propping up dictatorships in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He claimed that he would end the wars in Yemen but has continued to support it. He pledged to leave Afghanistan and then refused, delayed, and is increasingly privatizing the war with 18,000 Pentagon contractors in the country. Biden and the Democrats are maintaining America’s empire of hundreds of military bases worldwide and expanding its massive $700 billion military budget. He is pursuing the extradition of journalist and political prisoner Julian Assange and claiming the authority to arrest the publisher in any country regardless of jurisdiction.
“Biden and the Democrats are maintaining America’s empire of hundreds of military bases worldwide.”
In response to the most profound economic and health crises in generations, Biden and Harris have entrenched the status quo that made it so devastating. The Democrats have full control of government and are making cosmetic and temporary changes while millions are suffering to an unprecedented degree.
Biden is continuing his public relations presidency by announcing infrastructure and education bills that he knows won’t pass, especially while the Democrats preserve the filibuster with his approval. The administration pretends to stand with labor while refusing to investigate Amazon for unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. It is normalizing half of Trump’s corporate tax cuts, as Obama normalized the Bush tax cuts.
Biden will spend the rest of his term proposing progressive legislation while ensuring that it won’t pass, allowing him to shift the blame to Congress. He will continue to refuse to use his executive authority. Then, like Obama, Biden and the Democrats will lose their House majority in the midterms, or his Senate majority even earlier, and resume their favorite game of pretending that Republican obstructionism is the barrier to progress. Then they will decisively lose the presidency in 2024.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have said that without a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party into a party for working people, a worse and more effective Trump will be elected in 2024. That is our future in three and a half years without a major new party to break the duopoly’s fall into authoritarian oligarchy — a major new party to challenge the corrupt establishment and bring in the record two out of every three Americans who want it.
In his first 100 days, Biden and the Democrats have shown that political parties funded by Wall Street can only deepen the crisis, as they have done for generations. It will take a new kind of party to enact the transformative new social contract that Americans are demanding. A party that refuses to accept authoritarian oligarchy as our fate. That refuses to accept that our children will grow up never knowing the freedoms that we did. A party that is fiercely independent of corporate money. Where representatives are accountable to the people instead of billionaires and corporate politicians. A party that guarantees every American a good-paying job, Medicare, housing, food, college, strong unions, expanded Social Security, a basic income, and a liveable climate. A party that guarantees freedom from war, militarized police, mass incarceration, and monopolies and trusts.
The People’s Party.
A new force is rising in America — driven by working people across every state who refuse to be told that their future has been decided for them — and it will transform this country.
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