Is Biden Too Progressive for MVG?

Biden was considered a moderate when he ran for president; also an old guy with lots of experience. By a 100 days in office a couple of trillion dollars was designated for Covid relief and stimulus and another four trillion proposed for infrastructure (broadly defined and emphasizing jobs) and family relief. Six trillion seems a bit excessive. True, tax increases are proposed (I have no trouble supporting these), but not nearly enough to cover the additional spending let alone the ordinary deficit. It does seem part of a liberal wish list, but attention to details becomes important. Part of the analysis is a difference in perspective, from Reagan’s call for a much smaller federal government and the urge to fix real problems that could best be handled at the federal level. The Reagan philosophy was adopted some 40 years ago, resulting in building new problems rather than fixing them—granted, the US can churn out bundles of new billionaires and GDP has gone up sharply. These, of course, are not MVG targets.

What does MVG believe? I expect fiscal responsibility, which we haven’t seem much of. There are tradeoffs. A pandemic which proved to be a drag on the economy means fiscal austerity is not a priority. Targeted relief was called for. Part of that is immediate relief, but there are long-term issues like education, healthcare including mental health, and infrastructure. Much of the US seems to be headed toward third-world standards. These are complex issues, where throwing money at the issues has been less than effective. MVG does not have the answers: I try to stay away from authoritative pronouncements, but I’m content to quote the categorical statements of experts.

For me, the economic analysis of what’s going on is more complex than in the past. The standard answer, for example, of lowering interest rates and increasing money supply when the economy is doing fine should be inflation and a falling dollar. So far, radically low interest rates for the last decade have not led to inflation (labor has little power for one thing). On the other hand, certain categories have experienced huge price increases like housing and other durable goods. The pandemic disrupted the economy. Car rental companies sold off cars last year to avoid bankruptcy, then saw a spike in demand without a new supply; the result is shortages and high prices. Multiple disruptions across the world economy. This is important because economic disruptions like inflation are possibilities. Otherwise, it is hard to oppose trillions of dollars of federal spending on federal programs that should be beneficial if inflation and rising interest rates are not critical. This assumes that in the long run, a reasonable balance is maintained between revenue and spending.

Perhaps the Joe Manchin perspective works. I agreed with several of his positions, especially his demand to cut back programs like the amount of stimulus money to send out. Other positions I’m not persuaded by. He favors the filibuster. With Mitch McConnell playing every trick to not pass Democratic legislation, programs generating 50 votes probably will be necessary. I’m primarily thinking about non-budget programs like voter suppression and public safety legislation. Manchin’s perspective is worth considering, but one of many alternatives. So far, what Republicans have been saying is mainly noise. The ones that are proclaimed as moderate look to be quite conservative to me. They may go for infrastructure, but want to pay for it by user fees. This apparently means, for example, toll roads rather than gas taxes. Even so, a bill that has some Republican support would be preferred.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all just gets us to comparable healthcare with much of the developed world. The idea of universal healthcare is not socialism and not necessarily too extreme for MVG. However, not much of the Biden plan is healthcare and Bernie’s ideas are considered extreme given America’s politics today. To support Biden as a moderate who can get reelected and maintain a Democratic majority in Congress, I think the Biden plans needs to be cut and hopefully get some Republican votes for a scaled-down version.

In sum, the total Biden/Democratic package is currently too liberal for me, but I’m not yet convinced that a package that would get even ten Republican votes in the Senate would be a reasonable compromise. We’ll see.