“For a national development plan.”
Can Biden get done what needs doing?
10 JANUARY—President Joe Biden’s popularity has fallen despite the best jobs market in recent history and an increase in household wealth with no precedent.The usual determinants of consumer sentiment are super positive. At 3.9 percent, the official unemployment rate is close to postwar lows.
Yet as we enter the second year of the Biden presidency, there is a sense of foreboding about the midterm electoral prospects for the Democrats and the likelihood that Biden could well become a lame duck president for the final two years of his term in office. A lot of money has it that the Democrats are likely to lose at least one house of Congress, and there’s more than a remote chance they will lose both.
Why is this the case?
Well, the thinking in Washington and New York focuses almost exclusively on quick-fix solutions to immediately pressing problems—the post-pandemic recovery, the uptick in inflation, the labor market. The reality is that these and other current problems, even as they have to be addressed and in most cases urgently, are mere symptoms of many decades of wrong turns and ideological inflexibility. Even today’s much lamented inflation, now the immediate source of policy tension and economic anxiety, is but one more manifestation of the errors of many years past. This is a time for deep thinking—the kind that leads to a coherent national industrial policy and a new economic model altogether. It is time, in short, to ditch the neoliberal religion that has prevailed far too long.
Whether the president is up to it or not remains an outstanding question on which hangs not much short of his presidency. At the moment, there is the immediate issue of delivering on many of Biden’s campaign promises: Parts of “Build Back Better” remain stalled in the Senate (even after substantial cuts to the original $6 trillion proposals); the response to the latest wave of Covid has been incompetent; we’re confronted with the sight of a president who criticized his predecessor for not rolling out enough tests—and then failed to roll out enough tests before winter, this after promising to dramatically expand testing.
Problems pertaining to rising crime, education, and immigration dysfunction, whether or not these are the fault of the president, have left Biden hemorrhaging support among key Democratic Party constituencies, notably Hispanics and Asians, who are crucial to his party’s electoral prospects in this year’s midterms and in the 2024 presidential election.
But perhaps most important has been the unwelcome return of inflation. Currently running at 7 percent, the U.S. economy is experiencing inflationary pressures to a degree that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s.
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