Make no mistake. For all his supposed moderate bona fides, Joe Biden has dreamed big liberal dreams from the moment he finally landed that job on Pennsylvania Avenue he’d been pursuing for more than three decades. Far from advancing carefully and strategically in employing his limited political capital, the 46th president has by most accounts committed to entirely remake the social compact, the relationship between the government and its citizens — as if it had not already been drastically remade over the last century.
Ordinarily, sweeping social transformation transpires in the wake of elections marked by unmistakable and overwhelming mandates. Such was the case with Franklin D. Roosevelt following his landslide victory in 1932. His New Deal, forged in the midst of the Great Depression, dramatically expanded the role of the federal government. Some three decades later, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, designed as the coda for the New Deal, followed LBJ’s overwhelming victory in the 1964 election. One could certainly quarrel with the enlargement and increasing centrality of the federal government spawned by these one-sided outcomes but not with the fact that mandates of some sort had been delivered by the voters.
In contrast, Biden’s plans to complete a third round of major government expansion, to further involve the government in every stage of our lives from cradle to grave, conception to death, is hardly justified by the last election. While FDR won the popular vote by 18% and LBJ by 23%, Biden was declared the winner by 4%. Big difference.
Just as important is the striking contrast between the huge congressional majorities held by FDR and LBJ following their landslide victories and those of Biden. In 1933, Roosevelt was greeted by a 25-seat (!) advantage in the Senate and 193 (!!!) in the House. For Johnson in 1965, it was a 36-seat majority in the Senate, 155 in the House. In 2021, Biden is faced with a 50-50 Senate and a paper-thin eight-seat margin in the House. Put simply, to push through his $3.5 trillion utopian vision, he can afford to lose not a single vote in the Senate and only three in the House.
Nevertheless, the Democrats continue to talk big, against all odds and historical precedent and in the face of the political freefall of a besieged president and the extreme political risk being asked of wary, relatively moderate House members and the hardened opposition of as many senators as it takes to tank a deal – one.
So, now being the time for all good leftists to come to the aid of their comrades, the word has gone forth in leftist scripture — otherwise known as The New York Times — that the Democrats are setting their sights on what the woke Gray Lady terms, somewhat breathlessly, “a cradle-to-grave reweaving of a social safety net frayed by decades of expanding income inequality, stagnating wealth and depleted governmental resources, capped by the worst public health crisis in a century.” You can bet they worked that one over hard in their editorial conclave and focus groups.
If the Democrats get their way, you won’t have a thing to worry about from the womb to the casket. Your newly carefree life will begin with paid (i.e., taxpayer-funded) family and medical leave during and after pregnancy. Then comes universal pre-kindergarten starting at age three and increased funding for childcare (i.e., day care). After that you get more federal subsidies in the form of beefed-up child tax credits and a big expansion of Michelle Obama’s signature issue: government school nutrition programs.
And we’re just getting warmed up. Upon graduating from high school, students will be guaranteed two free years of college, thanks to you and me. Once ready for the real world, they will be gifted with federally funded job training and yet more income supplements. And once they reach their twilight years, they will get even more — you guessed it — tax credits, plus another lovely parting gift from all of us: expanded Medicare coverage (yes, despite program deficits running into the trillions) for dental, hearing and vision services.
In the process, they will explode a national debt nearing $30 trillion even as they tax everything that is not nailed down — and many things that are. They will squeeze new taxes out of every asset, including homes, boats, stocks, no matter whether they are sold.
Their undisguised goal is to create a full-on, European-style social democracy. And all they need to get it done is to force corporations and the wealthy to pay their perpetually unspecified “fair share” for a ridiculously ambitious scheme, one that is certain to trigger the same chronic unemployment, low growth, and general anemia baked into most EU economies.
Biden came into office with understandably low expectations but says he will shoot for the moon and starts with a domestic agenda clearly designed to establish an enduring legacy. He wants to be viewed by history as the Democrat who revived, restored, and strengthened the welfare state instituted by his distant predecessors and weakened piece by piece in the Reagan, Bush, and Trump years. Especially in light of his unbroken string of failures and bad news over the last month, he may well be staking his presidency on getting something, anything, out of this exercise. If he doesn’t, his party will reach the heights of frustration, the hard left will be furious, and the stench of failure around this president will become that much more noxious.
Read more from Tim Donner.