Joe Biden Wants to be the Next FDR — But that Won't be Enough to Solve our CrisesRoundup
tags: New Deal, Joe Biden, Franklin Roosevelt, 2020 Election
Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University.
Recent reports indicate that Biden wants to be more like Roosevelt. Indeed, during a meeting with his advisers in late April, Biden reportedly mentioned Roosevelt by name and explicitly stated that he wanted his policy agenda to be as bold as that of the New Dealer. The former vice president has already come out in favor of passing stimulus legislation "a hell of a lot bigger" than the $2 trillion Congress has already spent, strengthening regulations on banks and other powerful industries, investing in a Pandemic Testing Board on the scale of Roosevelt's famous War Production Board, creating a 100,000-plus worker Public Health Jobs Corps, providing free public college to lower-income and middle-class individuals, forgiving federal student-loan debt at a minimum of $10,000 per person, requiring businesses to provide paid emergency sick leave, increasing Social Security checks by up to $200 a month and likewise increasing the size of the relief checks sent to families.
These policy proposals, Biden's campaign staffers have explained, are only the beginning. Over the summer the former vice president plans on introducing more progressive plans. (Salon reached out to the Biden campaign for comment and did not hear back.)
Certainly, Biden's vision is an attempt to create contrast between him and a second Trump term. Yet even if Biden enacts the agenda that progressives dream of, there is ample economic evidence that it may not be enough. After all, the underlying problem with America during the Great Depression, the Great Recession and the pandemic crisis remains the same — free market capitalism.
In our current economic system, constant consumption must continue unabated in order for prosperity to be maintained. If that consumption is disrupted, however briefly, the economy itself grinds to a halt, with unemployment and poverty consequently skyrocketing. Even during periods of supposed prosperity, however, free market capitalism naturally creates massive wealth inequality, which forces hardships onto the masses while only allowing a small minority to lead financially healthy lives. Because free market capitalism rewards those who already have power and puts those who lack it at a further disadvantage, terrible social evils like racism, sexism and other forms of oppression are reinforced and exacerbated. Finally — and most urgently — free market capitalism incentivizes the consumption of natural resources beyond ecologically sustainable levels, causing existential crises for humanity like global warming, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, epidemics and lowered sperm counts.
Given the magnitude of the problems we face today — some of which existed during Roosevelt's era and went unaddressed (the New Deal, for example, perpetuated racist inequalities) and others which are new to our own time (Roosevelt, to be fair, had no inkling that global warming even existed) — the Roosevelt/Biden approach is woefully inadequate. The underlying principle behind the New Dealer approach, after all, is to co-opt left-wing rhetoric and use it to pass policies that leave capitalist class structures in place while making its injustices just bearable enough for ordinary people that they don't violently rebel against it.
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