the biden plan

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By SERGE HALIMI*

Biden moves forward on Obama's policies, and one of the most promising elements of the Biden plan is its universality.

Three days before Trump moved into the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Davos, where he warned the United States against protectionism. Today, it is the relaunch policy pushed by Joseph Biden that has Chinese leaders alarmed. They see it as a “systemic risk” to the current economic order.

The United States, in any case, has just passed one of the most progressive laws in its history. It abandons economic strategies adopted in recent decades that favored capital returns – “start-ups” and rentiers – and aggravated the abandonment of the popular classes. It breaks with public policies haunted by the fear of a return of inflation and an explosion of debt. And it no longer seeks to convince neoliberals and their financiers with tax cuts whose results end up flowing into the stock exchange, inflating the financial bubble.

With its US$1.9 trillion emergency plan (almost 10% of the country's annual wealth production), which should be followed by an investment program in infrastructure, clean energy and education (US$3 trillion over 10 years), the former vice-president of Barack Obama seems to have finally learned the lesson of this whole story and also of the failure of his former “boss” who, being too prudent and centrist, did not want to take advantage of the opportunity generated by the financial crisis of 2007- 2008 to push for a new New Deal. “With a world economy in free fall”, Obama justified himself, “my priority task was not to rebuild the economic order, but to avoid a further disaster”[I][ii]. Meanwhile, obsessed with debt, Europe inflicted on itself a decade of budget dismantling, closing hospital beds...

One of the most promising elements of the Biden plan is its universality. More than one hundred million Americans with annual incomes of less than $75 have already received a new check for $000 from the Treasury. Now, for a quarter of a century, most Western states have conditioned their social policies to lower and lower resource ceilings and punitive and humiliating employment arrangements.[iii]. The result of this has been that those who do not receive anything else, despite their need, are encouraged to detest public policies that they fund themselves but that benefit others. Then, spurred on by the media, they end up believing that their money ends up in the hands of thieves and parasites.

The Covid-19 crisis put an end to that conversation. It is no longer possible to blame wage earners and self-employed workers for their condition, since all their work has been brutally interrupted. In certain countries, 60% of those who received some assistance associated with the pandemic had never received any other[iv]. The State helped them without delay, “whatever the cost” and without doing any sorting. So far, few have complained – apart from financial journalism and… popular China.

* Serge Halimi is a journalist for the French newspaper Le Monde diplomatique.

Translation: Daniel Pavan

Originally published in the newspaper Le Monde diplomatique.

Notes


[I] Barack Obama, A Promised Land, Crown, New York, 2020.

[ii] Barack Obama, A Promised Land, Crown, New York, 2020.

[iii] See Anne Daguerre, « Emplois forces pour les bénéficiaires de l'aide sociale », Le Monde diplomatique, June 2005.

[iv] According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) advisory body, quoted by The Economist, London, March 6, 2021.

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