President Joe Biden is not a socialist revolutionary. Two of his major economic policy initiatives—the American Rescue Plan (passed earlier this year) and his proposed American Jobs Plan (both part of his Built Back Better agenda)—are far more similar to Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s strategies than to those of Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong.
While Biden’s plan to increase the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent is nowhere near proposing a dictatorship of the proletariat, it is true that his proposals have the potential to dramatically reduce poverty, help working families, improve the country’s physical infrastructure, reduce income inequality and help save the planet.
Biden presents an incredibly ambitious and long-overdue vision for America. The $2 trillion-plus price tag is high. But it’s comparable to the amount of Donald Trump’s tax cut for the rich, which only increased income inequality and did very little for the economy (at a cost approaching that of George W. Bush’s disastrous military invasion of Iraq).
Biden’s method of paying for his jobs plan is also more similar to Eisenhower than to Mao. No re-education camps; no seizure of property. Instead Biden wants to stop the defunding of the IRS, to prevent massive tax fraud and reduce some of the tax breaks for those making over $400,000 year.
These are common sense proposals that have wide public support among the 99 percent of Americans who are not multi-millionaires. Biden’s plan also has the potential to decrease political polarization. The major beneficiaries of Biden’s proposal are non-college educated working class people who are disproportionally rural residents, the majority of whom supported Trump.
Biden’s plan returns the Democratic Party to its working class roots. Since the 1970s, the Democratic Party has been steadily separating itself from its union allies, picking up support from more educated and wealthier individuals. The party moved its sights away from core economic issues, focusing instead on cultural issues like abortion and gay rights.
The two-thirds of Americans 25 and older without a four-year college degree understandably felt abandoned, and responded to the Republicans’ dog whistle cultural issues. After winning their support, the Republicans then stabbed them in the back by passing tax breaks for the wealthy and decreasing their safety nets.
Much is in flux. Can Biden get his ambitious legislative plan through Congress? Who will the Republican working class voters support in the 2022 midterms? Will there be changes in social media to impact the polarization? These are just a few of the unknown variables.
To a remarkable degree, Biden has already been able to defuse the cultural conflicts. By not stoking the cultural wars, Biden has been able to get Americans to start focusing on the important issues.
If we want to see a more progressive America, we need to keep our eye on the prize. We can choose between raising the minimum wage, increasing taxes on the wealthy, and saving the planet … or we can get sucked into battles about wearing masks, removing statues and cancel culture. We probably cannot do both.
We have a tremendous opportunity in 2021 to Build Back Better. Let’s do it.
Jeff VonKaenel is the president and CEO of the News & Review. This analysis also appeared in the Sacramento News & Review and Moonshine Ink.
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