Joe Biden Doesn’t Need More Time. He Needs Progressives to Demand an Ambitious Agenda

Minneapolis protesters seek focus on progressive priorities | Star Tribune

            “Give Joe Biden time.”

            “He just got there.”

            “Trump left him a hell of a mess. It’s unreasonable to expect him to turn things around in a month or two.”

            “Now is not the time to criticize him or the Democrats. When would be a good time? I don’t know, but certainly not now. Later.”

            These are talking points used by Biden and his defenders against progressive critics—progressives who, for the most part, voted for him—who attack the president for doing too little on COVID-19 stimulus, healthcare, the minimum wage, student loan debt forgiveness and other important issues.

            Though couched in an oh-so-reasonable-sounding tone, “give the man more time” makes zero sense.

            Asking the Left to be patient would be reasonable if President Biden had an ambitious agenda. But he doesn’t. Like fellow incrementalists Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Joe Biden isn’t proposing any big fixes or programs. His ideas are nips and tucks ranging in impact from the symbolic to a Band-Aid on a giant open wound. Which is why none of them will work.

            If Joe Biden wanted Congress to approve a $10 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that would put $2000 a month into the pocket of every American until the end of the lockdown Depression, as Bernie Sanders proposed and which would put a major dent into the pain felt by the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs over the last year, Democrats would have a strong case for asking their left base to hold their fire while the president fights with Congress and makes his case to the American people via the bully pulpit.

But he doesn’t.

Instead of actually trying to fix the problem, Biden is proposing a watered-down $1.9 trillion bill whose price tag would sound impressive if not for the fact that the American economy is teetering on the brink of collapse. It’s a weak proposal that contains what was originally promised to be $2,000 just one single time, then reduced to $1,400 one single time and now—after consultations with right-wing DINOs like Joe Manchin of West Virginia–will be radically curtailed by even less generous means testing than was used by the Trump administration. Even if passed as is, which is unlikely in a split 50-50 Senate, Biden’s so-called stimulus will fail. It cannot work.

It’s just too small.

So why should progressives shut up until some unspecified future before raising their voices? For progressives and anyone with half a brain, the issue isn’t that the stimulus is taking too long. The issue is that there isn’t enough stimulus. We can see that now. The passage of time isn’t going to help. Rather than waste time waiting for a wimpy solution to fail, leftists ought to take to the streets now to demand the big fix needed to save the unemployed and the working class from ruin.

            No one can say that the working class has been anything other than patient when it comes to the minimum wage. Full-time workers at some of the toughest jobs in the country still earn a pathetic $7.25 per hour, the same as 2009, the year Apple introduced the iPhone 3GS. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be well over $25 per hour.

            In large part to woo progressives who supported Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren during the primaries, Biden promised to support a $15 an hour minimum wage. He reneged. Under his proposed rider to his stimulus bill, the wage would only increase to $9.50 an hour, gradually scaling up to $15 an hour by the year 2025, with no allowance for a cost of living increase. Moreover, the House parliamentarian ruled the rider inappropriate—something Biden, who worked in the trenches of Capitol Hill for over four decades, surely expected.

            Why should workers and their allies stifle their outrage? Oppressed workers need more income now, not at some unspecified future point in time. It’s not like Biden was going big ($30 an hour would be about right), or was going anything at all, on the minimum wage, and needed our acquiescence to present a united front against reactionary bosses. At this point, he’s literally proposing nothing. Waiting for Biden to start caring about working people is an obviously doomed exercise in frustration, one that will only lead to more poverty.
            So it goes on almost every other issue. Biden has continued Trump’s policy of violently turning back political refugees from Central America at the border with Mexico. He has continued Trump’s brutal drone assassination bombings. The torture camp at Guantánamo Bay is still open, still torturing. The average American college student graduates with over $30,000 in loan debt; Biden won’t forgive more than $10,000.



For what?

            Waiting to speak out against Biden’s crimes of action and inaction accomplishes just one thing. It plays into the hands of the do-nothing Democrats until their next excuse to tell us to shut up: next year’s midterm elections.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Secretary Clinton offered nothing. Some voted 3rd party. Some didn’t vote. And, after the 2016 election we got Trump, the president that the establishment media reiterate is the very worst Head of State ever, anywhere, a president who made that fellow the Germans elected head of state in ’33 look like a highly competent, compassionate ruler.

    So, in 2020, all those who made themselves Deplorable by failing to vote early and often for Secretary Clinton did their part to elect President Biden. The slightest criticism of St Joe might bring back Trump, which, our establishment media assure and re-assure us, is the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen.

    So make sure you have nothing but the most lavish praise for St Joe!

    Or else.

  • alex_the_tired
    March 7, 2021 10:25 AM

    Sorry, this is a long one.
    So the dems caved faster than a bunch of claustrophilic spelunkers at a convention.
    Ted rightly points out that the stimulus (the stim-u-less?) isn’t enough. The point where I disagree with Ted is about timing. Ted says “Don’t wait. Criticize now. Take to the streets.”
    I understand his platform, but it won’t work. I’ll explain my thinking.
    Right now, millions are hanging on by their fingers. A few are starting to fall into the abyss. The still-there hear their fellow victims scream as they plummet. And you know what most of them are doing? Their inner monologue goes something like: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I just have to hang on and everything will go back to okay. I can see the edge, I just need to climb about 10 feet.”
    We are a trickster-nation — Bugs Bunny, Capt. Kirk, Col. Hogan, Superman, etc. — and things go our way because we’re on the side of the angels, self-sufficient, plucky, improvisational, etc. The millions are still waiting for Bugs Bunny to get the last laugh, for the distant explosion of a munitions plant as Col. Klink rails about the superiority of the Reich, etc. The millions still have something left to lose. Their student loans have been suspended. The eviction moratorium is good for a few more months. Unemployment is still flowing, meager though it is. “Things could be worse. Just hang on. Maybe I can still find a job. Or sell some things on eBay. Just hang on.”
    These people are stuck in the midrange of despair. They still have “some” things: a small amount of money, a place to sleep, enough food. They are in a hibernation-like state of shock. True desperation has not kicked in. When the sheriffs remove them from their homes and toss their possessions on the sidewalk, when they start to stink because they can’t get access to a shower, there will be a thin window of opportunity to weaponize that anger.
    Right now is not the time for revolution. Right now is the time to start canvassing. Not to elect this person or that person, not to criticize, but to get information to the victim-citizens about how the system works.
    I think Ted’s in a great position to whip up the necessary pamphlets. “So you’ve just been kicked out of your home? Here’s what you can expect at the shelter.” “Need to eat? Here’s what will happen when you apply for benefits.” “The cops trying to chase you out of town for vagrancy? Yeah, that’s a big problem for you.” Etc. And the end point of all these tracts (do ’em like Chick Tracts, Ted, leave them lying around at bus shelters, link them to a web site) will be to tell people that they’ve got nothing left to lose, that they will soon, finally, be reduced to zero by a system that has always had that goal in mind. But telling them now, right out loud, that they need to finally wake the fuck up and start actively resisting in an organized fashion and vote out every single centrist, now and forever, and start actively disrupting everything until their demands are met, will not work. Because they still have that cliff face to cling to.
    That’s why I’m leaving Biden alone for six months. If I complain, the centrists will argue, as they stamp their feet, that I haven’t been “fair.” And the shell-shocked victims of end-stage neocapitalism will nod their heads as the hug the side of the cliff. “That’s true. So much negativity. Can’t the critics be civil?” My suspicion is that by July 20, the hand writing on the wall will be inescapable to pretty much everyone. But right now, there’s just too many people who think that someone’s going to figure out how to pull the plane out of the stall and land it safely. I need to give them time to sit there, as their ice floe shrinks, to realize that no one is coming to save them. At least not from the centrist portion of the politi-sphere.

  • An “ambitious agenda”? Biden, the Dems, whoever is running the show, IS/ARE running a VERY “ambitious agenda” … to amplify the Weimar Republic conditions of Obumma/Biden I & II in order to usher back into power His Hairness, the other “major” party’s con-man.

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