The Democratic Party is poised to deliver a Build Back Better betrayal to the American people. Indeed, the ways in which President Biden’s social and infrastructure spending proposals have been hollowed out are a good microcosm of the Democratic Party’s transformation under neoliberalism. It’s all there: the public/private/partnerships, the means testing, the paucity of spending, the deficit fetish obsession, the reliance on markets. It’s as if they don’t even believe that government under their control is capable of doing anything.
Over the past few days, Democrats signaled that they intend to fully gut many of the progressive elements in President Joe Biden’s health care, climate, and anti-poverty reconciliation spending bill.
Politico reported that “Congressional Democrats are watering down — and may entirely drop — a plan to have the government directly negotiate some Medicare drug prices in order to help clinch a deal on their sweeping social spending package.”
So, in order to secure a deal with their own pharma-bankrolled party members, Democratic leaders are now insisting they need to water down or kill the drug pricing provisions that survey data show voters most want, and that the party has been promising those voters for 15 years.
Politico further reported that Democrats may also axe their plan to add dental, hearing, and vision benefits to Medicare, and may fully eliminate their already watered-down proposal to guarantee U.S. workers have paid family and medical leave. The news follows reports that the Biden White House is ready to remove its clean electricity program from the reconciliation package in order to appease Democrats’ coal baron senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
None of this is good policy nor good politics. Meanwhile, their priority seems to be allowing the IRS to snoop in bank accounts containing as little as $600. Boy, I don’t know about you but that sure sounds like a winning campaign issue to me.
For some time it’s been obvious that the Democrats really have no interest in governing because that would mean having to chose between we the people and they the corporations that fund their election campaigns. The reason the Democratic Party always sounds so helplessly incoherent is because its lawmakers are trying to simultaneously appease their corporate donors and look like they are fulfilling their public promises to fix problems created by those corporate donors. There’s also that 40 odd year default to neoliberal market-worship that I mentioned earlier. Instead, they much prefer being in the minority, especially with a president like Trump in office, where they can virtue signal and raise money by being not Trump. Actual governing is hard as they are expected to actually do things for the average voter which would displease their corporate funders and the Washington corporate press-corp, who would have a sad if Democrats were to govern progressively.
But, here’s the thing: We’ve just about reached the end of the line for this sort of behavior. After almost two years of Covid disruptions that have exposed the rot at the heart of our neoliberalized economy the US is in a state of catastrophe. The U.S. economy is just seeing massive amounts of workers being financially disempowered, a downwardly mobile middle class, the endless printing of money, extreme inequality, and now inflation. The American people are desperate for anyone, anything that will improve their lives.
The US decided it was going to de-industrialize, because our corporations could hire much cheaper labor abroad than they could hire in the United States. The brutal reality is that our societies and our social contracts were long ago hollowed out by corporate interests that captured the state. The brutal reality in America is that you cannot expect the government to act in your interest or care for you, unless it is in the interests of the powerful and rich that it does so. Going further, our profit-driven society, engineered to uphold the power of elites, is incapable of airing such matters fairly or allowing us to weigh them dispassionately. Which is precisely the reason for the social breakdown that has become so obvious.
Presently, the corporate media is freaking out about our supply chain woes but they are focusing on the wrong culprit–of course.
We cannot fix this crisis by adding to port capacity or working longshoremen and truckers overtime. It is a systemic failure, rooted in too much corporate power and too much faith in markets, deregulation, and hyper-globalism—the cocktail otherwise known as neoliberalism. Bring jobs and supplies home, restore some regulation, and the supply chain crisis goes away. Back when most supplies were sourced domestically, we never had a supply chain crisis—because we made most of the stuff at home. There were some imports, but they did not overwhelm ports. And back when we had a regulated trucking industry and a strong Teamsters Union, we never had shortages of truck drivers because these were good jobs with benefits.
I’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating. Government has a crucial role in the economy and it’s not simply backstopping the wealthy and corporations they own. Infrastructure is the “…fourth factor of production,” where health care, transportation and rents should be subsidized by the government to create a low-cost economy where small businesses and entrepreneurs can prosper. And the most important public utility is to keep money creation, banking, and credit in the public domain. We have the opposite. The US is a high-cost economy. The cost of housing has gone way up. The cost of medical insurance has gone way up. The debt burden has gone way up. And America has now priced itself out of the market.
Build Back Better might be our last chance because that if nothing fundamentally changes in our economy we can’t make it here anymore.
James McMurtry said it way better than I can.
“…Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ’em for having our jobs today
No, I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need
Their shit don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed
Their kids won’t bleed in their damn little war
And we can’t make it here anymore
Will work for food, will die for oil
Will kill for power, and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
So let ’em eat jellybeans let ’em eat cake
Let ’em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force or join the Corps
If they can’t make it here anymore…”