President Biden’s policy proposals, which were announced at his address before congress Wednesday, are a breath of fresh air for many Keynesian leftists. The fear-mongering of debt hawks and pearl clutching of pragmatic blue dogs has slightly subsided, and the democratic party is ready to spend the money required, and tax those who need to be taxed, in order to improve material conditions for ordinary Americans. Many of these proposals have the potential to deliver change for people who’ve heard empty promises for decades. They also stuff a sock in the mouths of perennially incorrect economists who warn that American will end up searching its couch cushions for change to pay for breakfast should these policies go through.
While the resurgence of promoting the general welfare of the population is a good step for the American government to make, it’s just a crutch for America’s seemingly unhealable broken leg: corporate capitalism. Biden’s most aggressive proposals , a family-focused $1.8 trillion plan and a more than $2 trillion plan aimed at infrastructure, both aim to solve fundamental failures of capitalism without addressing the crumbling foundation. The government will do its best to heal people wounded and left behind by corporations, but the door is still open for these companies to exploit and abuse our population over and over again.
Biden is not ignorant to these fundamental problems. In his speech, he cited the gap between CEO and worker pay and the general wealth gap separating most Americans and the top percentile. His mention of “trickle down economics”, however, reveals a perspective that views policy as the problem and not the rules of the system itself. Critiquing this shortcoming is important, but we should not ignore the legally entrenched ownership structure that causes and exacerbates these inequalities. Executives making 50 instead 300 times their workers is an improvement but not a solution.
The American Families Plan is a perfect example as a crutch for modern capitalism. There are some provisions in this plan that are not just bandaids for capital but actual solutions to problems, such as universal pre-K education and free community college. Provisions like tax credits for child care, however, shift the burden of adequate compensation for workers to the government instead of the corporations that employ them. That’s not to ignore the enormous benefit these types of policies can have for families, but these policies also allow companies to give their executives and stockholders more money by not adequately compensating their producers.
President Biden, of course, has no will or means to restructure ownership of our economy. In fact, even the crutches being proposed have little chance of turning into law in their current state. Even if the family and infrastructure bills pass, their ability to deliver long-term change is uncertain, as a slight shift in representation can reverse even drastic changes to tax policy and government spending.