Thirteen recipients of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, representing the universities of Georgetown, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Chicago, Yale, Columbia, New York, and Stanford have issued an endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s economic agenda:
We the undersigned express our support for the economic principles and policies of Joe Biden. While each of us has different views on the particulars of various economic policies, we believe that Biden’s overall economic agenda will improve our nation’s health, investment, sustainability, resilience, employment opportunities, and fairness and be vastly superior to the counterproductive economic policies of Donald Trump.
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Biden has recognized that science-based, public health solutions are critical not only to saving lives, but to any viable strategy to restore economic confidence, recovery, and jobs. Similarly, on issue after issue, Biden’s economic agenda will do far more than Donald Trump’s to increase the economic strength and well-being of our nation and its people. Simply put, Biden’s policies will result in economic growth that is faster, more robust, and more equitable.
So, just what is Biden’s economic agenda?
One place to look is the recently released “Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations.” Here are twelve topics addressed under the heading of “Building a Stronger, Fairer Economy” along with some comments about the opposition party’s economic agenda.
Paid family leave
Biden’s agenda: “Democrats will implement a high-quality paid family leave system that protects workers from the unfair choice between attending to urgent health or caretaking needs and earning a paycheck. We will fight to ensure all employers provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers and family units, to enable new parents to recover from childbirth and bond with their newborns or adopted children and allow all workers to take extended time off to care for themselves or an ailing relative.”
Republicans at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) think tank are champions of a national paid family-leave policy. President Trump has consistently placed a government-funded family-leave provision in his budgets.
Biden’s agenda: “We will reform the current unemployment insurance system to enable more workers to remain attached to their jobs, including by promoting payroll support and work-sharing programs with generous rates of wage replacement and requirements that employers maintain workers’ benefit programs. For those workers who do lose their jobs, we will expand the unemployment insurance system to cover more workers.”
Republicans have always supported the federal system of unemployment insurance that takes money from those who work and gives it to those who don’t.
Biden’s agenda: “Democrats will fight to raise wages for working people and improve job quality and security, including by raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
Although they don’t yet support a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, Republicans have no philosophical objection to the federal government’s setting a nationwide minimum wage.
Biden’s agenda: “We will increase funding to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and increase their authority to initiate directed investigations into civil rights violations and violations of the rights of people with disabilities.”
Republicans are firmly committed to funding the EEOC and enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws.
Refundable tax credits
Biden’s agenda: “Our program of reform will provide immediate, marked relief for working families, including more generous, refundable tax credits to benefit low- and middle-income families.”
Republicans have always supported refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that give some Americans tax refunds of money that they never paid in.
Biden’s agenda: “In the wealthiest country on earth, it is a moral abomination that any child could ever go to bed hungry. Democrats will increase funding for food assistance programs, including SNAP, WIC, and school meals. We will remove barriers that keep the formerly incarcerated from accessing food assistance.”
Although Republicans sometimes call for reductions in the rate of increase of government spending on food programs or increased work requirements to receive benefits, they have no philosophical objection to food stamps or any other federal program that feeds low-income Americans.
Biden’s agenda: “We will repair our highways, roads, bridges, ports, and airports, and launch our country’s second great railroad revolution by investing in high-speed rail.”
Republicans fully support the federal Department of Transportation and its construction projects, especially in their congressional districts.
Biden’s agenda: “Democrats believe more products in our homes, stores, and workplaces should be stamped ‘Made in America’ and will expand support for American manufacturing. Democrats will pursue a trade policy that puts workers first. We will negotiate strong and binding standards for labor, human rights, and the environment in the core text of our trade deals, including enforcement, because having fair trade means that no trading partners should be able to capture market share by undermining our product, consumer, environmental, or labor standards.”
Republicans have for the most part accepted Trump’s protectionism and economic nationalism. They differ little from Democrats on trade.
Biden’s agenda: “We will significantly boost funding for state small business grant and lending initiatives that create tens of billions of dollars of private-sector investment.”
Republicans would agree with government support for small business, and have never made a serious attempt to abolish the Small Business Administration even though it has been embroiled in numerous scandals and found to have wasted billions in taxpayer dollars.
Biden’s agenda: “Democrats will invest in the American heartland and rural communities. We will make it easier for new and beginning farmers, ranchers, and foresters, including returning veterans, to start and grow their operations by expanding USDA ownership and operating loan programs.”
Republicans are big supporters of government subsidies to agriculture.
Biden’s agenda: “Housing in America should be stable, accessible, safe, healthy, energy efficient, and, above all, affordable. Democrats believe the government should take aggressive steps to increase the supply of housing. We commit to providing Section 8 housing support for every eligible family. Democrats will vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and hold lenders accountable for discriminatory practices.”
Republicans have no philosophical objection to Section 8 housing vouchers, and fully support housing-discrimination laws.
Biden’s agenda: “Democrats are proud to be the party of Social Security, the most enduring thread in our nation’s social safety net. Democrats support Social Security reform which better accounts for the challenges facing unpaid caregivers — including incremental reforms to the benefit formula to mitigate the penalty for unpaid care. Democrats will reject every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reduce earned benefits. We will put Social Security on a path to solvency and strengthen it in perpetuity.”
Republicans are also proud to be the party of Social Security. They regularly put forth plans to save, reform, overhaul, or privatize it to ensure its survival for future generations.
The strange thing about Biden’s economic agenda is that there is not a whole lot of difference between many elements of it and a Republican economic agenda.
To really see how similar the Democrats and Republicans are, just compare them both with the libertarian economic agenda regarding the above twelve items.
Paid family leave: All paid family leave programs should be company-funded. There should be no government mandates regarding family-leave programs.
Unemployment: The government should never take money from those who work and give it to those who don’t. All unemployment insurance should be private and voluntary just like life insurance.
Minimum wage: There should be no federal, state, or local minimum-wage laws. The amount of wages paid should be a matter between employers and employees.
Anti-discrimination laws: Since discrimination is not force, threat, or aggression, and no one has the right to any particular job, there shouldn’t be any anti-discrimination employment laws or EEOC.
Refundable tax credits: Since refundable tax credits are a form of welfare, they should all be eliminated.
Food stamps: It is not the business of government to feed anyone. All charity should be private and voluntary.
Transportation: Under the American federal system of government, the existence of any government-built roads in the states is the full responsibility of the states when it comes to funding or construction.
Trade: Free trade is fair trade. Government-managed trade agreements are unnecessary and counterproductive.
Small-business support: It is not the job of the federal government to help Americans start, build, grow, or subsidize small businesses. Government can help small businesses by cutting taxes and regulations.
Farm subsidies: The federal government should not subsidize agriculture because it shouldn’t have anything to do with agriculture.
Housing subsidies: The federal government should not subsidize housing because it shouldn’t have anything to do with housing
Social Security: Social Security is an intergenerational wealth-redistribution scheme that is the cornerstone of the welfare state. It is not the job of government to have a retirement or disability plan.
Biden’s economic agenda is an assortment of socialism, subsidies, welfare, and government intervention — just like the Republican’s economic agenda.