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Biden’s Crisis Response Lays the Groundwork for a Liberal Push (Washington Examiner) March 17, 2021

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.

President Biden is apparently a graduate of the Rahm Emanuel school of public policy. As former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel famously said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … It is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” With his flurry of executive actions and the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Biden has shown he learned that lesson well as his immediate COVID-19 relief plans lay the groundwork for a longer-term liberal push.

Actually, President Franklin Roosevelt was an early adapter of the Emanuel crisis model. Roosevelt used the emergency of the Great Depression in the 1930s to revolutionize the size and role of the federal government and of the presidency in particular. If you think excessive use of executive orders is a recent response to partisan gridlock, think again. Roosevelt holds the record for most executive orders signed by a president at 3,721. He created countless new “alphabet soup” federal agencies and had the federal government take over farming, regulate private markets, create social security, provide direct welfare payments, and create make-work government jobs.

Roosevelt’s New Deal was not just about providing emergency relief. It was about changing the role of government in ways that persist today.

A closer look at Biden’s early COVID-19 emergency efforts foreshadows a similar story, a new New Deal in the making. For example, we are only now discovering that the relief bill includes $60 billion in new taxes, as well as other tax law changes. These taxes apply to corporations and the wealthy primarily, giving Democrats an early start toward the liberal goal of greater income equality. Biden is now planning even larger tax increases, the first in nearly 30 years, again focused mainly on the wealthy.

Biden has also used the COVID-19 relief bill to restore and increase traditional welfare policies that had been turned back in recent years. The bill includes increased unemployment benefits, healthcare subsidies and expansions, and notably a major expansion of the one-year child tax credit. Democrats have already said they would like to make the child tax credit permanent, which would significantly increase the total cost of the bill. It is always easier to continue an existing policy than to start a new one, so this is a classic Washington toehold expansion.

Of course, few people, even members of Congress, read 5,000-page bills such as this one. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said of the lengthy Obamacare bill, we had to pass it in order to know what is in it. However, one would do well at least to listen to the strong signals being given by liberals who are pleased with the bill. White House press spokesperson Jen Psaki called it “the most progressive bill in American history.” The 93-member Congressional Progressive Caucus described it as “a truly progressive and bold package.” Read their lips: It’s not just about short-term relief.

Even though the national debt chugs along toward a stunning $30 trillion, COVID-19 relief also removes the normal hand-wringing about increasing the debt. We are in a crisis, after all, so we can’t worry about the debt now. But will we worry about it when the next liberal bill comes along? We’re already told that it’s time for a big infrastructure bill. With COVID-19 relief breaking through debt ceilings, a large infrastructure bill will be far easier to pass.

Through COVID-19 relief, infrastructure spending, raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy, and restoring major welfare programs, Biden will be well on his way to a liberal administration following in the footsteps of Roosevelt and President Lyndon Johnson. Like the New Deal following the Great Depression, we will remember COVID-19 not only for its devastating effects on our health and economy, but also for the transformation of government it ushered in.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:


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