VP Joe Biden spoke on infrastructure in Pennsylvania today, and said a couple of startling things. In the first, Biden said that LaGuardia Airport in New York is “like a Third World country.”
Given Bidens’s history of racial incidents, this comment could be seen as insensitive, but as he was speaking on infrastructure, he gets a pass here.
LaGuardia’s newest terminal was built in 1992, by the way.
Biden also had this to say on the subject of why America has the world’s largest economy.
“No, I’m not joking!” he added. “Why did we lead the world economically for so long? We had the most modern infrastructure in the world.”
Biden implies that we no longer lead the world economically, which isn’t true. It’s not even close to true. The US economy is still the world’s largest by far, nearly double the size of China’s economy and more than three times third-place Japan’s. Several US states, including California, Texas and New York, would rank above most national economies on their own.
The US remains the big dog, but some other countries are catching up. The question is why?
The period Biden is probably referencing is the decades following World War II, roughly 1945 to 1969 or so. The US enjoyed a period of massive economic expansion relative to the rest of the world, and the US outproduced the rest of the world combined, by far, for many of those years. That was largely due to the fact that economies across Europe and Asia had been shattered during the war and took time to rebuild. They had to recover and some had to adapt to democracy. The United States generally financed that rebuilding. What statists and fascists had destroyed, America would restore and set free.
America’s post-war dominance could not last forever, nor should it have. As other countries recovered, they could be expected to become more productive and more competitive.
The only way America’s dominance could be chalked up to infrastructure is if you consider the fact that, for years, many of our competitors had no infrastructure. America was rebuilding their infrastructure. America was also intent on freeing those who had lived under repressive regimes.
Why could we do that, though? Because we had won the war, and because we had the most free economy in the world. Why did we do that? US policy was to restore our allies and defeated enemies, and install democracy and individual freedom. That was not the only approach available. Our fellow victor in the war, the Soviet Union, was devastated after World War II and lacked the human rights and freedom necessary to sustain a vibrant national economy. The Soviets installed puppet Communist regimes wherever they could, which essentially froze its territories and their economies. The Soviets and their allies were agents of repression. The Soviet bloc fell behind economically. The US surged ahead, stayed ahead, and eventually defeated the Soviets in the war of ideas, and by outspending them on defense. The Communists eventually had to tear down the Berlin Wall and admit defeat.
While the US once had the world’s most free economy, thanks largely to policies that Biden supports and endorses, we no longer do. The United States currently ranks around 12th to 15th on the global economic freedom index. The main reason that we keep sliding down the economic freedom scale is that our government cannot help itself and cannot stop confiscating and spending more and more of our wealth. Our legal system, regulatory environment and property rights are all growing worse, sending us down the economic freedom scale.
Biden and his Democratic party are the party of trial lawyers, the party of heavy-handed regulators, and the party that favors government over private property ownership. So to the extent that we have economic problems, Biden is part of them, not part of any solutions to them.