Election 2020

Biden/Sanders Unity Agenda: Fundamental Economic Transformation Part 1

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

This summary is the third in a series of deep dives into the Biden/Sanders Unity Platform. The policies advocated in this 110-page document certainly support the contention of MoveOn that Joe Biden offers the most progressive policy agenda in history.

The recommendations on the economy are so expansive and dense, I will do more than one article on them to cover the full range of insanity. The members of the Economy Unity Task Force are:

  1. Rep. Karen Bass – California District 37
  2. Co-chair Sara Nelson – International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO
  3. Co-chair Jared Bernstein – Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  4. Darrick Hamilton – Executive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
    Professor, John Glenn College of Public Affairs
  5. Ben Harris –Executive Director, Kellogg Public-Private Initiative, Visiting Associate Professor, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
  6. Stephanie Kelton – Professor, University of Stonybrook, former Sanders advisor and advocate of modern monetary theory
  7. Lee Saunders –President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
  8. Sonal Shah – Executive Director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation and Professor at Georgetown University.

Unity or left-wing takeover?

This entire platform is built on the ideas of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. It creates positive rights, such as healthcare and housing, that require someone else’s labor to provide. It ignores the real wage growth in working-class jobs that has materialized in the last three years due to historically low unemployment. It also relies on horrible statistics, such as the gender wage gap. And of course, it attributes all disparities to systemic racism.

Democrats stand ready to take immediate, decisive action to pull the economy out of President Trump’s recession by investing in infrastructure, care work, clean energy, and small businesses to put tens of millions of Americans to work in good-paying jobs, shoring up state and local budgets to save jobs and protect public health in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and enacting 12 fundamental reforms to address systemic racism and entrenched income and wealth inequality in our economy and our financial system.

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Modern monetary theory

In evaluating this platform, it is essential to note that Professor Stephanie Kelton brings a very different perspective on government spending. She is a vocal supporter of modern monetary theory. According to Investopedia, the theory’s base assumption is as follows:

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is a heterodox macroeconomic framework that says monetarily sovereign countries like the U.S., U.K., Japan and Canada are not operationally constrained by revenues when it comes to federal government spending. In other words, such governments do not need taxes or borrowing for spending since they can print as much as they need and are the monopoly issuers of the currency.

MMT challenges conventional beliefs about the way the government interacts with the economy, the nature of money, the use of taxes and the importance of budget deficits. These beliefs, supporters say, are a hangover from the gold standard era and are no longer accurate, useful or necessary.

In other words, need more money for your crazy climate agenda or economic programs? Don’t worry. We can print more. This boundary-less economic view is probably why none of these policy ideas have costs specified or anticipated results. Neither costs nor results are required if you subscribe to Kelton’s worldview. You can read the entire summary on pages 11-21 of the Unity Platform. The specific policy recommendations begin on page 63 with the following introduction:

Democrats commit to forging a new economic and social contract with the American people—a contract that works for the people, not just for big corporations and the wealthiest few. A new economic contract that recognizes all Americans have a right to quality, affordable health care. One that recognizes housing is a right and not a privilege, and that no one should be homeless in the richest country on earth. A new economic and social contract that raises wages and restores workers’ rights to organize, join a union, and collectively bargain. One that provides access for all to reliable banking and financial services. A new economic and social contract that at last grapples honestly with America’s long history of racism and disenfranchisement, of segregation and discrimination, and invests in building equity and opportunity for the communities of color who have been left out and left behind for generations.

All of these topics are covered in the Unity Task Force policy recommendations. I will cover racial equity and family policy in this article and the remaining issues in separate columns. Taken together, these policies are a significant government intrusion into the daily lives and choices of private citizens. The goals of this agenda are based on equality of outcome, and some combination of massive spending and redistribution will be required.

Equity not equality

The racial equity starts with a stunning statement that says equal treatment for all Americans under the law is not sufficient:

We need a comprehensive agenda for communities of color with ambition that matches the scale of the challenge and with recognition that race-neutral policies are not a sufficient response to race-based disparities. We need proactive anti-discrimination detection and enforcement. On day one, we are committed to taking anti-racist actions for equity across our institutions…

The first recommendation is to enact H.R. 40, which establishes a committee to study and develop proposals regarding reparations for black Americans. The problems with this type of payment are many. Not the least of which is who qualifies and who is responsible for paying. In a nation of immigrants where many arrived after the Civil War, this would be exceptionally complex.

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Other actions have to do with lending practices and penalties for discriminatory lenders. The problem with these policies is that progressives tend to use disparate and discriminatory as synonyms, which they are not. An outcome disparity can have any number of root causes that have nothing to do with discrimination. To accomplish this monitoring, they would create a new government agency, the Public Credit Reporting Agency.

These proposals call for government monitoring of where people choose to live to an astonishing degree. Whether it is actively looking for discrimination in the housing market through HUD, governing the home appraisal industry with a national standard, or abolishing the suburbs by implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, the government intends to direct how communities organize themselves.

This section also recommends removing barriers to re-entry for the formerly incarcerated, including restrictions on access to public housing, employment, occupational licenses, driver’s licenses, and public benefits. The fact that this statement is not couched with something like “where possible” is a concern. Depending on the reason for incarceration, there are some jobs, licenses, and even housing situations a former inmate should not have access to for at least a period of time.

Families

The family section deals with four primary issues:

  • High quality paid leave – A minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave for caretakers, with a broad definition of what caretaking means and covers almost any personal relationship. This leave would need to be paid at the rate of at least 66% of wages.
  • Child care – Universal pre-K in addition to expanding funding for child care centers and fully refundable tax credits. Pay increases and additional training requirements for child care workers are also included.
  • Expanded nutrition programs – Nutrition programs such as SNAP and school lunches would be broadened and work requirements for these programs would be eliminated.
  • Tax code changes – This is a call for a more progressive tax code and increasing refundable tax credits for low and middle-income families, many of whom already receive a refund above their taxes paid.

In many areas of the country, over half of the enrolled students get free or reduced lunch. This level of participation does not mean all of these children are poor. Recent changes make the program a terrible indicator of socioeconomic trends.

The top 10% of earners, making more than $139,713 per household, paid 70% of federal income tax in 2018. How much more progressive do we need to be? The recommendations do not explicitly call for a Warrenesque wealth tax but do not rule one out, either.

Only 13 more pages and six more topics to help you adequately understand the fundamental changes the Unity Platform makes to our economy.

 

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