The radicals in the Democratic Party are already warning the establishment that the price for their supporting Joe Biden for president is going to be steep. They want a payoff not only in the new administration paying attention to their agenda but in high-ranking cabinet officials as well.
Number one on their wish list for cabinet positions is Vermont’s socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. He has most often been touted as Secretary of Labor, which would, at the very least, be a novelty. A man who advocates worker ownership of capital and in the 1970s pushed for the nationalization of banks and the energy sector has never achieved this much power in American history.
Sanders has since disavowed those positions. He has adopted “socialism with a human face” in order to achieve success in elections. But the damage he could do to a market economy is considerable and we’d be a long time recovering.
Leading progressives have floated Sanders, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, as a potential candidate for the labor secretary position in the incoming Biden-Harris administration in recent days. The longtime senator, 79, confirmed that he was open to the possibility.
“What’s true is I want to do everything I can to protect the working families of this country who are under tremendous duress right now. Whether that’s in the Senate, whether that’s in the Biden administration, who knows,” Sanders said during an appearance on CNN. “Let’s see how that unfolds.”
Naming Sanders to his cabinet would be a strong signal by Biden showing who is going to be running domestic policy in the United States for the next four years.
Sanders would be bad enough atop the Department of Labor. But if that doesn’t scare you, how about Elizabeth Warren as treasury secretary?
Warren is lobbying for the position and is expected to have a private meeting with the president-elect to make her case. To Warren, running the powerful Treasury Department means she would have a chance to effect the big structural change she ran on as a presidential candidate.
Warren may be too radical for Wall Street and even Main Street. The “big structural changes” she wants would stick it to big institutional investors and heavily regulate the banks, perhaps making them wards of the government. Her main claim to fame — the Consumer Finance Protection Board — was a regulatory disaster and Republicans were able to pull its teeth before it caused too many problems.
But Sanders could permanently alter the relationship between employees and employers. It’s likely that he would name far-left allies to the National Labor Relations Board, where they could wreak havoc in every industry. He would no doubt lead the effort to make the $15 minimum wage national, and give a boost to the attack on the gig economy that would make independent contractors employees.
The NLRB would almost certainly revisit an Obama-era ruling that made fast-food corporations responsible for the treatment of all workers employed in franchises, thus destroying the idea of franchising and making it far easier for unions to organize fast-food workers.
In fact, Sanders would make sure to tip the balance in labor relations not toward the worker, but toward unions. This puts the concept of “right to work” in jeopardy and could force hundreds of thousands of workers to involuntarily pay union dues.
No doubt much of his agenda as labor secretary will end up in court. But his presence would be felt.