After pushback, Biden thankfully dropped his old deficit hawkery and made a strong statement. Will he be held to his new position if he wins?
By David Sirota
Oct. 23, 2020
A few months ago, our reporting team spotlighted how Joe Biden’s campaign was suggesting that if Trump is defeated, a new Democratic administration may not even try to fulfill its campaign promises because of deficit concerns. When our story went viral, Biden’s campaign frantically — and rightly — backtracked, which was a huge win for accountability journalism.
At the final 2020 presidential debate, that success culminated in one of the most important moments in the entire campaign.
During a discussion about the budget, Biden brushed off his old deficit hawk buddies, outright rejected GOP talking points, and instead made the point that the federal government must spend what it takes to rescue cities and states.
“Every single state out there finds themselves in trouble — they’re gonna start laying off, whether they are red or blue, cops, firefighters, first responders, teachers, because they have to balance their budget,” Biden said. “The founders were smart. They allowed the federal government to deficit spend to compensate for the United States of America.”
Overall the debate was demoralizing and depressing, but this moment wasn’t. It was a moment that won’t get a ton of attention from a media obsessed with frivolity, but it wasn’t some small matter. It was everything. If a new administration accepts deficit concern trolling and the Beltway’s austerity frame, then it is doomed to fail. If a new administration rejects that frame, then the possibility of real change remains alive.
It is hard to overstate how big a shift this is for Biden. He was the guy who spent decades touting his work with Republicans trying to cut programs like Social Security in the name of budget austerity. Now he’s expounding on the need for countercyclical deficit spending. To use a Biden-ism, that’s a BFD.
Biden’s rhetorical change is not only good politics, it is sane policy. With the economy in crisis, and with states unable to deficit spend, the federal government must be the demand-side spender of last resort. And it’s not like there aren’t priorities that require big funding — investments in jobless benefits, infrastructure projects and climate change mitigation will boost the economy and are desperately needed for obvious reasons.
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