Michelle Goldberg From NYT, “A Biden Presidency Could Be Better Than Progressives Think”

Michelle Goldberg from The New York Times has a piece out that I recommend sharing to any fellow progressives who still aren’t sold yet on Joe Biden’s campaign to deliver on progressive policy:

Lawrence Mishel, a well-known labor economist, has been a critic of centrist Democrats for decades. “My adult lifetime has covered the Carter, Clinton and Obama years, and labor policy has never been a priority,” Mishel, the former president of the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, told me. In the 2016 primary, he voted for Bernie Sanders. This year he supported Elizabeth Warren. (So did I.)

But when Mishel saw Joe Biden’s labor policy, he was thrilled. “I think that if you had asked me in 2016 whether we would ever see an agenda like this, this is beyond my hopes,” he said.

Biden’s proposals go far beyond his call for a $15 federal minimum wage — a demand some saw as radical when Sanders pushed it four years ago. While it’s illegal for companies to fire employees for trying to organize a union, the penalties are toothless. Biden proposes to make those penalties bite and to hold executives personally liable. He would follow California in cracking down on companies like Uber that misclassify full-time workers as independent contractors who aren’t entitled to benefits. He’d extend federal labor protections to farmworkers and domestic workers.

Mishel said that no Democratic nominee in his lifetime has presented “as robust and fleshed out a policy suite on labor standards and unions.”

The anticlimactic end of the Democratic primary has left many progressives depressed, if not despairing. Instead of a fresh face or a revolutionary, the party has chosen a man who seems to embody the status quo, at least as it existed before Donald Trump. Yet should Biden become president, progressives have the opportunity to make generational gains.

Goldberg mentions that Biden has already started to adopt Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s policies and Biden and Sanders camps have been in contact with one another about establishing common ground in terms of policy:

The goal is to present a united platform before the convention, influence the kind of personnel who would fill a possible Biden administration and arm Biden with possible executive orders that he could enact quickly should he be elected president.
HuffPost obtained a preliminary list of some of the people Sanders is considering. Everything is still in early stages, and the two campaigns have been negotiating who will be in these six policy groups and how big the groups will be.
The list includes progressive policy experts who heavily influenced Sanders’ campaign platform over the last year, such as Darrick Hamilton, The Ohio State University economist who has become one of the leading academics on the racial wealth gap in the United States, and Stephanie Kelton, an economist at Stony Brook University who has championed Modern Monetary Theory — the idea that governments can never run out of money, and that deficit spending on major domestic programs would lead to economic growth.

Though not exhaustive, some other names on the Sanders campaign’s early list include Heather Boushey, an inequality expert with the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two leading economists in the world of wealth inequality and progressive taxation; Jeffrey Sachs, who runs Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development; Josh Bivens, an economist with progressive think tank Economic Policy Institute; Daniel Kammen, who runs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at University of California, Berkeley; Tara Raghuveer, an affordable housing activist who runs the Kansas City Tenants group; and Bonnie Castillo, the executive director with the National Nurses Union.
Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager who has been negotiating with the Biden campaign for weeks, would not confirm that the campaign was considering these individuals. These task forces are not yet finalized and could consist of a mix of campaign staff and outside experts. HuffPost reached out to every person on the preliminary list. Sachs and Kammen said they had not heard from either campaign. Boushey and Kelton declined to comment. The others did not respond.
Shakir said the Sanders campaign will put forward “people who are experts that are going to represent the ideologies of the respective candidates.”

Other progressive voices like Katrina vanden Heuvel from The Nation is pushing Biden to adopt more of Sanders’ foreign policies:

Ending the forever wars in the Middle East also should be a shared priority. Trump has broken his promise to bring the troops home. Sanders has repeatedly called for ending the wars and redefining the war on terrorism. Biden currently supports keeping Special Operations forces in the Middle East as part of the ongoing war on terrorism; he could move to a far bolder commitment.
The hardest reassessment would be over the emerging Cold War with both China and Russia. Trump has continued the Cold War buildup — sending arms to Ukraine, killing Russian soldiers in Syria, running NATO exercises on Russia’s border and augmenting forces in the South China Sea. Mainstream Democrats echo muscular rhetoric about both China and Russia. Sanders has called for an international progressive alliance to challenge the spread of oligarchical authoritarianism, including Russia and China. But progressives should not ignore the peril of a new Cold War with escalating and costly military tensions. Prioritizing engagement with Russia and China in arms control, and addressing common challenges such as climate change, would be a measure of needed realism — and provide more security.
If Biden lets progressives strengthen his commitment to ending the forever wars, bolster the priority he devotes to the climate crisis, and arm him with a global economic strategy that works for working people, the former vice president and the country will both benefit. On these and other areas, the conventional wisdom got it wrong; so let the change begin.

And progressive journalists like Ezra Klein have even made recommendations on how Biden can even expand his health care plan:

Back in July, the Center for American Progress released its “Medicare Extra” proposal. As I wrote at the time, the plan was, and is, an intriguing synthesis of left and moderate ideas on health reform. It’s universal, it uses Medicare’s pricing power to hold down costs, it rebuilds the health system around public insurance — and it gives everyone, everywhere, a true choice between public and private options, no matter what their employer is offering. In all those ways, it goes much further than Bidencare.

At the same time, Medicare Extra retains private insurance options, allows employers to continue offering insurance to employees if they think they can provide something better than the public option, and it holds the total price tag to somewhere in the $2.8 trillion to $4.5 trillion range. Which is to say, it’s not nearly as disruptive as Sanders’s Medicare-for-all bill, and it only requires about a tenth of the tax increases.

Here’s how it works:

  • Medicare Extra builds a new public insurance program called, well, Medicare Extra. The new plan shares Medicare’s name, but its benefits are much more expansive: It includes, for instance, vision, dental, and reproductive health coverage.
  • Everyone in the system, from individuals getting insurance from their employer to traditional Medicare enrollees, could choose to purchase Medicare Extra instead, and they’d be eligible for normal subsidies and employer cash-outs if they did so. So unlike in Biden’s plan, employers could buy Medicare Extra for their employees, and even if they didn’t, employees could take the money their employer is spending on private insurance and use it to buy Medicare Extra.
  • Premiums are on a sliding scale, with Americans under 150 percent of the poverty line paying nothing and those making 500 percent of the poverty line or more seeing their total contribution capped at 9 percent of income. Cost-sharing, too, varies by income, with total out-of-pocket spending, even for the richest, capped at $5,000.
  • Newborns would automatically be enrolled in Medicare Extra, as would the uninsured and every legal resident upon turning 65. Medicaid and Obamacare would be folded into the new program, and anyone on traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Tricare, Veterans Affairs coverage, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the Indian Health Service, or employer-sponsored coverage could opt in.
  • The plan saves money by expanding Medicare’s pricing power throughout the system — including to employer-provided private insurance. It’s the first of the major Democratic proposals to rely on a version of all-payer rate setting.

There are plenty of details and decisions in this plan worth debating. But something like Medicare Extra offers a middle ground that this moment demands. It eases the disruption of reform without reinforcing the dysfunctions of the status quo; it makes employer-provided health insurance one option people can freely choose, if they prefer it, rather than making it the only option most people have; and it creates a system that, while not single-payer, is far more integrated than anything we have now: a public system with private options, rather than a private system with fractured public options.

So far, Biden has done a good job releasing plans and making statements about how he would manage the coronavirus crisis. What he hasn’t done is reveal a vision for rebuilding in its aftermath. He’s offering a candidacy to feel relieved about, rather than inspired by. But coronavirus, and the damage it will unleash on an already broken health care system, demands more than that.

And Biden has also been reaching out to influential progressive voices like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D. NY-14):

Now that he is her party’s presumptive nominee, she is wagering her political capital to see how far she can push him.

In interviews last week, she argued that the response to the coronavirus demands sweeping economic reforms that will help the nation recover from the crisis and make it more resilient in the future.

“This pandemic has just exposed us,” Ocasio-Cortez explained on the Daily. “People tell me, ‘I cannot believe I didn’t see this before. I cannot believe I didn’t see this before.’ I’m just thankful that people are seeing it now.”

Ocasio-Cortez believes the crisis has created more room for compromise, contending that the success of party unification efforts – and possibly the outcome of the presidential election – may depend on it.

“It’s not just about this boding well for progressives,” she said. “It’s about us having a goddamn planet to live on in 10 years or in 20 years. It’s about making sure that babies don’t get put in a cage again. It’s about making sure that we end the scourge of mass incarceration.”

As of Friday, Ocasio-Cortez and Biden had yet to speak directly since Biden’s last rival in the primary race, Sanders – a mentor of Ocasio-Cortez – dropped out. But last week Biden’s team reached out to her staff, days after she told the New York Times that she had yet to hear from his campaign. The discussions, she said, revolved around his policy positions on healthcare, immigration and climate change.

These discussions are part of a wider effort by the Biden campaign to engage progressive leaders and organizers.

By the way, Biden picked up a big union endorsement today:

THE United Auto Workers union is endorsing Democrat Joe Biden for President.
The roughly 400,000-member union says in a statement Tuesday that the nation needs stable leadership with less acrimony “and more balance to the rights and protections of working Americans.”

The union says Biden has committed to reining in corporate power over workers, encouraging collective bargaining, and making sure workers get the pay, benefits and protections they deserve. Biden also has committed to expand access to affordable health care, the union said.

Let’s help keep up the momentum for Biden so he can continue to unite the party and defeat Trump. Click here to donate and get involved with Biden’s campaign.