Joe Biden wants a more progressive approach to economic stimulus legislation than Washington has taken so far, including much stricter oversight of the Trump Administration, much tougher conditions on business bailouts and long-term investments in infrastructure and climate that have so far been largely absent from congressional debates.
In a fiery half-hour interview with POLITICO, the presumptive Democratic nominee sounded a bit like his angrier and less moderate primary rivals, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, though in unexpurgated Biden style. The former vice president said that the next round of coronavirus stimulus needs to be “a hell of a lot bigger” than last month’s $2 trillion CARES Act, that it needs to include massive aid to states and cities to prevent them from “laying off a hell of a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters,” and that the administration is already “wasting a hell of a lot of money.”Biden has been running a low-profile campaign during the pandemic, tweeting, filming videos and appearing on Sunday shows from his Delaware home while President Donald Trump has briefed the nation daily from the White House. Biden has let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speak for the Democratic Party during the debates over economic relief, offering supportive public statements that have faded into the background.But stimulus is a subject close to his heart, and he passionately contrasted his own management of President Barack Obama’s $800 billion Recovery Act in 2009 with President Donald Trump’s approach to the trillions of dollars flowing out of Capitol Hill.
The Obama stimulus was wildly controversial, but it won bipartisan praise for its strict oversight and unusually low levels of fraud. In the interview, Biden was at his most indignant when he recounted how he recruited a gruff law enforcement veteran and government watchdog named Earl Devaney to oversee the Recovery Act in 2009, and how President Donald Trump fired the Pentagon inspector general who had been selected to oversee the CARES Act almost immediately after he signed it.
“I wanted to bring in the toughest son-of-a-bitch in the country—I really mean it, I’m not joking—because we wanted to make sure we did it by the numbers with genuine oversight,” Biden said. “Right now, there’s no oversight. [Trump] made it real clear he doesn’t have any damn interest in being checked. The last thing he wants is anyone watching that $500 billion going to corporate America, for God’s sake.”
Well said. Meanwhile, Biden and Bernie Sanders campaigns are in conversations about this:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) outlined steps Joe Biden can take on health care that he says would be popular as the former vice president prioritizes uniting the Democratic Party ahead of the general election.
Sanders, a vocal progressive and advocate for “Medicare for All,” recognized that Biden, a centrist, is unlikely to adopt a single-payer system. However, he said decreasing the age to qualify for Medicare from 65 to 55 and expanding coverage for children would be positive steps.
“My best outcome is to go forward in the direction of Medicare for All but not do it perhaps as quickly as I would want,” Sanders said on MSNBC on Saturday.
“At least what we should do is lower the eligibility of Medicare from 65 to 55 and cover all of the children in this country. And then we can figure out ways that we can expand and improve the [Affordable Care Act],” he continued. “Those are some of the things Joe Biden can do without embracing a full Medicare for All concept.”
By the way, while tracking the polling between Biden and Trump, here’s something to keep in mind:
Earlier this week, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Joe Biden leading Trump 49 percent to 42 percent among registered voters—roughly the margin by which Clinton led Trump in 2016, once it was clear she’d be the Democratic nominee. NBC News shared data with me from the poll on voters who had negative opinions of both Trump and Biden: the new double haters. These voters were clear in their preference. Biden was winning them 60 percent to 10 percent.
The usual caveats apply: The election is months away; one poll doesn’t prove anything; the presidential race is hardly front and center in the news these days. On the other hand, it’s hardly a positive sign for Trump, and there are a number of reasons to think the disparity in support is real.
John Anzalone, who was a pollster for Clinton’s 2016 campaign and now polls for Biden’s campaign, says that last election, the widespread expectation that Clinton would win caused many people to stay home or cast a protest vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. The fact of Trump’s presidency, he believes, will change that. “You’re always going to have double haters because we’re a divided nation,” says Anzalone. “But it’s different this time because they’re not going to stay home or go third party with so much at stake, and a Trump presidency isn’t theoretical anymore.”
Biden also has other advantages Clinton didn’t have. Sexism won’t be a problem for him, as it was for her. He’s perceived as a moderate. He hasn’t been the focus of decades of right-wing attacks, as Clinton was. And Trump’s attacks against him over his son Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine haven’t resonated with Democratic and independent voters, who don’t find Trump to be a credible messenger. As one Democrat put it, double haters dislike Biden because he’s a Democrat—but unlike with Clinton, they don’t also think he’s the devil.
Let’s keep up the momentum and win this damn thing come November. Click here to donate and get involved with Biden’s campaign.