Adam Posen is, since 2013, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, an independent think tank in Washington, of Atlanticist and centrist sensibility. This 55-year-old Harvard graduate economist takes stock of Joe Biden’s first year in office
During Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday 1is March, you tweeted, exasperated, several times: “Stop, Mr. President! and wrote, “Donald Trump’s policies fail equally when you implement them.” What is the difference between “Make America Great Again” (MAGA), Donald Trump’s slogan, and “Build Back Better in America” (BBB), by Joe Biden.
MAGA and BBB have a lot in common. Both prioritize domestic employment and manufacturing at the expense of more efficient economic goals. They privilege American workers in these industries at the expense of obligations to the rest of the world. They also share a hostile approach towards China in the economic sphere, explaining that China and, to a lesser extent, Japan and Europe have taken advantage of the United States in recent decades. All of this is grossly wrong and unfair to 85% to 90% of Americans who don’t work in the industry. To be cynical, it’s because the leaders of both parties, Republican and Democrat, have decided that white, male voters likely to swing in a few states like Wisconsin or West Virginia are the ones that matter.
But there are differences. Unlike Trump, Biden is not anti-European and anti-allies when it comes to security. It is much less hostile to migrants and foreigners. And Biden is more interested in having agreements with allies on industrial matters, but not in the very good way: he should have lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum on Europe, Canada, Mexico and Korea, but replaced them with bilateral export restraint agreements. It’s a little better politically, but it’s still economically destructive. Internally, there are positive things, on infrastructure, women’s work, on education, health, that MAGA did not have
But that strand of Biden’s agenda is stalled in the Senate. Is there a majority for a more social democratic America?
There is a majority among voters, but not in the Senate. It dates back to the founding of the United States and the desire to protect slave owners, the Senate was designed to help block change.
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