Biden has been in office for a year and has to worry about the midterms. The promised social policy is long overdue, and resentment is growing.
Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States, began his term with a surprise. „My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle-out.“ In his decades in U.S. politics, the Democrat from Delaware didn’t really stand out as a progressive. On the contrary. Now he’s calling for „corporate America and the wealthiest 1% of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share.“
To applause from his fellow party members, he buried the idea of „trickle-down,“ meaning the wealth of the richest trickling down to the ordinary population, in a speech to the U.S. Congress. The theory was that this happened all by itself if the government stayed out of it and cut taxes on big incomes and wealth. Ronald Reagan sharpened this forty years ago to the formula that government is „not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.“ Today, it is hard to imagine that a very different consensus has prevailed since the 1940s. On President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, both Democrats and Republicans gradually expanded Social Security and Medicare and raised the minimum wage. With Reagan, that ended. His policy of deregulation and privatization also found imitators in Europe.
Biden’s about-face is also explained by the state of the nation. A few days before Biden took office, his predecessor called on a crowd in Washington to march on the Capitol: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” An unprecedented attack on democracy.
Shortly after the shock, it appeared that the Republican Party was coming to its senses. Caucus leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives turned their backs on their still-president, but then voted against his impeachment and against investigating the events. The New York Times called the Republicans an „authoritarian movement“ a few days ago. Representative Jamie Raskin went further, calling them a „religious and political sect controlled by one man.“
This year, the U.S. will vote again. Midterm elections. It is possible that the authoritarian Republican sect will win. Among politicians, the media, and the transatlantic think tank world here in Germany, there is a strange reticence. After the 2016 election, the hope prevailed that things would not turn out so badly. But they did. When Trump announced in 2020 that he would not recognize his defeat because it could only be the result of fraud, I called for Germany to abandon its neutrality between the two candidates. But not even the Greens supported that. Not to mention the federal government.
Of course, it is difficult to criticize undemocratic developments among those who, as part of the Allied Forces, liberated Germany from the Nazi dictatorship. But in view of what is happening there, we can no longer remain neutral. Those who do not respect the results of democratic elections must not be treated like a normal opposition party. The struggle for democracy in the U.S. also concerns us. We must stop being spectators.
Democracy is under threat. It must be defended. But many people in the U.S. and elsewhere feel that this is not their problem. They have other concerns. After all, nothing has trickled down. The promise of social advancement has been broken. The middle class has been shrinking for decades. At the same time, the fortunes of the richest are growing ever faster. People who feel forgotten are vulnerable to those who incite anger and hatred.
Whoever forgets the „social“ will not save the „market economy“ either. If, on the other hand, the promise that our children will be better off than we are is fulfilled again, then it will also be defended.
To be sure: Biden is no socialist. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt, he wants to protect capitalism from itself. That’s why he fights to expand health care and access to education. And for funding through higher taxes on billionaires and corporations. If people feel improvements between now and the fall, the Democrats can still win.
At the same time, the U.S. and the other parliamentary democracies are competing with authoritarian states on a global scale. This is not just about the form of government and civil liberties. Those who „deliver“ have the better cards. In the glitzy world of Dubai, there are hardly any calls to replace the absolutist monarchy there with a parliamentary democracy. Which system wins is an open question. That is why it is time to broaden the transatlantic dialogue thematically. Instead of talking primarily about military spending, Russia and China, the social issue should be at the top of the agenda here as well. Global minimum taxation is a good start. Why not also discuss common better standards for labour, health care, education funding? Worldwide, democratic states should guarantee freedom, but also a good life for all. Opportunities for advancement, independent of the parents‘ wallets, and free elections – these are values worth standing up for. Neoliberalism has weakened democracy against its enemies from within and without. Resilience against authoritarianism means drawing a line here and showing that democracy and social justice belong together.
First published here: https://taz.de/Soziale-Gerechtigkeit-in-den-USA/!5826394/