Biden's Neo-Populist Economic Doctrine

Within the space of just half a year, US President Joe Biden has completed a necessary economic-policy regime shift that started chaotically under his predecessor. But while the Biden administration has a much better handle on the issues, that doesn't mean the new dispensation will be without risk.

NEW YORK – About half a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, it is time to consider how his administration’s economic doctrine compares to that of former President Donald Trump and previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

    The paradox is that the “Biden doctrine” has more in common with Trump’s policies than with those of Barack Obama’s administration, in which the current president previously served. The neo-populist doctrine that emerged under Trump is now taking full form under Biden, marking a sharp break from the neoliberal creed followed by every president from Bill Clinton to Obama.

    Trump ran as a populist – commiserating with left-behind white blue-collar workers – but more like a plutocrat, cutting corporate taxes and further weakening the power of labor vis-à-vis capital. Nonetheless, his agenda did contain some truly populist elements, particularly when compared to the radically pro-Big Business approach that Republicans have pursued for decades.

    While the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations each differed in their own way, their basic position on key economic-policy questions was the same. For example, they all advocated trade-liberalization agreements and favored a strong dollar, seeing that as a way to reduce import prices and support the working classes’ purchasing power in the face of rising income and wealth inequality.

    Each of these previous administrations also respected the US Federal Reserve’s independence and supported its commitment to price stability. Each pursued a moderate fiscal policy, resorting to stimulus (tax cuts and spending increases) mostly as a response to economic downturns. Finally, the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations were all relatively cozy with Big Tech, Big Business, and Wall Street. Each presided over the deregulation of goods and services sectors, creating the conditions for today’s concentration of oligopolistic power in the corporate, technology, and financial sectors.