You won’t hear this on Fox News, but Biden did a terrific job lifting America out of the pandemic-induced downturn. The nation added 8.9m jobs during Biden’s first 18 months in office
If the Democrats hope to avoid disaster in this November’s elections, they need to do a far better job making their case to working-class voters. Many blue-collar Americans are understandably upset about inflation, but it’s less understandable that they give higher marks on the economy to Republicans than to Democrats, considering that President Biden and the Democrats have done far more to boost the economy and help workers.
You will hardly ever hear this on Fox News, but Biden and the Democrats pushed through an emergency rescue plan that did a terrific job lifting America’s economy out of the pandemic-induced downturn. They did such a good job that millions of workers moved to higher-paying employment as the nation added 8.9m jobs during Biden’s first 18 months in office – more than in any other president’s first 18 months.
In making their case to working-class voters – white, Black, Hispanic and otherwise – Biden and the Democrats of course need to acknowledge the serious pain that inflation and the pandemic have caused, while making clear that they’re fighting hard to tame prices and the pandemic. It’s understandable that many voters blame Biden for inflation, because the buck in theory stops in the Oval Office. If we’re concerned about truth, however, then we must acknowledge that it’s wrong to blame today’s inflation on Biden.
Unfortunately, many Republican politicians – when they’re not busy peddling untruths about election fraud and global warming – are peddling the false notion that Biden is the main culprit behind inflation. The fact is that two major forces account for most of today’s inflation – and neither one is named Joe Biden. The first factor is the severe supply chain crisis caused by the pandemic, and the second is the soaring fuel and food prices caused by Putin’s war against Ukraine. Anyone who says Biden is the main cause of inflation is lying and trying to score political points.
As we move toward November’s elections, congressional Republicans maintain that they’re the champions of working-class Americans. That’s a ludicrous assertion. Republicans opposed increasing the minimum wage. They opposed legislation for paid family and parental leave. They opposed increasing subsidies for childcare. They enacted a huge tax break for corporations and the richest 1%, while giving only minor, temporary tax cuts to blue-collar Americans. The main thing Republicans are offering working-class voters is red-meat rhetoric that bashes gay rights and critical race theory but does nothing to improve the daily lives of workers and their families.
Biden and the Democrats need to make crystal clear that they, and not Republicans, are the real champions of working-class Americans. That not only might enable Democrats to eke out enough victories in November to retain control of Congress, but might prevent politicians intent on sabotaging America’s democracy from taking control of Congress. We’re in an era when millions of blue-collar Americans feel alienated from the system, convinced that policymakers care little about them and their concerns. This alienation is one of the forces undermining our democracy.
With his low public approval ratings, Biden and his fellow Democrats need to step up, and they should do that by taking very visible steps, week after week, to show that they’re fighting to address the concerns of working Americans – welders and Walmart workers, teachers and Taco Bell workers. Each week, Biden and his administration should vigorously and loudly push a different pro-worker piece of legislation that they want Congress to put on the president’s desk ASAP.
Here are some recommended pieces of legislation that are pro-worker and pro-family – and have strong popular support. Admittedly, some of these measures might not pass because Republicans will filibuster them, but if that happens that will shine a spotlight on which party champions the concerns of working-class Americans and which party is betraying their interests.
Enact an excess-profits tax on corporations and then use that money as an ‘inflation rebate’: Just as the federal government gave struggling Americans economic relief to help get through the pandemic, it should now help struggling Americans hurt by soaring gas and food prices. In recent months, oil and gas company profits have climbed to record levels. During the pandemic, many profit-maximizing companies have increased not just their prices, but their profit margins. The revenue from an excess-profits tax should finance a rebate to millions of households to help offset the stresses and strains caused by inflation.
Enact a paid family and medical leave law: It’s absurd that the US, the world’s wealthiest nation, is the only advanced industrial nation that doesn’t have a law guaranteeing family and medical leave to all workers. In the US, less than 20% of private-sector workers in the bottom three income quartiles receive paid family leave. Such a measure might be hard to enact, however, because Republicans – beholden to corporate donors and denouncing any new mandates on employers – might mount a filibuster.
Help Americans afford childcare: This would be a boon to millions of struggling working-class families. The average cost of childcare in the US is $16,000 a year – a tremendous strain for non-affluent families. The US spends less on childcare as a percentage of GDP than any other wealthy nation, just $500 per toddler compared with $14,000 among other industrial nations. When Republicans line up in opposition to these subsidies, Biden should shout far and wide that Republicans are blocking a plan that would greatly ease the lives of many working-class families.
Enact a law that cuts drug prices significantly and reduces the cost of insulin to $35 a month: America’s runaway drug prices have fueled inflation and been a huge burden for many families. Between 2008 and 2021, average prices for new prescription drugs jumped by 20% a year. Nearly half of new drugs were priced at more than $150,000 per year. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, with some of them paying $150 a month for insulin, meaning $1,800 a year. Washington needs to act to stop Big Pharma from gouging American families.
Enact a $15 minimum wage: The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t risen in more than a decade. Enacting a $15 minimum would raise pay for an estimated 32 million workers, around one in five. Affected workers would see their pay rise about $3,300 a year, with earnings climbing an estimated 31% for Black workers and 26% for Hispanic workers.
Biden and the Democrats would be smart to take some lessons from Harry Truman. Back in 1948, Truman stunned the nation by winning that year’s presidential election – he won by campaigning relentlessly against the “do-nothing Congress”. Truman used that phrase to attack Republicans for blocking his proposals to reduce housing and food costs. The Democrats should borrow from Truman’s playbook and denounce “do-nothing” Republicans for torpedoing one pro-worker program after another. Just as that strategy helped Truman avoid defeat in 1948, it might do the trick to enable the Democrats to avoid disaster this November.