In a video news conference from his basement, former vice president Joe Biden on Thursday weighed in on the devastating new of 6.6 million additional first-time unemployment claims last week, bringing the total to nearly 10 million new claims over the last two weeks.
The focus of the news conference, however, was on Biden’s new economic recovery plan. It is a clever way to lay down a marker to test Trump’s competence in getting money into the hands of people and small business.
Biden — as much of an insider as one can get, and the Obama administration’s point man for dispensing the $800-billion stimulus plan — was clear that it is one thing to pass a $2 trillion relief bill but quite another to get the money out the door when state unemployment offices are swamped. It is one thing to set up a pool of $350 billion for small business loans, and quite another thing to get banks to offer and promise the government-backed loans.
In this vein, Biden urged expediting the $1,200 direct payment checks by using automatic deposit or prepaid debit cards rather than sending out checks with Trump’s name on them as the narcissist in chief wants. “It isn’t about him,” Biden declared. What a quaint, nice sentiment.
Biden’s plan stresses full implementation of the Defense Production Act (“address the shortage of items like ventilators and personal protective equipment for health care workers, and make sure our workforce on the front lines everyday has the protections to provide the essential services we will continue to need”). He would also deploy strategies to keep people on payroll as long as possible by maximizing work-sharing, among other measures.
Biden, who can boast that he helped keep fraud, waste and abuse to 0.2 percent of the Obama stimulus bill, made clear he is going to keep an eye on the enormous pot of money Congress appropriated. From his campaign website:
In addition to enforcing strict conditions, Biden would ensure there are no sweetheart deals, no special favors, and no slush fund, and that corporations follow through on their hard commitments. This is a major concern given the track record of the Trump administration. In the CARES Act, Congress established a Special Inspector General to police the $500 billion in funding for large corporations and to make sure it is going to the right places for the right reasons.
Biden also strongly backs the call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for a fourth coronavirus relief bill, which he thinks should include additional checks to families should conditions require, $10,000 of forgiveness in student debt, an increase in Social Security checks by $200 per month, an expansion of emergency sick leave, full reimbursement for covid-19 treatment and “all necessary fiscal relief to states so their workers and communities get the help they need, especially those on the front lines like New York.”
There are three key takeaways from Biden’s recovery rollout.
First, while many administrations would get credit for putting money in people’s pockets and saving business during a crisis, the enormity of pot of money, the endemic incompetence of the Trump administration and Trump’s culture of corruption may work against the president. Without an injection of management skill and infusion of concern for good government, implementation of the stimulus package may become a juicy target for Biden.
counterpointBe careful, Biden. You might be inviting a challenge from the left.
Second, Biden is making the case every chance he gets that he is better prepared, more knowledgeable and certainly less selfish than Trump. A pandemic and an economic crisis is no time for a presidential blunderbuss with little interest in learning how government actually operates.
Third, Biden clearly intends to capitalize on Republicans hesitancy to “think big,” as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell has urged Pelosi to do. With raging unemployment, business failures and negative growth sure to afflict us through the fall, Biden will be able to make the case that the Republicans repeatedly underestimated the extent of the health and economic crisis.
Voters are overwhelmingly supportive of government recovery efforts. A new CBS News poll finds: “The public overwhelmingly supports the $2 trillion economic relief package passed by Congress: 81% approve overall, a view that crosses partisan lines. However, most (57%) say it won’t end up being enough, including most people who approve of the package overall.” That gives Democrats — the party that embraces government and thinks it needs to lead the way on recovery — the edge, especially when the alternative is an ignorant, inept incumbent who will far surpass President Herbert Hoover in the “biggest mess left behind” category.
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