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Rana Foroohar’s ‘Biden Plan’

November 2, 2020

Financial Times associate editor and CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar, a well-placed democrat, gives us a helpful foretaste today of the “Biden plan” which she applauds as a “no-brainer”. It’s entitled ‘A Blueprint for America’s Recovery”. We should brace ourselves for a great many of these unpleasant kinds of articles as we ever so tentatively prepare to make the turn from Trumpian neo-fascist Republicanism to a reinvigorated rhetorically adjusted neoliberal ‘centrism’.

The article begins by making a number of faux criticisms of “neoliberalism”, a smart tactic given how unpopular the term has become. But it’s only rhetoric for what is laid out is the same old competition state ideas that have always been the foundation of the global neoliberal system. It’s the proposition that workers must forever compete in a global economic contest and that the government’s role is to invest in the basic infrastructure and scientific research that helps them do so.

That competition state neoliberalism is somehow a natural and reasonable foundation for the economy is a grotesquely false mythology that serves only to justify an inhuman exploitative system that cannot possibly foster widespread peace and prosperity. In its logic, every worker becomes a mere competitive cog, a living particle in the great global elite power machine. It’s pure ‘disinformation’ (to use current terminology) that should summarily be rejected. Why would anyone suggest the living standards of Americans be subjected to competition with the Chinese or other foreign workers when we and they already have more than enough productive capacity and technology to live very well? To be clear, my question isn’t whether or not we should close our borders (we shouldn’t), it’s that we should cooperate rather than compete.

We have “serious work at home”, the writer says in developing the argument, and “Mr. Biden should be frank with the American people and say what we already know in our gut to be true”. And here are the gut truths: education isn’t keeping pace with technology, US healthcare is costly and inefficient, and roads, bridges and broadband need upgrading.

The problem with these banalities isn’t that they aren’t necessarily true in and of themselves, it’s the competition state logic she uses to support public spending on them. The argument isn’t that education, healthcare and infrastructure are in themselves valuable for our lives which of course they are, it’s that investing “in all of this is smart, because it would increase the value of human capital—the key resource of the 21st century economy”. Such is the thinking of the neoliberal mind. We don’t work to make our standard of living better, we work because we are human capital machines. And to further cement the case, the writer follows with this gem: “Companies should be able to depreciate investment in people as well as machines, as they do now”. Yes, in a Biden administration human capital machines will be depreciable!

And so it goes. Public debt matters and private austerity and GDP growth is the way to reduce it. Low interest rates are bad. And, finally, the government should underwrite “basic research in high growth technologies such as clean energy, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence”. As if our standard of living is hurting because we lack quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

I’ll stop here but be forewarned dear reader, this is what we have in store if Trump (hopefully) loses. It’s the no-brainer Biden plan, a blueprint for America’s recovery, and it makes crystal clear why it was that Trump was a no-brainer for so many hurting Americans back in 2016.

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  1. It’s true that we shouldn’t expect too much in the way of progressive wish fulfillment from a Biden presidency. But we shouldn’t be so cynical as not to believe that a Biden administration would be a great improvement. Merely having department heads in the executive branch who don’t hate the concept of public policymaking and don’t favor blind deregulation would be better.

  2. Hi Kerry! I voted for Biden so I definitely see his neoliberal brand of centrism as an improvement over Trumpian fascism. I do feel we need to be ready, though, to strongly stand against the old neoliberal logic that’s contained in this article. Cheers!

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