Biden’s changing spending stance is a testament to progressives.

Joe Biden is an old school deficit hawk. He spent a life’s career in the Senate “reaching across the aisle” to slash spending and embraced pretty much every disproven ideological dogma on the dangers of deficit spending in the book. Biden was one of the earliest Democratic cheerleaders for neoliberalism and the shattering of the New Deal consensus, which of course gave way to the horrific paradigm of Reaganomics.

Progressives rightfully opposed Biden furiously in the race for the nomination, and were greatly demoralised at comments made on and off the record during the election. Biden’s surrounded himself in many cases with people who dismissed the policies he ran on, and talked about affordability and paying down the debt, which are codewords for more federal (and state) austerity.

So what’s this magical rhetorical shift we see? Biden has been talking about the federal government needing to spend into the deficit during the crisis, and the result of public investment being private growth and prosperity, something Obama’s team committed to, but spent far more time on “waste” and “overspending”. He’s been highlighting income inequality and brought in various thinkers on that dilemma, something the Obama team mentioned but weren’t serious about.

Biden has (rhetorically at least) been sounding positively Keynesian when talking about the crisis, and the opportunities to buildbackbetter.gov. That’s a fundamental change. The cheerleader of the neoliberal consensus in Washington which ripped apart the New Deal coalition, is talking about huge public investment and expanding the safety net.

Will these things pass as proposed? Not a chance. Will Biden be that concerned if they don’t? No, he’s doing what’s popular in the party not a sincere commitment. Will there be positive moves? With some good thinkers on board who’ll push, yes.

Biden is a career politician who shifts to the centre, whatever that IS, and however reproachable that HAS been in the past. The credit goes to leftwing forces in the Democratic party, who’ve made a clear concrete difference since 2015, to the extent the less progressive of Obama-Biden is sounding more ambitious than 2008 Obama.

Biden will follow the party, and we have to make it politically advantageous to be bold and spend big on economic revival and transformation. That’s how we get our priorities heard.

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