Sunday 22nd November 2020
By Charlotte Raskopf
Joe Biden isn’t any US Democrat favorite. The prominent leftists Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders want more radical politics. As the future US president, he now has to reconcile not only the deeply divided country, but also his own party.
She is the shooting star of the left wing within the US Democrats, the youngest Congresswoman of all time, with radical political ideas – he stands for moderate politics, rarely attracted attention by radical proposals. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joe Biden exemplify the line of conflict that runs through the American Democratic Party.
Already at the election party conference of the Democrats it became clear: Biden was not Ocasio-Cortez’s preferred presidential candidate. She suggested Bernie Sanders, who was also on the left. However, when it was determined that Joe Biden would run against Donald Trump, she stood behind the Democrats – probably also in order not to endanger the election campaign with internal party unrest.
It is now clear that Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. He now not only faces the difficult task of bringing the deeply divided country together, but also has to reconcile his own party. Biden has taken a first step towards this with the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, a body that is supposed to build a bridge between the moderates and the left in the party in various working groups. Because there are numerous points of conflict on which the moderate Joe Biden’s ideas differ from the leftists in his party, which includes Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders as well as the candidate for the presidential candidacy, Elizabeth Warren.
The ecological restructuring of the economy is one of the central concerns of the party links around Ocasio-Cortez. They have long been calling for a “Green New Deal” with the help of which the US economy is to be fundamentally restructured – towards an economy that relies 100 percent on renewable energies. With the Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues are calling for drastic environmental regulations, a nationwide end to the controversial fracking in the next five years, as well as public investments in high-speed trains and new jobs for those who have previously worked in climate-damaging industries and through the restructuring lose their job.
Joe Biden does not completely reject the Green New Deal. In his election program it is even said that Biden considers the program to be a crucial framework for overcoming climate problems. Biden is also in favor of the US making greater efforts to counteract climate change. But even if it may sound like that in his election manifesto, Biden has so far by no means shown himself to be an advocate of the Green New Deal. He does not support the Green New Deal, he said in a TV duel with Donald Trump. “You have just lost the radical left,” Trump promptly replied.
With the Biden Plan, the future president has presented his own two billion dollar program for climate and environmental protection – but the measures are less comprehensive than those called for in the Green New Deal. For example, Joe Biden does not want to ban fracking in general. Biden also said in an interview that fossil fuels will not be got rid of anytime soon, but that his government will abolish federal subsidies for the fuels. Ocasio-Cortez thinks this is an important step, as she states in an interview with the American TV station CNN. But it is also clear that she would like more radical measures.
Ocasio-Cortez also stands for radical proposals in fiscal and monetary policy: She is a supporter of the Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT for short. Supporters of the theory assume that countries with their own currency can basically spend unlimited amounts of money. The only limit is therefore inflation. In order to limit inflation, the government should counteract it with taxes.
Bernie Sanders is also a supporter of the theory. The economist Stephanie Kelton, whom he brought on board as an economic advisor in the pre-election campaign, is considered a thought leader in theory. While Biden has not yet shown himself to be a supporter of this theory, many left-wing democrats are likely to wish for such ideas to be more closely integrated into fiscal policy.
In the health system, especially with regard to the design of health insurance, there is a dispute between Ocasio-Cortez and other leftists on the one hand and the moderate camp around Joe Biden on the other. The president-elect has set out to continue the reforms of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. The demands of the party left go further: They want state health insurance for all US citizens, while Biden wants to expand the option of state health insurance.
Ocasio-Cortez is a supporter of the College for All Act, which would cancel 45 million Americans from their college debts. Biden also wants to simplify access to higher education and make studying free for students whose families earn less than $ 125,000.
Ocasio-Cortez demanded a tax of 70 percent for the wealthy last year – Elizabeth Warren wants a tax surcharge of two percent for household incomes over 50 million euros. Biden does not want to introduce an explicit tax on the wealthy – but does want to raise the top tax rate for those with an income of over 400,000 US dollars to 39.6 percent. Corporate tax is also expected to rise to 28 percent from 21 percent previously.
Labor market policy
Biden and the left agree that the minimum wage should rise to $ 15. Meanwhile, US Democrats are less in agreement on other aspects of labor market policy. A demand from, among others, Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders is a state job guarantee – a demand that the moderate Biden is likely to be too radical, even if he repeatedly emphasizes the creation of new jobs in his election manifesto.
Power relations in the Senate are crucial
A more radical, left-wing policy, as desired by Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, would only be feasible with a democratic majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is unlikely that the Democrats will also be able to achieve a majority in the Senate.
The decision will be made in a runoff election on January 5th in the state of Georgia. That should be a strong argument for Biden’s more moderate politics: A Republican-dominated Senate is unlikely to agree to a left-wing agenda.
The article appeared on November 19th at Capital.de