Climate change means America can’t afford to let Biden fail


“American patriotism or anti-Americanism” is the choice President Biden must make after losing the governorship of Virginia to the Republicans this week, Daniel Johnson said in a column in these pages. He argues that the appeals of Black lives matter “Funding” the police, and the introduction of critical race education in schools, are signs of a “leftist takeover” of the Democratic Party. To this, he opposes the “traditional democratic ideal” of realizing the “American dream” for all citizens. Many Americans would agree that the choice between the two is the political choice that matters. But Joe Biden’s dilemma runs deeper and more complex than that.

Recent Gallup polls put Biden’s positive ratings at 42%, the second lowest at this point of all previous presidencies. Trump has fallen to 37%. Psychological wisdom has it that going below 50 percent in the odds means losing 37 seats in Congress next year. Biden’s immediate problem, however, is that of two maverick Democratic senators, Joe Manchin, Senior Senator from West Virginia (the second poorest state in the Union) and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona (where Sinema is the first Democratic senator for twenty years and where in 2020 Biden narrowly won the state delegation to the National Electoral College).

Every senator counts. Democrats in the Senate are opposed to a 50-50 split with Deputy Speaker Kamala Harris as Speaker of the Senate, presiding over its proceedings and currently holding a deciding vote. Senator Manchin, who enjoys massive political funding from oil and gas companies, delays Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion Rebuild better The Social Spending and Climate Change bill, known as the Reconciliation Bill, was cut by $ 3.5 trillion in negotiations with the Republicans and is to be spent over ten years. Sinema will not support the removal of filibuster, a key weapon in the hands of Republicans determined to block Biden’s social and climate plans. Democrats secured a $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill through the Senate, and despite some delays, it was finally passed yesterday. With the US economy not rebounding fast enough, Biden remains under tremendous pressure.

A central part of mainstream Republican ideology, like that of the old-fashioned Conservative Party here in the UK, is “a little good state, a big bad state”. But the 2008 financial crisis and the 2019-2021 COVID pandemic have proven that major government intervention in times of crisis is essential. The same is true of climate change if we are to contain the rise in global temperature to livable levels and avoid disaster. It is in this context that Professor Robert Kuttner of Brandeis University asks in the New York Book Review (Nov. 18, 2021) whether Biden is “prepared to insist that comprehensive planning and explicit targeting of vital industries” is urgently needed. The indications are that it is.

In February, with his feet barely under his desk in the Oval Office, Biden issued Executive Order 14017 directing the National Security Council and the National Economic Council to undertake vulnerability reviews of U.S. supply chains for, between others, semiconductors and electricity. car batteries. What he received in June was a far-reaching Keynesian recipe for a re-reading of Roosevelt’s New Deal, coupled with a vision of “government-led scientific advances as the main engine of growth,” as prescribed by the former Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950). The implications of such an approach to climate change are not difficult to discern. Biden is trying to mobilize substantial financial support from the government to achieve economic change in pursuit of this vision. This is not a minor battle in the Culture Wars, but a well-defended front made up of die-hard Republicans, a potential Stalingrad for Biden.

One could argue that achieving the net zero goal by 2050 will require the kind of managed economy created during World War II. Think of the Spitfires production in Britain, which was recently celebrated in BBC documentaries. Think of the female labor force enlisted on the land and in the munitions factories. In the United States, no cars for civilian use were produced between February 1942 and October 1945. Fordist production lines were all converted to war production. For military vehicles and planes, read electric cars, wind turbines, solar cells and carbon capture technologies now. In a future planet-friendly economy, the alternative to a fully-fledged managed economy could be substantial government investment in a specific sector in key technologies and support for life transformations for the poor – a path taken by many economies in the world. East Asia in the 1990s.

Decisive action by the government itself to shape economic activity appears to take second place in Glasgow. Instead, we have impressive promises from businesses and financial services to invest in climate-friendly production aimed at achieving net zero. Recognition of their power and potential for good is welcome. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England until 2020, has done a remarkable job claiming that supply and demand, the market, will direct money where the action needs to be. Let’s hope so. Hopefully against hope then. But Adam Smith was not facing uncontrollable global warming.

If there has ever been a national security problem, as Biden acknowledged by involving his National Security Agency in his economic reviews (they switch to energy in 2022), it is climate change. And national security, in Republican terms a good thing, requires national planning and targeting substantial amounts of public money to mitigate climate change, in Republican terms a bad thing. Ideology does more than stand in the way of a two-party solution. It threatens national and global security.

Can Biden convince American voters and both houses of Congress that half-measures are not enough, that a Republican victory, with or without Trump, means a terrible setback that will cost lives in the United States and around the world? ? Can he make a divided society understand the really important choices? Some journalists have taken to calling him “Poor Old Joe”. It’s our poor old man if he doesn’t succeed.

Looking to the UK with Biden’s dilemma in mind, can the UK government turn rhetoric into concrete national plans, commensurate with the threat of global warming? Can he take the audience with him on such a radical transformation? These are choices that will profoundly change the lives of the next generation. If patriotism means seeking a secure future, whether for British or American citizens, it is time to finally lift long-standing economic taboos.


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