Democratic capitalism, organized to serve public purposes, all but disappeared. It was replaced by corporate capitalism, organized to serve the monied interests.
Joe Biden is reviving democratic capitalism.
From the Obama administration’s mistake of spending too little to pull the economy out of the Great Recession, he learned that the pandemic required substantially greater spending, which would also give working families a cushion against adversity. So he pushed for the giant $1.9tn American Rescue Plan.
This was followed by a $550bn initiative to rebuild bridges, roads, public transit, broadband, water and energy systems. And in 2022, the biggest investment in clean energy in American history – expanding wind and solar power, electric vehicles, carbon capture and sequestration, and hydrogen and small nuclear reactors. This was followed by the largest public investment ever in semiconductors, the building blocks of the next economy.
Notably, these initiatives are targeted to companies that employ American workers.
Biden has also embarked on altering the balance of power between capital and labor, as did FDR. Biden has put trustbusters at the head of the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the justice department. And he has remade the National Labor Relations Board into a strong advocate of labor unions.
Unlike his Democratic predecessors, Biden has not sought to reduce trade barriers. In fact, he has retained several from the Trump administration. But unlike Trump, he has not given a huge tax cut to corporations and the wealthy. It’s also worth noting that in contrast with every president since Reagan, Biden has not filled his White House with former Wall Street executives. Not one of his economic advisers – not even his treasury secretary – is from the Street.
I don’t want to overstate Biden’s accomplishments. His ambitions for childcare, eldercare, paid family and medical leave were thwarted by senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. And now he has to contend with a Republican House.