America needs socialism
President Biden would not give America socialism, but a distinctly different face
The Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is a political veteran and the epitome of the moderate Democrat. It is doubtful that he is embarking on risky ventures. But he will set the tone.
One thing can already be said with certainty: if Joe Biden wins the American presidential election, he will not introduce socialism in the United States. Nor will he sell the country off to China, and he will not sacrifice the economy for a utopian “Green New Deal” that pretends to be able to save everything at the same time as a promise of salvation. This is pure campaign noise and has nothing to do with the person of the candidate or with the reality of the American presidential system. Donald Trump likes to portray himself as the modern reincarnation of a Sun King, but the President of the United States is not a monarch, and certainly not an absolutist one.
Is the left wing uprising looming?
Conservative media were already grumbling that the left wing of the Democratic Party was only waiting for the day of the inauguration to force Biden onto a progressive course after a long, reluctantly accepted and purely electoral ceasefire. Such scenarios are suitable for media attention: the young wild, often embodied in the New York MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, rebels against the rule of the consumed, against nostalgic clinging to a bygone era, as represented by Biden.
The only problem is that the left wing will be a minority in the party, definitely, even if the Democrats take control of the White House and the two chambers of Congress. The gains in the midterm elections of 2018, which brought the party a majority in the House of Representatives, achieved moderate candidates in constituencies that had to be won for the party. The left wing liked the cannibalism of members of their own "tribe" and replaced veterans of their own party in risk-free constituencies.
Joe Biden is ahead of Donald Trump in the polls
The same applies to the Senate, only in a more stringent form. To win a majority, the Democratic Party would have to penetrate pasture grounds that until recently were considered Republican inheritance: Montana, Georgia, the two Carolinas, Arizona. If that works, and that is by no means certain, socialists and young savages from these member states will certainly not move into the small Congress Chamber, but an astronaut, two former officers of the armed forces, a lobbyist and long-time party soldier from the south and a restless fighter for rural America in the Midwest.
Not a revolution, but different accents
Nevertheless, with the support of a majority of his party, Biden will be able to set important new accents in a number of policy areas, because there is broad consensus among Democrats on these issues. These include health care, taxation, climate protection, unequal treatment by the judiciary, gun laws and immigration. How many of these accents can be set and how far the shifts will go depends on the majority in Congress. And even if the Democrats formally have the executive and legislative branches under their control, that doesn't mean much: The American Congress is not a parliament with factional pressure, but a sack of fleas.
The Democrats prefer to talk about health insurance during the election campaign, either directly or indirectly, by pointing out the failure of the Trump administration to fight the Covid-19 epidemic. The more than 200,000 deaths and nearly 8 million confirmed infections so far have made the need for health insurance clear to many Americans.
State alternative for health insurance
In the primaries, it still seemed as if a majority of Democrats suddenly wanted general state insurance - that which is already available in the US for older people, extended to all age groups. But that had more to do with the fact that many applicants wanted to distinguish themselves on the left wing, because the right wing with Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and a number of governors was already prominent and dense. The “single payer” model, that is, the purely state insurance, is always confronted by two main problems in the USA: a price tag of enormous, almost unfathomable height and American individualism, which likes to give the caring state the finger.
Biden has always spoken out about compulsory but private insurance, a model that is similar to that in Switzerland and was whipped through Congress in 2010 by the Obama administration under the label “Obamacare”. Because pre-existing illnesses can no longer be excluded from coverage in this system and because of some other protective clauses, the originally hated “Obamacare” has now become quite popular. The often very high costs for the insured have remained a problem. That is why Biden wants to compete with a state-organized alternative, the so-called “public option”.
This model does not formally force anyone to give up private insurance. But the insurance industry fears that it will not be competitive against the state model. She claims that the “public option” will destroy the market and thus lead to a state monopoly as an unwanted side effect. In addition, it is by no means clear how exactly the Biden model would be financed.
More taxes for businesses and the wealthy
For Democrats, the solution is usually to raise taxes. Biden wants to repeal essential parts of Trump's tax reform of 2017 - provided that these do not expire anyway due to a built-in expiration date. But he does not want to push back the top rate of corporate income tax from the current 21 percent to the previously applicable 35 percent, but proposes a rate of 28 percent. He also wants to close several popular, legal loopholes, for example with a new minimum tax of 15 percent on book profits and the increase in the minimum rate from 15 to 21 percent for certain profits made abroad. With this, he has his sights on the tech giants in particular, some of which - keyword Amazon - did not pay corporate profits tax despite billions in profits.
In terms of income tax, he wants to raise the maximum tax rate for incomes over $ 400,000 a year and introduce a minimum tax on all types of income. Whether his ambitious projects such as health insurance, the renewal of the infrastructure or the climate protection measures can be paid for is in the stars, since in such cases the development of the economy plays a major role. Needless to say, Republicans are warning that Biden's tax plans would cut the air off growth.
The “Green New Deal” and Biden's Plan
Climate protection generates the most noise in the election campaign, mainly because the Republicans are trying to attach Biden to the "Green New Deal," this plan by the party's left wing, which encompasses much more than climate protection in the environmental policy sense, namely a social restructuring into almost all areas. Biden rejected this early on, but wants to promote climate protection with a wide range of measures in various policy areas. He plans to invest 40 trillion dollars over 10 years, and by 2035 a CO2- create a neutral energy sector and a completely emission-free economy by 2050.
This includes not only renewing the public infrastructure and private buildings, but also adapting them to the future requirements of economical use of energy. Among other things, Biden wants to build 1.5 million sustainably manageable residential units. Road traffic should also be trimmed towards zero emissions with tax incentives and regulations.
What about fracking?
Biden initially only wants to restrict fracking, the controversial method of oil and gas extraction, insofar as no new licenses are granted on land owned by the federal government. However, Biden's emission targets are so strict that fracking will lose its right to exist in its climate plan in the long term. Biden doesn’t ring it up because fracking is associated with many jobs and because the production method made the USA a giant among energy producers. For this purpose, Biden supports - to the horror of the strict nuclear opponent Bernie Sanders - the development and use of a new generation of smaller nuclear reactors (small modular reactors), which are supposed to be cheaper and safer than the conventional reactor models.
One concept that Biden has adopted from the “Green New Deal” is that of “environmental justice”. He wants to specifically support those population groups that are particularly affected by the consequences of environmental changes. An office for environmental justice is to be created in the Ministry of Justice. As part of his judicial reform, Biden also wants to fully legalize cannabis, overturn previous convictions for it, and abolish cash deposits and the death penalty, because these hit the less well-off population groups - i.e. a particularly large number of dark-skinned people - much harder than others.
Also in agreement with a large majority of Democrats, Biden wants to tighten gun laws, but does not generally question the right to carry guns. When it comes to immigration, Biden wants to adhere to the fact that crossing the border without papers is a criminal offense. But he wants to offer the “dreamers” - illegal immigrants who came to the USA as minors - who currently only enjoy fragile and temporary protection against repatriation, a permanent solution that ends with citizenship.
"No comment" on the Supreme Court
While Biden is open about most issues, he persistently refuses to bring up the Supreme Court issue. The question is whether, in the event of a resounding Democratic election victory, he will agree to an increase in the number of judges in order to neutralize the conservative superiority expected with the confirmation of Trump's candidate Amy Coney Barrett. It is unusual that he simply refuses to answer even to persistent questions. But the shrill protest of the Republicans, according to which the voters surely "deserved" a clear stance Biden, sounds hollow. It is her party that has resigned itself to the fact that to this day its president has not given any information about his finances, his debts and his tax payments.
NZZ Live Event: US Elections: Background and Analysis
In two events before and after the election, NZZ USA correspondent Marie-Astrid Langer and NZZ foreign editor Meret Baumann will assess the situation and answer your questions.
Thursday, October 15, 2020, 7:00 p.m., online event
Tickets and further information can be found here
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