Biden’s Conservatism

I wouldn’t necessarily argue about Joe Biden’s campaign promises or anyone else’s campaign promises, not even those of Donald Trump. But what does concern me is the actual political record of each individual. And in the case of Biden on Social Security, it’s a very mixed and not reassuring political history. That shouldn’t be dismissed lightly nor rationalized away with nice-sounding rhetoric. 

That said, what the Democratic Party does during the next administration is not limited to Biden, as there could be other political actors and the public putting pressure the DNC elite. Even if Biden at this point still wanted to cut Social Security, he would have a hard time accomplishing this end, even with bipartisan support, because of the extreme unpopularity of doing so. I’m sure someone would pull him to the side and explain to him that Social Security shouldn’t be touched, but in the past he took pride in ignoring that warning by grabbing hold of that third rail. He could get sneaky about cuts as he did in the past.

His decades of interest and willingness toward cutting Social Security remains a concern, not only Social Security but also Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits, etc — everything will be on the table, he said in the past to emphasize this point. Biden and other corporatist Democrats will have to be watched carefully in the coming years. Fiscal hawks like Biden might go slightly left, if we force them to do so, but that is far from guaranteed. We have almost no way to force him to do anything, other than by threatening with protests, riots, and revolts.

Behind the scenes, the corporatist Democrats will find ways to work with corporatists Republicans, and the corporate media probably won’t report on it or else will spin a narrative to hide the truth. This means we’ll need to watch the alternative media closely to stay informed. That is a depressing thought. I’d rather leaders who would do the right thing on their own without constant threat and scrutiny from the public, but the sad fact is Biden is not such a leader. 

Even so, I understand the hope of leftists that the Biden administration could be pulled left, however naive is this expectation. There is nothing in the recent history of the Democratic Party to cause one to think it’s likely. Let’s take it as an interesting experiment. And I’d love to be proven wrong. As one critc put it, if Biden suddenly becomes the next FDR, I’ll become a Biden Bro cheering him on. But if I’m proven right, will the loyal Democratic partisans ever admit to once again failing? Of course not. It will be lesser evilism again next election leading to ever greater evil each time. That is how we ended up here. 

Think about Biden’s kind of politics. Back in the 1980s, he was sometimes to the right of Ronald Reagan on fiscal issues, such as about cutting Social Security. Biden was one of the strongest supporters of GOP policy during that time, from cutting taxes on the rich to increasing military spending that created our present permanent national debt, not to mention his advocacy of the balanced budget amendment which was code for slashing everything that helped Americans. 

By the way, the permanent debt was created on purpose. It was part of the Starve the Beast Strategy, combined with the Two Santa Claus Theory. Reaganonomics was a continuation of Jimmy Carter’s austerity politics, but the Republicans realized how unpopular it was under the Carter admistration. So, they sought to force austerity and cuts to social programs in an indirect way. The idea was that by creating a massive national debt it would create a financial crisis, but this failed and the debt growing. And no matter how much they cut social programs and taxes on the rich, as also happened under Bill Clinton, there was somehow always more money for big biz subsidies and more war.

Obviously, there is nothing about cutting taxes while increasing spending that is fiscally responsible, but that wasn’t the purpose. They were hoping to dismantle the New Deal and Biden was all on board. As a Reagan conservative, it was Democrats like Biden who ensured Reagan had a conservative majority, even when he didn’t have a Republican majority. Biden remained friendly with Republicans and kept working with them. He supported the far right 1998 Republican budget, at a time when the GOP were well on their way toward ever greater extremism. 

This has continued into recent politics. The Obama/Biden administration for several years kept trying to cut Social Security by ensuring payments wouldn’t keep up with US inflation, but the Tea Partiers in power were too dogmatic to accept the lopsided deal in their favor. And it goes on and on. There are plenty of signs that Biden has not changed his stripes. A 40 year long political record speaks loudly, no matter what rhetoric he has thrown out to gain votes and win the electiion. Don’t be distracted by his words. Look to his actions.

One of Biden’s top campaign advisors is Bruce Reed who is a far right economic conservative. Reed is being made the Head of the Office of Management and Budget, a powerful position. Put this in context. Reed ran the commission that pushed for Social Security cuts, something he has been pushing since the 1990s. This isn’t the only fiscal hawk, along with other kinds of right-wingers (war hawks, corporate lobbyists, anti-environmentlists, etc), that is being brought into the Biden administration. There is Janet Yellen, Antony Blinken, Cedric Richmond, etc.

Putting fiscal hawks and opponents of Social Security into power is probably not what a president does if they genuinely are seeking to protect, strengthen, and expand Social Security. Biden does not appear to be signalling that he will allow himself or his administration to be pushed left — quite the opposite. Why expect someone like Biden to suddenly reverse the course of his political career, no matter what he claims to get votes?

Biden is the spirit of the Clinton Democrats or what used to be called New Democrats, what now is a moderate Republican (the reason he gained support from conservative Republicans like Bill Kristol). He was promoting Third Way politics and triangulation before there was a name for it, before the Clintons were in Washington. This has meant pushing right while punching left. He built his career on demanding fiscal responsibility by cutting benefits to the average person while ensuring big spending continues for wars, corporate subsidies, bank bailouts, etc.

We the public will have to go to heroic efforts in trying to even nudge Biden an inch to the left (at least on economic issues) or simply keep him from going further right, as he likes to do, by working with Republicans to get things done. That is what centrism meant to Biden in the past. He likes to get things done, particularly when the left doesn’t like what he gets done. He has stated in no uncertain terms that he hates the left and prides himself on beating the ‘socialists’, what used to be considered standard liberalism and progressivism.

To be fair, he might throw a few bones to the left on social issues.

* * *

Videos about Social Security (the first few are footage of Biden over the decades):

Joe Biden’s Decades of Trying to Cut Social Security and Medicare
Biden Calls for Cuts to Social SecurityJoe Biden Brags about Trying to Cut Medicare, Social Security, & More while Bernie Defends ThemBiden’s Record on Social Security
Biden Can’t Outrun His Social Security RecordBiden Can’t Stop Lying About His Social Security RecordBernie Relentlessly HAMMERS Biden’s Social Security LiesHuff Post Reporter: Biden’s documented history of trying to cut social securityEven Biden’s Staff DISTRUSTS His Ability To Discuss Social SecurityDavid Sirota: Biden’s Reported Budget Pick Tried To CUT Social SecurityBernie CALLS OUT Joe Biden’s Huge Lies On Social SecurityBiden Lies Lies Lies About His Social Security Record
Joe Biden Would Go After Social SecurityDear Joe Biden’s Older Supporters, He Wants to Cut YOUR Social Security!Did Biden Endorse Cutting Social Security and Medicare? ft. Brandon Sutton (TMBS 91)Joe Biden Keeps Trying to Cut Social SecurityJoe Biden’s Indefensible Record

Also, see these videos and articles about Biden picks for his administration, as an early sign of which direction he will go:

Saagar Enjeti: Biden’s Cabinet Is FULL Of Deficit Hawks, War Lovers and GlobalistsBiden’s Cabinet A Who’s Who Of Corrupt Corporate Lobbyists
Joe Biden Punches Bernie Sanders Square In The Balls With Cabinet Appointments.
Under a Biden Administration Bush-era Neoconservatives Own the Democratic Party. Not the “far left”

It seems Joe Biden wants Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the Senate, not his Cabinet

Snubbing both Warren and Sanders for moderates won’t please the left-most wing of the party, especially when Biden’s transition team reportedly seems more interested in courting Republicans than progressives. During the NBC interview, Biden said he wasn’t opposed to nominating a Republican who voted for President Donald Trump to his administration, but that political watchers shouldn’t expect that kind of announcement.”

Joe Biden Is Freezing Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Out of His Cabinet

“Though the summer months elicited a flurry of frenzied speculation about an ambitious liberal agenda on the near horizon, one only needed to take a cursory glance at Biden’s Wall Street donors, senior advisers, and public rhetoric to see what the character of his administration would almost certainly be. The appointment of figures from the likes of Uber, Lyft, Amazon, and JPMorgan to his transition team certainly does little to alter the general impression.

“Needless to say, the emerging character of the Democratic administration that will take office next year continues to give lie to the fable of a transformative, FDR-like agenda primary-fatigued liberals were so reassuringly offered throughout the late spring and summer. At this early stage, Biden could be using his transition to set the stage for a bullish one hundred days beginning in January. Instead, he’s surrounding himself with corporate operatives and freezing the Left out of his cabinet.”

Articles and quotes about Social Security cuts:

Social Security and Medicare Are Not Safe With Joe Biden

Did Biden Twice Vote To Tax Social Security While in the Senate?

“What’s True: While serving as a U.S. senator representing Delaware, Joe Biden voted for two pieces of legislation — once in 1983 and once in 1993 — that resulted in taxing some Social Security income of some recipients.

How Corporate Media ‘Factchecked’ Biden’s Calls for Social Security Cuts Into Oblivion

“Whatever clever dodges politicians propose for cutting Social Security, whether through “raising the retirement age,” “chained CPI” or “freezing” spending, it’s important for media outlets to cut through the jargon and inform citizens by accurately labeling what they want to impose on the US’s most successful anti-poverty program: cuts. Otherwise, these “guides” to Social Security debates should be understood by readers as apologies for austerity (Extra!, 5/99).”

Did Joe Biden Just Deny Calling for Social Security Cuts? There are videos of it.

Joe Biden, 1984 (Senate):

“So, when those of my friends in the Democratic and Republican Party say to me, ‘How do you expect me to vote for your proposal? Does it not freeze Social Security COLAs for one year? Are we not saying there will be no cost-of-living increases for one year?’ The answer to that is ‘Yes, that is what I am saying.'”

“Within the next 12 to 18 months this country will face an economic and political crisis of extraordinary proportions if Congress refuses to take decisive action on the deficits that we face.”

Joe Biden, 1995 (Senate):

“When I introduced the budget freeze years ago, the liberals in my party said, “It’s an awful thing you’re doing, Joe. You are… All the programs we care about, you’re freezing them. Money for the blind, the disabled, education…” And so on. And my argument then is the one I make now, which is the strongest, most compelling reason to be for this Bu…this amendment, or an amendment. And that is that, if we don’t do that, all the things I care most about are going to be gone.”

“I mean whatever happened to that old conservative discipline about paying for what you spend?”

“I’m up for re-election this year and I’m going to remind everybody what I did. At home, which is going to cost me politically. I… When I argued if we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well!I meant Medicare and Medicaid! I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government.And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time and I tried it a fourth time.

I introduced the Balanced Budget Amendment in 1984! It got nowhere. I’m one of those Democrats who voted for the Constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I introduced it on four occasions. Four occasions, entire plans to balance the budget, knowing I’m not president, and I’m not the leader. But for illustrative purposes. I tried with Senator Grassley back in the ’80s to freeze all government spending, including Social Security. Including everything.”

Joe Biden, 1988:

I introduced an amendment, notwithstanding my quote liberal credentials, of freezing the federal budget, absolute freeze. I did it for a simple reason: I sat on the Budget Committee for 11 years. And I’d find the same thing occur every time. We’d start off with grandiose ideas of how we’re going to cut the budget. We would never touch entitlements, we would never touch the defense budget, and we couldn’t touch the interest on the debt. Which meant that out of a trillion-dollar budget, that left us only $156 billion And what we would do each year is we would go out and cut out education, food stamps, Head Start, [welfare] payments, on down the line, everything that I cared about got cut, because at the very end, we’d say, ‘Well, we’ve gotta make some cuts.’ And that would be the path of least resistance.”

Joe Biden, 1995:

I am a Democrat that voted for the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I have introduced on four occasions — four occasions — entire plans to balance a budget. I tried with Senator Grassley back in the 1980s to freeze all government spending, including Social Security, including everything.”

When I introduced my budget freeze proposal years ago, the liberals of my party said, ‘It’s an awful thing you are doing, Joe. All the programs we care about, you are freezing them — money for the blind, the disabled, education and so on. My argument then is one I make now, which is the strongest, most compelling reason to be for this amendment — or an amendment — that if we do not do that, all the things I care most about are going to be gone — gone.”

Joe Biden, 2007 (Meet the Press interview):

Tim Russert: “Senator, we have a deficit. We have Social Security and Medicare looming. The number of people on Social Security and Medicare is now 40 million people. It’s going to be 80 million in 15 years. Would you consider looking at those programs, age of eligibility, cost of living, put it all on the table?

Joe Biden: “The answer is absolutely. […] Social Security’s not the hard one to solve. Medicare, that is the gorilla in the room, and you’ve got to put all of it on the table.

Joe Biden, 2007 (Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner):

The American people know we have to fix Social Security. They know we can’t grow our way to a solution. They know we’re going to have to make some tough decisions. They’re ready to make those decisions. They’re ready to step up. We have to be ready to straightforwardly tell them what we’re about to do.”

Joe Biden, 2018:

“Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What’s the first thing he decided we had to go after? Social Security and Medicare. We need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That’s the only way you can find room to pay for it.”


BIDEN’S FIXATION on cutting Social Security dates back to the Reagan era. One of Ronald Reagan’s first major moves as president was to implement a mammoth tax cut, tilted toward the wealthy, and to increase defense spending. Biden, a Delaware senator at the time, supported both moves. The heightened spending and reduced revenue focused public attention on the debt and deficit, giving fuel to a push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

In the midst of that debate, Biden teamed up with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to call for a freeze on federal spending, and insisted on including Social Security in that freeze, even as the Reagan administration fought to protect the program from cuts. It was part of the Democratic approach at the time not just to match Republicans, but to get to their right at times as well, as Biden also did on criminal justice policy. […]

“In 2014, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said at a conservative event that Biden had privately told him he was supporting of raising the retirement age and means-testing Social Security benefits. “I asked the vice president, don’t we have to raise the age? Wouldn’t means-testing and raising the age solve the problem?” Paul recounted, with Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee on stage, adding that Biden said, “Yes in private, but will not say it in public.” Paul hadn’t been paying close enough attention.”

PolitiFact Wrongly Lets Biden Off the Hook: The Truth About Social Security Cuts

In the speech, Biden says, “we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare” and that Social Security “needs adjustments.” Biden did not elaborate on what these “adjustments” were, but a look at his long history on Social Security is telling.
“In the 1980s, Biden sponsored a plan to freeze all federal spending, including Social Security. In the 1990s, Biden was a leading supporter of a balanced budget amendment, a policy that the Center for American Progress and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (two center-left think tanks who are hardly in the tank for Bernie Sanders) agree would be a catastrophe for Social Security.

“More recently, Biden led “grand bargain” negotiations with Republicans during his time as vice president. This “grand bargain” would have given Republicans structural, permanent cuts to Social Security in return for tax increases on the wealthy that would be rolled back as soon as a Republican president got elected to office.

“Time and time again, Biden kept coming back to the negotiating table, insisting that Republicans were dealing in good faith. Ultimately, the grand bargain fell through only because of hardline House Republicans refusing to make even an incredibly lopsided deal. Biden was fully prepared to make a deal that included Social Security cuts, including reducing future cost-of-living increases by implementing a chained CPI.

When Washington politicians talk about Social Security cuts, they almost always use coded language, saying that they want to “change,” “adjust,” or even “save” the program. That’s because cutting Social Security is incredibly unpopular with voters of all political stripes. When corporate-friendly politicians like Biden use those words, they are trying to signal to elite media and billionaire donors that they are “very serious people” who are open to cutting Social Security benefits, without giving away the game to voters.”

Biden’s Advocacy for Social Security Cuts Has Had Real Consequences

Going back to 1984, Biden has expressed interest in deals that would cut Social Security. He proposed freezing Social Security spending and periodically highlighted that desire; he voted for a balanced-budget amendment even after failing to shield Social Security from it; and he demanded that Social Security be “put on the table” during his last presidential run. He associates himself with a crowd known for foregrounding deficit concerns and fully willing to make “tough choices” on earned benefits like Social Security. Bruce Reed, Biden’s vice presidential chief of staff from 2011 to 2013 and a top campaign aide, was executive director of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which pursued deficit reduction and proposed increases in the retirement age.

“As a coup de grace, in 2012 and 2013 then-Vice President Biden helped lead a publicly advocated scheme to reduce future Social Security benefits as part of a “grand bargain” with Republicans. This cut did not reflect any of President Obama’s campaign promises, but it became part of a negotiation while in office—precisely the fear that liberals have with Biden, that he will revert back to dealmaking with Republicans that sells out core Democratic principles.

“Specifically, Obama-Biden sought to swap out the annual cost-of-living adjustment used to calculate benefits with the so-called “chained CPI,” which uses the concept of substitution. If the price of beef spikes, you could purchase lower-cost chicken instead to stay within your budget. This subsequently grows the inflation index more slowly than other government measures.

“Of course, no real substitute exists for the main drivers of elderly people’s budgets, namely housing, medical care, and prescription drugs, all of which typically rise faster than inflation. You can’t really substitute ham for arthritis medication. There’s a specific inflation calculation for the elderly, which takes this cohort’s higher costs into account, but for some reason it’s not used for Social Security benefits.

“The net effect of chained CPI would have been a Social Security benefit cut, which only makes sense if you think seniors get too sweet a deal with their $1,461 a month in average benefits. The average worker retiring at 65 would have seen a $650 reduction in benefits by age 75, and then $1,130 by age 85, according to economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Calling this a “more accurate” calculation of inflation masks the end goal of reducing future benefits (by about $230 billion over a decade, according to 2013 figures) and saving money within the system. […]

Chained CPI only dates back to 2002. It was an obscure concept mostly favored by deficit hawks and conservative ideologues until the Obama administration elevated itThe Obama-Biden proposal gave chained CPI the legitimacy needed for future administrations to implement it. It was not benign, not just a pose to show how extreme Republicans were. It was not just an ephemeral trial balloon in one negotiation in 2013. It has had long-lasting consequences for millions of Americans. And the vice president of the administration that set the trip wire causing chained CPI’s growth should be held accountable for his actions.

17 thoughts on “Biden’s Conservatism

  1. Comments. (This is going to be heresey so get out your matches and stake to burn me on.)
    1. I looked at one youtube video. one arrticcle from Jaacobin magazine which i recently was subscribed to though though i didn’t resubscribe. Jacobnn is interesting—they had a local group i’m essentially banned from which used to meet at the Venezuelan embassy and public libraries in gentrifying areas—you had a whole lot of mostly young, white college students who were not from this area going into public libraries next to housing projects where people were selling dope out front and most of the people in the library were black. The Jacobin ‘socialists’ or ‘Bernie boys’ would talk about racism, inequality etc. I sort of mentioned the demographics of their group and was banned.

    (They also had an ‘economics book study group’—their approach was to read all of Marx’s Das Kapital (but not his other earlier essay ‘on alienation’) so all of us would be educated, up to date and experts on economics.
    e.g. you learn from Marx about calculating how much iron you exchange for bags of corn and/or wheat.. The Jacobnins said basically this is the math, technology and economics you need to know to understand things like silicon valley, social security budget, etc.
    I mentioned that there have been writings on economics after Marx and sugfgested a few (in econophysics) —they said thats true but there have been writings on the proper life after the Bible but nothing written on the proper life and economics after the Bible and Das Kapital are relevant or true. As aklot of Jacobnins say ‘we are marxists’ (though they usually use socialist and also can’t figure out which kind of socialist they are—they seem to have settled on ‘democratic’; though they used to be ‘market socialists’.
    My view is they are a mix of ‘fabian socialists’ (the wealthy, often racist socialists of 1800s UK) and stalinists (because like stalinists they believe in democratic centralism—as we transition from capitalism through socilaism to communism the Jacobnins will lead te solcialist part—and have a ‘terror’ like Stalnism—they’ll wipe out all their enemeies–first a few capitalists –except the ones who become jacobins, then kill the anarchists, trotskyites, etc. .

    They actually are derived from the ISO (international socialist organization). That is also a stalinist group–i went to a couple of their meetings at semi-elite universities. If you speak out of turn they’ll sick their goons on you. Those same universities send out in the world their grads–mostly apolitical or liberal but sizable groups who are on the Jacobin Social List , or become members of the Trump administration or are appointed by Trump to be the democratically elected president of Venezuela.
    Jacobins are anit-elitist. This is why every issue has maybe 30 authors. Of those one 3rd at least are professors or grad students at Princeton, Harvard, Yale. U Chicago, NYU etc—definatley not part of the elite. They write important books and articles useful for the socialist revolution—eg one Jabhonin writer is a Princeton professor who writes books on whart Lincoln did from 3am to 5pm on arpil 3 1856. If you study this you will get a revolution –the professor points out he’s a fellow worker—prineceton proffesors have it just as bad as walmart clerks or trash truck drivers.

    2.   The Jacobin article and the youtube videos are just Bernie propoganda. They are about as legit and well thought out as you tube videos showing Biden has Alzheimer's when he may have a stutter.

    3. google ‘Biden’s social security proposal;’. Its very imperfect but not what is claimed in your links—it raises taxes on the rich. ‘chained cpi’ is a cokmplex issue but i’m not actually too concerned if someone on SSI has to switch from buying a BMW to a toyota opr even take the bus due to inflatiomn.
    to fix SSI they need to end the cap on payoll tax. thats like a capital gains tax exemption.

    Biden has plenty of dirt on his hands. Nader and even bernie do as well. I didn’t polan to vote (my area is solily democratic but did because a local candidtae asked me to so wjhile i was there io decioed alaso vote biden.this was an anti-trump vote—if my vote makes Trump, family and Co cry then good. Biden can cry later. (Jacobin is so honest when i asked to end my subscription since i couldn’t afford it they ignored my requuest and kept charging my bank acccount. they send out in their zine a notice each time ‘we never gonna let you go’. they need the money so they can gentrify Bed Sty–they a;reasdy gentrified here—eg they get a house whose poor blakc residents were evicted to get a btter class of white people and then write articleas about the horror of gentrication for their phD thesis at NYU. Its deep stuff too–as students they were the 1st to discover poverty, racism, and slavery occured in USA.They did extensive research—eg read an article on US demorgraphics on wikipedia. for this they deserve tenure and 150G salary plus book contracts. solidarity forever.) .

    • You won’t get judgment from me for being heretical, as I’ve explained to you. The problem, from my perspective, is that your defense of Biden sounds conventional and mainstream, not heretical in the slightest. It’s not really any different than defenses of Biden I’ve come across in coporate media. I’d prefer it if your position was actually heretical. But I have no beef with your opinion of Jacobin, as I have no particular interest in it. I don’t read it on a regular basis. Sometimes their articles will come up in a web search or whatever. I don’t rely on any single source of media. Nor do I remain in any particular ideological media bubble and echo chamber. These days, I don’t follow the news media closely, neither mainstream nor alternative.

      I can’t say I necessarily have anything against Fabian-style socialism as long as it’s not racist, though I have no inclinations at all toward Stalinism. I suppose I’m a moderate and inconsistent anarchist with left-libertarian inclinations. I basically care about egalitarian values. Both social democracy and socialism interest me. Even something as simple as sewer socialism sounds decent, if not all that radical. As for economics, I want democratic markets, in that a market can only be free to the degree everyone involved and impacted by the market is free. I’m for democracy all around, although primarily as a strong culture of trust. But in the end, I’d be happy if we Americans simply had a basic level of representative governance where public opinion mattered. Majority opinion on most issues is not radical in my opinion, though already pretty far left compared to the elite that determine public policy.

      I’ve never come across anything that looked like Bernie propaganda. I’m not even sure what that means. Sanders is a sheepdog for the Democrats. The only propaganda is whatever herds voters back to the corporatist candidates, which is depressing considering he doesn’t advocate corporatism. But, at this point, to expect anything else from Sanders seems naive to my mind. I’m opposed to corporatism, whether promoted by Republicans or Democrats or even supposed independents. It’s the same reason I was opposed to Obama and Biden’s corporatist ‘Obamacare’ which was warmed over ‘Romneycare’ that came out of a right-wing think tank. The worst part about this corporatism, though, is its anti-democratic nature. I’m less concerned about any given result and more about what leads to it. As long as we are ruled by paternalistic authoritarians and technocrats, we will continue to get the same problems and worse as time goes on.

      If you think the issue is “if someone on SSI has to switch from buying a BMW to a toyota opr even take the bus due to inflatiomn,” then you don’t understand what is at stake. That comment sounds like something said by a middle class person who is out of touch with real economic struggle and had never experienced desperate, long-term poverty. The concern is the slow whittling away of what little social safety net we have, what keeps people from becoming homeless, eating cat food, scrounging through dumpsters, or whatever else to get by and survive. The threat of such impoverishment is still a harsh reality for many Americans who are part of the permanent underclass.

      From the numbers I’ve seen, at least half, if not more, of working age Americans are some combination of unemployed, underemployed, barely making ends meet, on welfare, on disability, imprisoned or otherwise institutionalized, or homeless. There are parts of the country where poverty rates and conditions are as bad or worse than many developing countries. Also, in recent years, there has been a growing number of homeless camps. But much of the data is never fully kept or is obscured. The federal government hasn’t kept full unemployment numbers since the Reagan administration, although we are able to use various sources of data to estimate it.

      To get back to the topic of the post, the point is we know what kind of politcian is Joe Biden. We know his 40 year political record. He has been a fiscal hawk and corporatist and has hewn closely to economic conservatism, not to mention his hardcore pro-military and law-and-order stance. He loves bipartisanship when it means cutting taxes for the rich while cutting programs for the poor or else passing corportate-friendly pseudo-reforms like Obamacare that simply achieved increasing the profits of insurance companies, not to mention corporate deregulations and corporate subsidies. I don’t care what Biden says or promises but what he has been proven to do. I judge people by their actions, not their words. Simply put, he is of low moral character and he has been a key actor in pushing the Democratic party to the far right, such that someone like Biden is what was considered a moderate Republican not that long ago.

      If you believe Nader and Sanders are equivalent to Biden, then you and I exist in separate realities. Nader and Sanders don’t have 40 year-long records of right-wing politics. They don’t have a repeated pattern of not only directly working with corporatists and fiscal hawks but also racists and war hawks. I can’t stand Sanders weak politics of going along to get along to maintain his career, and Sanders must get full blame for sheepdoging votes to corrupt figures like Biden, but he isn’t a fraction as bad as Biden in terms of political record. And Nader is an entirely different kind of political actor that isn’t comparable in the slightest.

      Whatever faults and accusations can be laid at Nader’s feet and there are many, he has an impressive record of helping to shape the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and much else. I don’t feel any need to defend Nader’s good name or anything, as there are valid criticisms that have been made, but to equate him to Biden is a sad joke. That seems like yet more lesser-evilism that sees no option other than varying degrees of evil to choose from. Why settle for evil? Sure, Sanders and Nader have problems, but they aren’t the only other options out there. Ignore them. Many politicians and candidates out there aren’t corrupt and refuse to be part of the corruption, aren’t corporatists and won’t work with corporatists either.

    • To continue with my thoughts, I should say that I don’t care about hereticism, per se. What I like are interesting positions. Defending Biden is boring and pointless. Leave that to the corporatist hacks, party propagandists, and partisan true believers. They are fully capable of doing that for themselves. Biden doesn’t need more defenders. He has been part of the ruling elite for longer than a large part of the population has been alive. He is as establishment as they come.

      I’d another point. Lesser-evil voting is what one does when one feels little urgency, when problems don’t seem like an immediate threat. It’s a delaying action, in accepting evil in lesser form in the hope that there is still time to seek the good later. But not everyone can wait for their lives to improve later. Not everyone is economically secure and comfortable enought to be patient in playing the long game. For these people, urgency is personally and viscerally real.

      “I also thought: Mea culpa. For those past two decades, I’d prospered and thrived in the new political economy. And unharmed by automation or globalization or the new social contract, I’d effectively ignored the fact that the majority of my fellow Americans weren’t prospering or thriving.

      “In 40 years, the share of wealth owned by our richest 1 percent has doubled, the collective net worth of the bottom half has dropped to almost zero, the median weekly pay for a full-time worker has increased by just 0.1 percent a year, only the incomes of the top 10 percent have grown in sync with the economy, and so on. Americans’ boats stopped rising together; most of our boats stopped rising at all. Economic inequality has reverted to the levels of a century ago and earlier, and so has economic insecurity, while economic immobility is almost certainly worse than it’s ever been.

      “What’s happened since the 1970s and ’80s didn’t just happen. It looks more like arson than a purely accidental fire, more like poisoning than a completely natural illness, more like a cheating of the many by the few—and although I’ve always been predisposed to disbelieve conspiracy theories, this amounts to a long-standing and well-executed conspiracy, not especially secret, by the leaders of the capitalist class, at the expense of everyone else. A Raw Deal replaced the New Deal. And I and my cohort of hippie-to-yuppie liberal Baby Boomers were complicit in that.”

      I stand on the side of the underdog. The ruling elite don’t need my help or your help in maintaining their dominance. They are doing just fine. They know how to win elections when they want to or else win at other games of wealth and power. Biden is not an ideologue but a pragmatist who adheres to realpolitik. There is an inherent ideology but it’s a simple one, that of power itself. He is a social dominator who enjoys being part of the ruling elite. He’ll do whatever he needs to do to maintain his position, to remain relevant.

      That is what the Clinton Democrats have always been about. Sanders would’ve easily defeated Trump in 2016 and everyone, if they were being honest, knew that. The DNC insiders understood Clinton was weak. But they would rather lose elections while maintaining control of the DNC than to win elections by letting the political left get a toehold into power. The point is not to win every contest but to stay in the game. That is how they’ve kept hold of power for so long. Someone like Biden doesn’t build a long career as a professional politician by being principled. That is why he’ll work with anyone, even racists, and he is proud of that ‘pragmatism’.

      With that in mind, that does create a potential opening for the political left. It’s highly improbable that Biden could be pulled left at least not very far left, specifically on economic issues, but nonetheless it is possible. It theoretically could happen, if conditions of a perfect storm developed. That hope is more likely to be dashed on the rocks of reality. Still, it’s not as if Biden is an outright fascist of the old school variety, although some might call him a friendly fascist for his neocon corporatism. The point is that he isn’t going to be dogmatic. He’ll do what his corporate donors and corporatist handlers tell him to. He’ll do what his cronies want him to do.

      Beyond that, there are things he might accomplish that would be tolerable to economic leftists or else won’t be too harshly intolerable. There might be some minor reforms around the edges, some slight policy shifts. It’s just that it will come at a cost of increasing corporate power, growing inequality, more wars, and probably further law-and-order. It will mostly happen behind the scenes. Will that be a net gain? It’s hard to imagine that possibility. But I get the hope. I could see protests developing into riots, maybe some terrorism or assassination attempts. The ruling elite might get scared and relent to more reforms than they otherwise would. Were are in troubled times. Unlike Trump, Biden does not want to rule over chaos and violence. That means he might be swayed, if it gets bad enough.

      Good luck with that. I do hope I’m proven wrong and, as Biden promised, he becomes the next FDR. I’d settle for a fraction of that promise. The force of change will have to come from the bottom up, not the top down. As a sign of hope, that is what has been happening at the local level where change typically happens first. The past year of protests has created public support and political will for some major reforms all across the country. So, I’m not entirely pessimistic about it. I just don’t look to Biden for my sense of hope. He will do what he can to prevent positive change from happening, but he might be vulnerable to pressure, especially when threat of violence is in the air as it has been with recent protests.

    • I should explain why I have such strong views on such a topic and why I respond so strongly to comments like yours. I’m working class, even though I was raised middle class. My mother grew up working class. So, there is basically one generation in my family who became economically well off. My parents are still doing well in retirement. But my brothers are also lower down the totem pole like me, even if they have slightly better jobs than I do but they also have kids to support as I don’t.

      Anyway, I’ve always worked entry-level jobs, often at minimum wage. For much of my adult life, I was near the poverty line and sometimes below it. Even now, I’m not that far above the poverty line and I don’t have much in the way of savings nor do I own a car. If Social Security is cut, my old age could be really shitty, as is true of many Americans who depend on Social Security as their retirement plan. For many, how much they get from Social Security could be the difference between eating cat food or not, scrounging through dumpsters or not, being homeless or not. That is what Social Security was created to prevent. It’s a sad reality that existed in the past and might be returning.

      I don’t have a college education, but getting a degree doesn’t necessarily mean much. Most college students come from the working class and many of them return to it. That is a large reason why so many struggle with college debt as they can’t find good jobs that pay well. My brothers have degrees, one a 4 year degree and the other a 2 year degree, but neither is getting rich and one is still working a manual labor job, even though it’s a nicer manual labor job for the city. I have friends and coworkers with college degrees. This includes a bus driver with an architectural degree, a postal worker with a psychology degree, a baker with a English degree, a homecare worker with computer design degree, a maintenance worker with an art degree, a bartender with a history degree, a cashier with a history PhD, etc.

      So, I have a negative response when someone defends an authoritarian and reactionary plutocrat like Joe Biden while dismissing often impoverished college grads and often impoverished Social Security recipients. To my mind, that kind of out-of-touch comment exemplifies what is wrong with our society. Many people are really hurting right now and it could get far far worse before it gets better, assuming it ever gets better. I root for the underdog, not for the ruling elite. Please don’t be so quick to judge those you don’t know. If you are like most other Americans, I’m sure you’ve struggled as well. Realize that many others are having it hard as well. Or if you haven’t struggled, realize you are not typical. According to data, about half of Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, or not making enough to live on.

      Empathy, kindness, compassion, and moral concern is the best response to offer others. But I must admit I regularly fail my own advice. That is evidence in my own critical response to your being critical. I apologize for that, but take it as a sign of how important I take this. Even small cuts to Social Security could have immense effects for those who are barely making it as is. And for those not keeping their heads above water now, they might not be able to take much more before drowning. This is not the time for even the smallest of cuts to programs that help the most needy, especially when the government gives away trillions of dollars a year as socialism for the rich. I’m not exaggerating. Single industries alone get trillions of dollars in subsidies each and every year. Multiply that by many industries. Then combine that with bailouts, no-bid contracts, the wasteful military-industrial complex, natural resources taken from public land, etc. Why is it always the poor who experience the cuts when times get hard?

      • I didn’t get the impression Ishi Crew was defending Biden.

        There is a widespread belief in “progress” to contend with at the moment. Progress means “incremental change” for the time being and, considering our present circumstances, incremental change is not going to cut it. We need a complete transformation and we need it yesterday.

        As Gebser noted, progress means to move toward but also away from in the paradoxical sense of the word. We’re presently speaking of such progress, but not seeing much of it: from centralization toward glocalization, for example. As horrible as a Trump presidency was, some decentralization actually did go along with it — decentralization of which most of us don’t seem aware. Unfortunately, the states themselves aren’t prepared for decentralization on a grand scale.

        • Ishi may not have necessarily thought of himself as defending Biden. But his comment amounts to the same difference, even if all he was doing was rationalizing away Biden’s moral failure through a long career of betraying and harming the American public with corporatism, war-mongering, and authoritarian law-and-order. I can sort of understand the argument for incremental progress, although I agree with your assessment that it is nowhere near enough. Still, I might let such a comment go by without too much complaint.

          The thing is Ishi’s comment wasn’t defending incremental progress for he was stating that cuts to Social Security would be fine, as long as he perceives them as minor (i.e., well-off Social Security recipients buying a slightly less expensive car). That isn’t incremental progress but incremental backsliding. If incremental progress is a problem, incremental backsliding is much worse. That was my main contention, the death by a thousand cuts, so slow and gradual that few notice like the boiling frog. Besides, Ishi’s perception of those Social Security cuts being minor was entrely out of touch with the reality of a large segment of the American population.

          Has Trump decentralized power? Well, maybe, sort of. There has been some small ways Trump decentralized power, such as refusing to nationalize the pandemic response, even as in numerous other ways he pushed for more centralization, such as further strengthening the uncnstitutional executive power in following the precedent set by previous presidents. Anyway, it’s hard to see Trump (or Obama or Bush) as net gains for progress toward social democracy and democratic federalism, however incremental. The ruling elite and the deep state have not been compromised in the slightest by Trump’s narcissistic games of power.

          There is Trump’s heavyhanded protectionist manipulation of the national economy (including a trade war that bypassed Congressional oversight), the appointment of activist judges, the cavalier attempt to use emergency powers, and pardoning of criminals who might have been collaborators in and witnesses to Trump’s alleged crimes. Then there is his sending military into cities in opposition to local government, having federal agents harass journalsts and legal observers at protests, and having federal agents in unmarked vehicles illegally arrest and detain protesters without probable cause or due process.

          There is much else and has been going on for a long time, but gettng worse as time goes on. With each administration, executive power becomes ever less transparent and accountable, as it becomes ever more beholden to big money and big biz. Federalism, constitutional limits, and separation of powers have all been further weakened. Meanwhile, corporatocracy is more powerful than ever. Also, civil rights continue in decline and the police state grows. Meanwhile, in the background the deep state and inverted totalitarianism have taken control. And, no, Trump has not done anythng to lessen this rule of plutocracy, kleptocracy, and oligarchy.

          Of course, the expansion of the imperial presidency didn’t begin with Trump, but neither did it reverse or even slow down with Trump. “In reality, the problem goes well beyond Trump, and even beyond the well-documented trend of increasing presidential power. Constraints on the president—not just from Congress but also from the bureaucracy, allies, and international institutions—have been eroding for decades.” The imperial presidency is simply the most obvious sign of an authoritarian banana republic.

          Power, wealth, and market control have continued to become ever more concentrated as inequality, climate change, inverted totalitarianism, military-industrial complex, etc have gotten worse, including under Trump. For example, Bush dropped more bombs on innocent people than Clinton, Obama more than Bush, and Trump more than Obama. War looked a bit different under Trump, but he didn’t dismantle the war state. He just shifted a small number of troops around. The warfare state is as emboldened as ever in its forever wars of imperial aggressoin and authoritarian violence toward the innocent.

          Furthermore, Trump was more blatant in his cronyism and corporatism than maybe any other president. Regulatory capture was fully in operation like never seen before and it was already bad. I don’t see any evidence that the Federal government is overall more decentralized than it was 4 years ago. Sure, in regulatory capture serving corporate interests, there might be some deregulation that looks like decentralization, but at the same time those corporations that pushed for deregulation have more control over our government than before (e.g., redirecting public funds to themeselves). What looks like decentralization can simply be another way of obtaining more centralization.

          I’m not willing to be generous in my appraisal of either Biden or Trump. The American people have been far too tolerant of political and economic wrongdoing. We either have a democracy or not. Plutocrats don’t favor democracy, which is equally true of Trump and Biden. The time for excuses is over. Justice delayed is justice denied. There is no other way to describe cutting social services to those desperate in need while the already rich and powerful pocket trillions of public wealth and resources every year. It’s morally depraved.

          • There has been some small ways Trump decentralized power

            Trump Administration Announces Plans To Move Hundreds of Federal Jobs Out of D.C.

            Faust: Well now, who are you?
            Mephisto: Part of that force that always wills the evil and always produces the good.

            No one is looking for any good to come of the fallout of a Trump presidency, though, are they?

            Of course, I wasn’t and am not defending Trump any more than Ishi was defending Biden. This is why none of us peeps can talk about the very real and present crises we face: we’re automatically presumed. It’s pointless to say anything.

          • I never claimed he was total evil. From before he was elected, I argued that he was more likely to enact progressive agenda than Clinton, if only by accident. But there is no way in hell I’d agree that he has done more good than harm, in terms of lessening corrupt, oppressive, and concentrated power. Still, everything is relative compared to something else.

          • I ever return to my criticism of lesser evilism. As I see it, all this does is lead to greater evil with each election.

            Sure, sometimes a particular president might do something that has a non-authoritarian impact. Obama enacted greater civil liberties for gun owners by legalizing the carrying of guns in federal parks. But he also dropped more bombs than Bush, as Trump dropped more bombs than Obama, and as Biden might drop more bombs than them all.

            The point being it’s not a general trend of progress and betterment for all. Some random occasional act that resulted in some good is, well, not good enough to compensate fo the tsunami of political evil. So, I don’t need to deny and dismiss those minor acts of non-evil, as it is never about any single thing in isolation but the totality of all actions.

          • Also, I didn’t declare that Ishi necessarily and inevitably was defending Biden. The clarification I made was that it amounted to the same difference, in making excuses for what causes harm. I was responding to Ishi’s dismissing of that real harm. That is what allows such harm to happen and continue.

          • I suspect I get your meaning, as I suspect you get mine, although we both could be involved in mutual misunderstanding. Assuming I do understand correctly, your meaning doesn’t entirely relate to, much less it be in conflict, with my meaning. My original point was a separate issue, so it seems to me.

            I was re-emphasizing the original point that started the whole discussion. So, your meaning might be just fine taken on its own terms, if separate from what I was saying. I don’t know. It just seems like we were talking about separate things. I can stand by my original point without it necessarily being intended as disproving or criticizing your point.

            I simply think my point, irrespective of yours, remains relevant and important. But I’m perfectly fine with taking your comments on their own merits. I’m just not in the mood to look for the silver lining in a hurricane that kills so many and destroys so much. Sure, some good can come out of bad. Yeah, I get that. But it’s not the most optimal way to seek a free society of maximum public good.

            Simply put, cutting Social Security is a net harm, no matter how one spins it. And there is good reason to acknowledge, based on political history, Biden would like to cut Social Security as he has repeatedly said is his desire. I think that is a bad thing that will harm people and so I think it’s cruel to downplay that harm.

            It’s not an isolated thing, as this desire to cut social services has been inseparable from redirecting wealth and resources to the rich and powerful. This is beyond dispute. It is what it is. The sooner we confront this dark reality the sooner we can do something about it as a society. But until that shift in public awareness happens, nothing is likely to fundamentally change for the good.

          • That resonates. I skimmed the whole piece. I’m not sure I get all of that she is getting at. But I get the gist of it. I noticed this other bit:

            “If the sensemaking is made into prose, it is flattened and tells us more about how that flatness is preferable to the murky, messy, kinky, unhinged sense that is actually being made.”

            I might alter that slightly. It’s not prose or not. What it is, from my perspective, is a deeper aspect of language in general. This goes to my linguistic experiments. The casual, thoughtless way language plays out in our minds is more powerful than almost anything else.

            That is part of why I hold such strong views on how we talk about issues. I think it matters to an immense degree. As long as we continue to speak of politics in the terms of how politicians speak, we will remain trapped in that rhetorical reality tunnel. The real shifts are in how language is used not in campaign rhetoric, political debate, and public speeches but in how we do or don’t internalize such voices of authorization.

            What may seem unseen, unspoken might simply be what we’re not looking for and not listening to. But maybe, in seeing and speaking differently, we will see and hear something else. We need to follow closely experience.

    • I’m in the middle of writing a post about recursion. In its linguistic form, it’s simply the embedding of phrases within a sentence. It’s lacking in some languages like Piraha and maybe a few others. But in many oral cultures, syntactic recursion can be extremely limited.

      It only develops into its most complex forms through written texts and only after a population has been literate for a long time. This is seen in the convoluted, long sentences that became respected in high literary culture in the West. It’s waned a bit as the new media has brought back an emphasis to spoken language and oral culture.

      You can tend to tell people who are highly educated, especially in the liberal arts or related fields. They’ll use a lot of recursion in their writing and probably even to a greater extent in their speech as well. Anyone who reads and writes a lot, especially if they are reading intellectual texts, will pick up the habit of obsessive use of recursion.

      It can be seen in my own writing. I throw out recursion left and right, although I don’t tend toward the really complex embedded clauses and qualifications. Still, I use it far more than most people because of what I read and how much I’ve read over my life, despite my brief career in higher education and none of it having to do with literature.

      Besides being associated with written texts and high literary style, linguistic recursion is also seen with abstract language and thought. Recursion tends toward dry language and broad generalizations. It’s common in philosophical texts and maybe it adds to a reputation of certain writers being opaque as it requires interpretation to break it down.

      This has been on my mind because of language experiments I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to change my thinking by changing my self-talk. I’ve done this with pronouns and tenses, such as speaking in third person plural and past tense. It’s fun to do and it really can shift one’s mentality.

      Social science research has shown the third person singular can alter behavior in children, such as improving achievement of tasks. There is also a practice in Buddhism of referring to the self in third person, so as to loosen the egoic boundaries and open oneself to the experience of the bundled self.

      That relates to my own purposes. I’ve become aware of how much I get trapped in mental loops of my linguistic rhetoric I’ve used and internalized through a lifetime of habit. It’s hard to break the memetic hold of self-talk that has become enmeshed in self-identity. It’s an ongoing experiment.

      I bring this all up because you use more recursion than anyone I’ve ever seen before in a mere comment. I’ve seen some rather involved recursion in reading literature, but you are throwing out sentences here in the comments that break down to numerous separate statements. In one sentence above, it consists of possibly 19 statements, depending on how its divided.

      Your comment perfectly demonstrates an observation that occurred to me in thinking about recursion. Connecting phrases together often sets into place the initial structure of a narrative framing. Some of your sentences are almost complete stories. You jump from a few declarative statements of who people are to conclusions of what they will do.

      On very little to no information, you speculate and fantasize wildly about people’s intentions and future behaviors. It’s almost as if, in your mind, that it’s a foregone conclusion that Jacobins and Bernie Bros are going to start a revolution and kill you. This narrative has already played out in your head and the individuals in question are already guilty for their future crime.

      That is the kind of thing that recursion makes possible, the rhetorical construction of full narratives. That is much harder to do without recursion as it forces one to be limited to simpler statements. Other things are also involved. Almost everything about your comment would be impossible to express in a language like Piraha.

      Besides lacking recursion, they don’t use abstractions or generalizations. All of their truth-claims have to be sourced to one’s own direct experience or that of those one personally knows. Projecting speculations and fantasies onto the future simply does not happen in Piraha culture. So, they are less likely to get caught up in rhetorical narratives.

      I’m hoping to learn how to use my own language more wisely and carefull and with more awareness. But I can’t say I’ve succeeded yet. In this comment here, I’m still falling back on recursion, first person singular, and such. It’s easier to communicate that way in most interactions. Still, I’d like to break some of my linguistic habits and learn some new ones to replace them.

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