Two weeks ago, Joe Biden rightly received praise for creating policy task forces that released a package of progressive legislative initiatives. The proposals augmented Biden’s previous legislative initiatives to change corporate behavior. The task forces were meant to unify the Democratic Party after the primary, and their recommendations were blared all over the world in glowing headlines promising an era of progressive change under a Biden administration.
Then, this past Monday, Biden told his Wall Street donors that actually, he is not proposing any new legislation to rein in corporate power or change corporate behavior — and this was reported exactly nowhere, even as his campaign blasted it out to the national press corps.
You don’t have to believe me — you can click here to read the full pool report that the Biden campaign distributed to the press after his teleconference fundraiser. That event was headlined by Jon Gray, a top executive at the Blackstone Group, which is a private equity behemoth at the center of the climate, health care, housing, and pension crises. Blackstone executives had already donated $130,000 to the Biden campaign and $350,000 to a super PAC supporting him.
Here’s the relevant section, reviewing what Biden said:
Second question, again from Mr. Gray, who noted that there are “a bunch of business leaders” on the line. “What do you think is essential to get this economy rolling again?”
“I come from the corporate state of American, many of you incorporated here,” said Mr. Biden. “It used to be that corporate America had a sense of responsibility beyond just CEO salaries and shareholders.”
“Corporate America has to change its ways. It’s not going to require legislation. I’m not proposing any. We’ve got to think about how we deal people back in.”
There’s an obvious contradiction here. Before making these comments, Biden had previously promised to pass legislative initiatives to change corporate behavior on everything from climate change to tax policy. He has an entire section of his website outlining promises to pass corporate accountability legislation. He has received praise for these kind of promises.
But now he’s telling his donors they can rest assured that legislation to change corporate behavior is not forthcoming. Indeed, read Biden’s comment again: “It’s not going to require legislation. I’m not proposing any.”
Now, sure, you can try to write this off as just another gaffe — good ol’ Joe being good ol’ Joe. But it is part of a pattern.
Biden had previously promised his wealthy donors that if he is elected, “nothing would fundamentally change.” He insisted that we don’t need a political revolution in America because that might “disrupt everything.”
That was in the halcyon days before the coronavirus — so maybe you can try to write off all that rhetoric as pre-pandemic malarkey.
But now we’re in the middle of multiple emergencies, when real change is so obviously and desperately needed, and when lawmakers like senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both have legislation already drafted that would start challenging corporate power.
And yet, at a time when private health insurance companies are making a jackpot off a pandemic, and when oil companies are creating a climate crisis that threatens the planet’s ecosystem, the presumptive Democratic nominee is doubling down, literally telling his donors that he is “not proposing any” legislation to change corporate America.
I’ve said this before and will say it again for those who need to hear it: I personally believe Donald Trump must be defeated, because he is actively making so many terrible crises so much worse.
However, I agree with Princeton University professor and MSNBC contributor Eddie Glaude Jr, who tweeted: “If I am alive in November I plan to vote for Joe Biden. That does not mean that until then I have lost all my critical faculties. I don’t approach politics like a sports fan.”
In his comment to donors yesterday, Biden did not just make a mockery of his own task forces and all their good work. He made clear that if he wins — and if progressives then pull a 2009 by once again standing down and deferring to the new Democratic president — then we should expect that, indeed, nothing will fundamentally change.
And if nothing fundamentally changes during the next Democratic administration, it’s a good bet that everything will fundamentally change for the worse in our economy, our society, our politics, and our world.