Biden to the Moon

September 23, 2020, wasn’t that long ago. President Trump knew he could win reelection if he was nasty enough. And that day he was all sneers:

During a campaign rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, Trump described with relish how the feds “cleaned everything up” in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the George Floyd protests and were “grabbing” people “left and right.”

“They grabbed one guy: ‘I’m a reporter! I’m a reporter!’” Trump said in a mock quote.

“They threw him aside like he was little bag of popcorn,” the President added as the crowd laughed.

“I mean honestly, when you watch the crap that we’ve all had to take so long, when you see that, it’s actually – you don’t want to do that – but when you see it, it’s actually a beautiful sight,” he continued. “It’s a beautiful sight.”

It was time to beat the crap out of reporters! But this was Moon Township – downstream from Pittsburgh on the Ohio River – where they built Pittsburgh’s first modern airport in 1951, now Pittsburgh International Airport, a major air-shipping hub with big hangers and warehouses. Parts of The Silence of the Lambs were filmed in Moon Township too. A few Moon Township police officers had minor non-speaking roles as extras in that nasty movie. It’s a curious place. And there was this too:

President Donald Trump dangled the threat of violence before would-be protesters last night, harkening back to past campaign rallies where several were assaulted.

During a rally outside Pittsburgh, Trump referred generally to “some kind of anti-Trump person” and then noted, “You don’t see it much anymore. You know why? It’s dangerous! It’s dangerous for them.”

It’s not just reporters. It’s anti-Trump people. We beat them up! We beat them within an inch of their lives! So they hide! They’re cowards!

But of course he was making this up to get his base laughing and cheering even more. No one had beaten the crap out of anyone. But that would be cool, wouldn’t it? His base went wild. He’d break all the rules! He was Hannibal Lecter from that nasty movie! He was their Hannibal Lecter!

And then he lost Pennsylvania. And then he lost reelection. And the trial of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd is about to begin – so nothing worked out. Trump’s trip to the Moon wasn’t worth it.

He took the wrong message to Moon Township, with the only airport in the area with a runway long enough to handle Air Force One. That is where presidents go when they go to Pittsburgh. But not all go there to sneer and praise mob violence, but not quite call for mob violence, yet. Some go there to say look, we can fix things, we can make things better, and here’s how. Sure, you’re angry, and you have a right to be angry. But finding someone to beat to death won’t fix anything. That won’t bring your job back. That won’t feed your kids. That won’t keep you out of the hospital, which would bankrupt you in an hour anyway. Drop the anger. Set it aside for the moment. Be sensible. Be boring. But change things.

Joe Biden is flying into Pittsburgh. And he’s not sneering. He’s not suggesting who should be beaten to death. He’s not in love with mob violence. He has no time for that nonsense. It’s time to fix things. And why not? It’s time for big changes. The Washington Post’s Tony Romm reports this:

President Biden this week is set to begin sketching out his plan to commit trillions of dollars toward upgrading the country’s ailing infrastructure, fighting climate change and bolstering federal safety net programs, as Democrats try to usher in a new era of bigger government – and spending – in the aftermath of the coronavirus.

The forthcoming proposals reflect a broader political shift underway in Washington, where Democratic leaders have sought to capitalize on their 2020 election victories to advance once dormant policy priorities and unwind years of budget cuts under administrations past.

This is the moment. The world fell apart. People want it put back together, better than before, but it won’t be easy:

Biden’s aggressive agenda also may test his stated support for bipartisanship – after passing his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan without any Republican support – as well as the public’s willingness to embrace the sizable tax increases on wealthy families and profitable companies that may be necessary to help finance the burst in federal spending.

Wait. The American people want to protect wealthy families and hugely profitable corporations? Who knew? Well, Biden’s not worried. Biden is off to Pittsburgh. It’s Biden to the Moon:

Biden’s push begins Wednesday, when he is scheduled to head to Pittsburgh to pitch the first part of a $3 trillion or more effort to improve the country’s roads, bridges and water systems nationwide. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Fox News Sunday that Biden would follow that announcement in April with a second package to include spending on social welfare programs, addressing healthcare, child care and other issues.

The White House this week also intends to release the early contours of its 2022 budget request to Congress. The blueprint is expected to call for a major increase in domestic spending starting next fiscal year, particularly targeting federal agencies that tackle education, climate change, housing insecurity and other longtime Democratic priorities, according to the party’s top congressional aides.

This is Biden’s moon shot. Do it all. Actually make America great again, when bridges don’t fall down and no one starves in the streets. Fix it all. Now. It can be done:

For Biden, the forthcoming infrastructure and budget proposals showcase Democrats’ broader desire to rethink the role of the federal government over the course of his presidency. Biden teased the transformation he seeks at an event in the Rose Garden earlier this month, linking his philosophy to the massive anti-poverty campaign waged by President Lyndon B. Johnson about six decades ago.

“It’s critical to demonstrate that government can function – can function and deliver prosperity, security and opportunity for the people in this country,” Biden said.

But, but, but not so fast:

“I’m very disappointed with what I’m reading,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the top Republican on the chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters last week. While she said infrastructure reform is bipartisan, she expressed early fears that the debate may ultimately end up like the stimulus, attracting no GOP support because of the White House’s thinking on issues including social welfare.

“I think we need to talk to the American people and say, ‘Is this what you envision with infrastructure?’” Capito said. “‘Are these job creators? Are we re-engineering our own social fabric here with a 50-vote majority?’”

Yes, we are. Get with what the public seems to want, or get out of the way, or get run over:

For Democrats, the infrastructure and budget plans Biden are set to release this week reflect an emboldened party still celebrating its stimulus victory. Many top lawmakers and White House officials maintain the package, known as the American Rescue Plan, is popular with voters across the political spectrum – and they now seek to build on its passage with a flurry of longer-term legislative efforts.

“The American people know we need big, bold change,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a recent news conference when asked about Democrats’ efforts to grow the size of government. The coronavirus “has shown the private sector can’t do it alone and the federal government has to be a big part of it. I believe the American people want it and are ready for it.”

And here it is:

Biden’s spending plans are expected to have two parts. The first, which the president is set to showcase in Pittsburgh, seeks to direct billions of dollars to improving roads, bridges, waterways and sewage systems, while investing in technologies including the next generation of Internet access and a wide array of clean-energy research and tools.

The infrastructure push reflects growing, bipartisan concern about the need for heightened federal investment in improving the country’s inner-workings – and the potential that such spending could create jobs and stimulate the economy. A report earlier this year from the American Society for Civil Engineers found the country faced a roughly $2.6 trillion funding gap, resulting in frequent water-main breaks, power outages and significant wear and tear on American roads…

The second component, slated for April, includes social-safety-net proposals. It would extend the child tax credits authorized under the $1.9 trillion stimulus, for example, while allocating new sums toward child care, universal prekindergarten and free community college, people familiar with the plan previously told the Post. It is expected to include more subsidies for health-care plans and more aid for people of color attending historically Black colleges and universities.

All of it can be done. Do it. Just work out the details:

Many of these proposed reforms correspond with promises that Biden and his fellow Democrats made over the course of the 2020 election. Psaki said the administration is still “working out the total package,” stressing Biden is “eager to hear ideas from both parties as well.”

But some of Biden’s agenda threatens to upend the potential for bipartisan compromise before the debate begins in earnest. That includes the president’s plans to pay for the changes, which could include raising taxes on companies, targeting corporate profits abroad and imposing higher rates on wealthy families and investors. Biden has said his tax increases will not affect people earning less than $400,000 per year.

But what about the people earning more than that? Fox News will cover their horrifying plight. That should be amusing, and Kevin Robillard reports this:

Across the country, Democrats are uniformly lining up behind the most essential parts of Biden’s policy program, aggressively trying to sell the already-passed American Rescue Plan – which sent $1,400 checks to most Americans and which Democrats say will help crush the coronavirus pandemic and reopen schools – with Biden himself embracing a prediction of 6% economic growth at his press conference last week.

They are eagerly anticipating his next legislative proposal, which Biden is expected to lay out in a speech in Pittsburgh this week. Early reports indicate the more than $3 trillion package will contain hundreds of billions in infrastructure spending, a permanent expansion of the child tax credit, free community college, aid for caregivers, and a package of tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations.

Driving this party-wide political bet is a conviction that robust economic liberalism can renew Americans’ faith in their government, give them a political advantage on economic issues and stem continued defections among working-class voters of all races to a GOP almost exclusively focused on culture war issues.

“We’re going to keep building until every American has that peace of mind and to show that our government can fulfill its most essential purpose: to care for and protect the American people,” Biden said Tuesday during an event at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Fixing things just might be good politics for a change, but David Atkins sees this:

This last bit about culture war issues points to frustrating conundrum for the left. It has become increasingly clear that the real animus driving conservative polarization is not really driven by economic insecurity, but almost entirely by culture war grievances. Conservatives get elected to office promising to “do something” about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head, but of course they can do nothing – in fact, their own free-market ideology is fundamentally at odds with interfering with business decisions by corporations. (Even if those corporations increasingly do not want to be associated with the declining culture of toxic conservative hate.) There is also no way for liberals to decrease the salience of culture war issues.

But he thinks Biden may be onto something. Fix things. Make life better in this country. Be sneaky:

What liberals in elected office can do is work to improve the actual lives of conservative voters, hoping that it will eventually become clear to at least some of them who is actually helping them and who is not. It may or may not work, but it’s what is available. Certainly, the growing popularity of both Joe Biden himself and Congress overall in the wake of COVID relief passage indicates there may be truth in the proposition.

But whether or not good policy can work as a persuasion tactic, at the very least there’s a growing sense that doing the right thing for the country can both mobilize the left’s voters, and it can do little significant political damage among conservatives that the rightwing media apparatus was not going to do in any case.

In short, if it fails, things still get fixed, and doing the right thing is its own reward. David Atkins is a progressive political strategist. Now he doesn’t feel so very lonely:

Many progressives will be frustrated at how late this realization seems to be coming to their more moderate colleagues. But better late than never.

And the Washington Post’s Annie Linskey and Marianna Sotomayor see this:

Barack Obama, facing pressure from both parties, worked to keep his stimulus package under $1 trillion. Joe Biden launched his presidency by spending about $2 trillion and hopes to bump it up to $5 trillion.

Obama spent months negotiating with Republicans, thirsty for a bipartisan credential that never came, while Biden nodded to the opposition party and then pushed his agenda without them.

Obama thought good policy would sell itself. Biden’s aides say he designed his package around key pieces that sell well, including easy-to-understand ideas such as $1,400 stimulus payments and vaccines.

This is a do-over getting things right this time, easier because Biden is White and not that Scary Black Man, but the key players are the same:

Surrounded by many of the same top aides who worked in the Obama White House, the Biden team is behaving almost as if it is back to work after a lengthy sabbatical, picking up where Obama left off without having to ascend a learning curve.

The Donald Trump era offered Democrats a view of their worst nightmare — a president that most of them saw as authoritarian and dangerous to the country’s future. Bound by that fear, Democrats say they are attempting to undo what many both inside and outside the administration view as the mistakes and disappointments from the Obama years.

“For them to go back four years later, with the benefit of eight years of White House-based political experience — it’s an advantage I don’t think any administration has ever had,” said Dan Pfeiffer, who was a senior adviser to Obama. “During much of the second term in particular, I would think, ‘Man, if I only knew then what I know now.’”

He added: “They actually get to do that and go back in a time machine.”

But this time things actually get done:

So far, Biden has passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package and is preparing an infrastructure measure that will also address climate change. The new efforts could cost more than $3 trillion and will almost certainly be accompanied by tax increases, another thorny legislative topic.

He and his aides have said they are also trying to avoid becoming mired in issues that have long bedeviled Washington, including gun control and immigration.

Biden, however, is the real surprise here:

Biden is in some ways an unlikely leader to usher in sweeping changes quickly. Despite his long career in Washington, he is not associated with many transformational policy wins, and some past victories, such as the 1994 crime bill, later became political liabilities.

Biden’s friendly comments about the opposition party accompanied by a generally affable demeanor belies his determination to push the levers of power much harder than the president he served, according to aides.

Yes, don’t mess with him:

Some Democrats worry that Biden is creating a “go-it-alone” standard that will be off-putting to moderate voters…

But two people who have recently spoken to Biden, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose conversations with the president, said that he aims to enact a bolder agenda than Obama – motivated not out of a sense of rivalry but by his lifelong quest to gain the presidency.

He is aided by the fact that the political landscape on the left has changed in meaningful ways since the Obama era, with Democrats far more open to bigger spending and bolder ideas. So while Biden has smaller majorities in Congress, the Democrats who are in office are more ideologically aligned.

Obama did what he could, given the circumstances, but the circumstances changed, and E. J. Dionne sees a new Biden:

What we should take out of his first news conference is not that he answered the questions without serious stumbling – a ridiculously low bar that his critics (to Biden’s advantage) have foolishly set for him. It’s that he is relentless, no matter what Republicans say or what reporters ask, in pushing the discussion to progressive ground – his ground.

Whether he was talking about immigration (on which he was the one who was supposed to be playing defense), the racist and autocratic voter suppression in Georgia and elsewhere, or the core purposes of government, Biden repeatedly challenged right-wing tropes and pushed his themes, not those of his opponents, to the center of the news.

The focus here is new:

When he did discuss immigration, he stayed on offense, arguing in effect that the problems he faced at the border were the consequence of a moral choice for decency and compassion. “Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers, I make no apology for that,” Biden said. “Rolling back the policies of ‘Remain in Mexico,’ sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat… I make no apologies for that.”

It was a bracing moment because liberals, having accepted the predominance of conservative assumptions for four decades, have spent a lot of time apologizing for what they were doing. Biden was saying: Enough!

And that makes everything different:

Toward the end of his gentle sparring with reporters, Biden made clear how engaged he is with revising the terms of debate. “I want to change the paradigm,” he declared. He said it twice more.

His focus, he said, was to “reward work, not just wealth,” and to “get things done for the people I care most about, hard-working, decent American people who are really having it stuck to them.”

If Biden remains serious about acting on their behalf, he could make himself the most unlikely political revolutionary in our history.

And why not? It’s about time. To the Moon!

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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