By Jeff Mackler
After months of political hype President Joseph Biden’s touted top legislative priorities have been gutted beyond recognition. For the better part of a year he and the Democrats toured the country saturating the corporate news media with legislative promises to Build Back Better now. In the context of a COVID-19-wounded nation, increasingly catastrophic climate events, frozen wages, a stagnant economy, deadly inflation, massive unemployment camouflaged by government statistical manipulation, a parade of slick politicians promised massive and fundamental change via legislation that had yet to be written. The idea was to blame the Republicans for society’s ills and pose the Democrats as the party of the people, especially as the mid-term elections loomed. The November elections have passed. Biden’s legislative efforts produced nothing. Democrats were punished by voters from coast to coast.
Biden, the touted ultimate experienced insider capable of bi-partisan deal-making par excellence, proved to be incapable of altering the fundamental capitalist agenda. In the end, today, a combination of stonewalling Republicans and dissident Democrats reduced his proposals to what the ruling elite deem acceptable. Donald Trump’s previous near bi-partisan $1.5 trillion tax cut legislation for the rich was more attuned to ruling class priorities.
Biden’s $1.5 trillion ten-year infrastructure proposal, still awaiting Congressional approval, was reduced to $1 trillion and rewritten to exclude any serious measures aimed at addressing fossil fuel-induced global warming. Largely limited to repairing roads, bridges, tunnels, and water pipes via funding to private corporate construction entities, measures for government initiatives at constructing efficient safe, clean energy alternatives to fossil fuel were eliminated outright.
For the ruling corporate elite, with monopolized gas pump prices approaching $5 per gallon, notions of creating an alternative energy system are comparable to demanding that the predatory lion species convert to a vegetarian diet, or better, that the largely monopolized military-industrial complex and fossil fuel industries lead the fight for a peaceful world. Indeed, immediately prior to Biden’s United Nations Conference of Parties (COP26) attendance in Glasgow, where the corporate media incredibly poses him as a world climate change leader, he pressured OPEC nations and Russia during the G-20 Rome meeting to increase oil production! Said Biden, “The jump in prices is a consequence of the refusal of Russia or the OPEC nations to pump more oil.” Biden added, “The idea that Russia and Saudi Arabia and other major producers are not going to pump more oil so people can have gasoline to get to and from work, for example, is not right.”
Biden’s “existential climate threat” disappears
Biden’s rhetoric, including his characterization of global warming as an “existential threat” before all humankind, disappeared almost overnight. Humanity’s future existence, as with all matters where capitalist profits are at stake, was once again subordinated to the immediate interests of the elite few. Endless U.S. oil and resource wars around the world, with millions dead and cities and nations obliterated, are the capitalist-imperialist stock in trade, not the massive implementation of scientifically verified earthshaking measures necessary to ensure life on the planet.
“The Iraq War was a mistake,” says Joseph Biden today regarding his vote for the 2003 U.S. war against Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” One and half million Iraqis died in that “mistake,” wherein the U.S. imposed Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by diplomat Paul Bremer,
presided over the transfer of conquered Iraq’s oil to U.S. corporations.
War is good for corporate profit! Endless wars are even better! The notion that the U.S. maintains 1,100 military bases around the world and conducts military operations in 158 countries to pursue world peace and fight “terrorism” is patently absurd!
Biden’s New Fossil Fuel Drilling Permits
Biden’s “existential threat” to humanity notwithstanding, a July 13 Associated Press analysis, found that “Flying in the face of the White House’s reference to the climate crisis as an ‘existential threat’ and President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge, his administration has so far approved fossil fuel drilling permits on public and tribal lands at a faster rate than his two immediate predecessors.”
Some 2,100 such permits were approved in the first six months of the year. If Biden’s current permit approval rate continues, the number approved by his Interior Department by the year’s end could hit near 6,000 – a figure not seen since fiscal year 2008 under the George W. Bush presidency.
Biden’s $3.5 trillion ten-year Build Back Better social policy and climate bill, purported to be funded by taxing the corporate elite, was similarly gutted – slashed by nearly $2 trillion after all serious climate measures were eliminated, along with a host of Biden’s election time promises. Gone or dramatically reduced were his pledges for paid parental leave, free community college tuition, childcare funding, extension of medical benefits and a host of other measures aimed at capturing the votes of wary working people and reviving the liberal image of the Democratic Party.
Sanders Green New Deal
Similarly disappeared from the fight for serious climate measures were Bennie Sanders and his assorted progressive Democrats – an oxymoron if there ever was one. Sanders’ proposed $16 trillion Green New Deal over ten years was shelved while he and his supporters reduced themselves to haggling over some $558 billion in Biden’s endlessly gutted bill, now at $1.6 trillion over ten years, assuming that it passes Congressional muster in the days ahead. I note here that Sanders’ Green New Deal was based on rewarding the corporate fossil fuel behemoths for their proposed good deeds as opposed to nationalizing the entire industry and operating it under the control of working people in alliance with the scientific community to implement a rapid transition to a clean and sustainable fossil fuel-free energy system including retraining and guaranteed jobs for all displaced workers at top union wages.
Myth of taxing corporate profits
Taxing the corporate billionaires, whose fortunes have doubled, if not tripled during the COVID-19 era, was similarly largely eliminated from Biden’s now massively diminished and still pending legislation. Biden had justified his corporate tax proposals by distinguishing between the profits that the billionaire corporations report to their shareholders as opposed to what they report to the IRS. Profits are not always profits when it comes to reporting to the IRS! The rules that govern profits reported to the IRS are replete with loopholes that facilitate corporate and superrich tax avoidance. An errant Internal Revenue Service trove of documents released in a ProPublica whistleblower report recently revealed that four of the nation’s richest men, the now approaching $trillionaires – Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk and financiers Michael R. Bloomberg and Warren Buffett – “paid almost no federal taxes, and in some years paid no taxes at all.” And if the richest four largely avoided taxes, not to mention getting tax rebates, one can assume with certainty that their ruling class cohorts and their multi-national corporations, with tax havens from the Cayman Islands to Ireland, operate with the same objective.
Near-Zero Interest Rate Corporate Loans
Zero tax rates are not the only ruling class self-enrichment device. The Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” (Q.E.) near zero interest rate “loans” to the corporate elite has achieved unprecedented miracles. Since the beginning of 2021, the richest one percent owned 32 percent of the nation’s wealth, the highest level since record keeping began in 1989. The bottom 50 percent held just 2 percent. Since the start of 2020 the same richest one percent gained $10 trillion in wealth compared to the majority working class poor whose total wealth gain was less than 8 percent of that $10 trillion. The Federal Reserve “loans” were formally granted in the name of stimulating corporations to invest in new plants that would in turn – in accord with “trickle down economic theory” provide new jobs for workers. Little or nothing of that nature resulted. Instead the corporate elite poured the government’s $billions and $trillions into fictitious capital [stocks, bonds and other financial instruments that have no correspondence to the production of commodities] and related speculative ventures that boosted corporate investments into near overnight fortunes, largely tax-exempt to boot. The Fed’s 2020 Q.E. expenditures to corporate America, at $8.1 trillion, amounted to a startling one-third of the country’s entire gross domestic product, essentially replacing all the corporate loses attendant to the COVID-19 economic recession. Bailing out the super rich is what capitalist government is really about. Why invest in yet another round of essentially non-competitive state-of-the-art manufacturing plants with minimal, if any, profit expectations, when the government’s virtual free money would bring instant returns making the likes of Bezos, Musk and Co. instant near trillionaires? Further, why should any self-respecting capitalist build a U.S.-based plant when the same plant can be constructed in China or Mexico or any other low wage country where compliant governments guarantee near zero tax rates and other perks. Biden’s daily hyped proposals to significantly remedy corporate tax avoidance schemes by bumping the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, (It was 35 percent before Trump!) imposing a new minimum taxes on global profits and levying major penalties on corporations that move profits offshore, have been largely similarly scrapped.
Biden’s Unprecedented Campaign War Chest
Mild mannered and decades-long experienced political maneuverer, Joseph Biden, as opposed to the loose cannon egomaniac Donald Trump, was without doubt the ruling class’s top choice for the U.S. presidency. His campaign war chest, the largest in U.S. history, dwarfed and more than doubled Trump’s in the last months of the 2020 campaign. “‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House” read a January 23 NYT headline. “Anonymous ‘dark money’ donors provided $145 million to pro-Biden groups in a type of fundraising that Democrats had decried for years. The funds augmented Biden’s $1.5 billion war chest, a record for a challenger to an incumbent president. In comparison, $28.4 million was spent by President Trump.”
Biden goes to Glasgow empty handed
Biden had hoped to attend the October 31 – November 12 COP26 Glasgow conference with at least a semblance of U.S. commitment that the world’s largest polluter intended to move toward adoption of systematic measures to curb greenhouse gases. Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither the U.S. nor China, nor any other leading capitalist/imperialist power has taken any serious measures to slow, not to mention reverse the world’s deadly march to increasingly irreversible climate catastrophe. China’s president Xi Jinping will not attend the conference, no doubt because China has embarked on an ambitious program to build over the next decade and longer more new coal fired power plants than the entire world combined.
The October 29 NYT reports that, “China is expanding its mines to produce 220 million metric tons of extra coal, a nearly six percent rise from last year. China already digs up and burns more coal than the rest of world combined.” No doubt the U.S. digs up similar amounts but finds it more profitable to engage in deadly fracking of natural gas while exporting portions of its less efficient coal to some sixty nations.
Manchin and Sinema stalking horses for the rich
The corporate media has focused on Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, a former Green Party candidate, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia as Biden’s central obstacles in obtaining the necessary Senate majority to approve his now-gutted legislation. Sinema opposes taxing the corporate elite, so she claims, while multi-millionaire Manchin, with personal coal mining interests and said to be in Chevron’s hip pocket, opposes deficit spending to finance climate crisis mitigation. While Biden has essentially acceded to all their demands, it’s clear that more is involved than two stubborn “centrist” Democrats, who are said to be holding the fate of humanity in their hands. In point of fact, the Democrat’s two holdouts are mere stalking horses for the ruling rich, regardless of party affiliation.
Rules of the capitalist game
All Democrats, including Sanders, play by the rules of the corporate capitalist game. Life and death decisions to engage in wars that slaughter a nation’s people and destroy its infrastructure, or impose deadly sanction on nations that resist imperialist exploitation of their resources, or send millions of Americans prematurely back to work without adequate COVID-19 protection, are daily deeds in a society where war and exploitation for private profit prevail. That the U.S., the richest nation on earth, ranks first in the world in the number of COVID-19 deaths, at 745,000 to date, is no accident. Neither is the fact that the U.S. ranks first in the world in the number and percentage of its population imprisoned and on death row. Human lives are expendable in predatory capitalism. In the case of increasingly privatized for profit prisons inmates are a cheap, if not slave labor workforce for Fortune 500 corporations for whom they toil at an average hourly “wage” of 50 cents.
Manchin’s protestations on deficit spending fly in the face of hard facts. U.S. capitalism’s multi-trillion dollar annual budget deficits are routinely approved by both parties, which operate on the unquestioned assumption that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department will routinely print $trillions in essentially paper money to keep U.S. capitalism afloat.
The most recent U.S. annual budget us pegged at $6.8 trillion, with only $4.0 trillion expected to be paid for with all sources of government taxation income. The deficit, $2.8 trillion, is to be raised by a combination of government bonds and securities, that is, by printing money for which there are no equivalent commodity values. Deficits are fine for Democrats and Republicans provided only the loot ends up in their pockets not ours.
In summary, after more a year’s hype “gentle” Joe Biden’s grandiose promises to working people has been largely abandoned while the interests of the elite few have once again been assured. Having served capitalism’s purpose, he may well be dumped as the 2024 elections approach. His poll approval ratings at some 41 percent portend that former President Trump may become a viable candidate. No doubt the ruling elite will prepare once again with their own election time trump cards, pressing forward yet another newcomer knight in instantly burnished armor to save the nation from the likes of the moron Trump. Indeed, they may even consider jailing the racist-sexist bigot rather than allow this would-be dictator another run for the presidency. The ruling rich have no use for would-be fascist-like tyrants to oversee their business, at least at this time.
For working people, breaking with the two-party capitalist shell game must be a central priority. This includes building powerful independent social movements dedicated to mobilizing decisive mass forces to champion:
• The rapid introduction of safe and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel energy systems
• The freedom and liberation of all oppressed people
• The re-construction of an independent, fighting, democratic trade union movement in alliance with all oppressed
• A revitalized trade union-based labor party in alliance with the oppressed to challenge capitalism’s twin party monopoly in the political arena.
Effectively challenging the imperialist beast undoubtedly entails the construction of a deeply rooted mass revolutionary socialist party aimed at unifying all of the above struggles and the vast working class majority to pose a realistic alternative to the rapacious capitalist system itself.