By Steve Byas
In a sparsely occupied chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden announced a multitude of new big-government programs.
In 1996, after the Democratic Party had lost control of both Houses of Congress in the previous congressional elections for the first time in 40 years, another Democratic president, Bill Clinton, had famously declared in his State State of the Union message, “The era of big government is over!” In stark contrast, Biden’s message to a joint session of Congress could be summed up, “The era of big government is back!”
Not an official State of the Union message, it certainly did not have the feel of one. Only about 50 members of the House — evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans — along with some senators of both parties, one member of the Supreme Court (Chief Justice John Roberts), and two members of the Cabinet were among the 200-odd persons in the chamber. In a typical State of the Union message, around 1600 crowd into the chamber for the uniquely American tradition. Instead of delivering his talk in February, Biden waited until almost May to make the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.
Biden made several allusions in his speech to his own time in the Congress, having been present when President Richard Nixon proclaimed, “One year of Watergate is enough!” That was 47 years ago, but Biden has remained the big-spending Democrat he was then, only now he is even more bold about his call for more taxes and spending.
Biden began early in his speech calling our government a democracy, and he ended his speech calling our government a democracy. Of course, one thing the Founding Fathers were in agreement on was in their disdain of democracy. Instead, they were very clear that they were creating a republic (a government of law, not majority rule), because to the Founders, the purpose of government was to protect the people’s right to life, liberty, and property, not to redistribute wealth.
The speech was more than an hour-long ode to big government. Biden gave all credit to government for the creation of a vaccine in record time. No credit was offered to President Donald Trump and his “Warp Speed” program, nor the drug companies that actually created the vaccines.
He vowed that big government would create all kinds of new jobs, in building a modern power grid, replacing lead pipes, creating a larger electric car market, and more energy-efficient buildings. He boasted that his American Jobs Plan was a “blue-collar blueprint,” arguing that it was the middle class that built the country and that it was unions that built the middle class.
Biden asked Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, telling the Congress that no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line. Naturally, he did not cite any words from the Constitution that authorizes Congress to set any wages or prices at all. Nor did he explain how raising the minimum wage above the market price for low-skilled workers can result in anything except a loss of jobs. Businesses are not operating to lose money, and if a worker cannot make the business more than $15 an hour (actually a $15 an hour wage means a labor cost closer to $20 an hour if one adds in unemployment insurance, workers compensation costs and the like), then they will either raise prices, cut workers, replace workers with automation, or simply go out of business.
Asserting that there are few, if any, limits to what government can do, Biden even vowed to, “End cancer as we know it,” insisting that, “It is within our power to do it.”
And Biden called for more spending, saying the government needs to pay for two years of pre-school free for three and four-year-old children, insisting that means school, not day care. He also wants two years of free community college. Which did not mean that he wanted to see the end of day care — he demanded that low and middle-income parents pay no more than seven percent of their annual income on child care.
He also called for twelve weeks of paid family leave, lower deductibles for working families’ medical care, and lower prescription drug costs. Health care should be a “right,” not a privilege in America.
How did Biden propose to pay for all of this spending? First, he promised there would be no tax increase for any American making less than $400,000 per year. Instead, he said it was “time for the top one percent to pay their fair share.” And, he would hike the corporate tax rate.
Turning to foreign policy, Biden said that no one nation can deal with all of the crises of our time. As America became the arsenal of democracy during World War II, today America should become the “arsenal of vaccines for the world.”
Terrorism was touched on lightly in Biden’s speech. There, Biden saw the problem as “white supremacy,” calling it terrorism.
Calling for police “reform,” he called for America to “root out systemic racism,” while allowing that the vast majority of those who wear the police uniform and badge serve honorably. Of course, this “reform” will be directed by the federal government, and we can expect any such “reform” will mean less local control and more federalization of policing.
The Equality Act, to protect the LGBTQ Americans had Biden’s support.
And, of course, Biden decried what he called gun violence, which he said meant it was time for Congress to act — closing background check “loopholes,” a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity guns. “No amendment to the Constitution is absolute,” Biden said to those who would cite the Second Amendment. (Of course, Biden’s words would mean that freedom of speech should be curtailed as well. In fact, Biden said one cannot shout fire in a crowded theater, but there is no law that actually says that).
He also called for the passage of H.R. 1, which claims to end “voter suppression,” but would actually make it more difficult for states to stop voter fraud. Evidently, Biden and his Democratic Party thinks looser laws against fraud benefit them.
Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) delivered the traditional response of the opposing Party to the president’s address, in which he credited Trump for Operation Warp Speed, which “flooded [the country] with safe and effective vaccines.” Scott added, “Our best future won’t come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you — the American people.”
That was certainly a difference vision than the one delivered by President Biden.
Hopefully, Biden’s vision won’t become America’s nightmare.