How Biden’s “Building a Better America” Agenda Consolidates Permanent Federal Power
Biden’s “Building a Better America” is not about building America, but rather about spending to fatten an already overfed central government with a debt standing at $30 trillion.
Biden has in recent weeks set out to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law and the looming Bipartisan Innovation Act. Both will comprise hundreds of billions in taxpayer spending and additional trillions in visible and unseen regulatory costs. That’s because these bills do not merely meddle and manipulate but replace large-scale free private enterprise altogether.
Biden’s misleading about spearheading the largest-ever reduction in the deficit continued today in his White House Remarks on Economic Growth, Jobs, and Deficit Reduction, during which he claimed to be a “capitalist,” and again demanded that billionaires pay their “fair share” of government programs that should not exist.
“Failing to make these investments hurts the competitiveness of American businesses and the economic security of American families,” the White House remarked of the infrastructure bill. Such talk is meant to keep the public’s keep eyes off the national debt. Debt servicing costs will increase given Federal Reserve rate increases coming today.
“The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness” was a line in the movie Bull Durham, and applicable here. In support of his agenda, Biden highlights examples of previous government infrastructure failings like the Philadelphia bridge collapse, lead pipe contamination, and diaper-wipe clogged sewers. These all argue against central planning of non-market infrastructure projects that decay after ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
To Biden, the miracle of being able to tap into the global Internet by merely walking into a McDonald’s is a problem to solve, even as wireless hotspot coverage increasingly blankets the nation. That is why the nation is now socializing even electric vehicle charging stations with an “Action Plan” to roll out 500,000 stations. That approach undermines the evolution of what could otherwise have been complementary network infrastructures and private rights-of-way development and evolution. The only proper infrastructure-related task for government—easing and protecting private property rights in airspaces, airsheds, watersheds;, and so forth—is abandoned in the new “infrastructure” and “innovation” bills no one has read.
James Madison notoriously vetoed “certain funds for internal improvements,” but what came to be known as the “American System” of Whig Senator Henry Clay prevailed. The drive for nationalization of banking, high tariffs, and subsidies for politically connected business ventures was presciently deemed by Illinois lawyer, poet, and playwright Edgar Lee Masters a “system offer[ing] shelter to devious schemes and corrupt enterprises.”
These ambitious programs help advance “whole of government” spending and regulatory programs, including ones misleadingly named “Equity,” “Competition Policy,” and “Climate Crisis.” The administration is pressing these into existence with an alarming fusion of surveillance and censorship of what it deems “misinformation,” including the creation of an Orwellian “Disinformation Governance Board.”
To the unknown number of government agencies and programs that exist, the Biden administration will unleash countless others. Despite Biden’s claims of giving families “a little more breathing room,” lowering costs is the last thing inflationary subsidies and distortionary interventions do.
To the extent that any “insecurities” and related supply chain crises prevail now, they are caused by the suppression of competitive free enterprise by so-called government experts.
It took both parties to abandon restraints on federal meddling in economy and society. One successfulcentral government overreach leads to a greater one later, which buries the nation in “unconstitutional slop” in the process. Donald Trump’s unfortunate pandemic-era executive order on housing assistance and “lawful measures to prevent residential evictions and foreclosures” paved the way for Biden to do the same with a notice extending the eviction moratorium in areas with high transmission rates. Biden even acknowledged, “Whether that option will pass constitutional measure … I can’t tell you. I don’t know. … There are a few scholars who say it will, and others who say it’s not likely to. But, at a minimum, by the time it gets litigated it will probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are in fact behind in the rent and don’t have the money.”
In not letting crisis go to waste, progressives opportunistically seize upon what came before. A “nationwide paid family leave” plan touted by Trump in his 2019 State of the Union address came to partial fruition in December of that year, in the same defense spending package that birthed the Space Force. Shortly thereafter, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act delivered paid sick leave and family and medical leave at the very time many businesses were least able to afford it and would seek COVID relief themselves.
The subsequent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act brought the $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program with loan forgiveness provisions that mostly went to business owners rather than job preservation. Along with the aforementioned eviction moratoria, the CARES Act ushered in student loan payment deferrals (also extended by administration directive) and federally supplemented unemployment payments that have set new precedent for a federal universal basic income.
By late 2021, these forerunners had paved the way for hundreds of pages of Build Back Better legislation incorporating further climate, labor, “human infrastructure,” and welfare regulations. Passage of this unread law was attempted without hearings or debates. It failed, but Biden and progressives remain willing to go around Congress to fulfil their aims.
Dismissively proclaiming that the that the Congressional Budget Office lacked the experience to legitimately weigh in on the costs of Build Back Better, the White House declared in December 2021, “[W]hat’s most on the President’s mind is the risk of inaction. And if we do not act to get this legislation done and the components in it, not only will costs and prices go up for the American people, but also we will see a trajectory in economic growth that is not where we want it to be.”
A federal government that was already larger than ever even after four years of Trump is newly unleashed under Biden, for reasons inherent in the logic of growth of the administrative state in response to both crisis and stasis alike. Even the Trump executive branch reorganization initiative, undertaken alongside regulatory streamlining, resulted in the elimination of no regulatory agencies whatsoever. So, the changes needed are much more sweeping than anything yet seen or proposed in traditional administrative state or regulatory reform.
The last two years of government growth illustrate that limitless government spending will also mean unbounded regulation. The prevention of spending and regulatory predation, especially when escalated by an economic shock, requires a new overarching response from Congress that articulates and pursues a clean break with central controls advanced under any terminology.