That’s for sure – I’m not even comfortable labeling Biden as a progressive.
Yet, Biden has had to fend off charges of socialism in the past – an accusation that may occur more frequently now that Biden has taken to critiquing capitalism.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, when then-President Donald Trump tried to label Biden as a “radical socialist,” Biden responded that he had beaten a self-described Democratic Socialist in the primaries: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “I beat the socialist,” Biden said. “That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career – my whole career. I am not a socialist.” No argument there.
In 2022, Biden referred to protesters, who accused the president of steering the country towards socialism, as “idiots.”
Still, Biden has recently voiced critiques of capitalism, critiques that are often associated with socialism. For example, during the 2023 State of the Union address, Biden mentioned various areas of concerns.
“Look,” Biden said, “capitalism without competition is not capitalism. It’s extortion. It’s exploitation.” (Amen, monopoly power needs to be forcefully checked.) “We have to reward work, not just wealth,” Biden continued. “Pass my proposal for the billionaire minimum tax…no billionaire should be paying a lower tax rate than a schoolteacher or a firefighter. I mean it.” (Again, amen.)
Specifically, Biden called for “[closing] the loopholes that allow the very wealthy to avoid paying their taxes. Instead of cutting the number of audits for wealthy taxpayers. I just signed a law to reduce the deficit by $114 billion by cracking down on wealth tax cheats.”
Is Joe Biden the New FDR?
Now John Nichols, the National Affairs correspondent for The Nation and a progressive liberal, is drawing comparisons between Biden and progressive champion, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Well, not exactly – but Nichols did say that Biden is spelling out “concerns about the excesses of capitalism in the sort of detail rarely heard from an American president since” FDR was in office.
FDR, who is best remembered for guiding the US out of the Great Depression (and through World War II) and is often recalled as one of the most successful presidents in US history, used the Oval Office to reckon “with the forces of reckless banking, speculation, and monopoly.
As Nichols points out, FDR began his first term by announcing, “The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”
Biden still has a long way to go until he reaches that FDR-pinnacle (FDR didn’t help craft his home state into a corporate America’s tax haven, for example), atop the highest progressive pedestal. But that Biden is acknowledging some of the flaws in the system is a good start.
The flaws are at the heart of the discontent that has poisoned political discourse.
A failure to enforce anti-monopoly law, for example, which has strangled economic opportunity, consolidated power, and led to rampant income inequality. Biden needs to address corporate consolidation.
And Biden needs to address tax loopholes for the wealthy.
I’m encouraged to see Biden using the State of the Union to make such declarations, even if he risks being labeled, inaccurately, as a socialist.
BONUS: Kamala Harris Should Quit
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.