Sometimes, Biden’s loose lips cause problems for himself, his staff, and his party. The latter happened last weekend when Biden let ‘er rip during an impromptu, mid-bike-ride press conference.
Speaking about the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations, Biden suggested he might be comfortable with adding new work requirements to federal aid programs like SNAP and TANF. The fallout was immediate.
“The White House rushed to clean it all up,” POLITICO reported, “but even the cleanup spooked Democrats elsewhere in Washington who fear that Biden – suddenly in dealmaking mode after spending month insisting he would not negotiate with Republicans – would sell out some of America’s most vulnerable.”
To avert catastrophe, concessions will need to be made on both sides.
Biden, for his part, appears willing to offer Republicans the following concessions. “(1) accepting discretionary spending caps through the remainder of his term; (2) “clawing back billions of dollars in pandemic aid once seen as critical to the agenda”; and (3) possible “restrictions on certain safety net programs for the poor.””
The third one is what freaked out Democrats last weekend. But are we surprised? Democrats have been marketing Biden as a progressive, as a champion of the poor, to meet a zeitgeist that calls for such a figure.
The Joe Biden Scam
But marketing Biden as a progressive is disingenuous – and in conflict with the majority of Biden’s service record.
This is the guy who authored the 1994 Crime Bill, voted to invade Iraq, and helped craft Delaware into a corporate haven.
Qualifying federal aid programs is consistent with the Biden who has been a Washington fixture for half a century.
Which is pretty much exactly what Biden said during his bike ride, that he had supported work requirements during his time in the senate.
“We did not elect Joe Biden of 1986,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said. “We elected Joe Biden of 2020.” I wonder to what extent there is a difference.
Jayapal continued, saying that to add work requirement to SNAP was “an absolutely terrible idea” and “a nonstarter for many of us across the Democratic caucus.” Jayapal also emphasized that adding work requirement “would constitute a betrayal to Black and Brown communities and people living in poverty” and a betrayal “to how Biden has operated as president so far,” POLITICO reported.
Quick sidebar: Jayapal’s emphasis on making this about Black and Brown communities speaks to what, in my view, is one of the Democratic Party’s most fundamental flaws. Millions and millions of White people live in poverty in America. And increasingly, poor White people vote conservative.
Why? Because one, a Democratic president is weighing adding work requirements to federal aid programs. Then, Democrats make it a racial issue that minimizes and/or disregards entirely the plight of the White person living in poverty. It’s stupid. By examining absolutely every issue through the lens of race, the Democrats fracture their prospective voter base.
A few thoughts on work requirements
I have mixed feelings about work requirements.
On the one hand, I know people who have abused federal aid programs, able-bodied people who collect unemployment and food stamps while intentionally avoiding employment.
That’s a real thing, don’t let progressives tell you otherwise – there are people abusing the system.
But on the other hand, by and large, I recognize that we are calibrated in a way that is skeptical of, and callous to, the plight of poor people. The US is the safest and most prosperous nation in the world, and we should not have hungry citizens.
Adding work requirements to federal aid programs would be another mark in a long history of decisions prioritizing the wealthy, or the corporate, over the poor.
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 listens to Dokken.