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Will Bidenism outlive Biden? The President's revolution is yet to bear fruit

The second coming of FDR? Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The second coming of FDR? Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


December 14, 2023   7 mins

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt at the height of the Great Depression. It is a lesson that President Joe Biden has taken to heart. He has gone to great lengths to present himself as the heir of FDR, and came to power offering Rooseveltian-style comfort and hope to the American people during the Covid pandemic. But for some reason, the more he tries to emulate America’s most beloved Democratic president, the less popular he becomes.

To be fair to Biden, he is the truest successor of FDR yet. Like Roosevelt, he came into office at a time of overwhelming economic crisis and despair. And like Roosevelt, he realised that nothing short of a programme of economic reconstruction as ambitious as the New Deal would suffice to address America’s long-term and corrosive economic suffering. It was not enough, in his eyes, simply to banish the virus and restore the economy to its pre-Covid state. He needed to restore faith in American democracy and the American dream.

At the heart of Bidenomics is the idea that 21st-century America is in the grip of its own economic crisis, this one emerging far more slowly and unevenly than the Great Depression, but with results that were just as disfiguring. In the past 30 years, a globalised world of free markets and unregulated capitalism has generated a vast economic gulf between deindustrialised rural and small-town America, and the vast metropolises. The resulting economic suffering and social disintegration, Biden observed, had made possible the rise of strongmen such as Trump who captivated angry and alienated portions of the population with their faux-populism and attacks on distant elites.

The only way to address the root of this populist anger and alienation, Biden thought, was by implementing a vast Rooseveltian public spending plan to bring manufacturing jobs back to America’s deindustrialised regions. His economic package — which included a mammoth trillion-dollar physical infrastructure bill, a $400 billion Chips and Science Act to re-shore the manufacturing of computer chips, and a $400 billion green energy bill, the largest investment the US had ever made in green energy — rivalled some of the biggest accomplishments of the early New Deal.

In other ways, too, Biden has shown himself a careful student of Roosevelt. He has welcomed elements of a reawakened Left into his administration, cognisant that the greatest progressive advances by the Democratic Party across the last century have resulted from the willingness of the party’s centre to work with its Left-wing. In contrast to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who had both snubbed the Left, Biden embraced Bernie Sanders’s support for his election.

But here the similarities of Bidenomics and Roosevelt’s New Deal come to an end. Whereas Roosevelt pushed nearly the entirety of his legislative programme through Congress — much of this in the legendary First 100 Days of his administration — major parts of Biden’s programme have failed. That Biden hit a wall is not surprising, given that he had a small majority in the House and the slimmest possible majority in the Senate. Roosevelt by contrast enjoyed huge majorities in both the House (313 to 122) and Senate (58 to 37).

Their administrations have diverged in a second, more surprising, way. While Roosevelt’s popularity soared as his economic recovery programme faltered, Biden’s plummeted as his economic plan succeeded. In Roosevelt’s first year and a half in office, the economy ticked up briefly, then plunged into depression once again. His legislative programmes had generated intense hope; their early failure spread discontent and then social uprisings. Workers went on strike in large numbers. Populist demagogues — including Louisiana senator Huey Long and radio priest Father Coughlin — attracted millions to their crusades by criticising the New Deal for not doing enough for the “little guy”. However, very little of this populist fury was directed at Roosevelt himself. In the off-year elections of 1934, the Democrats’ Congressional majorities actually increased, deepening FDR’s control of Congress.

Biden’s fate has been the opposite. As the economy soars, his popularity has sunk. Thanks to Biden, there’s now a palpable dynamism in the US economy, one felt neither in Britain nor Europe, nor in Thirties America under Roosevelt: unemployment has been below 4% since April 2022; economic growth in the third quarter of 2023 exceeded 5%, a level that mature industrial economies of the West no longer expect to achieve; and the number of manufacturing jobs in the US is the highest since 2008. And yet, Biden’s popularity has crashed: his approval rating now stands at a miserable 37%, down 20% since April 2021.

Biden’s age and perceived infirmity have undoubtedly contributed to this plunge. Yet when Roosevelt ran for a fourth term as president in 1944, though his ill health had led him near death’s door, few Americans seemed to care. A soaring inflation rate — the highest in 50 years — that erupted under Biden’s watch has no doubt damaged his reputation in ways that have nothing to do with his age. But one would think that he would get some credit for cutting the inflation rate from its 9% peak in 2022 by nearly two thirds. None has yet been forthcoming.

What was it about Roosevelt, or the Thirties, that allowed him to suffer defeats on the economic front without losing popularity? And how was he able to tap into what we might call the American imaginary — the section of the political soul where Americans fashion their hopes and dreams — in ways that Biden can’t? Roosevelt was certainly a more ebullient figure and a more eloquent speaker than Biden, but he was also living in a different era. He arrived in the White House at a moment when the 20th-century’s “age of reform”, to use Richard Hofstadter’s phrase, was far more advanced than its 21st-century counterpart.

Three aspects of the Roosevelt era stand out as different from today. First, the magnitude of the Great Depression. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, which hit some regions worse than others, the Great Depression came for every American state, and every group of people. It also went on for far longer than the Covid pandemic, which helped FDR, a politician skilled at giving comfort and generating hope in time of despair, build an enduring appeal. Indeed, Biden, whose own empathetic instincts are acute, enjoyed his greatest popularity when the threat of Covid was most severe and widespread — in other words, when life in America most closely resembled the Great Depression.

Then there’s the fact that Roosevelt was able to draw the metaphorical borders of the national community more tightly than can be done today. In the Thirties, the gates were shut tight to immigrants: Mexicans were allowed in, but they were just as easily deported when no longer wanted; feminism and an early gay movement had faded; patriarchy and heteronormativity reigned just about everywhere. Moreover, FDR made a deal with the devil — the southern barons of the Democratic Party who controlled Congress. The latter agreed to support New Deal programmes so long as FDR didn’t disturb the racial hierarchies and white supremacy that structured southern life. These moves shrank what David Hollinger has called the “circle of the we” — those considered to be full members of (and able to make full claims on) the national political community.

What’s more, unlike Biden, Roosevelt was heir to a 30-year-long effort to reform American capitalism, helped by the presidencies of his cousin Teddy and his Democratic predecessor in the White House, Woodrow Wilson. The movement that Biden leads, by contrast, is far younger and more naïve, with limited experience of power. It was Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson, not FDR, who broke with the economic orthodoxy of their predecessors, as Biden is now the first to break with the neoliberal policies of Clinton and Obama. And it’s worth remembering that prior to FDR’s presidency, the progressive movement had lost more battles than it had won. Perhaps Biden and his Democratic Party will go through a similar cycle of defeats before achieving enduring victories. Donald Trump is certainly intent on laying waste to Biden’s economic programme if he wins in 2024.

It took decades for the Democrats to build enough support to reform capitalism under Franklin Roosevelt. But the New Deal would never have succeeded had warring cultural tribes in America not put aside some of their differences in order to unite over a common political cause. Consider the scene that greeted Roosevelt when he appeared at the Democratic Party Convention in New York City in June 1924. This moment marked Roosevelt’s return to active political life after a devastating encounter with polio that cost him the use of his legs. On the evening of 26 June, Roosevelt made his way to the convention podium, supported by unwieldy steel leg braces, to put the name of Al Smith in nomination. Al Smith then battled his opponent William Gibbs McAdoo for 103 ballots across two weeks in an unbearably hot Madison Square Garden, before both men gave up, and shifted their support to a milquetoast candidate, John Davis, who then got crushed in the general election.

The divisions that Roosevelt encountered in 1924 were as bitter as any today: between Catholics and Protestants, between urban and rural districts, between “wets” and “drys”, between the North and the South, between the immigrant and the native born, between liberals and the KKK. These divisions then seemed insurmountable, especially in the Democratic party. There were grounds for thinking that the Democrats would never again win a Congressional majority or elect a president. Yet less than 10 years later, Democrats pushed aside their “insurmountable” differences. Americans who hated each other were now willing to come out of their bunkers and find common ground. Roosevelt helped to facilitate that process: he had the political skills, to be sure; he was assisted by the magnitude of the Great Depression, which thrust so many Americans of different ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds into similar conditions of economic precarity. But Roosevelt, witness to the calamity of 1924, also understood that he had to find a way to temper the culture wars.

The cultural challenge that confronts Biden is more difficult. Roosevelt’s Republican predecessors had shut the country’s immigrant gates in the Twenties, saving FDR and his party from having to wade into that contentious issue themselves. Because racial equality is now a core commitment of the Democratic Party, the Roosevelt formula of addressing class inequality while marginalising issues of racial inequality cannot, and should not, be redeployed. But the higher level of difficulty that confronts Biden does not render his challenge — or that of his party — impossible. Culture wars wax and wane. And America is currently witnessing a possible waning in one very unexpected place: the coming together of women across the political, racial, and ethnic spectrum to defeat radical Republican measures in state legislatures to outlaw all access to abortion. These alliances of liberal and conservative women fuelled an unexpected surge in Democratic victories in the 2022 elections, and are likely to do so again in 2024.

This surprising alliance of Democratic and Republican women may not be enough to propel Biden to a second term. But should he lose in 2024, it would be wrong to regard his defeat as the end of his political undertaking. It may make sense to view the Biden presidency as the beginning, rather than as the culmination, of a 21st-century project of economic reconstruction. The heyday of reconstruction on this scale may lie in the 2030s, when an heir to Biden may play a role similar to the one that Roosevelt took on in the Thirties: learning from his predecessors, and accurately sizing up what needs to be done to bring to America, once again, a large and transformative Democratic majority.


Gary Gerstle is the Paul Mellon Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of Cambridge and the author of The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market Era (2022)

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Nell Clover
NC
Nell Clover
4 months ago

Is this satire?

Like Roosevelt, Biden came into office at a time of overwhelming economic crisis and despair? Overwhelming? Overwhelming means beyond control yet this economic crisis was due to government control, namely shuttering the economy. That isn’t overwhelming, that’s self-inflicted, and was easily reversible by simply rescinding the fiats that had shuttered the economy.

His economic package included the $400 billion Chips and Science Act? His? The Act is actually a combination of the Endless Frontiers Bill and the CHIPS for America Bill, both bipartisan and both presented to Senators by Trump’s Under Secretary of State Keith Krach in 2019 and 2020 respectively. This isn’t Biden’s package.

Biden’s $400 billion green energy bill the largest investment the US has ever made in green energy? Largest ever investment? For starters, it isn’t a single investment so it isn’t the largest ever investment in green energy. Roughly half of it is a hypothecated corporate tax incentive scheme, not investment, for favoured renewables players. The other half is for countless small soft loans to be doled out by the Department of Energy. In the words of the Inspector General, these loans present “tremendous risk to the taxpayers” with substantial risk of awards being made to entities with foreign entanglements. This is not anything like the New Deal.

Biden’s popularity has plummeted as his economic plan succeeded? Succeeded? Thanks to Biden’s largesse, the federal government deficit has ballooned to $1.7tn, which is less than the nominal GDP growth of $1.2tn. Keynsian spending to pump prime the economy has exceeded its limits. In response, Treasury bond prices have collapsed because lenders can’t absorb this huge borrowing. It is bond prices, not Fed rates, that determine the US public’s cost of debt, and the cost of debt has risen sharply and put pressure on household incomes. Disposable income is the same as 2019, a longer and larger reversal than the Great Financial Crash.

Clearly this is not satire. It is then a very slanted analysis of Biden’s presidency that tries and fails to compare Biden with FDR for FDR did a lot more besides the New Deal. Sure, the economy is important, but voter concerns aren’t just disposable income. It is almost as if the author is self censoring so as not to write about anything else that might be negative or contradict the comparison with FDR. In short order, US voter top concerns today are (excepting inflation) healthcare, drug abuse, and violent crime.

Obama’s medicare reforms left the healthcare system unchanged and actually made healthcare more expensive for middle America. Biden is closely associated with that and has offered nothing new. FDR forever promised a national insurance system, albeit always tomorrow.

Drug abuse and violent crime are surging, societal cancers now visible on every Main Street. Biden’s welcoming of the reawakened Left into his administration means his administration is filled with radicals who use crackpot social theory to defend shoplifting, drug use and even violence. This is in stark contrast to FDR’s “war on crime” during the 1930s, and the huge reduction in crime during the 1930s.

All considered, the article reads more like a gushing review by a fanboi than a serious analysis of Biden’s presidency and sober comparison with FDR. Suggesting Biden is the beginning of an economic reconstruction is an idea not borne from any rational assessment of what is in fact a barely disguised business as usual presidency. As is so often the case, I am left convinced of Orwell’s truism that some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.

Last edited 4 months ago by Nell Clover
Matt Hindman
MH
Matt Hindman
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

“In short order, US voter top concerns today are (excepting inflation) healthcare, drug abuse, and violent crime.”
Slight correction, you can also add out of control illegal immigration to that list.

Nell Clover
NC
Nell Clover
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Yes, you’re right. Another contrast with FDR, who inherited and kept tight shut America’s borders. The author does recognise this, but he cops out of drawing the obvious conclusion by declaring FDR was able to “draw the metaphorical borders of the national community more tightly than can be done today”. A cop out for two reasons: there’s nothing metaphorical about a national community, it’s literally the legal citizens; and he infers there is some new law of the universe that means borders can’t be tightly controlled today.

Last edited 4 months ago by Nell Clover
T Bone
TB
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I don’t think Pollyanna articles like this are written to engage skeptics in dialogue about empirical reality. The Left believes in social constructivism. They believe if you feel that something is true than that Narrative eventually becomes reality if you repeat it enough.

More than anything these are Hegelians that truly believe that they are on the Right Side of History because they are writing that History.

Russ W
RW
Russ W
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Agree, though “rewriting” history is more accurate.

T Bone
TB
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Russ W

Correction accepted!

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

And the Right, well exemplified in the comments, does exactly the same thing!

Steve Jolly
SJ
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

This is clearly an apology for Biden. He has done the bare minimum of economic nationalist policies, mostly at the behest of the Pentagon and the MIC who rightly see China’s possible invasion of Taiwan as a serious threat to the global supply of microchips over the short and long term, and much of it was carried over from what the Trump administration was already doing. Nobody opposed the CHIPS act because it was so painfully obvious we should have done something like that a very long while ago.
The author isn’t entirely wrong about one thing. The US public would embrace an FDR like figure. FDR’s message though, was more nationalistic than economic. He painted a picture of hardworking Americans betrayed by big business, big banks ,and barons of industry who deserved a ‘New Deal’. He named his enemies in a way Biden obviously can’t. Biden can’t credibly set himself up as anti-elite and anti-establishment because that lane is already filled by Sanders/Warren on the left and Trump on the right. The establishment did everything they could to get Biden on the ballot over the former two and has used every conceivable tactic to undermine Trump for eight solid years. There’s no credible way to separate Biden from the elites who got him elected, even if his policy appears more economically nationalist than any Democrat from the past three decades (that’s not a high bar to clear).
Putting up Biden as a reformer in the vein of FDR is laughable. Seeing his administration as the turning point that moved us away from globalism and towards populist reform is willful blindness. The author obviously suffers from TDS, where Trump can’t possibly be given any credit for anything. Historically speaking, Trump’s election will be credited by future historians as the real turning point. Even if history agrees that the man himself was a narcissistic power mad wannabe tyrant, they will conclude that when the people elected him, they were delivering a clear message to the elites. Does anyone seriously believe we’d be making comparisons to FDR and the New Deal without the impetus of Trump defeating Clinton in 2016?

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

This is spot on. Indeed, if the Bernie Bros were holding down the ramparts of leftist economic protest, which still has an establishment flavor–esp. with the current union bureaucracies, Trump was actually somewhere way, waaaay further afield, doing bizarre populist things that weren’t even recognizable to run of the mill liberals. Questioning the sanity of our immigration policies was one thing–questioning the MIC was decidedly another–which Trump did in ways that were callous, crude, and remarkably honest. Calling out McCain, who was one of our most reckless hawks, for one.
Look, I cannot stand this man and have zero respect for his manner and think he is vulgar in ways that have absolutely demeaned this country. But was he the first punk rock president who was a big middle finger to almost everything in conventional liberal American and blase conservative American life? He was spectacular, in spades.

Last edited 4 months ago by S Smith
Steve Jolly
SJ
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

That’s how I see him as well. The man is exactly what he has always appeared to be. The fact of his election and what it revealed about American politics then and subsequently are the things that really mattered. Probably well over half of Trump’s historic impact was accomplished before he even took office. It was never about the man, that’s why all attempts to destroy the man have failed completely. You can’t sink a ship by shooting whoever happens to be at the helm.

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The impact is shattering–it upended my world in Nov of 2016, and I couldn’t see it coming. Then, I started listening to the people who voted for him, many of them Rust Belt union workers and people from regions that had been utterly left behind by both Democrats and Republicans for generations–I understood it all. I would argue that Trump isn’t even a Republican in the conventional sense; he’s more like Le Pen or the AFD in Germany, but with some real leftist economic stuff thrown in, which as we found out was all trickery.
I also agree that a real left-populist would crush any conventional Democrat or Republican. I thought RFK Jr. was, until he started speaking about Oct 7th. Now I have no trust for this man, either.

Steve Jolly
SJ
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  S Smith

I’m unsure exactly what RFK is trying to accomplish at this point. Regarding Oct 7th, everyone is mostly supportive of Israel so he’s not really separating himself from either of the major candidates. America is going to support Israel regardless. The fact that none of the major candidates have dared to criticize Israel too loudly speaks to the political cost of doing so. I wouldn’t read too much into Kennedy’s rhetoric on this issue any more than Biden or Trump. I don’t know what Kennedy’s real motives are, but there’s some data to suggest he’s pulling more support from Trump than Biden, so maybe this is yet more political maneuvering from Democrats and elites to rig the game in their favor by splitting the populist vote. It might work, but tactics like this are just kicking the can further down the road.

As the author outlines in this article, the establishment at the turn of the 20th century managed to stymie the efforts of populists and progressives for several decades but ultimately were defeated when FDR brought it all together. There’s nobody in today’s politics that could be an FDR like figure and I’m not sure how there could be, but that’s because we’re in the early stages of the process. It will take a few years or maybe a decade or two, plus the right man with the right personality to pull it off.
I suspect it will ultimately be a Republican though. That party has been sufficiently bland over the past half century to allow much broader and more pragmatic political coalitions. For a Democrat to do what FDR did in this era would be hard. Anyone trying to replicate what FDR did would first have to jettison identity politics and reject the grievance peddlers and SJW’s, and I don’t see how any Democrat could do that with any credibility or get the grassroots of the party to back them. Sanders was the least divisive Democrat in decades, a calming voice who spoke to economic inequality without pushing identity politics. He was rewarded for his efforts by twice having his candidacy undermined by a coalition of grievance pushers and establishment stooges. They’re probably stuck with their bizarre coalition of super rich globalists, urban hipsters, SJW’s, climate alarmists, and ‘oppressed’ minorities.

Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Jolly
Chipoko
C
Chipoko
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I thought this article was delusional and misleading. Biden has been a disaster, n ot just for the USA but the world. He has facilitated and spearheaded the Woke revolution that is throttling the last vestiges of western civilisation. He has been very bad news.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Biden is the first President to wage a policy and lawfare war against America. His open borders lawlessness is a deliberate, well articulated strategy to change America’s demographics. His unlawful censorship campaign is designed to silence criticism. His anti-scientific climate/energy policies have the effect of leaving Americans poorer and less healthy. Let us actively work to see Bidenism end long before his passing

Cathy Carron
CC
Cathy Carron
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Satire – yes! This author is living an alternate reality. He’s living on another planet, not Earth. The comparisons of Biden to FDR are laughable. It’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, Biden and his team have repeatedly used the phrase, ‘MAGA Republicans’ – about 70 million people who voted for Trump – to disparage half the voting population, demonizing them as being ”un-American’. Biden’s embrace of the Far-Left of Democrat party is a bait ‘n’ switch that he sold the American public upon being nominated. There’s no need to go into further detail of which there’s lots. If anything, Biden anything is a lousy communicator; He slurs his words. He’s inarticulate and finally, he took on a woman VP who’s equally inarticulate. This essay is unhinged.

Last edited 4 months ago by Cathy Carron
Pietro Leva
PL
Pietro Leva
4 months ago

Talk about flight of fancy!
Which bubble does Mr. Gerstle inhabit?

D Walsh
DW
D Walsh
4 months ago
Reply to  Pietro Leva

Check the early life section

I suspect you might find the answer there

Bernard Hill
BH
Bernard Hill
4 months ago
Reply to  Pietro Leva

….the Ebony tower.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  Pietro Leva

Whenever I hear expressions like “Bidenomics” (or “securonomics”), I start to switch off.
I see that one of Biden’s core policies is the “Inflation Reduction Act”. But I’m not at all clear just how a program of massive government subsidies is going to reduce inflation as it will normally have the opposite effect.

Hugh Bryant
HB
Hugh Bryant
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes, in what way is Biden corporatism and pandering to the rent-seeking class any different to Clinton’s or Blair’s corporatism and pandering to the rent-seeking class? What a load of nonsense!

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
4 months ago
Reply to  Pietro Leva

I thought this was a satirical essay at first. Hard to believe that serious people could actually agree this classic case of gaslighting.

Fafa Fafa
FF
Fafa Fafa
4 months ago
Reply to  Pietro Leva

I think he mistyped “devolution”

Matt Hindman
MH
Matt Hindman
4 months ago

Advice to the author, quit getting into Hunter’s supply. News flash, the economy sucks and no amount of charts and media talking heads will convince people their dwindling bank balance is a figment of their imagination. With the exception of Lina Khan and the FTC enforcing antitrust law, most of Biden’s economic plans have been mixed bags to put it lightly. Doubling down on the Covid 19 lockdowns severely hurt the economy. His administration was actually correct about about corporate price gouging being a major cause of the massive increase in inflation which they promptly got on… no wait checking my notes here… yeah they pretty much just ignored it. He put Useless Pete as Secretary of Transportation right when we were having a supply chain crisis and didn’t bother to sack the guy when he proved worthless! Reshoring industrial capacity is essential but there is a good chance much of it will just go to “green industries” and other nonessential boondoggles (who knows when it will even really take effect). Janet Yellen is not even a person you want managing a McDonalds. Heck even his “Union Joe” schtick runs into trouble when you remember whose administration crushed the railway strike. You still having trouble figuring out why there are issues subscriptions with his economic message?

Last edited 4 months ago by Matt Hindman
Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I was going to make a comment, but you said it all. Thanks. People certainly don’t feel better off and no amount of propaganda will change that.

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Amazing what $5 trillion out of thin air can do!

T Bone
TB
T Bone
4 months ago

I’ve read essentially the same article from dozens of regime parrots deployed to spread the Progressive Faith. It’s performance theatre.

My favorite part is when they equate “success” with how much a legislative initiative will cost taxpayers. We passed 400 billion and 1 trillion packages…they must be great!

Everything is fine! Everything is great! Progressives are ALWAYS on the Right Side of History. You’ll see!

Last edited 4 months ago by T Bone
Stephanie Surface
SS
Stephanie Surface
4 months ago

According to many economists Roosevelt’s New Deal actually prolonged the depression. Biden’s so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” also seems to spend billions of borrowed money, this time favouring and subsidising hand picked “green”projects. Proterra is already filing for bankruptcy. Corporatism always was/is producing failures.
The U.S. and other Western countries urgently need somebody, who has the guts to reverse this madness and in Trump’s words :“drill, drill, drill”… This will do more in solving the energy problems and with it inflation, than spending billions of government money on hand picked enterprises, which won’t add to the U.S.’ prosperity. Let private companies pick the winning technologies and not a bunch of politicians and an apparatus of useless bureaucrats.

Last edited 4 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago

Subsidies are not an economic plan.

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago

This piece is nonsense.

As someone loosely on the left (whatever that even is anymore) I can honestly say that I have never despised a president more than I do Joe Biden, even more than the imbecile Donald Trump.

Of the many things I despise about his mean-spirited regime: putting Anthony Fauci as numero uno and *Most Important Person * of his health mafia clearly was early writing on the wall for me. Those of us on the left who questioned the Covid regime were further disenfranchised and despised by a left that suddenly fell in love with the most despicable lobbying group of all: Big Pharma. Thousands lost their jobs.

Why, I ask, do you think RFK Jr. could rate such huge numbers? Because so many of us were canceled and despised for even questioning the vaccine mandates and lockdowns. Add to that a radicalized FBI, which has gone after dissenters with a fervor not seen since the McCarthy Era?

I despise him for his warmongering, his incompetence at diplomacy, his corruption and his inept cabinet appointment like the feckless Butiggieg.

But nothing is worse than what he did with Covid.

J Bryant
JB
J Bryant
4 months ago

Biden has, indeed, passed massive spending bills that, we’re told, will stimulate the economy. But who do these bills really help?
The Chips Act will create specialized jobs in a highly specialized sector; the green energy bill is directed at a climate problem which is not as settled as the administration and media (let alone “the science”) would have us believe, and the green agenda will further eviscerate traditional manufacturing activity. The infrastructure bill would seem to be of most utility to most Americans, but it remains to be seen whether that money will be used to address true infrastructure needs, or if it will be largely diverted to other dubious “green” projects.
Little of this money is squarely aimed at the economically dispossessed people who need it most. That’s not surprising because many/most of those people are poor whites in rural areas or in the rust belt. These are the people openly disparaged by the hard Left which Biden embraced. Indeed, in terms of his social policies (as distinct from his economic policies), the Biden administration empowers the most extreme left-wing views in the Democratic party. Maybe he is not personally in favor of all those policies (or perhaps he is), but he embraced the zealots in order to be elected and he must now pay the tab.
We live in a time of economic and social disruption. It is unclear if the Biden administration spending will do anything more than pay for unrealistic “green” projects, and pay the salaries of more left-wing commissars within our institutions. In that regard, Biden’s heirs might well rule America’s future, but Biden shouldn’t expect gratitude for his legacy.

Last edited 4 months ago by J Bryant
Nell Clover
NC
Nell Clover
4 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The CHIPS Act essentially gave a huge cash subsidy to TMSC to build a soon to be superseded silicon fab plant on USA soil. Typical of all bureaucratic interventions, it distilled a multifaceted problem down to a single “do something” prescription. It didn’t incentivise building the economic ecosystem around the plant, including the skills pipeline, to build a self-sustaining industry. So what’s happened is TMSC has collected the cash, nearly finished building the plant, and is waiting for more than 500 visas to import its staff from Taiwan to make it operational. It is not clear what the USA has gained from this subsidy given Taiwan is essentially a commercial outpost of the American empire.

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I’ll say this. It does provide some measure of security of supply. Totally on board with tour argument though.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Not an accurate picture at all.
No cash has been handed over yet under the CHIPS Act. Only promised.
TSMC is one of many companies that hope to be supported – the overwhelming majority are US companies. The largest beneficiary will be Intel.
The TSMC plant is not “soon to be superceded”.
TSMC is finding that actually building a chip fab (factory) in the US is harder than in most other countries – a parallel project in Japan is proceeding at around twice the speed. Bureaucracy and labour unions are slowing them down.
TSMC would employ more local labour if it were available. Of course in a project like this, key staff need to be brought over from Taiwan to get it up and running. This is no different from the 1980s/90s Japanese car factories in the UK. No one’s complaining about those now.
It is normal in the semiconductor industry for chip fabs to receive huge state/local government subsidies. Just as Intel gets huge subsidies in Ireland and Israel. Not news.

Malcolm Webb
MW
Malcolm Webb
4 months ago

I admit I immediately had suspicions about an article by someone who wrote a book with a seventeen word title. As I read on my suspicions only grew. When I finished I knew it was codswallop. Painting Joe Biden as a Messiah like figure whose heirs shall inherit the earth is truly absurd.

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
4 months ago

What the h•ll is this guy talking about? Biden has always been a colossal f•ck up run by those who paid for him. Now he just does what he’s told because he has no idea what time it is. Yikes if this author really believes what he’s written.

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago

Haha, yeah, perfect. He wouldn’t even recognize Hunter’s crack pipe when he finds the stuffed down his Lay-z-boy. This man, of extremely limited intelligence as it is, should have ridden into the sunset like a good DLC hack back in 2016, but the seemingly retarded folks at the DNC decided to stuff him with newspaper and send him back out to perform the Undead Meat Puppet Dance.

Tyler Durden
TD
Tyler Durden
4 months ago

Some highly illuminating responses to this
counter-intuitive if isolated platform for Democrat propaganda bizarrely proffered by Unherd in the fashion of a state broadcaster like the BBC.
The difference between Unherd and The Guardian/Times/Independent, nonetheless, is the preponderance of informed North American commentators who could perform a service to the British and European readers as well as their standard media.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 months ago

What is this nonsense. Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the worst Presidents the US ever had.
He put in place the system of crony capitalism that has ultimately bought the US to its knees. A system where the elite were able to tap into public purse initially to grow even more wealthy and safeguard their position which evolved in to a system where they could shamelessly extort the public purse seemingly without limit. No wonder he is so venerated.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Paddy Taylor
PT
Paddy Taylor
4 months ago

Wow!

You didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid, you’re drowning in it.

Right-Wing Hippie
RH
Right-Wing Hippie
4 months ago

Joe Biden’s heirs will rule America
…with an iron fist.

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago

One-Party State anyone?

Bernard Hill
BH
Bernard Hill
4 months ago

…more a massively wet blanket I would’ve thought,

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
4 months ago

The idea that Biden has agency in anything he does is just laughable. If he’d had anything worthy of the kind of support that Roosevelt was able to muster, he’d have become President long ago. He’s now President, and just about stumbling through his term, because he’s Not Trump.

His legacy will be an awkward embarrassed silence.

Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Murray
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

The author is Professor Emeritus of American history and head of a research group at Cambridge? God help us all.

Andrew Vanbarner
AV
Andrew Vanbarner
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

A fair amount of my professors in undergrad (Poli Sci/Econ, with a minor in Journalism) weren’t much more than propagandists for the left wing.
A fair amount weren’t. But academia today is even further to the left, so this article is hardly out of character for an historian.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

The editors of this online publication should read the comments section of this article carefully. These comments aptly and succinctly demonstrate why I cancelled my subscription; not because I am not interested in how leftists think, or considering their opinions and “analysis” of events. But because there is quite a bit of drivel, such as this article, and paying for significant amounts of it becomes more than annoying. Virtually all of this author’s ‘analysis’ is really a flight of fancy, as someone else pointed out already.
M Weiss, MD

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

My God–yes. . . . . it’s not just fancy, it’s total lunacy. This man has caused vast division and heartache throughout the country–more even than the incompetent piece of crap that was his predecessor. You are even told that you are “anti-democratic” and despised for considering 3rd Parties in lieu of voting for this warmongerer and his hateful Maoist left minions.

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Although I thought this article should be used as the poster child for the definition of gaslighting, I quite enjoy the occasional rebuttal essay, as it only brings to light what the other side is thinking/dreaming. Echo chambers are unhealthy.

AC Harper
AH
AC Harper
4 months ago

A man cannot step into a river twice – for he is not the same man and it is not the same river.
FDR was a different politician in a different age. Biden is not that man. He might be the proxy for the third term Obama but even that comparison is looking tattered.
Rather Biden is (nominally) responsible for his own triumphs (few) and failures (many) and he certainly is not popular with the general electorate.
Perhaps the ghost of FDR would be hurt and offended at the comparison made in the article?

owen crassweller
OC
owen crassweller
4 months ago

Pure fantasy.

Hugh Bryant
HB
Hugh Bryant
4 months ago

But for some reason, the more he tries to emulate America’s most beloved Democratic president, the less popular he becomes.
Oh Come now. The man’s a corrupt, lying fraud who’s been on the take for decades. Are we seriously supposed to believe he wasn’t paid off by Burisma?
‘Bidenomics’ my @rse.

Michael Coleman
MC
Michael Coleman
4 months ago

I couldn’t make it to the end with pearls like this:
‘But one would think that he would get some credit for cutting the inflation rate from its 9% peak in 2022 by nearly two thirds. ”
It’s sort of like praising the arsonist for throwing a bucket of water on the burning house when he sees the cops arrive.

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago

What a fatuous piece of nonsense this is. I’m loosely aligned with the American left, but despise Joe Biden: he’s only mired us more forever wars, his administration comes close to Joseph McCarthy’s ilk in their attempts to censor critics, his economic policies are functionally made by and for the elites; trade unions administrators and their lackies have had a field day negotiating watered down contracts under his watch. 
Covid policy was horrific and a disgrace, starting with the incredibly ill-advised move of making the liar and thief Anthony Fauci numero-uno in his administration and trickling down with the illegal vaccine mandates, which mind you put 1000s of hard working Americans on the streets, not to mention the ill-effects of an imposed vaccine. Did I mention that there are many of us on the left and who are independent thinkers who think that his bellicosity about Ukraine has far more to do with family interests in that corrupt country, than any interests that actual Americans have in this broken, non democracy in an Eastern European backwater?
Finally–Israel. The hug with the fascist Netanyahu said it all. This man is a warmonger, who only sees war and destruction as the path toward international order. This man is entirely compromised, has only made things worse for me and my family, has caused division and fear in this country, esp. for those of us who dissented from the Covid narrative on the left and were intimidated, some losing their jobs because they wouldn’t take this experimental vaccine. 
Biden is a disgrace as is piece.  I hope this awful president has no “heirs.”

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
4 months ago

The Inflation Reduction Act – vast amounts of money spent by government to err, reduce inflation.
Sheer genius.
As the article says,
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt at the height of the Great Depression. It is a lesson that President Joe Biden has taken to heart.
He sure has.

Matt Hindman
MH
Matt Hindman
4 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

I hate to defend Biden, but that was Joe Manchin screwing him over. He demanded the bill be renamed to that or he would not sign it and it probably would not have passed. Manchin is a classy guy like that.

rob clark
RC
rob clark
4 months ago

Wow, a bit of DNC sanctioned historical perspective that’s for sure!

Benjamin Greco
BG
Benjamin Greco
4 months ago

Mr. Gerstle, no one is thinking of marginalizing issues of racial inequality, equality has been achieved, what minorities now want is equity without merit which is a bridge too far. I also found it interesting that after saying Biden should tamp down the culture wars you expect the party to win on the mother of all culture war issues abortion.
As for Biden’s economic reform, all he has done is print money. Roosevelt created programs like Social Security and unemployment insurance and built lasting institutions to regulate capitalism like the SEC, FDIC and NLRB. These programs and institutions are moribund today and Biden has done nothing. He has also done nothing to break up big banks and monopolies the beating heart of neo-liberalism. The Democratic Party is as beholden to Wall Street and Tech as it was under Obama.
And the Left that Biden is cooperating with is not a brain trust made up of men like Rexford Tugwell, Raymond Moley and Henry Wallace, it is a Left corrupted by identity politics, post-modern ideologies and the anti-racist ideas of Kendi and Di Angelo. This is a Left that forces women athletes to undress in front of and compete with men. This is a Left that marches for Hamas. All the Left cares about today are culture wars and they cancel anyone who dissents. They are an anchor for the party and an impediment to reform.
Your nostalgia for the New Deal reminds me of the Right’s nostalgia for the fifties, more wishful thinking for a return to the good old days.

Last edited 4 months ago by Benjamin Greco
Poppy Gordon
PG
Poppy Gordon
4 months ago

“Americans who hated each other were now willing to come out of their bunkers and find common ground.”

Key difference. Americans NOW hate each other, but in the 1930s, Americans still had a connection with each other AS AMERICANS.

Elites were not contemptuous of the working class, as they are today. The president was not shoving cultural issues in ppl’s faces (“Rachel” Levine and the Xmas Show in the White House). Political parties were not hanging other-than-American flags in public spaces. There was still a predominant belief in truth and reality, as the postmoderns hadn’t entered the scene with their towering cynicism and post truth theories.

Completely different worlds, my man.

Andrzej Wasniewski
AW
Andrzej Wasniewski
4 months ago

Dear Professor Gerstle, if you have a chance would you please ask Joe Biden who was Franklin D. Roosevelt?

S Smith
SS
S Smith
4 months ago

He would bumble around and say something like “rueori, Teddy and his Rough Riders! loved um!

Jerry Carroll
JC
Jerry Carroll
4 months ago

Nothing of Biden will last except the bad smell.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

Biden is a vacuous old man who can barely speak. We now have even more deficit & unsustainable debt because he gives money away with no accountability. He’s a fiscal idiot. The deficit has gone from 938 Billion to 2 Trillion in just ONE YEAR.

Peter Samson
PS
Peter Samson
4 months ago

Comparing Biden to FDR is not particularly useful. Conditions were far different, even more than Gerstle recognizes here. The unemployment rate during the Depression reached 25%; today it is less than 4%. FDR spoke of one third of the nation being “ill-fed, ill-housed, and ill-clothed.” There is no such suffering today. Gerstle is also wrong in contending that Democrats increased their majority in the 1934 election despite worsening economic conditions. In 1934, U.S. GDP grew by nearly 11% and the unemployment rate fell by 3%.
It’s perfectly fine to want more progressive policies but false analogies do not help that cause.

Nardo Flopsey
NF
Nardo Flopsey
4 months ago

Will someone please explain Bidenomics? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Other than “When the stock market go up, that’s bcuz me! When it go down, it’s bcuz Putin’s invasion! Or Trump or someone. Anyone else!”

R Wright
RW
R Wright
4 months ago

“Biden observed”, “Biden thought.” Am I in some parallel world where Biden isn’t a geriatric puppet barely aware of where he is at any given moment? The man has no cogent political theory acting on him. He likely wears nappies.

Last edited 4 months ago by R Wright
Christopher Chantrill
CC
Christopher Chantrill
4 months ago

The question is: do they still pass the port to the left in the Oxbridge common rooms? I was in the Douro last spring and talked to a woman married to a Symington (she said), but I forgot to ask.

Neil Ross
NR
Neil Ross
4 months ago

Is the writer from a different universe?

James S.
JS
James S.
4 months ago

This guy was a professor of American History at Cambridge??? Explains a lot about the current state of academia, and bolsters the case for the critiques of universities on both sides of the Atlantic as echo chambers for the Left.

Biden is in NO way anything approaching FDR; to compare the two is to do a disservice to Roosevelt, even with questions of his handling of the Great Depression in the USA. Biden walked/stumbled into a post-COVID American economy that was ready to take off, and managed to exacerbate inflation as well as hobble the energy sector, thus making us dependent on foreign sources. And then there’s the small matter of his corrupt dealings with foreign powers via his bag man, Hunter, as well as the demonization of those who oppose his administration’s woke agenda.

F- for Professor Gerstle.

Frank Scavelli
FS
Frank Scavelli
3 months ago

This is one of the worst articles I have ever seen on UnHerd. Wow. Total fantasy world. Biden is nothing like FDR…

Samuel Ross
SR
Samuel Ross
4 months ago

While 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, Roosevelt did little or nothing. In that regard at least, and so far, Biden also is nothing like Roosevelt. His support for Israel has been unwavering (so far), and for this ‘thanks’ is too poor and shabby a word.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

That’s ahistorical nonsense. The extent of the “final solution” wasn’t established until the end of the war, when the Allies fought their way to those camps to liberate them.

Steve Jolly
SJ
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

And by that time Roosevelt was already dead. He might have known about the persecution from Einstein and other prominent scientists who fled Germany, but he probably thought it was fairly ordinary persecution similar to what the American government did to Japanese Americans during WWII, that is round them up and put them into secure camps without the starvation and murder.

Samuel Ross
SR
Samuel Ross
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It became clear in 41-42. Roosevelt did little or nothing.

Champagne Socialist
CS
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

It seems that the Unherd sheep haven’t been able to keep up with Biden’s economic miracle!
No surprise there!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 months ago

Repeat after me “I am wee Tod Did”

Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
4 months ago

Please explain for the dumb Britons – where is the miracle?

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Good luck with that. CS is incapable of writing more than three sentences.

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Please don’t feed the trolls.

James S.
JS
James S.
4 months ago

It will be a miracle if the USA survives Bidenomics.