Biden understands that the real pandemic danger in America is social collapse


2021-01-19 /

US President-elect Joe Biden did a spectacular thing that may rewrite the assumption that his presidency would return America back to the Barack Obama era. It was the US$1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan. Biden understands that the real pandemic danger in America is social collapse and what is needed is a national policy that prevents societal disintegration. Biden’s advisers had let it be known back in October that if elected, even without waiting until inauguration day, he would right away provide the immediate fiscal relief the American economy needs. They said it would be directed and targeted to middle-class and lower-class families, to the smallest businesses instead of just the big corporations that have the best connections to big banks. Biden has kept his word. His spending proposal sets aside $400 billion to address Covid-19; $1 trillion in direct relief to families and individuals; and $440 billion to help communities and businesses hit the hardest by the pandemic. It is an unabashedly progressive agenda that the left has been trying to advance for decades – and, arguably, the bulk of them do not even have anything to do with the health emergency as such but are social welfare measures. Interestingly, Biden proposes to pay for this plan with a series of tax increases on the wealthy, including taxing capital gains as regular income and increasing the marginal tax rate for top earners to almost 40%, which he would announce this spring as a second long-term broader recovery package to “build back” the economy. The writings of the renowned Serbian-American economist Branko Milanovi? come to mind. Milanovi? is famous for his work on income distribution, inequality and poverty. Formerly chief economist at the World Bank and now teaching at the London School of Economics and the City University of New York, his latest work Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System that Rules the World figured in the Foreign Affairs list of Best Books and earned him acclaim as one among the top 50 thinkers in the year 2020. Milanovi? wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs last March noting the lengthening shadows of the pandemic stealthily advancing in the US at that time. With extraordinary prescience, he forewarned that “the human toll of the disease will be the most important cost and the one that could lead to societal disintegration. Those who are left hopeless, jobless, and without assets could easily turn against those who are better off. “Already, some 30% of Americans have zero or negative wealth. If more people emerge from the current crisis with neither money, nor jobs, nor access to health care, and if these people become desperate and angry … if governments have to resort to using paramilitary or military forces to quell, for example, riots or attacks on property, societies could begin to disintegrate. “Thus the main (perhaps even the sole) objective of economic policy today should be to prevent social breakdown. Advanced societies must not allow economics, particularly the fortunes of financial markets, to blind them to the fact that the most important role economic policy can play now is to keep social bonds strong under this extraordinary pressure.”