What has the working class gotten from the Biden administration so far?
John Minchillo / AP

Reports say Biden has dropped his limited proposals to cancel student loan debt. The most recent draft of the administration’s budget eliminates key promises, including a public option for health insurance, important programs to address climate change, and a proposed wealth tax.

The White House claimed that it took these steps to strengthen its position on negotiations over an infrastructure investment plan. Even this “strengthened” position has seen the administration negotiate with itself to scale down the plan to a fraction of what economists say is needed to update the U.S. economy and restore job growth.

In addition, the administration’s despicable failure to force Israel to stop its support for settler violence in the West Bank and then military attacks on Gaza for more than 11 days allowed the mass killing of Palestinians.

Ongoing refusals to walk back, and even to double down on trumped up Trump administration attacks on China, Venezuela, and Iran continue to imperil large regions of the world.

So far, what has the working class gotten from the Biden administration, which it overwhelming voted for in 2020? A stimulus check, a hate crimes law, and lots of nice words.

Central to the ongoing crisis of legitimacy in the U.S. government is the legalistic features that enable a minority of the population, the 1%, to control the agenda, to manage its dominance of the system.

These include the non-representative Senate and the filibuster, a tool of white supremacy.

It is well known that Republican control of the U.S. Senate, when it has existed over the past 20 years, rested, not on a majority of votes, but rather on the constitutional forms that allow each state to hold two Senate seats, regardless of population. This means a larger number of small population states, which are predominantly white—Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, Idaho, etc.—have the same number of senators as large population states like California, Illinois, and New York.

Simply put, for the Democrats to control the Senate, their electoral victories must represent closer to 55% or more of American voters.

This constitutional glitch has allowed conservative, white majority states to send some of the worst representatives of American politics to the Senate—Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Josh Hawley, Ted Cotton, and far too many others. Backed by major billionaire donors who control the Republican Party, these senators exploit racism, xenophobia, and homophobia to push an anti-worker agenda. They followed Trump into the realm of fascistic politics of secret federal police, round-ups of immigrants, the politics of hate and threat, and incitement of racist militia violence.

These senators continue to block efforts to meaningfully part ways with fascistic Trumpism through the use of Senate filibuster rules. These rules do not appear in the Constitution and are a matter of a “gentleman’s” agreement among senators to allow the minority a check on the power of the majority.

This dynamic is capitalist class politics at its finest masked as a democratic procedure. So far, the Biden administration’s and Democratic leadership’s resistance to mass demands to end the filibuster are a reflection of their loyalty to capitalist class politics.

The filibuster is meant to force negotiations among the sections of capital represented in the Senate. But those negotiations are not happening. And Democratic leaders and Biden are sitting around wringing their hands, pointing fingers.

They have the legal authority to eliminate the filibuster and within weeks pass a progressive agenda. Raise the minimum wage to $15 to lift millions, including one-third of Black workers, out of poverty. To tax the wealthy to fund a real infrastructure investment package. To deliver a New Deal for higher education with new investments to make college accessible to the working class, and to eliminate $1.7 trillion in student debt, freeing millions of workers from peonage to finance capital.

They could pass legislation to protect the rights of workers to organize unions and create a democratic voice in their workplace.

Instead, they say lots of nice things about those policies and say Republicans are the reason they can’t be pursued.

When Biden campaigned on behalf of Amazon workers, he signaled meaningful support for labor. But his choice has so far been to use words, not his legal, constitutional power to weigh in on the side of the working class. This has been a choice, and it hasn’t proven to create meaningful change.

Reminder: The crisis today was only deepened by the pandemic, not started by it. The economic crisis has loomed since the costly failures of U.S. imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan, the clear weakness of financial capital in 2007-08, and the inability for the U.S. capitalist class to restore its global leadership except through force, threat, sanctions, and hybrid war.

Trump’s rise on the currents of fascistic politics and white supremacist mob violence wasn’t an accident or a glitch in an otherwise stable system. The U.S. government, as a result, faces a crisis of legitimacy and credibility that was not resolved by the 2020 election. We face today a choice: descent into barbarism or the pathway out of neoliberalism toward social democratic reconstruction. The capitalist class’s unprincipled wavering between its support for fascism or the status quo offers no solutions for workers.

Either way workers continue to suffer. Legislation, policies, and programs that solve the problems of the working class are the only means by which the U.S. government can restore its legitimacy, stabilize the economy, and resist fascism.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of "Mythologies: A Political Economy of U.S. Literature, Settler Colonialism, and Racial Capitalism in the Long Nineteenth Century" (International Publishers) and "The Collectivity of Life" (Lexington Books).