“B.iden’s Welfare Flip Flop. ” This is How Politico framed President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion down payment for a new federal government approach to supporting the economic security of its citizens. Everything about the headline was wrong.
“Flip-flop” is one of the most commonly used and misleading terms in political journalism. it either trivializes blatant hypocrisy or misrepresents a real political change of heart. “Welfare” is completely insufficient to describe what the American relief plan provides. And “Biden”, well, he sure is Joe Biden, but I cannot list the many forces behind this amazing achievement – and they represent a left-wing drift by the Democratic Party that has been going on for a long time, but that has accelerated in the last 10 years. Biden was right in the middle.
In the middle. Certainly not leading. But not lagging either.
An assortment from other outlets call the bill a huge extension of the welfare state. There is nothing wrong with the term “welfare” in itself. But decades of race-coded GOP attacks, especially Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac-driving “welfare queens,” made it toxic. This led to Bill Clinton’s 1992 pledge to “end welfare as we know it” and culminated in the hugely flawed but widely supported welfare reform bill of 1996. It was designed to cure the vice of “dependence” on government although children were most dependent on this program.
A real problem with well-being as we knew it was that it was a tiny amount of money for the poor, separated from any kind of social infrastructure that was supposed to help them get up – or to help keep working and civic people stand up . The ladder of opportunities established after the Great Depression and World War II to elevate a middle class – labor rights, mortgage guarantees, greatly expanded public spending, new public universities – were cut off from above by corporate elites from the late 1970s. In the face of all this, the bipartisan consensus of the time had to go as well, which was stigmatized by corporate propagandists and disapproved by a large part of the working class.
Biden was there for the demonization of welfare and government for the last three decades of the 20th century. Politically, he grew up with these ideas. He even helped spread it. Re-elected as a liberal-looking centrist with sideburns in the same year as Richard Nixon’s re-election, Biden proclaimed when he first became president in 1988 that “state subsidies are not the ultimate answer to the problems of the poor.” and citing Reagan’s “Stories of Welfare Mothers Driving Luxury Cars” (h / t Politico). The senior Delaware Senator helped pass Clinton’s 1996 bill.