Joe Biden refers often to his roots in middle and working-class America. Speaking in his birthplace of Scranton, Pa., last year, Biden stated: “We were raised to believe family, loyalty, treating everyone with dignity is what we should do, because a lot of us knew what it was like not to be treated with dignity by people with wealth.”
However sincere his personal narrative may be, Biden’s actual politics tell a different story. Somewhere along the way, Biden chose to embrace globalism and the priorities of global wealth over the interests of the American worker. Comfortable in the highest reaches of government, the son of Scranton became a platinum-level member of the globalist elite.
As a senator who voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Biden is, in fact, one of the Founding Fathers of modern globalism and American industrial decline. While there is debate about NAFTA’s precise impact on employment, there can be no dispute that it cost the US many well-compensated manufacturing jobs. It favored shareholders over workers and their communities; it enriched investors but weakened the country.
About NAFTA, Biden is unrepentant, if somewhat equivocal, saying “it made sense at the moment.” While Biden may make his 1993 NAFTA vote sound like ancient history, he can’t escape his support, during the Obama administration, for the far more extensive, twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Biden, as a candidate, says that he would “renegotiate” the deal. But when he was vice president, he praised the TPP as “a game changer,” claiming it offered “stronger, global economic rules of the road for the 21st century.” In reality, the TPP would have removed US tariff protections from any domestic manufacturing business that globalism previously spared.
Consider, also, the Paris Climate Agreement, which Biden praises as one of the signal triumphs of the prior administration. However one regards the goals of the pact, Trump’s rationale for withdrawing from it was correct. The agreement placed restrictions on America that were not applied to its competitors. As just one example of this flawed arrangement, China walked away with the ability to increase carbon emissions until at least 2030; the US faced a much faster and more demanding schedule for reductions. The predictable result? The transfer of yet more industry and wealth overseas, namely to China, all in exchange for negligible or non-existent climate “progress.”
The former vice president speaks of dignity and loyalty, but where is his loyalty to America’s workers? What hope, if any, does he offer them? His idea of hope for coal miners, announced last year on the campaign trail in Derry, NH: They should simply “learn how to program” software for new employment.
Today, under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing Biden’s destructive, Learn-to-Program globalism approach its last phase. Nowhere is this more evident than in our largest cities. For years, workers have been priced out of central metropolitan areas as concentrated globalist wealth drove real estate beyond their reach. Suddenly, the public transport these workers depend upon to commute to their (vanishing) jobs is imperiled by a potentially deadly virus — itself enabled and catalyzed by the full-tilt, mass globalism of modern world travel.
Ultimately, the nation’s faltering globalist system can be propped up only by vast government expenditure in the form of welfare for ever-increasing numbers of the dispossessed. What was promised as a capitalist dream ends, finally, in socialism.
Under consensus globalism, America hemorrhaged its manufacturing base, decimated its proud working class and compromised its national security. It left itself at the mercy of foreign powers for vital goods, including medicines; it left its health, economically and literally, in the hands of geopolitical competitors and adversaries. All while an entrenched elite amassed enormous wealth.
Trump took on the globalist creed in 2016, with historic results. And this year, he should argue it again: Biden-brand globalism promises wealth for the few, demoralizing socialism for the many and the eclipse of American power in the world.
If Trump makes 2020 a contest between the establishment, globalist policies of the past and his own politics of fair trade and national renewal, he wins.
Augustus Howard holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and a J.D. from Duke University School of Law.
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