Daily Beast: Biden’s Dilemma: Restore the Economy to a Pre-COVID Norm or Transform It

June 8, 2020 Media

Friday’s unexpectedly strong jobs report has made trickier the already difficult task Joe Biden faces in outlining his economic agenda. As the general election approaches, the former VP confronts a choice: call for the restoration of an economy to a pre-COVID norm or frame the pandemic as a pivot point for reimagining America’s basic economic structures.

From a purely substantive standpoint, Biden’s options are not all that complicated. The widespread belief is that there simply is no going back to a time before COVID. While the economy may have added 2.5 million jobs in May, studies project that roughly 40 percent of the jobs lost because of the pandemic will not return. Even under Friday’s positive headlines, there were worrying signs. While those who were temporarily laid off during the pandemic began going back to work, the number of people who had permanently lost their jobs rose by nearly 300,000.

“I think what COVID has done is it has brought this longer-term debate forward in the most in-your-face possible way. That’s just the reality,” said Sarah Miller, who runs the American Economic Liberties Project, a new anti-corporate monopoly group. “From my perspective, reorientation of policy to confront monopolies and corporate power is not a radical or extreme position. The status quo is a radical and extreme situation actually. What we want to do, basically, is prevent large corporations from stealing from workers and consumers and small businesses and to give entrepreneurs and small businesses a fair shake.”

Biden’s team seems to recognize the notion that economic transformation is salable, though perhaps not as deeply as others had in the Democratic field. He has talked mostly in generalities about using antitrust laws to tackle monopolies and endured criticism for either being too modest or lacking specifics on policies like expanding childcare.