Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
In less than a week Joe Biden has issued a slew of executive orders rolling back many of Donald Trump’s orders that returned some sanity to our country after the Obama-era policies weakened us at home and abroad. Soon we also will see attempts to undo Trump’s positive achievements in reviving a sluggish economy and restoring America’s credibility as a great power other powers may not like, but definitely had to respect.
Are you happy now, Republican NeverTrumpers, that your orange bête noir demonized for his scorn for your managerial elite protocols and “norms” has been driven from the Republican, Inc. country club?
Take Biden’s return to the Paris Climate Accords, a globalist orgy of virtue-signaling by Western nations, and serial grifting by China, the world’s largest emitter of CO2 who isn’t required to do anything but make promises. Three decades of such gab-fests have not achieved as much as the fracking revolution did in reducing emissions. So of course, Biden has forbidden fracking and oil development on federal lands, thus ending the economic boon of cheap energy and good jobs at home, and geopolitical leverage abroad that come from being the world’s largest producer of oil.
Compounding that blunder, he’s stopped construction on the Keystone pipeline, killing thousands of jobs and subjecting the environment to the risks of transporting oil with trucks and trains. And our ally Canada, none too pleased, will likely look for new markets to sell their oil–– perhaps to our geopolitical rival China. Why has Biden taken these self-wounding steps? Because upscale progressives aren’t comfortable with icky things like producing and transporting oil, which offend their Disneyfied natural world.
So where’s the science behind these moves that justify damaging our national security and domestic economic interests? Anthropogenic Catastrophic Global Warming, the notion that a rise in CO2 concentrations by 100 parts per million, will end civilization. But global warming is not a scientific fact, but at best a hypothesis over a hundred years old. It reflects cultural ideals and prejudices about nature and humanity’s relationship to it. It also is a consequence of how the postwar left––which demonizes industrialization because free-market capitalism has been more successful at improving people’s lives than Marxist collectivist voodoo––has hijacked the environmental movement and uses it to weaken free-market economies. What better way to do that than making cheap energy, the engine of the modern world’s prosperity, more expensive?
Then there’s the executive order promoting a national minimum wage of $15 an hour. This ancient, simplistic solution to the “income inequality” bugaboo has been serially repudiated over the years by economists of all stripes. Making entry-level, low-skill jobs more expensive usually means fewer such jobs available. We have a real-world experiment demonstrating this truth going on in Seattle, which has been incrementally raising its minimum wage since 2016, and seen declines in numbers of hours worked at every step. And the long history of government-run economies like the Soviet Union’s have shown over and over that the market, rather than government diktats, is more efficient at setting wages.
Speaking of the economy, this last executive order is a preliminary move in Biden’s planned orgy of spending more money we don’t have. In the works is a $1.9 trillion “relief” bill, which will include an extra $1,400 in “stimulus” cash for each American who qualifies. This will come on top of the $900 billion splurge in December that pushed our debt-to-GDP ratio to over 100%. This “stimulus” magic wand had already proved ineffective back in 2009 when Obama spent nearly a trillion dollars on “shovel-ready jobs” meant to stimulate the economy. As Obama chuckled, the “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Nor did it, as Obama promised, raise 2 million people out of poverty. Instead, between 2009 and 2012, 6.3 million fell into poverty.
The power of free money to make the economy grow has been ineffective ever since John Maynard Keynes a hundred years ago proposed that the government fill jars with money, bury them, then pay people to dig them up. Our average savings rate in 2020 increased because people did not spend their checks but saved them. Biden’s team reminds me of something else Keynes said: “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist” ––like John Maynard Keynes.
Adding to those economic disasters in the making, there’s the bloated, inefficient, serially failing federal agencies unaccountable to the market or the sovereign people. Over the last four years we’ve seen the kind of corruption that such bureaucracies can indulge when Barack Obama weaponized the FBI and DOJ in an attempt to remove Trump from office or at least saddle his administration with rumors and fake news amplified by a corrupt media. As a small step to reining in this state-within-a-state, Trump signed three executive orders that made it easier to fire federal employees, who have not just civil-service protections, but also a union. So of course, Biden, himself a well-fed creature of the federal swamp, has eliminated those reforms that would have made federal employees more accountable to the taxpayers who fund their cushy salaries and Cadillac benefits.
Even worse, Biden issued a “Modernizing Regulatory Review Plan” instructing federal agencies and departments “to identify ways to modernize and improve the regulatory review process” to reflect “new developments in scientific and economic understanding” that “does not have harmful antiregulatory or deregulatory effects.” What a perfect example of the technocratic arrogance that “experts” should interfere with the freedom and agency of states, individuals, businesses, and civil society.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Wayne Crews gets at Biden’s true purpose: “The . . . plan is about gutting the restraints of the past four years . . . and to put the weight on the scales of whether or not to regulate such that the answer will always be in the affirmative, replacing market operation and civil society with government.” In effect it will create “a new architecture for never-ending regulations.” So goodbye to Trump’s deregulation program that freed our economic Gulliver from the Lilliputian ropes of unaccountable bureaucrats.
That’s just one week of Joe Biden and the Dems undoing Trump’s reforms that embodied ideals and policies that Republicans and conservatives supposedly support. Get ready for even more bad policies that will undo more of Trump’s reforms. Biden’s plan to raise taxes on capital gains, income, and corporations so the rich “pay their fair share” will put the dirigiste hobbles back on an economy that Trump had set free. Another proposed change, dissolving student-loan debt, will increase the moral hazard long worsened by indiscriminate doling out of subsidized loans––the Federal Reserve Bank of New York calculated that for every dollar increase in student loan debt, tuition costs went up by 60 cents. All that for more students graduating with useless degrees worth nothing on the job market.
Of course, many of these proposals depend on the political winds. Democrat margins in the House and Senate are thin, making passage of the necessary legislation more difficult, but not impossible. We don’t know how much more of the Green New Deal nonsense, for example, or the Medicare For All scheme will get through. But some will, and the cost to our economy, still shackled by the feckless shutdown orders, will be high. After all, in one day he destroyed up to 70,000 jobs with just one executive order. Imagine how much economic havoc he can wreak with legislation.
So, I hope NeverTrump Republicans are happy. Their four years of irrational spite and hatred helped the Dems take the White House, where now all the improvements brought about by Trump’s policies and reforms that conservatives have long worked for are likely to be reversed. I fail to see the lofty “principles” and sacred “democratic norms” in that outcome.