Regardless of whether the current economic crisis is technically just a bad recession or if we are edging into depression territory is probably a matter of semantics. But even though the public hasn't heard much from presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in recent weeks, he has reportedly been hard at work on a host of ambitious ideas the likes of which we haven't seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration — showing how the pandemic is likely to push Biden pretty far to the left before this year is out.
"If you have to line up at a food bank, it’s a depression," says local philanthropist and education advocate Dr. Cesar Cruz, speaking to KPIX. "It’s a soup kitchen. The food banks are the modern [equivalent of] soup kitchens of the 1930s." Cruz had been at work building a school for at-risk youth in the East Bay, but since the pandemic began his school project has become a food pantry and donation center called The Freedom Store.
The change came after the formerly book-filled space seemed suddenly out of touch with immediate needs. "One of the neighbors said to us, ‘I love your books, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t eat them,'" Cruz says.
And local economist Dr. Jack Rasmus, professor at St. Mary’s College, tells KPIX that while we might not be in depression territory yet, we are certainly getting close — especially if we see a sustained market crash.
"During the Great Depression, we had 25 percent [unemployment], but it took four years,” he says. “We’re at 22.4 percent [including part-time workers] and it’s only 3 months. So the big question is, will we see financial crashes here some time in the next 6 to 12 months? If so, we will then be in a depression."
Joe Biden isn't wasting time on semantics right now, and while the public may not have heard a lot from in recent weeks, he hasn't been entirely silent, as New York Magazine reports.
"I think it’s probably the biggest challenge in modern history, quite frankly. I think it may not dwarf but eclipse what FDR faced,” Biden said on Chris Cuomo's CNN show last month.
Then, on a Zoom fundraiser call with 68 donors, Biden hinted that he was thinking about moving further to the left with FDR as the best historical example. "The blinders have been taken off because of this COVID crisis," he reportedly said. "I think people are realizing, ‘My Lord, look at what is possible,’ looking at the institutional changes we can make, without us becoming a ‘socialist country’ or any of that malarkey."
So what might that look like? We could be deep into a second or third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic by January, when a Biden presidency will, god willing, be beginning. And he's been suggesting out loud that he's coming around to ideas that were floated during the campaign by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — including forgiveness of student loan debt starting at a minimum of $10,000, and establishing a $100 billion affordable-housing fund. He's coming around to Warren's bankruptcy proposal. And he's talking about the establishment of a 100,000-plus worker Public Health Jobs Corps, and prioritizing the passing of the Equality Act for LGBTQ protections.
According to New York Mag, Biden has been locked down at home for weeks, and even his Secret Security detail only interacts with him in masks gloves.
Biden hasn’t been tested for the virus, and he spends his time in isolation on a just about never-ending procession of phone calls charting this course forward. He rings both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to hear their updates on recovery legislation and to gently share his priorities when he finds it appropriate. He calls Democratic leaders in some of the hardest-hit spots, checking in with governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, California’s Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, and Washington’s Inslee, and mayors like Los Angeles’s Eric Garcetti. At times he talks policy with Warren.
The Warren detail is interesting if only because there has been continuous chatter about what female politician Biden might be leaning toward as a potential running mate — and Warren hasn't really been at the top of most prognosticators' lists. And NY Mag suggests that that the two might have become more "simpatico" in recent months, which was a word Biden has used as a primary requirement for his eventual running mate — in addition to being ready to step into the president's job from Day One, acknowledging his age and mortality. Other clear front-runners include Senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, though neither would ignite progressives like Warren would.
And despite recent media storms around the sexual assault allegations of Tara Reade, Democratic operatives don't sound too concerned right now that this will hurt Biden in the end, given that Trump is steadily losing support in some Republican strongholds and will be facing accusations of the blood of 100,000 or more Americans on his hands by fall.
As one strategist tells NY Mag, Biden "can stay in his basement" as long as he likes the next couple of months, because Trump's undoing is looking more and more inevitable.
Photo: Sonder Quest