With all of the media attention Joe Biden has enjoyed this week regarding the enactment of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill as a kick-off for his “Build Back Better” spending agenda, it is a bit surprising that no one says anything anymore about the massive $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package passed by the Democratic Congress and the Biden administration back in March.
One of the main excuses that Democrats have rolled out for the stunning defeat of Terry McAuliffe in this month’s Virginia gubernatorial election is that Democrats had not pushed hard enough on “Build Back Better” and had no win to show off to voters. They said this even though they had passed the vast “COVID Relief” bill, which certainly objectively qualified as “sweeping legislation.” That extensive bill meant lots of economic aid for voters and expanded social welfare spending federal programs.
When it was passed, the New York Times described the relief bill as a rapid advance in “progressive priorities” and a realignment of America’s economy and political and social cultures. According to the Times, the bill was made possible by “an energized progressive vanguard” that pulled the Democrats and the Biden administration further to the left, even as Biden had just campaigned for office as a “moderating force.”
The paper went on to describe the relief bill as “a revolution in American policy” and a reset of the country’s “political baseline.” It went on to say that the bill compares directly with the work of Congress and Franklin Roosevelt at the beginning of the New Deal, even though the COVID bill dwarfs all of New Deal spending in inflation-adjusted dollars.
New York magazine described the relief bill as the “largest anti-poverty program in a generation.” The magazine went on to glowingly describe Biden’s new cabinet as a “cornucopia of progressive wonks.”
Downplaying the relief bill as Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi got down to work on “Build Back Better” makes sense in the enormous scope of progressive ambitions to move ahead with the Obama mission of “fundamentally transforming” America. The Democrats wanted to keep the audience crying for more, at least its audience of progressives and potentially dependent voters.