WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Joe Biden will almost certainly be the last U.S. president born as a member of the “silent generation” demographic group who were children during World War Two, came of age in an economic boom that built middle class wealth, and cemented the role of the United States as the world’s leading industrial power.
Over the latter half of his life, Biden, 78, saw the share of national wealth going to that middle class fall and the gains from U.S. growth concentrate in a handful of regions. Now, with a roughly $2 trillion investment package unveiled on Wednesday, Biden wants to reverse that half century trend and steer capital to neglected people and parts of the country.
Democrat Biden’s jobs and infrastructure plan and the corporate tax increase to help pay for it, contrasts with the deference to private markets begun by Republicans with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, and nursed through rounds of tax cuts and deregulation, by both parties.
Whether it was Bill Clinton’s moves to reduce social welfare and deregulate the financial sector, or Barack Obama’s hesitance to “go big” on spending in the last recession, there has been a reluctance by both parties to intervene too deeply for decades.
Rural and Rust Belt America faded and there was little progress on bridging the wealth gaps between Black and white.
Biden’s plan harkens to the Democratic leaders of his young adult years in the 1960s – President John Kennedy’s aspirational focus on public ventures such as the moon landing, or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society push to strengthen the social safety net. It also echoes President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1956 act for the government to mostly pay for building Interstate Highways.
“I am struck by the scale, the structure,” MIT economics professor Simon Johnson said of Biden’s plan. “They seem to have taken on board the idea that you can boost productivity, boost growth, and spread it around the country,” with the right public investments.