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In its lineup this morning RealClearPolitics has done us the service of going back to Daniel Henninger’s weekly Wall Street Journal column of this past Thursday on “Joe Biden’s train-wreck economy” (behind the Journal’s paywall). We noted Biden’s reference in Tokyo to the “incredible transition” he is engineering to renewable energy and a green economy. A beautiful future awaits, if we can draw on our savings to pay $5.00 a gallon and more at the pump.
I took the talk of “transition” as more mush from the wimp. Henninger makes a persuasive case that “Biden” is to be taken seriously:
“When it comes to the gas prices,” he said in Tokyo, “we’re going through an incredible transition that is taking place that, God willing, when it’s over, we’ll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels.”
The head of Mr. Biden’s White House economic council, Brian Deese, previewed this argument a few days earlier: “Our economy is in a transition from what has been the strongest recovery in modern American history to what can be a period of more stable and resilient growth that works better for families.”
Messrs. Biden and Deese are getting mocked in some quarters for euphemizing the current mess as a “transition.” But these remarks aren’t just Psakiesque word salads. Those “transition” statements help define how Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party want American workers to live into the far future. Buying into this “transition” will be the party’s pitch to voters in the fall elections.
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The only thing we know today is that the pre-existing status quo is gone. When Joe Biden and Brian Deese say they want to transition to an economy with more “stable and resilient” growth, they are describing their alternative to the prepandemic froth. That vision has two goals.
The first is to use taxes and government-guided capital investments to compensate for the widening spread between the incomes of knowledge-economy workers and everyone else. The other goal, of course, is their great white whale—a non-fossil-fuel economy. Growth, they assume, will be slower in their economy but somehow steadier and more predictable. Substance aside, the progressive economic model is on its way down the political drain. Mr. Biden admitted as much in Tokyo when he remarked that passing his Build Back Better agenda would have lowered child and family-care costs and tempered the effects of inflation. Of course, it’s not happening.
Still, this grand progressive experiment—a final choice between the U.S. as a welfare state or a growth state—came within one Senate vote of reality. Sen. Joe Manchin blocked creation of the transfer-payment state, and the Democrats’ massive Covid outlays produced insurmountable political problems with inflation and labor-market distortions. The green-energy dream—whose relentlessly ignored costs will always be at cross purposes with their transfer payments high costs—is on hold for this election cycle and probably the presidential election in 2024.
The whole thing is worth reading if you can get behind the paywall, but that is the heart of Henninger’s argument.