On Thursday, Democratic frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden released his most recent plan to deal with the coronavirus crisis, but his most eye-popping proposal came in a follow-up tweet. The plan boils down to claims that he would do what Trump is doing with the current $2 trillion stimulus bill the House of Representatives will likely pass on Friday, but he’d be “harder, better, faster, stronger” — oh, sorry, that’s Daft Punk, but you get the idea.
The plan is Joe Biden being Joe Biden. He has condemned Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis while simultaneously presenting Trump’s actions as his own plan — fancy that! The former veep has also tapped a coronavirus health advisor who encouraged the elderly not to get flu shots — awkward! — and has stumbled through his pale imitation of Trump’s Coronavirus Response Team briefings. He’s spread misinformation about Trump and the WHO. But that’s Joe, and Democrats love him for some reason.
In many ways, Biden has echoed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in his plans for a government takeover of everything. Sure, the ex-veep is the “moderate,” so he only wants the next step toward Sanders’ socialist dystopia. It’s arguably Biden only beat Sanders by co-opting a great deal of Bernie’s radical proposals. If you can join ’em, you’ll beat ’em, or something like that.
Biden’s latest “plan” sounds very Sanders-esque. Or perhaps he means to echo Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — one of the presumptive nominee’s likely running mates.
“We’ve gotta act now to keep the doors open for small businesses on Main Street. It’s simple: The government provides the guarantees; the banks have to move the loans out fast. If they won’t, we need a financial version of the Defense Production Act to make it happen,” the ex-veep tweeted.
In his strategy against the coronavirus, Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act, a law first drafted to help the U.S. beef up its military during the Cold War. The act authorizes the president to require businesses to fulfill orders deemed necessary for the national defense — and designate materials companies are prohibited from hoarding or price gouging. It also authorizes the president to seize materials, services, or facilities for the national defense. Finally, the law allows the president to control the economy so that scarce and/or critical materials necessary to the national defense effort are available for the national defense.
All of this is meant to be temporary, an emergency measure for the president to rally America in a crisis.
Biden’s desire to create a Defense Production Act for the banking sector must have Warren’s attention. After all, she boasts about creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, arguably the most unconstitutional government agency, designed to rule unchecked over the financial sector. Imagine what Warren would do if Biden invoked the Defense Financial Production Act and placed her at the head. The financial crisis would seem like a cakewalk.
In order to combat the coronavirus, governments asked people to stay at home and cease much of their economic activity. For this reason, governments arguably should help companies hit hard by the crisis. There are limits to the kind of action demanded by this crisis, however. Biden’s latest idea is a bridge too far.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.