Guest comment: Biden’s New Deal-like actions for American families are working

History sometimes repeats itself. 

By the 1950s, Americans generally liked the basic social net, infrastructure and business regulations of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, initially launched to combat the Great Depression. To regain the presidency, and return America to more corporate control, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and anti-New Deal Republicans spewed unfounded, traitorous, character-smearing accusations at opponents. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and a few other Republicans vociferously believed these hate attacks were tools of totalitarians. Smith was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and McCarthy was censured and disgraced. 

Today, the Biden-Harris administration is championing many New Deal-like actions for working families. These include negating medical debt in calculating credit scores; canceling billions in student-loan debt to millions of borrowers; providing $5.5 billion in grants to address the housing shortage; enhancing the nation’s transportation, broadband internet, drinking-water and power-grid infrastructure; expanding health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act; and supporting workers organizing unions. The Inflation Reduction Act (2022), which passed Congress with no Republican support, reduced the cost of insulin for seniors to $35 per month, capped prescription drug out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year (as of 2025 for people with Medicare Part D), and gave Medicare the power to negotiate prescription-drug prices. 

A goal in a second Biden-Harris term is to provide paid family leave, federal subsidies for child care, and universal preschool access. 

Biden’s anti-monopoly team is investigating corporate marketing control and mergers in the artificial-intelligence sector, agriculture, airlines, hi-tech (e.g., Google, Apple) and banking to protect American consumers and small business. The nonprofit Groundwork Collaborative recently reported that corporate profits, which have skyrocketed to 70-year highs, drove more than 50% of inflation in the second and third quarters of 2023.  

Still, for most of 2023, consumers’ paychecks hadn’t caught up to run-ups in prices from the previous two years. Consequently, their overall purchasing power was less than it was before the pandemic-era price spike. The good news now is that wage growth is outpacing inflation, and many families are feeling some improvement in their household finances. Plus, job growth continues to boom. 

The GOP has threatened to sunset Social Security and Medicare, which would particularly hurt older Americans. In contrast, President Biden wants to bolster the solvency of Social Security and Medicare by increasing taxes on earners making above $400,000 per year and on corporations. Donald Trump, if elected, has stated he would gut regulations and further cut taxes for corporations and the rich, which would continue to widen the wealth gap between the rich and poor, further shrink the middle class, and likely re-spike inflation. Moreover, he recently proposed implementing a 10% across-the-board tariff paid by consumers on all imported goods and abolishing income taxes, a policy Paul Krugman (a Nobel Prize winner in economics) and other economists say would be catastrophic for ordinary Americans, and a gift for the ultrawealthy. 

Wealth inequality, in part, has fueled the replacement of ambition and tolerance for anger and frustration in many Americans. Telsa is laying off more than 7,000 workers in the U.S. through August, of which 700 are Nevadans, and yet shareholders just granted Elon Musk a $45 billion pay package. In the 1970s, CEOs made 60 times the pay of an average employee; today, it is 350 times. The top 1% has 30% of the wealth in America, which translates into influential political say. 

Biden’s policies, which are now gaining popularity, are largely designed to improve workers’ lives. In contrast, Trump told attendees at his June 9 rally in Las Vegas, “I don’t care about you. I just want your vote.” Who will be the next Sen. Smith to course-correct today’s GOP forum of denialism and disillusionment for the needs of average American families? 

Joseph Holomuzki is a retired academic and science manager with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Research Program. He lives in Carson City.