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© Reuters/Mike Segar
Presidential candidate Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's attempt to woo estranged left-leaning voters with an economic plan presented as a 21st-century New Deal has been slammed by progressive voters as too little, too late.

The Democratic challenger's economic policy, dubbed "Bidenomics" and aimed at propping up the country's ailing healthcare, education, and infrastructure with a hefty infusion of taxpayer dollars, has triggered a backlash from the Left, after a detailed explainer on it appeared in Financial Times on Monday.

The plan, which Biden earlier linked to the New Deal deployed by former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help pull the country out of the Great Depression almost a century ago, promises a tax increase on wealthy households and a hefty public investment program. It includes an eye-popping $2 trillion investment in clean energy and infrastructure to mitigate climate change, and $775 billion in funding to care for the elderly, sick and small children. The total amount of public investment proposed by the plan was estimated by Moody's at $3.9 trillion.

However, progressives who felt they'd been told to "drop dead" by the Biden campaign over the past year remained unconvinced. Many took to social media on Tuesday to mock the plan, denouncing it as neoliberal "Reagonomics" in drag - and snarking about "the last time we had a very old man with a leaky brain and an economic system named after him."

Conservatives joined in the jeering, giving rise to a rare moment of bipartisan harmony in what has been a viciously polarizing contest thus far.


While the FT explainer attempted to frame "Bidenomics" as a "sharp shift to [the] left," prioritizing "workers over wealth," this characterization leaves a few things out. All four of the names floated as "close aides" to the Democratic nominee worked with Biden and his former boss President Barack Obama during the recession that followed the 2008 financial crash, and Obama's cabinet was notoriously hand-picked by Citigroup executives.

Biden transition team co-chair Jeff Zients was director of Obama's National Economic Council. He was also a major backer of the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty reviled by both Left and Right. Zients' prominent position in the Biden team has already elicited outcry from critics of the uncomfortably cozy relationship between Wall Street and Washington.

The director of Wall Street watchdog the Revolving Door Project argued earlier this month that "Biden needs to hear from fewer wannabe Warren Buffetts," referring to the billionaire investor who remains one of the richest men in America.

The other co-chair, former Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman, was Biden's Senate chief of staff, presiding over the candidate's signature legislation - including the 1994 crime bill and the legislation that would become the Patriot Act - that has since become unpopular on the Left. Other transition team members include former CIA deputy director Avril Haines, former Fed chair Janet Yellen, and several Citigroup-selected former Obama administration officials - hardly shining stars in the progressive firmament.

Several commenters noted that Biden's plan leaves out many of the top items on progressives' policy wish list, including guaranteed healthcare for all Americans, forgiving student loan debt, and free college. Others were sharper with their criticism, dismissing "Bidenomics" as "Trump lite."
Even as he tries to swing to the left, Biden has not changed his stance on government-funded universal healthcare, despite 87 percent of Democrats stating they supported Medicare for All as of last month. So far, the candidate has only budged on the eligibility age and income cap for existing Medicaid programs. Earlier this year, Biden infamously pledged to veto Medicare for All if it crossed his desk as president.

Biden has struggled to gain the support of left-leaning Democrats after holding fast to centrist positions during the primaries. While progressive favorites like Democratic Socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have urged their supporters to vote for him, insisting they can push him to the left after he's elected, an increasingly vocal segment of the Left has declined to vote for the lesser of two evils.

The Democratic Party's promises to curtail income inequality may ring hollow after eight years of the Obama administration failed to reverse the growing chasm between rich and poor. Instead, it kept expanding, creating the illusion of an economic recovery with 121 percent of real income gains going to the top one percent of earners. According to a People's Policy Project report released on Monday, millionaires and billionaires were sitting on nearly 80 percent of US all household wealth, despite comprising less than 12 percent of the population.