In 2019, we ran a symposium called “Beyond Neoliberalism”: a series of essays making the case for a new economic paradigm that rewarded work not wealth; that took race and gender disparities more seriously; and that shifted economic and political power from the rich to the middle class.
That was of course during the Trump Administration, when the chances of anything like that happening were, well, rather low. Now it’s the Biden era—the tenure of a President who has pledged openly and specifically to change the paradigm, reward work, address racial and gender inequities, and build a robust middle class. Last spring, it seemed we were on our way.
We all know what has happened, and the roadblocks the President has run into, largely in the form of just two senators of his own party, one of whom won’t raises taxes on the rich (Kyrsten Sinema) and the other of whom frets about turning the United States into an “entitlement society” (Joe Manchin). Build Back Better (BBB), the ambitious domestic investment (we don’t call it “spending” around here) agenda, is stalled, at least for now. The press has been harshly negative, and that’s in some sense understandable. The media thrive on conflict and division, and the Democrats have given them plenty of material. But we shouldn’t lose sight of what has happened. Combining the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the level of public investment the Biden Administration has made ranks with any administration save Franklin Roosevelt’s and perhaps Lyndon Johnson’s. It’s generally assumed that some version of BBB will pass—even just the measure to fight climate change would be a major step. And just lately, the Administration has begun to focus on monopoly power in very encouraging ways. And it’s always worth remember- ing: Large majorities of Americans back the constituent elements of Build Back Better. The people want this change.
With all this before us, we present “Beyond Neoliberalism II”—the sequel, as it were, to the 2019 symposium, to take stock of where we stand; the work done and in progress, and the work still ahead. The first four essays in this package cover the former topic, and the last three, the latter. We think it’s as thoughtful, detailed, and realistic an assessment as you’ll find. Bottom line: The economic paradigm was never going to change in one year. This is a years-long project. We knew that before. But now we really know it.