- - Sunday, July 19, 2020

Second of two parts

Other than an enormously damaging and historically large tax increase, what else might Joe Biden do if elected president?

It’s a safe bet that climate and infrastructure — which for the Democrats now mean much the same thing — are the next stops after tax increases. The House already has voted on its $1.5 trillion infrastructure wish list. The Biden campaign’s climate plan includes $1.7 trillion to address climate change, while the Biden-Sen. Bernard Sanders Unity plan (which reads like a Maoist document if you ever get the time) proposes $2 trillion in spending, or as they call it, “investment.” For its part, the special committee the Biden campaign set up as part of its negotiations with Mr. Sanders offered up a plan that would cost $16 trillion — or about $55,000 for every American.

In the wake of what is sure to be a struggle to the death on taxes, Democrats probably would be content to do the minimum on climate and pass a long-dated goal (zero emissions by 2035, or 2050, or whenever), and perhaps a handful of instructions to federal agencies about permitting (no) and making oil and natural gas more expensive (yes).

Happily, those who wrote the climate plans have been eager to let everyone know how much they would cost. Each of the numbers — $16 trillion, $2 trillion, $1.5 trillion — are orders of magnitude greater than voters are willing to pay to be socially correct. In opinion research we have done over the last 15 years, including a nationwide survey conducted for the American Energy Alliance in May, voters have consistently indicated that they don’t place much of a priority on climate change. Moreover, when asked how much they are willing to pay to address climate change, the responses are always on the low end, with median numbers consistently between $25 and $50 a year.

After or perhaps at the same time as the climate and infrastructure conversation, the Biden presidency would revisit health care. Sometime in the next 12 months, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to give us a ruling on Texas v. Azar, which is likely to demolish what is left of Obamacare. So, some of the first 18 months of a Biden presidency would focus on reimposing the individual mandate, the taxes, the penalties for noncompliance, the standard-setting associated with plan requirements, etc.

That means that Medicare for All, which is touchy and internally complicated for the Democrats, would make an appearance. Just about any ruling in Texas v. Azar would bring it to the fore.

On energy, despite the usual evasions from Mr. Biden, there would be steady downward pressure on both pipelines and production, especially fracking. So if you enjoyed American energy independence, you might want to re-acclimate yourself to the idea of reliance on those who do not wish us well.

If the Biden administration really spirals to the left, they would talk about statehood for the District of Columbia and adding justices to the Supreme Court. The House has already voted for statehood, and, given the performance theater we’ve experienced in the last few months, statehood may be a priority for the administration and a newly-minted Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, assuming the Democrats win control of the Senate.

Similarly, adding justices to the Supreme Court is a favorite flavor of folks on the left, so that would pick up some currency.

Two final thoughts are worth noting.

First, each administration needs to appoint people to staff the administration. In this instance, the ongoing policy differences within the Democratic Party would complicate personnel selection. Stir in the very strong likelihood of at least one high-profile, time-consuming early Supreme Court nominee, and Mr. Biden may spend more time than expected simply staffing the government.

Second, and more ominously, each new president is tested early in his term by one or more provocations from foreign actors seeking to take advantage of the transition or trying to ascertain the competence of the new chief. Mr. Biden would be no different. What would be different is that such a challenge would expose, perhaps with lethality, the physical and intellectual limitations of the new president.


• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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