The Steady Stater

Joe Biden and the Steady State Economy

August 10, 2020 Brian Czech
The Steady Stater
Joe Biden and the Steady State Economy
Chapters
The Steady Stater
Joe Biden and the Steady State Economy
Aug 10, 2020
Brian Czech

With a solid lead in the polls and a firm commitment to environmental protection, Joe Biden has a rare opportunity to champion steady-state policies. His loudmouth opponent, President Donald Trump, continues to push disastrous pro-growth policies that serve only to destroy the environment and destabilize the economy. Biden can take advantage Trump's weak position by driving a large wedge between his economic platform and Trump's. On this week's podcast, we discuss the advantages of Biden making this distinction, ways he can effectively communicate GDP degrowth, and ideas for how steady-state voters can influence the Democratic platform.

Show Notes Transcript

With a solid lead in the polls and a firm commitment to environmental protection, Joe Biden has a rare opportunity to champion steady-state policies. His loudmouth opponent, President Donald Trump, continues to push disastrous pro-growth policies that serve only to destroy the environment and destabilize the economy. Biden can take advantage Trump's weak position by driving a large wedge between his economic platform and Trump's. On this week's podcast, we discuss the advantages of Biden making this distinction, ways he can effectively communicate GDP degrowth, and ideas for how steady-state voters can influence the Democratic platform.

Richard Tibbetts:

From the center for the advancement of the steady state economy, this is the Steady Stater, a podcast dedicated to discussing limits to growth in the steady state economy.

Brian Czech:

Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Brian Czech, and this week, we're going to be talking a little bit about the upcoming election. As you know, this is an unprecedented, exceedingly unique time in politics. And the American presidential election is probably the single best example of this uniqueness. And we're going to be talking especially about Joe Biden and juxtaposing some of the options that he has, in terms of his messaging on the economy, especially with President Trump. Now, of course, we at CASSE, the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, we're entirely nonpartisan, so we're not necessarily endorsing a candidate, but what we do like to do, what I like to do, on the Steady Stater and on our blog at steadystate.org, is we like to critique those politicians and those policies that seem overly enthused, obsessed even, with GDP growth. And frankly, there's never been a better example of that than the guy that's in the White House right now. So we can't let that we can't let that go by without scrutinizing that. And we also have a hope that Joe Biden is going to do something a little bit different. And we see four themes you might see that are especially relevant to limits to growth politics, to the prospects for advancing the steady state economy in electoral politics. So let's take a look at these four themes. First of all, of course, well, there's limits to growth itself. Limits to growth has never been a mainstream political issue, but now it's getting there by virtue of the concerns over climate change. Climate change is, of all of the manifestations of limits to growth, it does tend to stand out among people as the existential threat out there. We haven't gotten enough traction with issues like biodiversity loss and habitat loss, loss of green space and pollution of various types. But in the particular case of greenhouse gas emissions and the unraveling of our global climate and therefore our global ecosystems, ecosystems around the globe, yeah, it has become a central political issue. So there's that. The next issue, and this one doesn't redound entirely to limits to growth, it's the theme for all of politics right now and that, of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic. It's the worst thing that most of us have experienced in terms of a public health issue. It's unprecedented unless you go, perhaps all the way back to the Spanish Flu of 1912. Nothing has stocked the land with this kind of relentless rapidity. And so that's a huge issue: which of these candidates is better at dealing with that, and which of these parties? And of course, stemming as well from that pandemic, you have a recession. We could call it the COVID caused recession. And if we look at the pandemic, and the recession, we see that the recession isn't only resulting from the pandemic. It's resulting largely from Trump's responses to the pandemic. First of all, he underplayed the severity of it from the get go, so he led many people to believe it wasn't a problem, it wouldn't be a problem for long. Everybody remembers that. He said it'd be gone in a week or whatever it was right at the beginning. And furthermore, there seems to be some evidence that the White House ignored much earlier evidence of it coming this way. So there's that and you know, and then Trump has has rushed people back to work. He's rushed kids back to school. All of these things, all of the rushing to reopen the economy has been so that he could get those GDP numbers up for his reelection. And so now, we have limits to growth, to COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID caused recession, and we see that we have an incumbent who's done nothing on either of these topics that has been helpful. So what does that make Trump? You know, we have we actually have an article on our blog right now that talks a little bit about this. It's called Joe Biden, Donald quote, unquote "duck," and a steady state soul of America where, you know, they call him the Donald, we call him the "duck" now, because he's performed so poorly, especially on these huge issues and the polling is starting to show this now. He's a lame duck folks. You don't hear him called that much just yet. But, you know, if you go to our article, you will see you'll read about the lame duck, you actually see a morphed makeover of Donald Duck and the Donald and so now, we have the "duck," as Joe Biden's opponent. And so what this does is, this gives Joe Biden a real advantage, kind of a luxury you might say, an electoral luxury. Remember when, probably most of you are too young to remember this, but when Jimmy Carter was at the end of his term, due to the Iran hostage crisis, and a few other things, he had become a very lame duck. And what that did was, that emboldened Ronald Reagan, to really let loose with what he was going to do differently, the sweeping approaches to GDP growth. And so that resulted in things like James Watt being appointed as Secretary of the Interior is just one example. But the point here is that when you have such a lame duck, and he's getting lamer by the day, this gives Biden the opportunity to go with some pretty sweeping changes. Now, Joe Biden has talked about restoring the soul of America. And we think that soul was in pretty tough shape from both sides of the political aisle, frankly. That's one of the reasons Trump got elected. There were plenty of problems on the other side of the aisle. And so we think that Joe Biden needs to do more, more than just restore the soul. We need a reformed soul, frankly. We need a better soul, more truthful, with more concern for posterity. And that leads us to consider some of the basic alternatives that Joe Biden has going forward, as he talks about the economy in his campaign, and then acts upon once he's in the White House. So let's consider those two really key metrics or criteria or variables, their truth and concern for posterity. Now, this is also something you can find at steadystate.org. If you go to the Steady State Herald, that's our blog, you'll see this little diagram, very, very simple diagram, I'm sure you can

picture it in your mind:

You have along the bottom "truth." That's from zero to 100. Far left is entire dishonesty. The other end of the spectrum is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Now on the y axis, you have concern for posterity. So if you don't care at all about the future, you're at the bottom of that spectrum. If you're very concerned, you're toward the top of that spectrum. So you can envision then, with those two forming the the bottom and the left boundaries of this quadrangle, then you have four cells in there. We'll start with the lower right one. And we're going to call that "growth at all costs." It's in the lower half. Because when you're all about economic growth, with little concern for anything else, that means you don't have much of a concern for posterity, by definition. And furthermore, when you're pulling out all the stops for GDP growth, you are pulling the rug out from your kids and your grandkids and those around the planet. So now you can be honest about that you can say, look, folks, I frankly don't give a darn about the spotted owl or the red wolf or the black footed ferret. I'm all about GDP growth, I want big cars, I want big houses, I want there to be, you know, more money in my retirement account. I want to be able to do whatever I want without any interference from the government with those darned environmentalists getting in the way of my projects. You know, I want the stock exchange to set records, you know the deal, the whole wild eyed pro-growth program. You can be honest about that and say that's what you want and that puts you in that category called "growth at all costs." Now, you can also be dishonest about that, and you can say, look, we're going to grow the economy gangbusters and we're not going to hurt the environment, and we're going to protect public health, and we're still going to have all the national parks and all the green space, and it's not going to be too crowded and too noisy and too stressful. We're going to save all those things, and yet set records with our GDP growth and with the stock market. Folks, that's what Joe Biden might call "bunk." And that'll put you in the lower left quadrant, which we call Trumpism, because Trump is the epitome of that ethic that reflects a lack of concern for posterity, and dishonesty all the way. Joe Biden juxtaposes himself to Trump, as he should. And in this case with these quadrangles that we're considering, that puts him on the better half, both in terms of truth and in terms of the concern for posterity. So that put that puts him in the upper right quadrangle, if you're still following along with the figure now that we have in our minds, puts you in the upper right quadrangle, and and we can call that steady statesmanship. And in this case, a Joe Biden form of steady statesmanship, it may not be at the very furthest upper right, it's going to be more in the middle of that cell. He may not be explicitly mentioning the steady state economy. He may not get up there and say, lLook, folks, we need a steady state economy, not GDP growth." But we do think that he can point out explicitly, the perils and the stupidity of pulling out all the stops for GDP growth, like Donald "the duck" Trump has. So the the prospects for steady statesmanship for a presidential candidate have never been better, and Joe Biden's the perfect guy for it. He's an elderly statesman. He's got some wisdom. He doesn't stand for bunk. And he juxtaposes himself to trumpism. So he's a natural fit for steady statesmanship. Now there is one other cell in that quadrangle that's the upper left, where you do have concern for posterity, but the truth can oftentimes be quite questionable. And that's what's called the Green New Deal. And we're a little bit worried, you know, we steady staters who are especially concerned about transitioning away from GDP growth to a steady state economy. And in this case, after some period of degrowth, due to the COVID caused recession, we're a little bit worried that Joe Biden may gravitate into the green New Deal. And the thing about the green new deal is there's quite a mix in that cell, and in particular, along that truth spectrum. The problem is that there's a significant element within the Green New Deal that believes or that touts this oxymoron of green growth. They think that, or they try to tell you that, as long as we just convert everything to renewable energy, well, then we can then we can have an economy that doesn't endanger species, that doesn't overcrowd us, that doesn't cause more and more stress, that doesn't cause resource wars around the world, and that doesn't risk pandemics when we send people back to work too soon. It's nonsense. The Green New Deal is is a great thing in terms of concern for posterity. But when it's coupled with that fallacy of green growth, it's actually quite dangerous. When you think about it, the notion of green growth is pretty much the same as the old Clintonian rhetoric that Bill and Hillary used to do. And actually this, this is one of the reasons we think Trump eventually became a viable political candidate and wormed his way into the White House. Because the Clintons would be out there saying, "Some people just don't get it. There is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment," when everybody knew, that was a bald faced lie. Of course, there's a fundamental conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment. If you didn't see that you didn't have, you know, you didn't have any vision. So we have to be very careful with the Green New Deal in keeping that green growth part out of it. That's why we prefer to really identify the juxtaposition with Trump as steady statesmanship. Total honesty, about limits to growth, total honesty about the conflict, the trade off between growing the economy, and protecting the environment, and protecting public health and protecting happiness of people. Now, once again, I do want to make clear that CASSE is nonpartisan. And so you know, we're not necessarily endorsing a candidate, we we will say that the candidate who is best at raising awareness about limits to growth is probably the best for the country and we would encourage all of our listeners to reach out to your local, state and federal representatives to demand action on raising awareness of limits to growth. That's what we need to help to create a groundswell of political support and to empower a candidate like Joe Biden, so that he can indeed take advantage of the lame duck status of the "duck," Trump, and provide some real bold leadership about the economy, in particular, about GDP not being everything. You know, it's not too hard to envision a candidate let's say it's Joe Biden, not not difficult to envision him up there, on the stump, juxtaposing his approach on the economy with data of Trump, he might see something for example, like this, we actually drafted a little speech that he might give. He might say, 'Friends, the world doesn't revolve around GDP. Just ask any parent with a sick child, or anyone who's lost a friend to COVID. The economy is supposed to be for us, not the other way around. We don't live to grow the GDP. GDP was never supposed to rule our lives, crash the environment, or push us to the brink of war, but Trump's blind pursuit of GDP growth, growth at all costs, is like miles per hour being the only thing that matters when driving a car. Instead of smartly and safely avoiding the obstacles. It's like consuming as many calories as we possibly can, instead of the right amount for healthy bodies and sharp minds. It's like building as many towers and casinos and golf courses we can squeeze on to the landscape. Instead of maintaining our national parks and forests, and heritage sites.' That's just a snippet of a sample speech that that we posted there at the Steady State Herald and we're hoping that our politically active friends will go there and have a look and, you know, help encourage, help empower, Democratic and frankly, smart, more progressive Republican candidates as well. This is the year 2020. It's no longer the case that that we want rapid GDP growth, that we want any more GDP growth. What we want is happiness. What we want is room for our kids and grandkids to live in a healthy environment. What we want is for people not to be dying left and right of Coronavirus, or other pandemics that result when things are too crowded and you're pulling out too many resources out of the ground and you're exposing yourself to viruses and bacteria that otherwise would have never gotten into the picture much less so virally, so to speak. So, once again, we think that Joe Biden is potentially the perfect man for the perfecting of juxtaposition with Donald, the lame duck, Trump and to to lead us toward a more sustainable outcome, both in this election and for years to come. We hope that that you will participate in in helping to make this happen. And that's about it for this week. I'm Brian Czech with the Steady Stater podcast. See you next time.