Biden Pitches Populist Economic Policy Agenda as 2024 Election Campaign Heats Up

Interview with Karen Dolan, project director of criminalization of race and poverty at the Institute for Policy Studies, conducted by Scott Harris

President Biden’s State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on March 7 marked the virtual kickoff of the 2024 presidential election campaign, given that the results of the Democratic and Republican primaries have presented the nation with a rerun of the 2020 race between Biden and Trump.

In his State of the Union speech, Biden emphasized the threat to democracy in Ukraine and here at home with Trump and his GOP allies continuing to promote the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, resulting in Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6 violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. While Biden glossed over his unpopular policy on Israel’s war in Gaza and the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, the president used much of the speech to emphasize his populist domestic economic priorities.

Biden declared that “the days of trickle-down economics are over,” referring to the Republican party’s long disproven theory that cutting taxes on the wealthiest citizens and corporations would one day “trickle down” to the rest of us.  The president went on to say he would end Trump’s expiring 2017 tax cuts for the rich next year and invest those revenues in vital social programs such as education, housing, food and health care. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Karen Dolan, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, who assesses the president’s domestic policy agenda which will be a centerpiece of his 2024 re-election campaign.

KAREN DOLAN: I think that people can look at Biden’s State of the Union address in tandem with the following week he presented his budget proposal.

So he laid out for us what his approach to governing is, and then his budget proposal concretized that, if you will. It put numbers into it and more concrete proposals. And so, if your listeners heard the State of the Union address or if they didn’t, what they’d want to take home from that is that he expressed views that were very popular in character.

So it’s a departure from what we’ve heard from both sides of the aisle, as you mentioned, for the last few decades where we have been saddled with trickle-down economics. This idea that if you cut taxes on the very wealthy, you cut taxes on corporations, somehow, magically all that windfall and all of that savings for the very rich that are making them very much richer, somehow that’s going to trickle down and people at the very bottom are going to get some crumbs, too, that’s going to help them.

SCOTT HARRIS: And of course, trickle-down was at the heart of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress 2017 tax cuts, one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history that primarily benefited the wealthiest people in the country and corporations bringing the tax rate on corporations to two one of their lowest levels ever. You want to just talk a little bit about the 2017 tax cuts?

KAREN DOLAN: Yes. So that is another prime example of hiding behind a false, disproven idea that if you make the rich richer, that will benefit everyone else. We already know that that’s not true. And there are estimates that over 10 years, the Trump 2017 tax cuts for the very rich will cost us about $5 trillion. So these are very, very costly and they come at the expense of the rest of us.

So if you look at some of the other proposals when Biden put out his budget proposal, we also saw a few days before that the budget proposal from the Republican party. And they want to continue the Trump tax cuts and they’re not putting revenues on the table.

So when they’re talking about “responsible budgeting,” when you’re bringing no revenues to the table and what you’re doing is taking from the rest of us to give more to the wealthy, I wouldn’t call that responsible.

And I think that what we see with the kind of values that Biden put forward is those tax cuts are set to expire in 2025 and that Biden’s position is that they should be allowed to expire. There won’t be any raising taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year, but there will be some very reasonable, very small having the wealthiest and the richest corporations pay their fair share to close these tax loopholes to make sure that there aren’t corporations that are paying zero in taxes when you and I pay 24 percent or, you know, somewhere in that range where the people that are the wealthiest are paying less than a teacher is paying.

So that’s common sense. And when you do that, then you are able to bring revenues to the table. And by doing that, we can more robustly invest in families, children, workers. Infrastructure, clean energy, broadband, health care.

All of this can be done if we have a progressive tax and revenue system where those who are getting away right now with paying very little actually have to pay what the rest of us pay.

Find out more on economic issues being debated in the 2024 presidential election campaign by visiting the Institute for Policy Studies at

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Karen Dolan (20:43). More articles and opinion pieces are found in the Related Links section of this page.

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