For decades, mainstream opinion and policymakers agreed that the organization of production was best left to markets and private businesses. Bidenomics promises a decisive turn away from this neoliberal consensus. The renewed interest in industrial policy in the US (and elsewhere) suggests a larger and more active role for the state in organizing economic activity. While as recently as the Obama administration, it was widely believed that a carbon tax was all that was needed for the green transition, the focus now has shifted toward direct public support for the green economy.
Can the new green industrial policy live up to its promises? Can a surge of public money and green investment generate a sustained economic boom? Or are there deeper structural constraints on growth, which these kinds of measures can’t overcome? Will higher investment in the US simply undermine competing industries elsewhere? Can Bidenomics’ partial break with economic orthodoxy help advance a socialist project? Or does that require a more decisive break with the existing order?
John Jay College
November 15, 2023
John Jay College
Room 9.64 NB
Open to the Public
Recent Writing on Green Industrial Policy and Global Overcapacity
Professor Dhondt speaks with the Institute For New Economic Thinking on the history of crime and incarceration in the United States.
Pundits have lauded the Biden administration for replacing the free-market consensus with supply-side liberalism. But it is geopolitical tensions with China and labor’s weakness that have made elites feel comfortable with a milquetoast industrial policy.
ANDREJ MARKOVČIČ & NICK FRENCH
Even prior to his inauguration, there was talk that Joe Biden’s administration would mark a break with the neoliberal orthodoxy that has dominated both parties since the Ronald Reagan era. During the height of the pandemic, the president claimed that the “blinders have been taken off,” and his administration would have to address challenges that “may not dwarf but eclipse what FDR faced.”
The unexpectedly generous, albeit frustratingly temporary, COVID-19 relief package that Biden signed into law in March 2021 and, later, his passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIB), the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) seemed to confirm these initial estimates of his ambitions. The president has been, if not the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt, at least a Democrat in a different mold from that of either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of “Bidenism” is its embrace of what pundits have called “supply-side liberalism” or “supply-side progressivism”: giving the state a prominent role in directing investment in the form of tax incentives, direct subsidies, and tariffs to encourage domestic production of goods deemed strategically necessary. The IRA, for instance, offers subsidies for building renewable energy and green manufacturing; the CHIPS Act uses tariffs and subsidies to encourage domestic manufacturing of computer chips.
In April, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, outlined this new approach in remarks he delivered to the Brookings Institute think tank. The current administration, Sullivan claimed, was rejecting faith in “tax cutting and deregulation, privatization over public action, and trade liberalization as an end in itself” and instead “restor[ing] an economic mentality that champions building.”
What should socialists make of this turn away from neoliberal orthodoxy and the emergence of industrial policy? Biden’s ambitions do mark a step in the direction of rebuilding infrastructure and encouraging economic activity through government intervention. But this move away from the economic orthodoxy of the past forty years has not occurred as a result of the strength of the Left or any other progressive bloc. Despite the recent uptick in worker militancy, it is the weakness of organized labor and working-class political organizations that characterize the current moment.
Read full article at: https://jacobin.com/2023/07/joe-biden-supply-side-liberalism-industrial-policy/
J. W. MASON
A few days ago, Dylan Riley wrote a post on New Left Review’s Sidecar blog that provoked a furious response on left-economics twitter. I largely agree with the criticism made by Alex Williams, Nathan Tankus, Doug Henwood, and others. But I want to try to clarify the larger stakes in this debate.
Riley’s piece starts from the suggestion that the failure of Silicon Valley Bank reflects a larger crisis of overcapacity and lack of investment opportunities. SVB, he writes,
had parked a huge quantity of its deposits in low-yield — but supposedly safe — government-backed securities and low-interest bonds. . . . The bank was overwhelmed by the massive growth in deposits from its tech clients — and neither it nor they could find anything worthwhile to invest in. . . . The SVB collapse is a beautiful, almost paradigmatic, demonstration of the fundamental structural problem of contemporary capitalism: a hyper-competitive system, clogged with excess capacity and savings, with no obvious outlets to soak them up.
This is an elegant framing, but it runs into a problem immediately, involving the ambiguous meaning of “invest.” The depositors in SVB were not venture capitalists, but the firms that they had stakes in. The reason SVB had such big deposits was not because finance was unable to find profitable outlets even in the tech world, but precisely because it had done so. The fact that SVB’s assets consisted of Treasury bonds rather than loans to its depositors reflects the shift in business financing, especially in tech, away from banks toward specialized venture capital funds — an interesting development, certainly, but one that doesn’t tell us anything about the overall population of businesses looking for financing.
Lurking behind Riley’s formulation here seems to be a crude version of commodity money theory, in which money is either out in the world being useful or being left idle in the bank. But money in the real world is always in the form of bank deposits — that’s what money is — regardless of how actively it is circulating.
Read the full article at: https://jacobin.com/2023/04/svb-dylan-riley-green-new-deal-capitalism-socialism
In an area of study dominated by elite, white men, I am one of a small number of Black female economists in the United States. Black and Women’s History Months in the U.S. present an opportunity to uplift the issues that I am forced to grapple with as a Black woman and that I have chosen to study out of desire for change. Economists often ignore the double gap Black women face when it comes to salaries and wages; this group loses billions of dollars of what I term “involuntarily forfeited” compensation each year due to sexism and racism within the U.S. workplace.
The double gap endures not only due to sexist and racist employment practices, but also because proving this inequity is extremely challenging. While Black women may suspect they’re being underpaid compared to their white and/or male colleagues, it’s extremely difficult for most of us to know for sure, and if we don’t know, we can’t attempt to fix it.
I propose we stop waiting for our leaders to step up and instead flip the script ourselves: In this world of asymmetrical information and lack of national policies around pay transparency, Black women can turn among ourselves and begin to ask for more. I’m not suggesting it’s our problem alone to solve; we didn’t create it. I’m also not suggesting that you stick up your boss, since research shows when Black women assertively negotiate, employers don’t react well. I suggest that, when negotiating, you ask for 10 to 20 percent more than you would have. And keep doing this throughout your career.
I have a personal and professional investment in understanding why so much inequality pervades the economy. In the last few years, I’ve researched the salaries of white men and Black women with similar levels of educational attainment and experience in popular professions, and what I found was sobering.
Read the full article at: https://msmagazine.com/2023/03/29/black-women-equal-pay-work-ask-for-more-salary/